Chapter 5 of Valkyrie

What the hell is wrong with me?

Shepard nodded politely at the introduction to Nihilus, the turian spectre, but her mind was completely elsewhere. Thankfully, after the Blitz, she had learned to look interested, listen with one ear, and say something appropriately quotable when asked a direct question. It was part of what made her such a successful solider and officer. Over the years, she had developed an unflappable professionalism that she had come to rely on as though it were a second armor. But somehow, she wasn’t quite able to focus today.

She’d been working too hard. That was the only explanation for it. Because when she’d come around the corner and seen that man and those eyes.

Shepard shook herself inwardly, then nodded at the captain’s description of the Normandy’s defenses. She had read up on all of this the moment she’d been handed her data pad. Apparently, Nihilus wasn’t one for reading up on his missions at all, because he’d set the datapad aside and asked the Captain to fill him in. Anderson was doing so with his usual politeness, but she could tell the exercise annoyed him. Silly turian , Shepard thought. Not reading up on the mission is just a recipe for disaster.

Then again, Shepard had to admit that the information from the data pad hardly gave the full story about this ship or crew. She’d been ill prepared to meet the lieutenant, for example. She’d read Alenko’s file, of course. As soon as Anderson handed her the dossier, she had skimmed over the names, paying a little more attention to the L2 biotic in the list. She’d always been intrigued by L2 biotics. The power was impressive, though she had to be grateful she’d been fitted for implants later, when models with less complications were available.

Shepard had read Alenko’s file, and so she thought she knew what she was getting into. After all, she’d worked with many good soldiers before. And Shepard took pride in the fact that she was good at leading a sqaud. She had a knack for seeing the potential of each soldier, the potential of the terrain and the threat of the hostiles involved. There were a lot of things that she was not good at, but making sure each member of her squad was where they ought to be was something she had a gift for. It was a good thing, too. It had saved her life and the life of the people under her command on many occasions.

When she arrived on the Normandy, Shepard had followed Captain Anderson below decks to meet her ground team. She figured she’d size them up and perhaps get to know them a little. The corporal she could peg in a heartbeat: he was untried, but likely to go far if he could live past his impulsive ways. But that Kaidan…

No, she couldn’t think of his as that. He was the lieutenant. At any rate, he had completely surprised her.

But what a nice surprise it was.

Shepard’s lips hardened into a thin line. It was that steady power that had done it, she decided. Most biotics were either a flickering hum or a raging knot – too weak or too erratic to feel comfortable around. Bitoics had a tendency to give off a little static, and Shepard had learned to read it over the years. She didn’t know of anyone else who could do the same, however, so it was a talent she kept to herself. She thought she had grown accustomed to every type of biotic energy out there.

But Kaidan – the lieutenant – his power had a kind of hum to it: strong and solid – like a sun-warmed rock that you just wanted to lay down and rest on.

*Where the hell did * that thought come from?

Shepard frowned. She was not fanciful. Nor did she make a habit of staring at the male crew members attractions. Kaidan – the lieutenant – was handsome, but then, many Marines were. Of course, she reminded herself, he was also a biotic and that was intriguing. She found herself wondering if the rest of him was as solid as his energy patterns.

Okay, Shepard, she told herself. You need to stop. Now.

She took a deep breath. She did. She needed to get a grip.

But damn it, how was she supposed to have prepared herself for that kind of an upset? She bit the inside of her lip as Nihilus began telling Anderson how the Alliance had clearly messed up some of the modifications of the original turian design of the ship. Anderson didn’t sound too pleased to hear the alien’s opinions. Shepard found it annoying too, but her mind was still drifting elsewhere.

The trouble was, she thought, Ka – the *lieutenant * – had done something to his powers in some way. He had hidden them or something. She hadn’t even noticed his biotics until she had been standing right in front of him and he had flared at her. In that instant, she realized that the very handsome man who had been staring at her breasts must be the L2 biotic. So instead of being annoyed at him, she instead found herself wondering what kind of man he was, and if he was in a habit of checking out his commanding officers like that. Given the way he had blushed, she guessed that he probably was not. His bashful smile had suddenly charmed her, taken away the sharp retort that had sprung to her lips.

So when he had suddenly flared at her, God help her, she’d flared right back at him.

And that was completely ridiculous, Shepard thought with a scowl. She hadn’t even realized that she was flaring at him – or *smiling * at him, for God’s sake – until he’d given her that utterly surprised look. It was embarrassing, and Shepard was not a woman who was easily embarrassed. She’d had problems with keeping her biotics under control in the past, but hell, you’d think that almost ten years of constant practice would count for something. Apparently not. Or, apparently not so far as the lieutenant was concerned. Because when she’d shaken his hand, she had certainly felt a flicker of his energy as though he was touching her right through her armor. It felt incredible.

Shepard let out a breath. She had worked with biotics in training scenarios before, and had never encountered anything remotely like that. And so she had flared in a way that only non-biotics like Jenkins would ever actually mistake for mere static. She only hoped that the captain hadn’t realized what that was – or that he wouldn’t read anything into it. Most of all, she hoped that she hadn’t completely lost the lieutenant’s respect.

Shepard stiffened at the thought. As the XO of a ship like the Normandy, she’d been given a high honor that required the fullest degree of professionalism that she could bring to the job. The biotics had caught her off guard. That was all. And now that she knew what kind of energy she was dealing with, she would be prepared for it next time. She would establish her authority with the lieutenant at the first possible opportunity, maintaining a friendly, respectful, and above all, professional working relationship. After all, she reminded herself. She was Kaidan’s commanding officer. She didn’t have any business thinking of him like…that.

Though you certainly were thinking of him like that. She thought. You’re still thinking of him by his first name.

Shepard frowned. She was.

Shepard gritted her teeth. This was ridiculous. She was not in the mood for this. And even if she was – which, of course, she was not – she had to set it aside. She did not want to give her subordinates reason to disrespect her nor give the captain reason to think that she was unfit for command. And as for fraternization…

Shepard stopped short, horrified that the thought had popped into her head. It had been a long time since it had even occurred to her that she might want to cross that line.

Not now , she told herself. And not him .

Unfortunately, she thought ruefully, the lieutenant was exactly the kind of man that she preferred.

“So,” Anderson said, turning to the turian, “What do you think of her?”

“She seems…distracted,” the alien replied. His small green eyes narrowed and he glared at the door, as if he could see Shepard walking away from the comm room.

“She’s tired,” the captain told him. “She had a long day.”

“Long days are a matter of course in the Spectres,” Nihilus replied. The captain acknowledged that with a nod and clasped his hands behind his back.

“Still,” Nihilus added. “Her service record is impressive. If it were known what she has done over the past few years…”

“That’s all classified,” Anderson told him. “Officially, she never went on those missions.”

“Her ability to work discreetly is in her favor,” the turian said. “My only concern is for her…” The turian broke off, his plated mandibles flaring a little on either side of his mouth.

“History?” Anderson suggested, raising an eyebrow.

“Morals,” the alien finished. “She appears, by all accounts, to try and save every innocent life she can.”

“Yes,” Anderson said, “That’s why I chose her for the crew.”

“Sacrifices have to be made in the field,” Nihilus said. “Spectres often have hard choices to make. After all, we are the ones who deal with the missions that the Council cannot sanction or acknowledge. I wonder if a decorated war hero ,” he said the words almost in a sneer, “will be able to make ugly decisions when the time comes.”

“Shepard has made a career out of avoiding ugly decisions in the first place,” Anderson told him. “She finds the best way out, not the easiest. She’s lost soldiers under her command – civilians, too. It wasn’t her fault, of course. But she’s no stranger to the darker side of the galaxy.”

“I wonder,” Nihilus said. “I see a softness in her.”

“Then you’re one of the few who does,” Anderson replied. “They call her ‘the Valkyrie’ for a reason.”

“I’m unfamiliar with that term,” Nihilus said with a one-shouldered shrug. “It doesn’t matter. She is still a good candidate – courageous, tactical, clever. And if she can fight as your reports say…”

“She can.”

“You humans are impressive, Anderson,” the alien said, lifting his chin. “When I first saw Shepard, she was not at all what I expected. Such a thin, soft-looking female, all pink and fleshy. And yet, she has taken so many lives.”

“Hard to believe it,” Anderson said, shaking his head a little. “Of course, she’s saved even more lives.”

“So you say,” Nihilus mused. “Very well, I’ll take her on. I only hope she lives up to our expectations.”

“So do I,” Anderson agreed. “So do I.”