Part 2, Chapter 3 of Valkyrie

Kaidan saw himself link his omnitool into the comm system for the escape pods. He saw himself reconfigure the frequency to link into the nearest comm buoy. He heard himself speak a message into the system, clear and cold as the stars that twinkled in the distance.

This is Staff Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko of the SSV Normandy. We were attacked by an unknown vessel. Our commanding officers are…dead.

He nearly faltered then, nearly came back to himself, but somehow, he disconnected from the man who was grieving, the man who was stunned, and the voice went on.

We request immediate rescue shuttles. Approximately fifty crew members have survived. We may need medical attention for humans and non-humans.

He spoke on in that same dead voice, giving their location, their trajectory, and what little info they had on the attack. He had never been more grateful to be wearing a mask that he was now. Behind it, he could hide the man and simply become a machine.

When he had finished, Kaidan requested status reports from each of the pods.

Dammit, Joker . Why the hell couldn’t you follow orders? Garrus spoke the words that the man inside of Kaidan thought, the words that he could not bring himself to say.

Shut the fuck up, turian! I didn’t ask her to come and pull me off the ship.

You bastard! You should have realized that she…

Both of you, stop . Kaidan’s voice, always somewhat soft and relaxed, had become as icy as that of the commanding officer they had just lost. There was a pause, then another voice wavered over the comm.

Kaidan, I’m so sorry.

Liara’s voice was just too soft and teary for him to listen to.

We don’t have time to deal with that , he’d said, willing her to stop.

But she might be out there. The soft voice insisted. To the man in him that was mourning, it was like a siren’s song. Joker, didn’t you say she was knocked back by the blast? Perhaps she’s out there, just unconscious.

There’s no way , came the reply, She was leaking oxygen when she went. She hit atmo in a damn jumpsuit…

Shut up! The man inside of Kaidan snapped. That man’s voice came out of his mouth. There was a startled silence over the comm. Then the machine took over again.

We can’t speculate about that. Not now. We’re stuck here in these pods until someone comes to get us. Once we’re picked up, we can look for…

He couldn’t say it.

All this time he’d called her “Shepard” when he should never have called her by her name. In front of the crew, he’d called her “commander” and “ma’am,” though the titles didn’t even come close to the respect he felt for her.

And now, he simply couldn’t say any of them.

He couldn’t even say “bodies” or “survivors” or “the dead.” Because really, what could he say? She’d been leaking oxygen and hit the atmosphere of the planet below in nothing but her armor. She was gone.

We’ll look later, he said.

But even as he said it, he knew there would be nothing to find.