Double Monday: The Double, Chapter 29

Ups and Downs

I spent a few minutes in the privacy of a nearby ladies’ room rolling my eyes at the foibles of my team then headed for Admiral Hackett’s office. With Thane and Garrus sitting on the Normandy with their respective missions accomplished in my usual, quasi-successful style, I was free to focus on more pleasant matters. I breezed into the admiral’s office with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. It had been a ridiculously productive day and it wasn’t even 1600 hours yet.

My bouncy entry screeched to a halt when I saw what filled the room. A bizarre, swooshy-looking thing occupied half of the floor space and reached up almost to graze the ceiling. I presumed the wall was hinged because there was no way anyone had gotten that monstrosity through the door. At the pinnacle was a shiny metal replica of the SR-1 about the size of my hand. Hackett grinned at me around its chrome.

I cocked my head to the left, one eyebrow raised, and asked, “Is this the best they could do?” Nowhere on the thing did the names of the dead, the still-deceased crew members much less my own, appear. It seemed a pretty sorry memorial to me. I only recognized the old Normandy because she’d been mine for a time, Joker’s baby and my own. I imagined this silly thing sitting on a plain near some wreckage, shining dully under an alien sun, and my mood deflated a bit.

“It’s filled with sentiment and other good things,” Hackett replied, dropping me a wink. It took a moment to understand what he was telling me. I’d spent too much time on my new ship, where a wink usually meant that the random person passing me in the corridor wanted to join the rotation of people with whom I spent time in closets and my shower.

Then it clicked: something useful was hidden inside the statue. It must be pretty large to require a base the size of the one that held the frozen silver wave that I supposed was meant to represent the Normandy swooping through space. I nodded my understanding, smiling again, but I was still puzzled. “Why the hell is it in your office and not waiting to be loaded in my cargo bay?”

“I wanted to admire it a bit before you placed it on Alchera,” he replied, as though it were the most reasonable thing in the world to order a ten-foot-tall statue to be placed in one’s office for an afternoon. I presumed that meant he had placed its contents himself.

Or could it be…nah, it wasn’t quite that big. You couldn’t fit a full- and very nicely-grown Alliance officer in the base, much as I wanted to indulge my most optimistic fantasies. A Trojan monument this may be but the Alliance wouldn’t be sneaking a live package onto the SR-2 with it. I wondered idly if the little Normandy was detachable. Who the hell would miss it on that frozen little out-of-the-way world? I needed something to put in that big glass case in my quarters that contained nothing but a model of the new Normandy at the moment.

“When you’re done would you mind having it delivered?” I asked. “I don’t think I can carry it myself.” The admiral laughed in that gruff way I’d come to know so well. Just hearing it felt like coming home after so long chafing at TIM’s snark. “Just don’t get too…excited about it. I wouldn’t want to have to steam clean it before I let it on my ship.”

His guffaw let me appreciate the freedom my Spectre status gave me outside the Alliance command structure. I’d never have dreamed of saying something so blunt to my commanding officer’s commanding officer, when I’d had one. I suppose he wasn't accustomed to having a subordinate get so cheeky with him, either. He didn’t seem to mind in the least, now that I was outside of his chain of command.

We waved a cheery goodbye and I wondered what would happen if I survived this so-called suicide mission. Could I go back to the lower end of the upper echelon after doing whatever the hell I wanted for so long? And if I were a Spectre still could I stand so much time away from Kaidan once the choice was mine to make?

Bah, I thought dismissively. I’d worry about all of that later. For the moment I had a secret compartment waiting to be explored and a possible rendezvous to verify. I certainly wouldn’t consider my current life ideal but it definitely had its moments.

I passed a store selling model ships and was brought up short at seeing the SR-1 in far more detail than the memorial version. I decided to blow a chunk of our money on it for Kaidan. I wasn’t normally the type for giving or getting gifts outside of practical weapons and armor but then I’d never had a relationship quite like this one. The thought of his face when he got it tickled me.

The ship came with little action figures, according to the display, proving my old crew was not completely out of the spotlight even now. A wee Garrus stood next to a lumpy little Wrex and a few anonymous figures in Alliance blue loitered around the back of the ship where the open cargo doors revealed a scaled-down version of my beloved Mako rover. I stared at the tiny replicas of us and imagined Kaidan placing them in compromising positions in various places around the model.

My giggles drew the attention of the salesperson, a bubbly Asari who hadn’t immediately recognized me. As soon as she did she offered a substantial discount on the set in exchange for an endorsement of the store. A small portion of my dignity was worth the cash at that point so I recorded a blurb for her. It took several attempts, during which I cracked up at the absurdity of my name being used to sell toys to Citadel tourists, to get one with which she was satisfied. She promised to have the set wrapped and delivered as quickly as possible.

By the time I meandered down to the docking bay the monument had been loaded. I found Kelly dancing from foot to foot in the CIC awkwardly holding a large box. “Commander Shepard, your package came!” I sprayed laughter before I could stop myself. The yeoman gave a hesitant ha-ha, wanting to join in the joke but not sure what it was. She kept her huge eyes on my face, waiting for a cue or a clue.

I wiped my eyes and thanked her as graciously as I could. She certainly wasn't going to get any hints from me. Taking the box, I started to the cargo bay. Along the way I pinged Garrus to join me. I wanted to see his reaction to the shiny thing we were intended to plant at the scene of my retracted death.

I met him at the door and we walked in together. “What the hell is that thing?” he asked when he caught sight of it. In the more-open expanse of the cargo area the statue appeared much smaller than it had in the admiral’s office.

“That, my dear Garrus, is a monument to the sacrifices of our friends and crewmates.” He looked at me, frowning. “Clearly,” I continued, “the actual ship was dwarfed by the whooshing it did.” I snickered. The thing was so ridiculous that I couldn’t help it. That tiny form could have been any ship and the curve of metal supporting it served no clear purpose.

Garrus shook his head. “Humans,” he murmured, displaying a disconcerting lack of a sense of humor. I suddenly remembered that it had been only that morning that he’d been so angry with me. Here I was, practically giddy, and we hadn’t even talked about what had happened.

“Is there a restroom around here?” I asked. I hated to have such a personal conversation with the puppy’s eyes and ears on us. He gestured to the right and we made our way into the little room. At least it wasn’t another janitor’s closet. I locked the door and had EDI stop broadcasting and recording. “Look,” I started, “I’m sorry…”

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