"This is Major Tom to Ground Control

I'm stepping through the door

And I'm floating in a most peculiar way

And the stars look very different today"

- David Bowie - "Space Oddity"

Bailie cut into the meat on her plate and began her habitual task of arranging the pieces of food by size into different piles. Spearing the first piece of meat she brought it to her mouth and chewed slowly. There had been no news from the Illusive Man for the past three days - she suspected this was deliberate. He's giving me time to calm down, she thought, reaching for her cup of tea. He expects that I'll just be a good sport and put this whole unfortunate business behind me after a few days and 'understand' his reasons for potentially pissing our lives away. The metal mug shook in her hands, her knuckles white as she clenched it. She saw him in her mind's eye, sitting as usual in his glass office in a clean suit, a cigarette hanging between his fingers and a smug grin across his face as he looked out at a nearby star.

There had been a time when she had tried to like the Illusive Man. After all, he had hemhorraged nearly enough funds to colonize a small planet to bring her back from death, so she'd tried to see things from his perspective. There's no greater joy I get out of life than understanding people, but there's something wrong with that man. Something I can't put my finger on. There was no doubt in her mind that he was hiding information. He hasn't even had the balls to talk with me in person yet. Several days ago she'd stood in the briefing room, not ten minutes after rushing onboard after the Normandy dropped out of FTL flight. Forced to listen to him sputter excuses and try to placate her through his hologram, she half expected him to burst apart at the seams and spill maggots everywhere. The man was certainly foul enough. Her eyes smouldered with loathing and her lips flattened as she pictured him reaching over and tapping his ashes into a little tray. He was perfectly content to sit back in his secret location and play her like a card.

Movement caught her eye snapping her out of her daydreams. She looked around to see crew members milling about and from across the room she saw Garrus lower his head in her direction. Bailie gave him a brief wave before picking up her fork again. You know, this is actually pretty decent, she thought, putting all thoughts of the Illusive Man to the side for the moment. It even tastes sort of like Salisbury steak. Directing her attention to Garrus, she watched him stride away from Gardner's counter, a tray in one hand and a mug in the other, his deliberate movements bringing to mind a late night docu-vid on leopards . She continued to watch, her interest piqued. He is rather like a big cat. Garrus' mandibles twitched as he scanned for a seat. He finally took one next to Tali, and Bailie returned to her food, piling green beans together.

A few minutes later she watched as Grunt lumbered into the room, his entrance largely ignored. Even he's come into his own, she thought, remembering the crew's skittish behaviour when he had first been brought onboard. Now, she sat sipping a blend of tea - apricot or peach she surmised - she couldn't tell which - and observed him exchange greetings with Miranda, who also had come out for air.

"Nice day, Lawson," he said.

"There isn't any weather in space, Grunt," Miranda replied. Grunt shrugged.

"I know that. But you humans always talk about weather when you meet." He shifted his feet in a manner that Bailie would have considered nervous in a human and she smiled to herself.

Poor Grunt. I get the impression he doesn't talk to anyone other than me very much. Krogan faces were difficult to read and Grunt's rigid, almost lizard-like features were no exception as he turned away from Miranda to collect his food, evidently having given up on conversation. Throwing his head back he tipped the contents into his open mouth, then wiped his hand across his face and deposited the empty dish back on the counter. Gardner's brows came together in an expression of displeasure and Bailie smiled to herself, shaking her head. Just as quickly as he had come he turned to leave. He stopped in front of her table on his way out.

"Shepard," he said, and stopped, looking down at her. Standing still wasn't something Bailie was accustomed to seeing him do and she came to the conclusion he must be waiting for something.

"Waiting for my permission to move on? You're a lot more observant of krogan tradition than you were before, Grunt," she said. He said nothing in response, remaining a stony wall of muscle."You don't need to ask permission to leave my eyesight every time. Come and go as you like." Bailie smiled politely and returned to her tea, pulling up a news ticker on her Omni-Tool. He gave a non-threatening rumble of assent and he headed towards the exit..

After a few minutes of skimming through Citadel news articles, her finger stopped abruptly on a headline that caught her eye.

'Second Human to Join Spectre Ranks.'

'Staff Commander Kaidan Alenko of the Alliance military will become the second human to join the ranks of the Citadel's Special Tactics and Reconnaissance branch. His selection comes less than three years after the inauguration of the first human Spectre, Commander Bailie Shepard, in 2183 and less than thirty years after first contact with humans, Staff Commander Kaidan Alenko's appointment represents another victory for human expansion. Not all are pleased with the developments however. Din Korlack, the Volus ambassador on the Citadel, had this to say about Commander Alenko's induction...'

Bailie paused the feed and sat back to digest the information.

Kaidan? A Spectre? Her chest grew warm and tight with pride. Kaidan is smart, resourceful, and has a good moral compass. I can't think of anybody better for the job. Scrolling to the bottom of the article, she found a video interview in which he accepted the position and began to watch it only to be interrupted by a musical chime in her ear. Ah. Reports time again. She bookmarked it for later and stood up from her table, her boots clicking on the floor as she headed for her quarters. So much to do.

Papers and datapads covered her desk. With a sweeping movement of her hand, she brushed them into a haphazard pile and sat down at her computer, opening the first of many documents. Signing off on department heads' reports was her least favourite duty as it often meant she would be sitting in her chair for what seemed like forever, her tea sitting forgotten and gradually getting colder at her side. Despite her best efforts at trying to keep the papers in order, there were so many that they loomed over the keyboard, threatening to spill over at any moment.

At the top of her screen, filed under 'personal', an icon began blinking. Bailie paused as she scanned over the subject header. An e-mail from Dad?

Subject: Bad News

From: Shepard, Thomas - [shepard.t][.mil]

Bailie,

Your mother forwarded me this address. I'm sure whatever you're doing is classified and you're unable to respond. I've been allowed some leave to attend to your grandfather, who had been doing fine up until a few days ago. He went into the hospital complaining of pain in his legs. A few hours later his condition went critical and he passed away suddenly last night. Doctors suspect a tumour. I know you won't be able to attend the funeral, but I thought you ought to know. I spoke to him a few days before he died and we talked about you. He always believed in you, Bailie. He loved you very much and had no doubt you could succeed at whatever you put your mind to. I'm spending as much time as I can with your grandmother before the Einstein has to leave Earth. Your mother and I love you, kiddo.

She groped around the desk for her mug and made a face as the tea, now cold, touched her lips. The seat creaked as she leaned back rubbing at the short fuzz on her head and trying to digest the news. Memories came to her like a torrent. She was a child again, looking up at Granddad who stood leaning on a fence, watching her feed his sheep fresh grass and armfuls of morning glory vines gathered from around the acres of green farmland. Cicadas buzzed in the summer air. I must've been what, seven when we left for the colonies? Staring at the keyboard, her eyes misted over recalling the few times her family had taken the expensive ticket back to Earth to visit her grandparents. As a teenager she'd even lived on the farm for six months before registering with the Alliance the minute she came of age. That was the longest span of time I've ever spent in one place, save for aboard the Normandy. Out of all the ships, all the colonies I've been on with my parents, that little farm was the closest thing I had to a real home. Her mind's eye saw them on the day she left for the Alliance as they waved, receding into the distance.

Dead? For some reason she found herself struggling with the thought although she'd personally put countless mercenaries and other ne'er-do-wells in the ground and what was more, was very good at it. I actually enjoy it at times, too, she thought, closing her eyes in shame. The truth was she just didn't know how to feel about death. After all, doling it out was her job, and its cold specter had been hovering on the doorstep since childhood. Death was tied to both her parents' lives as it was to her own; military careers were common in her family. The chair rolled noisily across the floor and Bailie stood up, dissatisfied with her numbness and wanting only to lie down. I just need to sleep.

/

Joker stared into the mirror. No. It still doesn't sound right. Frowning, he pushed away from his reflection staring instead at the electric clippers hanging by the sink. "Bailie," he said, addressing his reflection. He cleared his throat. "Fuck, I don't know how to say this. This is stupid." Heat crept up the back of his neck as he tried again, gesturing as if she were standing before him. "So I know you gave me a shot recently and I need to say..." Joker's hands dropped in frustration. Why isn't this easier? Why is this so hard? I'm tripping over my own words. Forget it. This was a stupid idea.

"EDI," he said, looking in the general direction of her console.

"Yes, Jeff?"

"How long?"

"Eighteen hours until you will be required to assume the helm." He leaned against the wall groaning with frustration. "Approximately sixty-six percent of the entertainment visual media contained within my databanks, and seventy percent of written entertainment media contains at least one scene in which a character confesses his or her feelings for another."

"So?"

"So, given your apparent predicament, you may wish to do some research. If you are having trouble expressing yourself verbally, perhaps writing a letter would work better than an assertive statement."

"No."

"It may be of some comfort to know that you are behaving within expected parameters." Joker turned to look at the console.

"What?" He asked, his brows coming together in confusion.

"I am attempting to be reassuring, Jeff." EDI explained. "Based upon my data collection, your reactions are typical of humans experiencing similar emotional states." EDI's hologram flickered slightly in the harsh fluorescent lights. Joker smiled, shaking his head. I gotta get my mind off this.

"Right. What's for dinner?"

"I will inquire."