Kaidan had just finished removing the last of the rogue VI programs from the Alliance systems when he heard the soft ping of his omnitool. He ignored it as he set his own custom security program to scan for known Argus-related Trojan signatures, then sat back grimly in his seat and rubbed his eyes.
He took a deep breath, feeling a sense of…something. Almost two months of work in tracking down these Cerberus spy programs and suddenly, with a few keystrokes, it was all over. Recon and strike had never been more bloodless, he thought, or less satisfying. In all likelihood, there were more Cerberus hacks and spy programs out there in the network, but he wasn’t going to be able to find them all – not today, anyway. It wasn’t his job anymore, anyway, and he couldn’t say he was sorry about that.
With a sigh, Kaidan pushed away from the desk. The other guys in the room were still hard at work, apparently oblivious to the fact that there were no windows in here and the whole place had walls that leaned slightly inward in a most uncomfortable way. Kaidan was glad to be leaving for more reason than one.
Remembering the alert of a moment ago, Kaidan turned his attention to his omnitool. The yellow mitt enveloped his hand, a blinking light signaling that he had new mail messages. He tapped at the interface, bringing up a screen and small keyboard and opened his inbox.
Sixty-three new messages?
Kaidan blinked in surprise. He hadn’t realized he’d been off the network for so long and his omnitool hadn’t registered the loss of connection. But then, no, he looked again. He hadn’t lost his connection after all. Maybe, Kaidan thought, Rear Admiral Thomasin had sent off multiple copies of the same email again. It wouldn’t be the first time, nor probably the last.
But as Kaidan, looked closer, he realized that every single message was listed as classified and was addressed to him specifically. He wondered if the messages were related somehow to his new assignment, but then he noticed there was no sender listed either. It was as if the emails had appeared in his inbox out of no where.
Kaidan raised his eyebrows. Either this was security beyond what the brass usually used or some spammer had finally broken Alliance firewalls in a major way.
Kaidan immediately ran a virus-check program on the messages. The scan turned up clean. Now curious, Kaidan opened up the message, then his eyes widened as he read:
You know I’m no good with words – not really. If I ever was, it was an accident at best. But I just had to try and say something to you before we go.
We’re about to travel through the Omega 4 relay in an effort to stop the Collectors once and for all. When that’s done, I’ll consider my ties to Cerberus at an end.
If I don’t come back from this mission, please forgive me. And get Anderson and the effing council to do something about the Reapers for God’s sake.
If I do come back from this mission, please forgive me. And I’d like to see about that “Maybe, I don’t know,” of yours. I think I know what I want, but let’s live through the Reapers first, yeah?
Kaidan stared at the message, read it again, then again, registering about a dozen emotions at once.
She was going through the Omega 4 relay? She couldn’t be serious. Fear sliced through him, even as he realized he should have suspected as much all along. And then, what did she mean she knew what she wanted? Hadn’t she moved on to Garrus? Faint hope glimmered within him, but it was quickly replaced with doubt. Her words were so vague. And what the hell was with her flippant attitude? *Get the effing council to do something? * She sounded like she was talking to a casual acquaintance, not as if she was sending a goodbye message to a former lover. It smacked of her tone on Horizon, which immediately pissed him off.
Kaidan read the message once more, caught between irritation and worry, before he remembered that this was one message of many. Were all those classified messages in his inbox from Shepard? he wondered Surely not. Perhaps they were all duplicate copies.
Opening the next message at once, Kaidan read:
Just one more thing. I want you to know, I only ever wanted to make you happy. If I’ve failed at that, I hope you can find happiness on your own. Be well.
Kaidan stared at the screen, feeling completely disarmed. That was a lot warmer than the first message – it was also not a duplicate message, which meant that the rest of these messages…
Kaidan opened up the next message, then blinked, then read it again. His brows furrowed as he tried to figure out what the hell it was supposed to mean.
Do you think the geth are people or programs? I really can’t figure -
Kaidan tried to scroll down and read more, but that’s all there was to the message – just a fragment of nonsense with his name at the top. Completely baffled now, Kaidan pressed on:
On my way to board a Reaper – ugh. Can you believe it? The science team isn’t reporting in – what a shock. Can’t imagine what we’ll find. I’m bringing two biotics with me and a shitload of guns.
I’m hungover, too. This ought to be fun.
Kaidan read on, noting something about an asari and a drell and some reference to Joker. That message then ended abruptly as the last one.
Kaidan was so caught up in trying to decipher what these fragments meant that he didn’t even notice that he was being hailed until a voice came over his comm link.
“Staff Commander Alenko?”
“What?” Kaidan started. He immediately shut down his omnitool. “Ah, Alenko here.”
“Sir,” the voice said, “This is Lieutenant Greaves, sir. I’m sorry to bother you, sir, but I was told to call you directly. We’ve had a booking error…”
Kaidan didn’t even hear the man as he droned on about the Councilor’s busy schedule and what an honor this all was. Kaidan was still staring at his arm, where his omnitool had been a moment before, wondering what Shepard was about.
If Kaidan didn’t know any better, he would think Shepard had sent him a bunch of unfinished drafts by accident. But how could she have made a mistake like that when she’d also managed to bypass Alliance security systems to deliver them?
Come to that, why would Shepard write so many messages in the first place? She hated to write. In the past, she would just as soon have someone else do her mission reports for her. The idea of her writing 63 messages – even fragmented ones - was simply unbelievable.
Was there some hidden message here? Kaidan wondered. Maybe the fragments were some kind of distress call that Cerberus could not trace. That was possible, and the thought had Kaidan instantly looking over his shoulder to see if anyone had been watching him. Perhaps she had written these secret messages over the months and somehow they only got delivered once the Argus system had gone down. But no, he thought. Those messages had carefully delivered to his account from the outside, and delivered just now.
And maybe, Kaidan thought, the idea taking shape in his mind dispite all his attempts to squelch it, maybe Shepard just missed him and wrote to him every chance she got. Of course, he thought with a frown, none of those emails were exactly the sort to get a guy’s hopes up. Well, the one was, but the other three…
“Is that alright sir?”
Kaidan shook his head, startled back to the present.
“I said the meeting will be at 1100 hours, sir. If you can clear out of your room and be ready at the entrance to the Council Chambers at that time, Anderson will meet you there. From that point, we have a shuttle ready to take you to your next assignment. The rest of the details will be given to you at the time, of course.”
“Of course,” Kaidan said, still not really listening. His omnitool gave a soft ping to alert him of another message that had arrived. Firing it up again, Kaidan noted that a new email had appeared in his inbox from Alliance command. “That’s…fine.”
“Thank you, sir,” the voice said to him, clearly relieved. “Greaves out.”
Kaidan took another look at his inbox, thought for a moment, then went to work.
He copied over Shepard’s emails to an encrypted file on his omnitool, then deleted her emails from his inbox. He quickly checked to make certain no record of the messages had been logged with Alliance databases. It was a tribute to her newly-found tech skills that no trace could be found of any transmission.
Satisfied that her missives were his secret, Kaidan closed his ‘tool down.
He didn’t know exactly what this was about, but he was certain of one thing: he wasn’t about to read Shepard’s messages out in public where just anyone could see. And he also knew that the answer to Anderson’s question about Shepard’s character lay in those emails.
Kaidan had been wanting more data about Shepard, and now he had it. He just wasn’t sure if the prospect made him feel relief or dread.
Quickly as he could, Kaidan cleared up his work station and headed straight for the privacy of his quarters.