Swingin' Saturday: The Swing of Things, Chapter 14

Stormy Weather

Thankfully, Captain Anderson proved to be as anxious to confront the ambassador as his trumpet player. Kaidan got a reply while he was still assembling his meal.

Having a deadline settled his stomach further. By the time he’d finished eating he had begun to look forward to clearing the air. It almost doesn’t matter what Udina says, he thought. I’ll just be glad to be done with it.

The next morning dragged with routine problems and fixes. The green recruits under his training could tell their Lieutenant still hadn’t fully returned to them, though they assumed he still suffered from his migraine rather than simple distraction. He’d long ago earned enough respect to keep them on diligently on-task without his scrutiny, a fact for which he was thankful as he found his thoughts turning every five minutes to the afternoon’s confrontation.

Six hours had been more than enough time for Kaidan to contemplate every possible scenario. He left a few final instructions for the afternoon then turned his steps with relief toward the walkway outside the consulate offices.

Despite having arrived ten minutes early, he found the captain pacing impatiently. “Let’s go get this over with,” Anderson said. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a handful of metal. “I got everyone else’s pins this morning. Did you bring the yours and the broken one?”

Kaidan produced his pin and the little jumble of electronics to which Jenkins’s had been reduced. “I had a feeling we’d be wanting these,” he said as he tipped them into the captain’s hand. Little as he believed in omens the sight of them plucked at Kaidan’s nerves. Their little band had grown into so much more than a simple diversion but Udina’s machinations had eclipsed the joy it had brought him, much as Anderson’s dark fingers closed over the gold notes twinkling jauntily in the sunlight.

He gave himself a little shake and followed Anderson into the offices. Udina looked up from his datapad as though he had no idea why the pair had come but the tension around his eyes belied his indifferent pose. “I’m a busy man,” he began brusquely. “What do you want, Anderson?”

The captain strode across the office and dumped the pins and parts onto Udina’s desk. “We’ve come to tell you we won’t wear these insignia.”

That’s insubordination,” Udina blustered. “You can’t just ignore orders because you don’t like them!”

No, but we can refuse to comply with a civilian request.” Anderson stayed matter-of-fact as the ambassador pushed his chair back and started to rise. “Were you ever directed by a superior officer to wear a new identifier on your uniform, Lieutenant?”

No, sir,” Kaidan replied firmly, emphasizing the recognition of Anderson’s superior rank. “Nor was I ever reassigned to Military Intelligence.” Udina seemed to having difficulty forming whole words in objection to this little sally. “To be a spy,” Kaidan added helpfully, raising his eyebrows at the fuming ambassador. “I am not one.” The tiny camera glinted from among the pile, as if winking encouragement.

There, you see?” Anderson continued as though the ambassador were simply listening attentively and not spluttering like a pot boiling over. “If you’ll just give us the name of the officer whose orders we’ve been defying we’ll clear this right up. Unless there are no such persons. That couldn’t be true, could it?”

He sounded bemused, as though he’d only just thought of the possibility. Kaidan wondered if the bass player wanted to lose his breakfast all over the desk or if it was just him. Instead of vomiting he said, “Surely not, sir,” as casually as his knotted insides would let him.

Those Turians are withholding valuable technology!” Udina finally spouted. “Humanity must work together if they are not to be excluded from galactic politics. We can’t trust some aliens to just hand over their secrets because the Council tells them to.” His nose wrinkled at just the thought of the Council. Kaidan wondered if it were because they were aliens or because they had not yet invited the ambassador to be a member. Either way, he looked like a kid eating Brussels sprouts and Kaidan suppressed a sudden burble of laughter. “If you’re told to do this for the good of our entire species how dare you say no?”

I asked you for a name, Udina” Anderson said, standing to take a step forward and stab his finger into the glittering pile. The insignia scattered leaving the tiny microphone just at the captain’s fingertip like an accusation. The steel of a commander finally showed his voice. “Either you tell us on whose orders you expect us to wear these or we leave them here.”

"This is an outrage!" Udina thundered, crashing a fist down on his desktop in a childish tantrum. Little metal notes jumped around like a children’s music vid at the pounding and Kaidan almost laughed aloud. He thought he might be getting hysterical, a novel feeling and one not wholly unwelcome if only in relief of the tightly wound tension of the situation. As long as he managed not to laugh he could live with the urge. “Your job is to defend Humanity.”

"Not from our own allies," Anderson snapped in return. Kaidan had never heard him so cold. His amusement fled. "And we don't work for you."

"The Alliance Navy exists to enforce the will of the civilian government," shouted Udina. From him, the quick escalation to his frenzied tone seemed perfectly normal. "This is no military dictatorship!"

Kaidan winced and looked at the open balcony that must be broadcasting the ambassador’s histrionics to half the Presidium. Perhaps his neighbors were accustomed enough to his rants that they paid them no attention.

Then again, the Council might have intentionally assigned the wide-open office to Earth’s diplomat just so they could keep an eye and an ear on him. Kaidan supposed it was no bad thing a pair of Alliance officers stood here openly defying the man. Not only might word get back to the turian brass but the other species might be reassured to hear Udina taken down a peg or two. Undoubtedly he rubbed the other ambassadors the same wrong way he did the band.

"I have followed my orders," Anderson replied more calmly, bringing Kaidan’s wandering attention back to the confrontation. "And you are not the government. You're a functionary with no authority." He gestured at the pins. "Those came from you, not HQ, and we will not be wearing them until such time as they are officially assigned to us through proper channels."

He spun smartly on his heel and stalked away, leaving Kaidan to follow as smoothly as possible. He nodded sharply at Udina and strode out, shoulders back, as though they’d planned the whole thing. He and Anderson marched into the corridor, silent and determined, until the door hissed shut behind them. Then the captain's shouldered slumped a little as they left the embassy district. "That was ugly," he finally said when he decided they weren’t likely to be heard.

Kaidan chuckled a bit at his understatement, relieved that it hadn’t been worse. "You can say that again. At least Udina all but confirmed that he's working outside the official chain of command."

Anderson smiled at that. “That is a load off my mind. Maybe this will keep him away from us for good.”

With renewed song in his heart, Kaidan followed his bass player back to the wards and what turned into the best practice they’d enjoyed in a month. The new tune came together quickly. Chakwas drew out the last “skies” in a pure, crystal note that gave his favorite antique recording of the song a run for its money. Where she hid all that breath in her slender frame he’d never know but the proper-seeming doctor had turned out to be a torch singer worthy of the best songs from the classical era.

Everyone grinned a little easier and played a little stronger in the rush of relief they felt at Anderson’s report of their confrontation. They joked and complimented one another and Chakwas even pulled a blushing, stammering Jenkins into a little dance. When the kid spun her out with unexpected flair, even Joker was surprised into a shout of laughter.

Joker tinkled a tune on his keys and Pressly tootled a little counterpoint. At seeing the relief obvious in the XO’s somewhat giddy body language, the last dregs of suspicion fell away and Kaidan grew a bit manic himself. They six played and sang and danced for hours, helped by a couple of bottles of brandy Chakwas had brought down from her quarters.

Whatever might come, Kaidan knew he’d remember this evening as one of the happiest since he’d left his parents’ home to go to Brain Camp. Given the uncertainty of their status and Udina's shadowy allies, he made the best of the night's simple joys.

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