The omni-blade flipped out silently, if any of the crew thought their XO's choice of eating utensil was odd they didn't say anything. Neither did they comment on the way she cut ALL her food with the lethal instrument before allowing even a single morsel past her lips, reverting to a normal fork to transport the results from plate to mouth. Of course they were likely unaware of the sensor programs constantly running in the background of her omni-tool, the ones that analysed everything the blade came into contact with and would silently warn her by gentle vibrations if it found poison or other contaminants. If they HAD known they'd probably think her paranoid, but after surviving one attempted poisoning Post-Torfan she had no interest in experiencing the horrific gut wrenching symptoms again. Her prudence had paid off, the software alerting her to three warnings of lethal contaminants over the past five years, and one attempt to get her covertly stoned via baked goods. She didn't really expect anything to happen on an Alliance ship, but the risk of forgetting to activate it or not having time if suddenly thrust into a diplomatic 'eat this honoured and symbolic food' situation meant it was easier and safer to keep the program running at all times rather than just checking the suspicious meals. As for continuing to use the omni-blade, truth was by now it was mostly just habit.

"Commander, may I?" She looked up to see the biotic from the ship's ground team standing inquiringly at her table with a tray of his own. A glance around the mess saw no other spaces among the officer's tables although plenty among the other ranks. Great, he must be one of those; too good to slum it with the enlisted personnel, either that or so by the book he thinks even talking to them outside work would count as fraternization. She inclined her head in permission before concentrating back on her food, hoping he'd take the hint and leave her in peace. He didn't say anything but she could feel the glances he occasionally sent her way and she put her fork down with a sigh.

"Alright Lieutenant, let's just get the hero awe bullshit over and done with." He spluttered a protest but she just rolled her hand in a 'go on' gesture.

"I'm sorry, I never thought I'd be... umm, well... I've just never worked with an N7 before."

"Captain's an N7" She stated dismissively, but she had a feeling it was her specifically and not just her designation that was leaving him tongue tied here.

"Yeah Anderson's a living legend alright, but you've got a Star of Terra! Even the Captain's not got one of them."

"Bout the only medal he hasn't got. Surely you've heard that gem about him having enough medals to melt them down and make a life size statue of himself? He's even got a damn Nova Cluster. Only First Contact vet I've ever heard of to be honoured by the turian hierarchy."

"What did he do to earn that?"

"Ah now that is classified. You wanna know that one you're gonna have to get the balls to ask him yourself. Or you know... hack the mission reports. All the easy access files are heavily redacted though." She watched his eyebrows shoot up at the implication. There was only one way to know how redacted a file was and that was to see it. Getting hold of the unedited version had been an interesting test of her computer skills back at the villa.

"Uh, speaking of classified... I assume you can't tell me anything else about our current assignment?"

"We're hurrying up and waiting, if the Captain thought you needed to know more than that he'd have told you himself. You're not going to get anything out of me by going behind his back." He started apologising profusely, Shepard failing to mention how she wasn't privy to the details either. That irritated her no end. Anderson of all people knew how much she hated going into missions blind. Unfortunately the new ship meant she no longer had a handy backdoor onto his computer and he seemed to have updated his encryptions since the last time she served with him. It would take time to break, time that she had to spend on her XO duties, but if he didn't tell her soon she was sure she'd be able to find out on her own.

...

Eden Prime had been a disaster before she even set foot on the ground. First it had been revealed that her new turian shadow was NOT in fact there to keep an eye on the council's financial investment aka the ship, but rather to analyze her for potential recruitment into the intergalactic association of badasses, sorry... Spectre's. While there were few people who would question her status as a badass there were certain aspects of the job she wasn't exactly thrilled about. Such as shortened life expectancy and having to answer directly to politicians. She had to be relatively discreet with bird brain watching, but she made sure her displeasure at being put forward without consultation was clear. Unfortunately Anderson made it equally clear that she had no real choice in the matter. That was the problem with the recruitment deferral system, if she didn't do the full 20 years service she went straight back to prison. It didn't matter if she'd given up during boot or lasted a solid 19 and a half years, the time served wouldn't even get taken off her sentence. It was a fact of life that Shepard was more than aware of, but Anderson wasn't usually crass enough to bring it up. The briefing was interrupted by the reveal that details on the covert pickup had apparently been leaked and people with guns were now attempting to take it for themselves. Shepard had to admit she wasn't entirely surprised, by this point she had long ago come to the conclusion that 'simple extraction' was the soldier's version of the tooth fairy... Non existent.

Things didn't improve when they made it planetside. Corporal greenhorn went and got himself killed, idiot. Fortunately they stumbled upon a potential replacement not long later. Less fortunately she seemed to be running the wrong way. Personally Hamelin would consider that a demonstration of a relatively strong survival instinct but she was supposed to be Commander Shepard and Commander Shepard had a reputation to maintain. A brief bit of rescuing and some slight interrogating later, and she had a new tour guide. Along with the information that the geth had apparently got bored of sitting behind the veil and if that wasn't bad enough they had decided to turn the colonists into techno-zombies.

All in all it was turning out to be the day from hell, and that was BEFORE Nihlus, super spectre and alleged badass extraordinaire, went and forgot the first rule of survival: Trust no one. And got his head blown off. Because the mission wasn't screwed up enough already. By the time she finished disarming multiple nuclear bombs Shepard was almost considering taking the 28 years solitary confinement after all. At least the massive squid ship thing fucked off.

With the beacon finally secured and the Normandy en route for extraction. Shepard decided to have a nose around the docks. She thought she'd seen a wall safe while scoping the place out during the battle and enjoyed the occasional flex of old skills. She knew Anderson disapproved, of course he did, but she doubted he'd let her have a drink or a fuck when she got back onboard either and after a day like today she needed something to help take the edge off, even if just for a minute.

She was already on her way back with the goods, choosing to ignore the disapproving look on the chief's face when the beacon flared green. It grabbed the Lieutenant and lifted him up into the air where he hovered, more sickly green light flowing all around him. Trusting her instincts Shepard threw herself into cover shouting at Williams to do the same. The shockwave from the explosion rocked the whole docks, leaving her ears ringing as she stumbled over to check on the biotic's prone body. He was still alive but the mission objective was a smoking ruin. As the Normandy swooped in to pick them up there was only one thing Shepard was certain of: She was NOT looking forward to the debrief.

...

Author's note:

Sorry for the long delay on this one. We also appear to have suddenly gone slightly AU, I just couldn't think of any reason why Hamelin would risk her life for Kaiden, yeah I know he's under her command but so what? The only life she truly cares about is her own. I tried to think of some justification for her helping him but then I started thinking about the possibilities of someone else having the Reaper visions and Shepard just tasked with tracking down Saren. I am currently unsure where I'll take this, current possibilities include Liara sharing Kaiden's visions with Shepard, Shep being exposed to the second beacon on Virmire or Shepard never experiencing the visions at all and not believing in the Reapers. If you have a preference or any other ideas let me know. Updates will be irregular at best as this isn't my main story but I'm more likely to try and work on it if I know people are interested in it. Failing that if you have no interest in AU at all then thanks for reading this far and sorry for ruining the story for you.