W/N - A short, two-part drabble about Anderson getting sacked as CO of the Normandy. I wanted to highlight the sense of military tradition that goes along with these kinds of things and put some light on the thoughts and feelings behind what happened. Also, I wanted to bring to life some small things that service people experience and worry about. Plus, there's a little bit of flirting that will lead up to the love interest line. It's heavy on the military terminology, but all is explained in the CODEX. I work very extensively with the Navy and we do kinda talk like that. Thank you so much, Jen, Thug, and Kaarlo. I write just for the fun of it, but it's wonderful to get feedback.

Other malarkey - In preparation for my Nidan exam. Fought a brawl with sensei to a 3-3 draw that included a number of Aikido and Jujitsu grappling techniques. Scored a magnificen tsuki on sensei, popping him right in the throat with my shinai. He gave me a deep bow. "Mai'ta!" (you got me) He later disarmed me though with a type of Kokyunage. It was a masterful move.

Shoes to Fill

SSV Normandy – Berthed at the Systems Alliance Docks – The Citadel

Commander Claire Shepard – Executive Officer, SSV Normandy

She would never fill those shoes.

Sitting on a towel over her carpet, Commander Shepard looked down at her black, spit-shined shoes, seeing her own distorted reflection in the leather. She'd already spent a half hour on the floor of her small stateroom with a tin of Kiwi Polish and a cup of water, shining those bad boys to perfection. Yeah, she could have bought the Corfram shoes with that fake shine or had the ship's Yeoman do it – rank did have its privileges in the fleet. But the Corframs never felt right. They were like wearing wooden clogs to her. And, this ceremony was far too important to not do this small thing herself. Only a true REMF or other ersatz leader would hand her shoes off to some poor crewman to shine.

So, it had to be done by hand. Shepard carefully rubbed a ball of cotton into the inky shoe polish. For the last two-hundred years, Kiwi was the best in the business and she would use no substitute or lesser imitation on this day. Sometimes, tradition was all they had in this rapidly changing galaxy. Then, she dipped the gooey polish into the water and began swirling it onto the heel of her left shoe. She put every ounce of honor and respect that she had into every whirl of the cotton ball. The Old Man deserved this much from her. When she could see her reflection on the heel she put the shoe down and leaned against her rack.

She sighed. This was so wrong. She picked up a letter that she had placed on the carpet. She was reluctant to read it again as if not reading it would make its words untrue. She forced her eyes to look upon the brief note.


TO: COMMANDER CLAIRE SHEPARD / XO / SSV NORMANDY / SYSTEMS ALLIANCE NAVY

FROM: CNO SYSTEMS ALLIANCE NAVY

Proceed to the port in which SSV Normandy may be and upon arrival, report to your immediate superior in command, if present, otherwise by message, for duty as commanding officer of SSV Normandy.


How did this happen? How did someone throw Captain David Anderson under a bus? He did not deserve this. She tilted her head back and closed her eyes. Spectre or not, how the hell was she going to lead this hard-charging crew into the eye of the storm and stop Saren? She didn't have half the experience that he had.

The chime rang on her door and she popped her eyes back open. "Come in."

The door slid open and Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko stepped in. "I hope I'm not intruding, ma'am." He'd already had on his dress blues and my, did he look sharp.

She stood and her military bearing kicked in. The pulled the jacket of her dress blues down tight. A chain of command still existed and she knew she would have to look the part now. Captain Anderson was a legend in the fleet and the least she could do was to keep to the sense of tradition that he loved so much. "Not at all, lieutenant. Please, take a seat," she said, gesturing to a nearby chair.

"Thank you, ma'am." He sat and she could tell that there was a dark cloud over his head, just waiting to rain.

Shepard took a chair next to the desk. "Spit it out, lieutenant." She'd already run through this scenario a dozen times in her head. Key members of the crew would be ready to jump ship. How could she take over for the legendary Captain Anderson? Kaidan would just be the first to go. He kicked ass on Eden Prime. He'd be hard to replace and she'd soon be left with a goat rope. No matter what, she'd wish him well and suck it up like a good officer.

"Here's the thing, commander-"

She couldn't take it anymore. Why wait for the blow to fall? "Kaidan, I'll approve any transfer request that you have. You've earned any posting in the fleet."

"Whoa, wait a second, ma'am. What…are you talking about?"

Shepard took a breath and narrowed her eyes at him. "You're not here to ask for a transfer?" she asked slowly.

He shook his head vehemently, almost looking insulted. "No way, ma'am. I know that Captain Anderson got hosed, but I just talked to Chief Williams and we both wanted to express our confidence and support. It's not every day your skipper is a winner of the Star of Terra."

She widened her eyes. "Um, thank you. I appreciate your words." She really did. She shifted uncomfortably, wanting to change the subject. "You know, I made Ashley the First Shirt. She's the ranking NCO aboard now."

Kaidan nodded. "Yeah, she was pretty happy about it. She's a hard charger."

"She's good to go. She'll make Top one day if she keeps her nose clean." Then, she held up her shoes. "So, what do you think? Will they pass muster?"

He looked down his nose at the leather shoes. "I don't know, ma'am. I'd have to gig you if I were a DI," he said as he raised one eyebrow. Shepard burst out laughing and Kaidan blushed. "Sorry, commander, just joking with you."

"I know. Thank you. I think I'd forgotten how to laugh…and how to breathe." She waved the shoes in his face. "You know how many fucking gigs I got at N7 Selection? I was the latrine queen for weeks!" she said, putting the shoes down. "But damn if I wasn't high and tight by graduation," she added, brushing her hair back and outlining her body with her hands.

"Whew," he said, shaking his head, "you're hard core, commander. I was never dumb enough to try out for N7 Selection…umm, no offense, ma'am."

Shepard chuckled. She found that she liked smiling again. She missed it. "It was twenty-one weeks of miserable hell in which I questioned my sanity every minute of the those long-ass days. You know, after graduation, I took all of my sand and mud stained skivvies and burned them. I was beyond exhausted, but thank Binary Helix I have the best body genetics and cybernetics can offer."

The lieutenant blushed again. He seemed to be one of the sensitive types, but Shepard didn't doubt his fighting spirit. "Well, we better get going, commander. The ceremony will start soon."

She gently placed the shoes on the carpet, careful not to scuff them and waste all of that work. She slid her feet into the shoes and tied the laces tight. These shoes had been through a lot with her and they were like a couple of old dogs, faithful and comfortable. She reached over to the wall and retrieved her officer's saber, an old weapon in a silver scabbard that had been given to her by her father. It was an authentic 1796 Pattern Light Cavalry with a heavy tip to increase the force of the cut – a gruesome weapon in its day. But today, it was strictly ceremonial, a bygone weapon for an ancient tradition.

Well, the moment had arrived. She stood and then looked back to several pictures that held significance for her – a class picture from N7 Selection, a painting of the Scots Greys charging the French at Waterloo, a picture of a soldier running up the beach on D-Day at Normandy. A year from now, would she still be alive to reflect? Soon, Claire Shepard would take command of the Normandy and lead them to whatever glory or doom awaited.

CODEX –

Corframs – A type of military dress shoe made of imitation leather.

REMF – Rear Echelon MF. Derogatory reference to some who makes decisions from way behind the lines.

CNO – Chief of Naval Operations

Goat Rope – Messed up situation. Aka Cluster F.

First Shirt – Informal term for the senior NCO of a unit.

Top – Informal term for the highest rank for an NCO.

Gig – Demerit.

DI – Drill Instructor.