Summary: Saren? Geth? The total annihilation of all organic life? Pfffsh. Don't worry! Rich Achievement Unlocked! Mass Effect emphasizing side quests, technobabble, military jargon with a side of Shenko. Action, humor, flirting, turnips, Love Sucks, brushes with death. Ensemble POVs and multiple pairings. Above all else, this is an action/adventure story, people.
Rating: Mature! Horn-dogs, lewd jokes, crude language, morbid comedy/sick irony, graphic violence, snark, Love Sucks, rocks fall and people die horrible deaths, rabid plot varrens, turnips, socks!
Spoilers: If you saw/heard it in ME1 or ME2 or read it in the books, it's here, too, but with added flavors and preservatives. If these things don't appeal to you, Turn Back Now! (The only book!canon not currently explored is Deception. Still have not read that book.) ME3 canon will eventually make its way into this story.
Clothing optional. Wash, rinse, repeat. Void where prohibited.
Enjoy the ride.
(After two computer crashes, the loss of my notes, outline, finished chapters to 74 and gumption, a bout of depression, and a relinquishment of internet for three years: As of 6/10/2016 - FINALLY overhauling FF dot net version; there is an AO3 version that has been updated with spelling and grammar updates and correct character names. Story no.: 180799.)
Space is a Cold Bitch
"...Only when he's talking to you, Joker."
Because of his marine and biotic training and his eleven-year service in the Systems Alliance Military, Staff Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko never questioned his superior's orders—out loud.
Questions got good men killed. He'd never lost anyone under his command, and he wasn't about to start because he hesitated by questioning a superior. Although he wasn't big on formality and protocol, he did do things by the book—or as close to the book as he could and still leave a way out. He'd learned the hard way what cutting corners did.
And Regs were in place for a reason.
The result: Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko always crossed his T's, dotted his I's, and minded his P's and Q's, and he was damned good at what he did.
However, for the life of him, Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko, good soldier that he was, couldn't figure out why he couldn't take his eyes off his executive officer's ass as she made her way off the bridge of the SSV Normandy, across the gangway, and through CIC to the Comm Room where the Captain was waiting for her.
He tried to justify it as curiosity. She did have the whole mysterious stranger appeal going for her. All Kaidan had known about her prior to serving with her aboard the Normandy was gleaned from extranet news reports and scuttlebutt. He didn't trust scuttlebutt any more than he trusted the news, so that, in his book, made Lieutenant Commander Shepard one mysterious woman.
He was curious. That was it. Curiosity. Nothing more.
Her ass was cute encased as it was in the dark gray Aldrin Labs' Onyx armor. Her curves just beckoned his eyes to follow them. It made his mouth dry and heart race just taking her figure in as she stopped to speak briefly with Navigator Pressly.
It wasn't like he was breaking any regulations. Nowhere in the giant book of rules that made up the Systems Alliance bureaucracy did it specifically state, "Thou shalt not stare at another's bum—particularly if the other's bum happens to be thy XO." It did say that fraternization between ranks while on the same cruise was prohibited, though it was left up to the ship's captain as to disciplinary action.
On his last cruise, one couple had been forced to separate to different ships because they had been too open about their relationship. They had been a cute couple. Too mushy and kissy-face for Kaidan, but nonetheless, it was nice to see the two kids in love. The wedding on Amaterasu was in two weeks, and Kaidan was looking forward to shore leave to attend; he'd received the vid-mail invitation a few days before his transfer from the SSV Kilimanjaro to the SSV Normandy was official.
As Commander Shepard disappeared around the bulkhead, Kaidan allowed his attention to come back to what he was assigned to do: Monitor the kinetic fields and the heat sinks in sector seven, eight and nine.
The pilot sitting next to him only snorted at him, as his nimble fingers traveled across the amber haptic adaptive interface as he, per the Captain's orders, linked the ship's communications systems into a nearby comm buoy. Luckily, Kaidan had already caught Flight Lieutenant Jeff "Joker" Moreau studying Shepard's posterior.
"Told you she had a cute ass," Joker said cracking a wicked smile, his white teeth a contrast to his bearded face. The pilot leaned back in his chair and threaded his fingers together against the Alliance-issue cap on top of his head.
Kaidan rolled his eyes and scowled at the screen before him, barely seeing the series of logarithms as they scrolled past. So it was Joker's fault he couldn't take his eyes off Shepard's ass.
To his dismay, Joker continued on, "At least you weren't ogling her tits this time."
Dark eyes piercing the distance between them, Kaidan defended himself. "For the final time, I wasn't ogling her. I was noticing the N7 on her breastplate. There's a score mark there." He sighed as Joker cackled. He didn't have to defend himself against Moreau.
Studying his XO was not fraternization. Hell, Kaidan wasn't even sure if Shepard knew he existed other than the formal greeting the crew had been forced to give when she came on board a few days ago from Piazzi Station—one of two major military installations at Earth's L5 Lagrange point.
When the Normandy had left Dry Dock with a skeleton crew, they were supposed to pick up the Commander at Arcturus Station with the rest of the thirty-one other crew members, but due to unforeseen circumstances—namely a batarian terrorist attack on their most densely populated colony, Terra Nova—the procedure had changed. She and her team of Ns had diverted an asteroid from its collision course with the planet's capital city. The press corps had held her up for days, and Fifth Fleet COM finally had to transfer her to Piazzi Station to keep the overeager press from Arcturus at bay. When Shepard had boarded the Normandy in the cargo hold several days later, the entire crew was at attention, even Joker, legs locked in braces to the mid-thigh and the pads of his crutches wrapped around his upper arms, all standing eager to meet the Sole Survivor of Akuze and Savior of Terra Nova.
Commander Shepard was taller and more delicate-looking than Kaidan had expected. But then again, Kaidan had only really seen her through the extranet news. The dark gray of her Onyx armor coupled with the darkness of her layered brown hair had heightened the translucence of her well-modeled and feminine face as Captain Anderson formally introduced the crew to its celebrity XO.
Kaidan did admit that he had been staring at her armored chest when they had exchanged a salute, and it had been an incredible effort on his part to draw his eyes up away from the scored N7 decal to meet her expressive brown ones. What he had seen in her face and eyes had caught him off guard more than the N7 rating. The odd color was neither brown nor green, but resembled copper that was gradually oxidizing. A scar sliced her right eye brow in half and briefly touched the delicate skin under eye. The skin under her left eye was a small puckered line.
Shepard's scarred dark eyebrow had lifted slightly when he hesitated, as Kaidan took in the extraordinary color of her eyes, her chopped brown locks, her smooth creamy complexion, the scar on her plush upper lip, surprise clearly written across his face. Up close, his XO was a lot younger-looking than he had expected to find after all she had been through.
When he'd managed to find his voice, he said something stupid like, "It's an honor to serve you, ma'am." Kaidan inwardly winced as the memory flittered about his brain but focused on running a check on sector eight anyway as the shielding flickered from interception with debris.
Not only did she probably think he was an idiot, but a pervert too. Okay, the armor left very little to the imagination…but…an N7? Kaidan had served with Ns before, but never an N with the experience level of seven. And here he was serving with more than just one. Having Captain Anderson, the most decorated officer in the fleet, was just as overwhelming as having the Sole Survivor of Akuze.
The Alliance really pulled out all the stops to bend over backwards for a Council seat. To Kaidan, the presence of the turian Spectre, Nihlus Kryik, only confirmed what he believed to be humanity begging for a seat at the adult's table, but no one asked his opinion, and he sure as hell wasn't going to give it. The crew was just being paranoid that this was a covert mission of some sort.
"Yeah, well, that's the official story," Joker said in reply to Kaidan's denial of XO tit ogling. "Y'know—" The comm channel squawked suddenly, and Joker flicked a finger to reply to it. He gasped and paled considerably when a fuzzy transmission came through. "Oh. Shit."
Kaidan stretched his neck to get a look at what had gotten the normally cool and collected pilot's panties in a bunch.
"Holy Hell," he breathed as they watched, with mouths open and stomachs protesting, the decimation of a platoon of fifty Marines in the time it took Joker to relay the transmission to the Captain in the Comm Room…
Humanity and the Systems Alliance: Locations: Stations: Piazzi Station
Piazzi Stationis the first of two major military installations constructed at Earth's L5 Lagrange point. A 2.9-kilometer diameter "Stanford Torus"-type space station, its design later influenced the larger Arcturus Station. Originally sponsored solely by the United Kingdom, after construction began in 2149, it was sold to the Systems Alliance after the discovery of the Sol's mass effect relay. Construction concluded in 2156. The Systems Alliance used the station as its military and political headquarters from its inauguration in 2153 until the First Contact War.
Piazzi was constructed using materials from the moon and metallic asteroids imported from the belt separating the Sol system's "inner" and "outer" planets. Six of these asteroids remain near the station today and serve as recreational facilities and habitats to transients. Piazzi hosts a permanent population of 31,000.
Mostly administrative offices with a few agricultural areas, Piazzi is also home to the Piazzi Campus of the Systems Alliance Naval Academy. Many Systems Alliance engineers are graduates of the Piazzi Campus.
Hollywood actress and extreme stunt and swordsperson Cara Bueno was born on Piazzi in 2160. A recreational facility and dojo on Six, the largest of the hollowed-out asteroids, is named Bueno Swords Dining and Dojo in her honor.
Trivia/Geekery: Piazzi Station takes its name from Giuseppe Piazzi—astronomer, mathematician, and also a Catholic priest. Among other things, he discovered Ceres and oversaw the compilation of the Palermo Catalogue of Stars. Cara Bueno is a randomly generated "American" name from fakenamegenerator dot com.