Apologies for the long wait on this chapter, I went on vacation and things were a bit hectic with work. :) The next one is almost done, I'll try to get it done soon since next month is NaNoWriMo! Once the website has the Writing Buddies enabled, anyone else who's Nano-ing this year should friend me, I'll be writing as "impsythealmighty." Good luck to everyone going for 50,000 words, and everybody else, I hope you enjoy this chapter! Thanks for reading!


"So what'd you think of Jacob?" Joker asked as they continued making their way around the club. The music wasn't blaring quite as loud as usual; Kaidan suspected that Shepard had asked it to be kept at a level where everyone could still chat without shouting.

"Seemed like a good guy. Smart, too. I bet he was a lot of help during your mission, too. I wish he could've stayed in the Alliance, but I can't blame him for leaving. He's not the type to sit around in meetings talking about how to save people when he could be out there actually doing it."

"I can't blame anybody for leaving the Alliance," Joker grinned, "but I know what you mean. He's like Shepard that way. And Garrus." Joker looked thoughtful for a moment. "Actually pretty much the whole crew this time around. Everybody's so independent and tortured and terrible at taking orders. It's a miracle they all work together so well."

"That's Shepard for you. I can't believe the SR1 didn't fall apart, and the crew back then was a little more..."

"Sane?"

"Relaxed," he said, trying to be tactful. "Don't scare me off everybody too bad; I've only met one of the squad members so far."

"Well here's your chance." Joker nodded toward a salarian clad in a scientist's lab coat standing near the windows. "That's Mordin. He's been on the squad the longest other than Jacob and Miranda, but the Illusive Man assigned those two to our team, so he's the first one Shepard actually recruited."

"He looks like a scientist. Does he just stay on board the SR2?"

"Nope. He's got a lab, sure, but he's on the away squad, too. You do not want to mess with him. Or his patients. When we first met him, he was defending his clinic from gangs during a plague. On Omega."

Kaidan blanched at the thought and looked a little closer. The scientist had a scarred face and one horn broken off – the scars alone were enough to show that he wasn't at all like most of the other salarians he'd met. Though he seemed calm enough at the moment, a little smile on his face as he watched everyone else interacting, Mordin had definitely earned his place in Shepard's elite team.

"He's a genius, but... a little out there. Not that that's a surprise, with this crew. Jacob's the most normal one of the bunch, believe it or not. But I'll let you get to know Mordin for yourself."

Kaidan narrowed his eyes at his friend. "I thought you were going to introduce me to everyone, but you're running off every chance you get. I need backup!"

"That argument might work on a nice person, but I'm in this for laughs. Good luck buddy."

He sighed, but stood up straight and approached the salarian with as much confidence as he could muster. "Hello, I'm-"

"Kaidan Alenko, yes?" he asked, and Kaidan started in surprise, then nodded, and the salarian held out his hand and smiled at him. "Mordin Solus. Scientist. Nice to officially meet you. Lots of rumors on the ship about you and Shepard. Not that I listen. Too much work to do. Not interested in gossip."

"I think you're just about the only one," Kaidan replied, reaching out to shake the salarian's hand firmly. "Pleasure to meet you too. I've heard you're a genius."

Mordin looked pleased. "Exaggeration. But appreciated. Did come up with a way to protect crew from Collectors' seeker swarms, though. Proud of that one. Other things, not so much."

"Well that one was damned impressive. We could have used that kind of protection on Horizon." He tried not to sound wistful, but he couldn't help thinking of the few friends he'd made on the colony – friends that even Shepard had been unable to save.

"You were assigned there?"

Kaidan inclined his head. "Unfortunately. If it wasn't for me..." he trailed off, but couldn't help continuing the thought. If I hadn't gone there, they might all still be alive.

The salarian nodded thoughtfully. "Was our first opportunity for field testing. Had finished product just before Illusive Man told us about imminent Collector attack. No time to distribute it to civilians beforehand. Results when faced by so many in the swarm, unpredictable, unknown. Fortunate that it worked." He paused to take a breath, the first one Kaidan had seen him take. "Heard about the colony. Sorry for loss of life."

He nodded, not trusting his voice. He'd told Shepard before that you can't ever get used to seeing dead civilians, and now he knew how much worse it was when you were the one in charge. He had a feeling they were going to need each other's support more than ever in the coming months.

Mordin tilted his head and looked at Kaidan with open curiosity. "Heard the Collectors went to Horizon to get Shepard through someone important. You, yes?"

He winced. "You heard right. What happened to everyone there... I was supposed to protect them, and they were all taken and killed anyway."

"Not your fault. Not Shepard's fault, either. Blame Illusive Man. Leaked your location to make sure the Collectors would find you, attack, bring Shepard there. Backfired, of course. For everyone. Collectors destroyed by Shepard, and Shepard furious with Illusive Man. Lost her trust."

"I can't believe you all work with him," Kaidan said, shaking his head. "Especially all you non-humans. Putting so much faith in a pro-human group like Cerberus... They might not be terrorists, but they're damn close, and the kind of people they work with usually aren't as noble as Shepard is."

"Not working with him anymore." Mordin's eyes twinkled. "Had a feeling we wouldn't be forever, not with Shepard in charge. Can't believe he didn't see it coming. Thankfully, in the past. Lots to look forward to now."

"Like the Reapers on their way?" he asked, wincing.

Mordin smiled at Kaidan's grimace, and the expression was a bit unsettling. "Not excited for destruction. But opportunities for study, advancement of technology, chance to fight, rallying of various species against one enemy... Looking forward to it."

Kaidan nodded slowly. "I guess, if you think about it that way. But we're gonna have a hell of a time stopping them, and I'm worried about what will happen to everybody else while we work on that. And who knows if we'll all make it through?"

"Shepard, though. Won't be a problem for her. You know this, of course," the salarian grinned.

"I hope so. If anyone can stop them, it's her."

"Absolutely. Nothing Shepard can't do. Will have to tell you about our visit to Tuchanka later. You're staying with her."

Mordin had phrased it as a statement, and it took Kaidan a moment to realize that the last sentence was actually a question. "Oh. Uh. I'm not sure. I think so. I mean, we haven't really discussed it, but-"

"Understood. Recent reunion, uncertain relationship status, years since last chance for physical intimacy. Makes things awkward."

And that didn't help either, Kaidan thought, trying very hard not to bolt.

"Sure you'll find out what she wants soon. Shepard terrible at hiding her emotions. Expecting to see you on the ship tomorrow. Have an office there. Not just scientist. Also a doctor, if needed." Mordin's dark eyes sparkled in amusement.

"Uh. Thanks. I think."

"Not a problem, Alenko. Go meet the others. Will be around, can talk later."

Kaidan tried not to run at the dismissal, but he still almost crashed into Joker getting away from the salarian as quickly as he could.

"I take it that didn't go so well?"

"It was fine until he started asking if I was staying with Shepard and using the phrase 'physical intimacy."

"Oh God," Joker laughed. He handed him a drink, and Kaidan took a long, thankful gulp. "How about we let you talk to someone a little less prone to awkward questions?"

"That'd be great."