The galaxy needs heroes.
Summary: After Sovereign's death some of the aftershocks run in unexpected directions.
Disclaimer: Not mine, not for profit
Ship: Clouded in fog.
Rating: K+ bad people, bad things. Nothing that would be out of place in the game.
The newly appointed Councillor Anderson was having a bad day; Udina was the definition of a surly subordinate and the constant smell of burning coupled with the sounds of the Citadel's reconstruction was generating a headache of truly biblical proportions. That he had been summoned to an urgent meeting about the woman responsible for all of this was, if possible, making his day even worse.
'I'm not sure I understand, Doctor, you're complaining because Commander Shepard passed her psychological evaluation?' Anderson's voice shifted between angry and incredulous as he looked at the sheaf of reports that were being pressed on him.
'Ca- sorry - Councillor, according to her own mission reports the commander has fought an ancient AI attempting to wipe out all life in the galaxy whilst technically being a mutineer; had to choose between genocide and a possible Second Rachni War and has almost died herself in various horrible ways at least a dozen times. That isn't mentioning the civilian casualties on the Terra Nova mission, the fact she has been seeing visions of galactic extermination since Eden Prime and the disaster that was Virmire.
'I was expecting at the very least intolerable levels of stress and depression more probably full blown PTSD. No-one, no matter who you are walks away from all that and submits this psych profile – not even a Spectre. Therefore if this profile is a lie and it is the same as all the psych profiles she has undergone there is, at the very least, a serious concern that every single profile she has completed right back to the basic one on enlistment has been….flawed.'
'It's supposed to be impossible to lie on those things, Doctor, God knows I've filed enough in my time. Maybe Shepard just is that stable; Eden Prime was bad and the situation when we returned to the Citadel was worse but Shepard just put her head down and soldiered on – as she did throughout the entire mission. Frankly I fail to see any problem.' Nodding slightly to himself as he made his decision Anderson handed back the reports. 'And if you will excuse me I have half a dozen real crises to deal with'.
Doctor Kinrade ran her hands through her hair and showed no signs of taking Anderson's not so subtle urgings to leave his office 'Sir, I don't think you understand. Why do people cheat on tests?'
'If they can't do them I guess and if that is all then you can show yourself out.' Anderson dismissively turned back to his personal terminal.
'Or if they think that they will fail the test. Sir. It is possible to fool the profiling, difficult certainly but possible for a sufficiently determined and intelligent person. If there is one thing both of us agree on it's that the Commander lacks neither determination nor intelligence. As to why she would do such a thing? Maybe she just doesn't want to reveal how the mission affected her and created this so it would match what she remembers of her previous profiles.
If that is all she did a quick lecture from Medical and an honest test and I would be well on my way to releasing her for command again. But' the psychologist looked almost embarrassed 'I really don't think she did that it's too smooth, too polished to be a first effort. I think she really has been lying to everyone all this time and you don't do that if you don't have something really serious to hide. I don't know what it is but I think we really need to and I can't in good conscience clear her until I'm satisfied we know what she's hiding.'
'And if I choose to exercise my authority as a member of the Citadel Council and clear her for duty?' came almost as a growl from the other side of the desk.
'I can't prevent you assigning a Spectre but unless you are planning on having her confined to the Citadel she may find it difficult to accomplish her missions without being allowed on an Alliance military vessel. I'm sorry sir but I really do believe it is that serious. We just had a demonstration of how dangerous a mentally unstable Spectre could be and I don't think anyone wants a repeat performance.'
Anderson was almost impressed at the Doctor's unflinching willingness to butt heads with not one but two of humanities most feted heroes. In other situations he might even have considered trying to become friends with the woman but this ridiculous waste of time hadn't been funny when it started. 'When I haul Shepard in here off a well deserved shore leave because a shrink won't clear her she's going to go nuclear – you know that right?'
A wan smile was his only answer.
Jane Shepard, N7 ranking, hero of Elysium and Saviour of the Citadel, commander in the Systems Alliance military by the grace of et cetera, et cetera was in Flux's. To be fair holding the weakest alcoholic drink you could get away with and looking like you stepped off the cover of a recruiting poster was hardly behaviour that most people would associate with marines in a nightclub and still less the quiet atmosphere surrounding the table.
'To the LT, may God rest his soul.' Ashley Williams disturbed her introspection with the comment touching her glass against Shepard's and downing her drink. 'Good turn out, even Wrex came turns out that Krogan have something like wakes for their dead as well. Who knew. Get you another drink Ma'am? After all, it isn't a proper wake if the next morning you wake up and can remember how you got home.'
An abstracted noise greeted her before, 'Better not I don't drink very much and turning up to my meeting tomorrow hungover isn't going to win me any favours.', and in a quiet murmur that Ashley was almost sure she wasn't supposed to hear, 'and I think I may well need every favour I'm ever going to have.'
'What's wrong, surely Anderson quashed that stupid mutiny thing? He couldn't do anything else really could he? Bit difficult to put yourself on trial. Really wish I could have seen him lay out Udina though.' Smiling Ashley wound her towards the bar leaving Shepard simultaneously contemplating the masochism involved in wakes and the terse message ordering her to report for psychological evaluation at 0800 tomorrow.
'I'm sorry to bother you Commander I know it was Lt. Alenko's wake last night and bringing you in for this' Anderson blew out a deep breath and visibly tried to calm down.
Doctor Kinraid almost absently classed his anger as defensive and went back to concentrating on Shepard. The woman really was an enigma; flawless uniform, hair cut to precisely the correct length for a hardsuit helmet; the only traces of personality she showed were the light scarring above her left eye and the black lipstick defiant and bold against the Commander's spacer pale skin. Time to begin she thought to herself
'As the Councillor said we're sorry to bring you in on your shore leave but there were anomalies with your profile and we just needed to have you complete it again. Bureaucracy never sleeps, I'm sure you understand.' Kinraid gave an apologetic smile as she gestured towards a chair with the terminal already set up. 'We need to cross reference some results so this will be a different kind of assessment to the ones that you are used to. Just relax and answer honestly and we will all be out of here inside an hour.' Damn, she thought sadly as Shepard's body language changed completely, I was really hoping I was wrong about this.
'Sir, are you seriously expecting me to sit here and fill in paperwork that some REMF screwed up when the Citadel is only just holding together and they need every pair of hands on the station helping out?' Shepard radiated righteous indignation as she looked at Anderson but underneath…
'Your body language is wrong Commander too closed, defensive. I've seen a lot of Marines in my time, whatever it is I'm sure it's not as scary as you think it is.' Kinraid murmured.
'Sir, please I've served the Alliance faithfully. You don't need to do this.' Appealing to loyalty with just a touch of feminine vulnerability, Kinraid thought cynically
'It's only a short test Commander I'm sure we can be out of here soon' Anderson shifted behind his seat uncomfortably but to his credit remained resolute.
'If the test really disturbs you that much we can sit and have a chat instead I tend to get better results from face to face contact.' Kinraid offered, watching Shepard's tense body language with mounting concern. 'I'm sure Councillor Anderson would agree to stay if that would make you more comfortable.'
'I'm sure my comfort isn't really a factor in this is it, Doctor' Shepard said rhetorically as she sank into a chair opposite Kinraid. 'Still who am I to stand in the way of the almighty paperwork' as a brief flickering smile crossed her face. Anderson smiled relieved before leaving the office whilst Kinraid fought not to smile back.
I know why people almost line up to die for this woman, the Doctor thought, the way she looks at you like you are the only person in the galaxy that matters; the way she mirrors your body language. The way that she is still trying to manipulate me.
'Stow it, Shepard, I know what you're doing and it won't work on me'. Kinraid's voice sounded harsh and angry shattering the comfortable silence.
'If that was true Alicia you wouldn't be angry, would you? After all just because you know what's happening doesn't mean you can stop it' Shepard's voice was soft and quiet weaving threads of comfort throughout the room.
Doctor Alicia Kinraid sprang suddenly from her chair trying desperately to gain some distance from what Jane, Shepard her name is Shepard she thought, was doing. 'I bet you used to talk to your fiancée like that didn't you? Poor bastard never stood a chance against you but I am not him and I'm not one of your crew that would die for you and never ask why.' Taking a deep breath 'So knock it off or I will fail you this instant and you will never serve on an Alliance vessel again.'
'Pity' Shepard's voice was still quiet but the tones of comfort and warmth were gone as if they had never been. 'It would have been so much easier for both of us if you had just been slightly less astute. Still' she continued in a tone of terrible dispassion 'you have to admit I nearly had you there and the reward was certainly worth the risk. So ask your questions Doctor but I guarantee by the end you'll be wishing you hadn't'
It was a mark of Shepard's skill that even though I know absolutely that all the comfort and understanding she just offered me was a lie; I still miss it. Alicia thought as she shivered in the sudden cold. 'I'm glad that you decided to stop playing your games, Commander,' and maybe if I keep telling myself that I'll make it true.
'So why don't we start with your personal life? Engaged once, never married, no children.' Doctor Kinraid sat down carefully keeping a desk and terminal between her and Shepard. From the amusement on the Commander's face her attempt at being subtle had been unsuccessful.
'My fiancée is ancient history, Doctor. He died during the Blitz fighting loyally to defend the colony that was his entire life. As for the rest I spend a lot of time on patrol, children require time that I haven't got. Hardly any great surprises there.'
'It says here your fiancée died from a single round through almost precisely the centre of his forehead. A Haliat Armoury Stiletto IV antipersonnel round specifically.' Kinraid trailed off meaningfully
'If you are fishing for a reaction I'm afraid you'll be sadly disappointed. The Blitz and Jonathan Carter are dead and buried, of interest only to military historians and psychologists trying desperately to control interviews.'
Shepard sounded bored but there had been a flicker of reaction there maybe, Alicia thought, if I keep pushing 'nonetheless tell me more about him Commander'.
'182cm tall, kept in reasonably good shape for a civilian, brown hair and dark eyes. Second in command of Elysium's police which sounds far more impressive than it was, disciplined and methodical.' Shepard paused before adding 'he believed in Elysium more than anything else and that got him killed when the Batarians attacked. I'd returned to active duty before his funeral but I'm sure you could obtain any relevant information from the Extranet if you chose to do so'
Definitely something there she thought 'when you said Elysium killed him what did you mean?'
'I didn't say Elysium killed him, Doctor, you've sacrificed your career for this interview I thought you would at least pay attention.' The Commander's voice took on a vaguely chiding tone like a lecturer to a disappointing student. 'His belief killed him that is after all what belief does; sooner or later. In this case what killed him was a childlike faith in compromise and negotiation.'
Alicia decided to ignore the reference to her career 'You don't believe in compromise Commander? Admiral Hackett highly praises your ability to resolve situations without bloodshed. Seems a little odd for someone who doesn't value negotiation.'
'And in all those negotiations Doctor what of value have I given away? Balak tried to negotiate for his freedom and Terra Nova hanged him in the Colonial Admin Building whilst the crowd cheered.
'Don't mistake the ability to listen with willingness to compromise. Jonathan thought that and an antipersonnel round ended both his delusion and his life.' Shepard admitted to murdering her fiancée with neither regret nor shame 'He was a traitor, he thought that the Batarians would wipe out the colony like they did to Midoir. So he tried to cut a deal with them. Perhaps he believed I would understand, maybe he even believed I loved him.
'He was wrong.'
'Y-you' Alicia swallowed to steady her voice 'you make it sound so simple, just another boring chore. You must have thought about letting him go or at least giving him to the courts afterwards.' Realising she was starting to plead she shut her jaws with an audible click.
'Why? Because I slept with him? I would have slept with you if I thought that it would have caused you to pass this evaluation. Doesn't mean I wouldn't break your neck without a second thought if I believed that killing you would serve the Alliance.'
'And does it?' the Doctor made a commendable effort to sound calm but her hands shook slightly.
'No, so you can take your hand off the emergency button. Besides you'd be dead before you pressed it anyway.' Shepard smiled and changed gears with barely a thought. 'In a way he was right though he did save the colony. He was well liked and his death at the hands of a Batarian assault team allowed me to unite the colony whilst his codes allowed me to lead the Batarians into a killing field.
Afterwards the Alliance didn't want to hear it; they needed a hero to reassure the public and I was the best available'
'Then to get you out of the public eye you went back to whatever you did between the Blitz and Eden Prime. Something so classified that I can't read it despite having access to your Spectre reports. You didn't undergo therapy after Elysium did you? Damn them! A competent therapist could have averted all this damage now it will take someone months to fix everything buried under layers of repression.' Alicia spoke with mounting anger.
'You still misunderstand Doctor, or perhaps you just don't want to understand. I didn't get therapy because I didn't need it then and I still don't.
'I was engaged to him as a test. To see whether I could convince someone that I was normal, that I could love and the test was complete by the time of the Blitz.
'When I killed him I felt nothing at all.'
Two hours later Dr Kinraid's hands had just stopped shaking and now she had to explain what she had found to Councillor Anderson. She was planning on finishing the report as quickly as possible then getting drunk and staying drunk until the sound of Shepard's voice was drowned.
'I'd ask how it went but I can tell that by the look on your face.' Anderson's voice concerned and human warmed her. 'The Commander can be unpleasant if you get in her way. She won't do anything other than yell if that's what you're worried about.'
'Sir, I recommend Commander Shepard be stripped of her command and undergo compulsory admission to a secure psychiatric facility. I'd recommend she should stay in there until she rots but that decision along with any necessary criminal proceedings can be decided by a court.' Alicia was ashamed that her voice trembled she's halfway across the station she can't touch me here.
'Is this about X57 Doctor? Maybe it isn't the way I would have handled it but three people to stop someone trying to kill millions isn't a bad trade if you're able to look at it that way. Shepard saved a hell of lot of people during the mission. Not just on the Citadel, but in every action. Saying that she should be stripped of command is-'
Anderson's voice was rising in anger and in her head Shepard whispered perhaps you don't want to understand.
'She's a sociopath! Sir. In my professional opinion anyway. I looked for other explanations, I tried factoring in the long and stressful mission, everything I could think of and a few things I had to look up they're so rare. The only condition that explains everything is that she is well…'
'Mad? I think someone would have noticed before now if the XO of an Alliance vessel was hearing voices. Now get out and if you're lucky I won't have you fired.'
'Sociopaths don't hear voices. That's part of the problem.
'They don't hear the little voice warning that stealing is wrong, they don't hear the little voice warning this is evil.
'In Shepard's case they don't hear the voice that says gunning down your fiancée in cold blood maybe isn't something that human beings do!' Alicia's voice had been rising to match Anderson's as she spoke before she suddenly stopped and ended in a voice of false calm. 'The only thing that stops her walking through the Wards killing every single person she meets is that it won't gain her anything to do it. We made this person a Spectre, Anderson, it's like ants giving a boy a magnifying glass!
I wanted to believe she was a hero, I really did but she isn't. She's a monster and she always will be.'
'You're wrong you know' Anderson disagreed calmly 'what stops her killing everyone she meets isn't some obscure profit and loss calculation. What stops her killing everyone she meets is that mass murder is prohibited by Alliance regulations and she has spent her entire life following regulations.'
'There's a note on her file, Udina hasn't seen it and he never will. Shepard spent almost a decade in black ops and shooting her fiancée wasn't even close to the worst she did. Ultimately though even though no-one likes to admit it we need people like her so she gets quietly taught how to fool evaluations and everyone pretends to believe that she's a hero.'
After a long pause Anderson said with false cheer 'Besides, we might all die this time anyway.'