Labels: anderson , Chakwas , Jenkins , kaidan , Mass Effect , the swing of things , Udina
Ambassador Udina strode down the crowded hall toward them, nose first, in one of his innumerable white tunics. He gave the crew a once-over before every performance, though he’d never found reason to complain. His persistence finally paid off.
“Where’s your pin?” Udina snapped at Jenkins.
The corporal paled and fumbled with a flap on his dress blues. “Sorry, sir,” he said. “I just had my uniform cleaned and I hadn’t put it back on, yet.” His shaking hand fished out the little note but it fell from his fingers. Udina made an impatient noise that prompted Anderson to step in to help.
The sharp toe of the bass player’s immaculately shined shoe landed right on the little insignia. Even over the noise of the hall everyone heard the crunch as it broke beneath his weight. He began to move his foot and Udina all but leapt to sweep up the pieces as Anderson apologized for his clumsiness.
Kaidan had caught a crafty flicker on the captain’s face as he’d stepped forward. He’d guessed Anderson’s intentions began to stoop even before the sound of breakage had registered with the others. Half a second before Udina could snag the broken remnants Kaidan swept them into his hand.
He stirred the pieces with a finger, registering the tiny camera and microphone. Instead of confronting the ambassador, however, he simply said, “I don’t think we can put this one back together, sir.” Udina held out a hand imperiously, though his eyes shifted among the band’s members. Kaidan tipped the bits into the outstretched palm as casually as he could. He studiously ignored the look Anderson was giving him. Fifteen minutes before a performance was neither the time nor the place to think about what this meant and where they should take it next
Instead he said, “I guess Corporal Jenkins will have to play without his until we can get him a replacement, Ambassador. We’d better get warmed up if we’re going to start on time, like a proper military band should.” Then he turned and started toward the now-familiar backstage room.
Udina grumbled a little as he tucked the fragments into his own pocket. “Yes, well, you’d better get moving.” Jenkins looked so faint by then that Kaidan thought Pressly might have to help him walk but the younger man recovered quickly as the ambassador stalked off down the hall, as usual looking down his beak at the serving staff swirling around him.
“I thought he was going to hold a court martial and have me executed right there,” Jenkins squeaked as the rest of the group filed into the room behind Kaidan.
“He can’t, Richard” Dr. Chakwas laughed. “He’s not even a part of the Alliance.” She patted his shoulder as she continued. “It was an accident. Even the uptight ambassador for all of humanity can’t hold that against you. David, on the other hand…”
She and Anderson grinned at one another. “Udina isn’t going to get me thrown in the brig for being clumsy,” he said, hefting his bass. “Now let’s get ready to wow those stoic Turians with some serious swing.”
Jenkins gave a weak smile and the six of them turned their attention to preparing for the evening’s performance. Kaidan enjoyed the music and mingled politely afterward but his mind was as much on what he’d found within the ruins of the pin as it was on his surroundings.
When the last compliments had been accepted and the final guest ushered out, Anderson found a moment to suggest a lunch the following day. “I’ll meet you by the fountain, near the Presidium tower,” he said, his casual demeanor belied by the way his eyes narrowed, a sure sign that something serious was afoot.
Kaidan doubted Anderson had got much more sleep than he had. The morning passed slowly and every piece of equipment he touched seemed part of a conspiracy to frustrate him. With relief he finished giving instructions to his trainees and hopped a cab to the Presidium.
The open vistas of that part of the Citadel always soothed him. On the utterly urbanized station the park-like atmosphere was one of the few places he truly felt at home and nearly the only area where he could actually sit under a tree. As much as he loved his duties with the Alliance, some days he missed Earth and his family terribly.
Captain Anderson sat on a bench with take-out boxes from a nearby café. Water splashed merrily behind him and workers from the surrounding offices strolled about on their various errands or on the way to their own lunches. He tipped his head at the seat beside him and Kaidan sat with a curious glance.
“I thought we’d enjoy a meal al fresco,” Anderson said quietly, “out in the open air and away from everyone. You can tell me about last night while we eat.”
Kaidan explained what he’d found in the broken pin between bites of an excellent sandwich. He talked about the probably range and quality of what the tiny gear could have captured in the midst of their rollicking numbers. The captain didn’t seem any more surprised than Kaidan had been.
The two sat in silence for a few minutes, contemplating and eating. Finally, Anderson set aside the last of his lunch and wiped his mouth fastidiously.
“Have you ever heard of Cerberus?” he asked, glancing around in a furtive way wholly unlike him.
The Swing of Things Chapter List