Labels: anderson , Garrus , Jack , Mass Effect 2 , Shepard , The Double
Captain Anderson was the man, or at least he had been. His long and storied career with the Alliance contained enough daring exploits and classified ops to make a rank private green with jealousy. He would have been the first human Spectre but for the sabotage of his turian evaluator, the same Saren who’d later been indoctrinated by the Reaper, Sovereign, whose defeat had been a spectacle of human-alien cooperation and had led to Anderson’s place on the Council. I guess the Captain had gotten the last laugh, after all.
I respected him like I had no other commanding officer in my career. But by the time I was shown into his office I was ready to kick him somewhere completely impertinent. Not only had he put Hackett into the uncomfortable position of pissing me off but he’d kept me waiting more than half an hour for the appointment that he’d scheduled. Whatever shady dealings were going on between Anderson and the Alliance the time I’d spent pacing in the reception area for the Council had me ready to spit nails. Even Jack was more relaxed than I.
A frightened-looking salarian lackey had shown me into Anderson’s office. His nerves may have had something to do with my habit of popping the thermal clip into and out of my pistol when I was agitated but I had nothing else to do in that bland and utterly frustrating room. My triumphant return had thus far been anything but either. If I had to go back to that damned ship and keep making nice with TIM and his cheerleader I was going to exact revenge on someone beforehand.
Anderson’s office contained something very intriguing: a so-called Cone of Silence squatted in the far corner, looking like a piece of bad pop art from two hundred years earlier. I noted but disregarded it as I stomped into the room, as I did the photo frame on his desk and the vase of dead flowers on the conference table. All of my attention was beamed straight at the tall man just starting to grow a paunch in his retirement.
Despite having left the military he’d kept the buzz cut that left little of his tight, greying curls showing. The barely-visible freckles on his dark skin gave the impression of youth but he, too, had aged while I hadn’t been looking. I squelched the desire to salute, ruthlessly slaughtered the ingrained habit of calling him sir, and mustered every insubordinate bone in my body. “Captain Anderson…”
“Councilor Anderson,” I started over, shooting Garrus mental death rays for the interruption, “what the bloody hell is going on around here? Hackett pawns me off on you and you…”
The bastard had the nerve to start laughing at me. If being angry could literally boil your blood Miranda would have had to start this whole Lazarus project over again. I considered putting a hand on the top of my head to keep it from erupting. “I’m glad at least one of us is enjoying today.” Anderson kept laughing while making strange gestures by his ear. Finally I understood: he wanted me to take off my comm unit.
I did so and placed it on his desk. Garrus and Jack followed suit and he ushered us into the CoS. Anderson was still chuckling as the white noise hum surrounded us to theoretically keep surveillance equipment from eavesdropping. If he wipes a tear from his eye I am going to kill him, I decided.
Instead he took a deep breath and shook his head. “I’m sorry, Shepard,” he began and it was so good to hear his voice that I thought maybe I’d only wound him if he kept up the tone. “But you should see your face. I think you might need to get Dr. Chakwas to check your blood pressure.”
Ah, what a subtle hint that he knew who was aboard my ship. I stared at him in stony silence, my arms crossed. I wasn’t about to give him anything until I got some answers. Jack was snickering right along with him, the traitor. Garrus held his mandibles down and away from his face, looking at least half as furious as I felt. Anderson finally finished his mirth-fest with a sigh and looked pointedly at Jack. “Can we speak frankly?”
“Jack hates Cerberus even more than I do,” I answered. It sounded like we were finally ready to get down to where the drive core met the mass effect. The whole reason I’d brought Jack in the first place was to offer her testimony against Cerberus. She’d certainly sell us out, bless her mercenary little heart, but it wouldn’t be to the fruitcakes who’d thought that torturing little kids to make their biotic powers stronger, like they had her, was a good idea. “If we’re going to talk about taking them down then she’s got as much a stake in it as anyone.” I saw her eyes brighten at the prospect and she dropped all pretense of attitude in favor of paying strict attention.
“Cerberus has stuck fingers in some very unsavory pies, Shepard, but that puts them in a unique position for gathering intelligence. They’ve got research stations scattered throughout the galaxy, most of them outside of Council space, doing who knows what awful things.” Jack scowled but didn’t interrupt. “But they deal with shady characters that the Alliance won’t—can’t—touch. When we got the reports you sent on Freedom’s Progress we understood that they had an inside source on this Collector business. If we take down Cerberus that source dries up.”
I could see where this was going and it wasn’t anywhere pretty. Months of sucking up to TIM and tolerating Miranda stretched before me, peppered with shudder-inducing declarations of adoration from crew members. Jack raised an eyebrow, clearly intrigued by Anderson’s looming proposal, but she was getting what she wanted anyway so a little undercover work for pay probably sounded great to her.
She’d already established an unstable and Cerberus-hating persona with the crew, the lucky duck. Garrus was raring to go as well. The crew knew him as the vaunted Archangel, wreaker of vengeance, righter of wrongs, tolerator of no bullshit. I was left with the reasonable tone I’d already struck. If I’d have known this was coming I’d have been a whole lot bitchier from the get-go. Life just isn’t fair.
“Okay,” I sighed. “Who’s our handler and how do we pass intel?”
Anderson grinned at my slumped shoulders. He obviously knew a lot more than I’d have thought about the last couple of weeks on my new ship. “Before I answer that question, don’t you want to talk about reinstating your Spectre status?”
The Alliance was going to hang me out to dry on their “independent contractor” line. It had never crossed my mind that I could revive the Spectre-Shep half of me without regaining the military rank to go with it. With that title I could do whatever the hell I wanted, as long as I could give an excuse that made it sound important to the security of the galaxy or the will of the Council. Considering how rarely I’d actually considered that will in my previous work, combined with the fact that one could argue I’d gotten the members of the last Council killed, I thought I could handle it pretty easily.
Suddenly doors opened in my mind and my future brightened considerably. “Yes, please, sir,” I said, standing up straight once again. I grinned right back at my former captain.
I did a Spectre-y little dance with Garrus, complicated by the confines of the CoS, while Jack stared. “You are the biggest bunch of freaks,” she said. I could detect a little jealousy, though. I thought we’d get her doing her own tiny victory dances yet, at least in private where she didn’t think anyone would see. I wagged a finger at her. “Nope. That’s Cerberus.” She cracked a smile at that.
“All right, Councilor, now that I’ve got official standing I’d like to make a formal request for information. To whom will we be reporting and in what fashion?”
“Your contact is already a part of your crew. We haven’t been sitting on our laurels around here while you were too busy playing dead to get some work done. We infiltrated Cerberus as soon as we heard they had your body.” Anderson tried hard to look stern but one corner of his mouth refused to relinquish its smile. “He’ll report to his handler with the Alliance.”
“He? So it’s not Dr. Chakwas?” I pondered momentarily. “I should have known. The reason Joker was the only one whose recruitment made sense is because it was designed to make sense. You really are a sneaky bastard, sir.”
If Garrus had had eyebrows they’d have been up to his non-existent hair, he looked so surprised. “That explains a lot,” he muttered. Apparently news of the closet incident had spread.
“You handle the next clandestine meeting, Archangel,” I said. I pictured him and Joker crammed into the tiny cubicle and bit my lip hard to keep from laughing out loud. That worked until I caught Jack’s eye and the two of us exploded. Garrus joined in after spending a few moments looking affronted. The three of us leaned on each other, wiping our cheeks and gasping for breath as Anderson looked on in bemusement. It looked like I really did have the beginnings of a team.