“You’re not going to do anything ?” Kaidan asked, his heart – or what was left of it these days – sinking. “I complied all that data, filed all those reports and you won’t authorize a search?”
“I’m sorry, commander,” Councilor Anderson said, “But your data was inconclusive. We must know for certain what we are dealing with. There have been no sightings of this ship for months.”
“But, sir…” Kaidan fought to keep himself under control. To lose his temper about anything these days meant that the man inside of him would take control of the machine he’d become. And when that happened, crushing sorrow wasn’t far behind. “If you aren’t going to send me after this ship, then what was the point of all of those months of work?”
“We got your data,” Anderson said. “If we see that ship again, we have a comparison to make. We can investigate. For now, however, I have another mission that needs seeing to.”
“What is it?” Kaidan asked. As annoyed as he was, the idea of more work was tempting. So long as he kept busy, he kept the grief at bay.
“Remember that human colony you found? The one where everyone had gone missing?”
“Of course,” Kaidan replied. It had, after all, been rather hard to forget.
“The brass doesn’t want to cause a panic, especially as that colony was outside of Alliance space. Officially, those colonists left safety behind to get out from under Council regulations…”
“But they’re still human,” Kaidan finished for him, seeing where this was going.
“Exactly,” Anderson nodded. “We’re stretched pretty thin in the Alliance right now – that’s part of the reason why we can’t authorize a search for this ship you saw. But if a human colony goes missing without repercussions – even out in the traverse – then humanity could start to look weak. We can’t officially do anything, but we do need to act. And Alenko…”
Anderson broke off, his expression grim. Kaidan stiffened, waiting to hear what could possibly cause that look of worry to cross the officer’s face.
“I think it might be Cerberus.”
“Cerberus,” Kaidan frowned. “That would make sense.”
“You’ve dealt with them before, I think.”
“I have,” Kaidan nodded. “Shep - The Commander…” He broke off and could not finish.
“That’s what I thought,” Anderson said. “I read her reports. Their patterns of targeting small colonies for their experiments…” he frowned in disgust. “It fits the data.”
Not quite , Kaidan thought. The colony they had examined recently had been abandoned entirely. The Cerberus attacks they had seen had always been marked by hordes of engineered aliens and a bunch of crazed scientists. But if anyone had the power to take out entire colonies and defy Alliance detection, it was Cerberus.
“So this is my new assignment?” Kaidan asked. “You’re taking me off of the search for the Normandy’s attackers?”
“I know it’s not quite what you’d want,” Anderson said gently, “but it is a continuation of your earlier work with Shepard.”
That was true. This would be a way to honor her memory. He had seen her crew safely back to the Citadel, and now he could finish her final mission, the one she had not been able to complete. He knew that she would have preferred that he focus on the Reapers, but clearly that would be a task for Anderson. So this mission to protect small colonies and seek for answers about Cerberus would have to do.
And anyhow, Kaidan knew that there was no point of arguing. He knew the Alliance too well not to see that he was getting stonewalled. If the brass said they were not going to search for the ship that attacked the Normandy, then they were not going to search for it, no matter how much some newly-minted commander complained.
“I’m sorry,” Anderson told him. “And I won’t be able to give you much backup on this one. It will be completely classified, primarily a solo operation. You’ll be taking advanced weapons systems to a remote colony, set up the systems and then train the colonists to have their own militias. That ought to make the colony more secure. We need to send someone who can operate alone and yet knows how to lead a team. We need someone who we can trust to follow Alliance protocol on this, even while acting a little more independently.”
“You need a company man,” Kaidan said. “One who knows Cerberus. I get you.”
“You’re the best one for the job,” Anderson told him. “I suspect Cerberus’ ties were not cleanly cut when they left the Alliance. I know I can trust you. And I know you have the technical know-how and people skills to pull this off. These colonists aren’t going to like having the Alliance interfere with their settlements. They went out into the traverse to get away from our rules. You’ll have to tread lightly.”
“I understand,” Kaidan nodded. “So that’s the end of my investigations here?”
“This is going to save a lot of human lives in the end,” Anderson told him. “It will take a while though. And I won’t be able to officially acknowledge you. You’ll have to work off the grid most of the time, only making contact with us at specified times and locations. And you’ll need to watch out for Cerberus operatives, as well. Be careful of who you talk to.”
“So you want me to work alone for months without much contact with the Alliance?” Kaidan asked. “And investigate Cerberus while pretending I know nothing about them?”
“I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I didn’t think you were the only person who could.”
“It sounds perfect,” Kaidan said. “When do I start?”