She was stunning.
There was no other way to describe it. Kaidan had seen vids of her, so he recognized her at once, but the flickering holographs were nothing like the woman he now saw. She was much younger than he expected: in her late twenties at most. He realized she must have been very young at the time of the Blitz.
Youngest recipient of the Star of Terra – the lines from the dossier suddenly sunk in.
My God, Kaidan thought, she must have been as young as Jenkins back then.
She was prettier than he had expected. Well, not…pretty, exactly. She wore no makeup, her hair was styled in a military-approved cut, though a little long, as if in need pf a trim. She was a blond though, and very fair. It made her look striking, if only because of the rarity of that kind of coloring. There was something a little strange about her eyes though, but he couldn’t quite tell what in this low light.
But most of all, the commander had aura about her of authority and precision that made Kaidan feel as if he ought to stand a little taller. She herself was quite tall, almost the same height as he and she wore the requisite jumpsuit with her rank emblazoned on the right breast. N7, he noted. Special forces, top of her class. The tight fit left little to the imagination – not that his imagination hadn’t completely taken off on its own.
Kaidan shook himself and looked up into her face. He hadn’t even realized his gaze had trailed slowly down her body until it had reached her toes. Kaidan now found himself staring into eyes that seemed to glitter a little, as though an electric storm was gathering there. One elegant blond eyebrow raised slightly. And then the woman smiled.
It was just the slight curving of her mouth, as though she thought his perusal of her uniform was amusing. But there was also something in her expression, something strangely warm and – interested? The worker in the docking bay had smiled at him, but it wasn’t even remotely the same. That worker seemed to be sizing him up as if for a snack. The commander seemed to be looking at him – actually looking at him: not as a soldier or even a biotic, but as a man.
And in that moment, she seemed to like what she saw.
Kaidan stared back at her, suddenly aware that his heart was pounding. He felt an unexpected flare of his biotics. A blue fire flickered over the hand he had raised in salute. He sharply dropped his arms and hid his hands behind his back, standing at attention.
*Damn. * He hadn’t let his feelings control his biotics in…well, since he was a teenager, really. Something about this woman had completely thrown him off balance. Anderson and Jenkins hadn’t seemed to notice, but the commander had. Kaidan watched her warily, wondering how she would respond to his slip.
Amazingly, the corner of her mouth quirked upward and a flicker of blue sparked in her right eye. A flare of biotic energy ran down her cheek like a tear, shimmered over her lips, then faded. Kaidan blinked. He had never realized that he had a thing for biotic women. Apparently he did, because he found that flare-up sexy as hell.
“Shepard,” Anderson said.
The woman suddenly stiffened. Kaidan watched as something like a mask slide over her features. The sparkle in her eyes faded and her slight smile dimmed. Anderson and Jenkins turned her; apparently they did not see the change. But Kaidan felt it at once, as though a bolt of lightening had struck down and then vanished. He sensed that the woman was now wearing her expression like armor, and he had to wonder if he hadn’t just imagined that seeming interest of a moment ago.
“Let me introduce you to your ground team, Shepard,” Captain Anderson said. “This is Staff Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko.”
“Lieutenant Alenko.” The woman nodded, looking at him coolly. Her voice was surprising low, Kaidan thought. A commanding voice, but also a hard one.
“Ma’am,” Kaidan rasped out, amazed his voice worked at all. When had his throat gotten so dry?
He reached out and shook her hand. She wore gloves of heavy synthetic fabric and Kaidan found himself thankful for that. Touching her bare skin might set off his obviously over-strained biotics in a most embarrassing way. As it was, a flare of biotic energy flickered between their fingers, sparking blue like a firecracker. Kaidan felt her energy all the way up his bare arm, as if she had caressed the inside of his wrist up to the soft skin under his elbow. He swallowed hard and willed himself not to flare in response.
“Wow!” Jenkins said. “No way! I didn’t know that two biotics would…”
“This is Shepard. Corporal Jenkins,” Anderson said, cutting the youth off. He watched in detached amusement as Jenkins eagerly stepped forward to pump the commander’s arm up and down. “You know his uncle, of course.”
“Of course,” the commander said. “How is Rear Admiral Thomasin?”
“He’s well, thanks,” Jenkins beamed at her. “And it’s an honor to meet you, ma’am,” he looked down at their hands in disappointment. “That was wicked what you did to the lieutenant. I only wish you’d done that one me.”
“That was unintentional,” the commander said stiffly, her gaze flicking to Kaidan before looking back to the corporal. “Just…static.” She let go of the corporal’s hand let her hand fall to her side.
“It was awesome,” Jenkins said. “Can you do that kind of thing from across the room?”
Kaidan took the opportunity to flex his hand gingerly. He could still feel the spark of the commander’s hand, could still feel the pressure of her hand, too. The woman had a surprisingly strong grip.
Well, what were you expecting, Alenko? She’s a Marine, not a beauty queen.
“Biotics aren’t Jedi” the commander told Jenkins with a slight laugh. The sound caught Kaidan off-guard. It was so…genuine, and it warmed her otherwise cold voice. Her returning smile completely transformed her face and Kaidan found himself staring at her once again.
“We can’t mind-read or anything like that,” she went on. “We’ve just developed the ability to manipulate dark energy. We’re telekinetic, not telepathic”
Kaidan had to smile a little at that one. It sounded like she had given this mini-lecture as many times as he had. For all that human biotics had been around for a almost twenty years, people still never quite understood them.
“So you can’t like…mind control people through some biotic Force, or anything?” Jenkins asked.
“No,” she said. “Nothing like that. It’s physical manipulation, not psychological. I have nodules – mutations, really – in my nervous system that allow me to generate and control dark energy.”
Jenkins’ eyes widened, but not in fear or shock, but in eager appreciation.
“I…and…Lieutenant Alenko too, of course,” the commander added, nodding briefly at Kaidan, “can control the impulses in our nervous system. We use our own bio-electric power to spark off what are essentially small mass effect fields. With that shift in dark energy, we can then move objects.”
“Or shred things,” Jenkins added.
“Yes,” she nodded. “Or set up gravity wells that pull everything in the room into orbit.”
Kaidan stared at her. “You can do what ?” he blinked.
“That’s awesome!” Jenkins grinned, cutting off whatever the commander might have said in response. “So it’s like…an extra hand?”
“Something like that,” the commander said, smiling a little. “But like a hand, it just lifts things. It doesn’t read minds.”
True enough, Kaidan thought, still wondering about this strange skill the commander had mentioned. But what the commander wasn’t telling Jenkins was that hands could feel as well as lift – and so could biotics.
Then again, Kaidan realized, maybe the commander didn’t know that part of biotic powers. Many people did not.
All biotic individuals were sensitive to mass effect fields, could sense fluctuations in dark energy around and within their own bodies. And as the commander had said, this allowed them to manipulate energy and move objects with their mind and neural mnemonics. But some biotics – some very controlled biotics – could sense the fields and fluctuations generated by sources other than themselves. It required a great deal of control to make things move. It required even greater control to sense the biotic movement of others. And Kaidan’s training had, in spite of its other flaws, made him unbelievably controlled.
Well, he amended, it had made him unbelievably controlled until today, when a certain biotic commander had set off his system a little. Still, for the most part, he was able to quiet his own energy to a degree that he could sense energy from other sources – other strong biotics, mass effect engine cores, even strong artificial gravity generators. But he knew this was an unusual skill, and one that tended to make people nervous. It did sound very close to mind-reading. Kaidan knew he was an anomaly and so he generally kept it to himself.
Briefly, Kaidan wondered if the commander could sense energies, too. Given her power, she was certainly strong enough, but she was probably too strong a biotic to be able to control that power entirely. After all, she’d sparked a reaction just touching him.
Then again, part of Kaidan’s mind considered, maybe that was as unusual for her as it had been for him. Though what that would mean was…
He hastily pushed that thought aside. Biotics did flare with strong emotion. But looking at the stern face of the commander, Kaidan was willing to guess that she was not a woman given to such outbursts.
“So, you have implants in the back of your head, right?” Jenkins asked, craning as if to look at the back of her neck.
“I have implants throughout my body,” the commander explained. “They’re kind of like…wires, to help move things. What you’re talking about is an amp.”
She lifted her hair a little to show the kid the small device at the base of her skull. That surprised Kaidan. She certainly didn’t have to indulge Jenkin’s curiosity about this, and yet she was. Maybe, he thought, she wasn’t quite as cold as he had first taken her for.
“The amp just pumps up the volume on the biotic output,” the commander said, letting her hair fall back into place.
“Oh, so you can’t just…” Jenkins mimed pulling something out of the back of his head, “switch out your implants.”
“No,” she said.
“Well,” Kaidan said, his voice husky, “You could. But the surgery is pretty invasive.”
“And risky,” the commander added, looking at him for a moment. Kaidan found himself shifting his feet under her gaze.
“That’s awesome,” Jenkins said, looking from the one of them to the other.
“Well, if you’re finished interrogating the commander, Jenkins, we need to be moving on,” Captain Anderson said swiftly, stepping in to wave the commander along. “Come with me, Shepard, we have a Spectre to greet.”
“A Spectre?” Jenkins’ eyes lit up to glowing. “On this ship? He wasn’t on the dossier.”
“That’s because officially, he’s not here,” Anderson said, cryptically. “Carry on Jenkins. Alenko.”
“Sir,” the two said in stereo, adding identical salutes. “Ma’am.”
The commander nodded at them before turning to follow Anderson across the mess area and back to the stairs. Jenkins whirled around to grin at Kaidan.
“A Spectre! No kidding! I swear there was nothing about it on *my * data pad. Let me see yours.”
Kaidan handed over the data pad, feeling as if he was still in a daze. For as the commander walked away, he could sense that ripple of energy receding with her.
”…Don’t you think, LT?”
“What?” Kaidan blinked, staring at Jenkins in surprise.
“I said the commander is something else, isn’t she? I can’t believe we actually met someone so famous – on this crew, too. She’s older than I thought, though. She must be almost thirty or something.”
“Or something,” Kaidan murmured.
“Man, I remember seeing her in the vids…”
As Jenkins happily chattered on, Kaidan inwardly shook himself. He wasn’t at all sure what to make of the commander. She was young, and pretty, even if she was a little stern. But she had shown humor to Jenkins, even though she had been icy towards Kaidan. Her manner was puzzling, to say the least. The only thing Kaidan could really conclude about her was that she was an incredibly powerful biotic. Yet, even there, he thought, he wasn’t sure just how powerful she was. Though when she’d flared like that…
Just as she reached the stairway, the commander turned and caught Kaidan’s eye. Nothing changed in her expression at all: it was still cold as before. And yet, even as her eyes remained impassive, a flash of blue energy flickered in her eyes. Kaidan felt his heart start to race.
Oh God, he thought, looking at her in a completely new light. She’s…attractive.
*Put it aside, Alenko, * he thought wildly. * You really don’t need this right now.*
Then she disappeared out of sight and Kaidan found himself staring at the spot where she had been a moment before.
He swallowed hard.
Alright, Alenko , he thought, trying to put it into perspective, nothing happened.
At least, nothing had happened that he couldn’t explain away. He’d met his commanding officer, he’d had a slight…reaction to her biotic powers. It wasn’t surprising, given that he hadn’t worked with biotics in a while. And maybe she’d had a reaction to him for the same reason. Although maybe…no, he thought. He really couldn’t imagine that this…whatever it was…went both ways. She clearly just…
Kaidan shook his head. He didn’t want to go there, didn’t want to assume things about a woman he didn’t even know. A woman who is your commanding officer , a small voice reminded him.
Exactly , he thought. He was just curious about the commander, that was all. And his growing admiration of her was clearly based on his appreciation for her service record and abilities. He also felt quite a bit of relief there that she was N7 and obviously an active soldier, not some washed-up officer waiting on her retirement.
So that’s it then, Kaidan thought to himself. Nothing happened between me and Shepard . Nothing at all.
And Kaidan realized he’d started calling her ‘Shepard’ in his head, instead of “commander.”