They had given her the Normandy. Hamelin wasn't entirely sure what she was supposed to do with it. Sure it was a great ship and if she'd been career military by choice no doubt she'd have been delighted, but she'd spent less than a week as XO and never held a shipside command before, she was a typical ground pounder through and through, she didn't know how to run a ship. There was being thrown in the deep end to learn how to swim and then there was being thrown in a deep, fast flowing, piranha infested river heading towards a waterfall to learn how to swim. She would say she hoped it came with a manual but at the same time she really wasn't in the mood to read.
Anderson had suggested Pressly for XO and she was happy to agree, truth be told he probably should have been the captain's XO from the start. She hadn't worked with him before but he was an experienced officer and Anderson assured her he would respect the chain of command, follow any legal order (she did so love the way he stressed that word) but would at least warn her of the dangers if she attempted anything unnecessarily life threatening. As a rule she didn't like people questioning her orders but at the same time she didn't want to die due to ignorance. People blindly following her orders to go to warp factor 16 when hull integrity failed at 14 was not a situation she wanted to be in, hell she wasn't even sure if warp factor was anything to do with ships, wasn't warp a biotic thing? Fuck why'd she have to remind herself of biotics? That just brought up the whole fiasco of her ground team situation.
For some reason the aliens she'd picked up in the wards wanted to come with her to help stop Saren, and Udina had been kind enough to accept their offer on her behalf. Without consulting her. Again. He was rapidly climbing up her shit list now. Apparently it would look good for humanity to appear to be team players, working with the other species to bring down a mutual threat. She didn't mind Wrex, despite the other humans trying to tell her it was a bad idea; he was a bounty hunter and would turn on her the moment a better offer came his way they claimed, but he was the one she felt most comfortable around. She knew he wouldn't stab her in the back, if he turned on her he'd make sure she could see it coming. It was a style of honesty common among his species that she found refreshing, but for some reason the rest of 'civilized' society found abhorrent. Of course the other commonly known feature of the krogan was their ability to act as bullet sponges, yes he'd make a fine addition to her crew. Yet he was the only one the politician hadn't agreed to. Instead he wanted her to take a damn cop onboard. That was just what she needed, fucking C-sec watching her every move. During her protests it was revealed that he'd quit C-sec, frustrated by all the bureaucratic red tape and impressed by the way her 'unorthodox' handling of Fist had got the job done in record time. That sounded slightly promising, enough of a crack for her to worm her way in and bring him round to her way of thinking but it also sounded like a trap, an attempt to slide someone inside her confidence and collect evidence against her from within. She couldn't trust him, but then again she didn't usually trust anyone anyway so what difference did it make? If worse comes to worst she could always get rid of him later, the Terminus systems were a dangerous place after all.
Then there was Tali... Shepard had nothing against the quarian per se, she was young, competent, naive and without a malicious bone in her body. Which made her question why Anderson hadn't put his foot down to keep her far away from Hamelin. She glanced over at him, he certainly seemed troubled by the idea and it wasn't like him not to stand up for his morals. She decided to give a little push, see what would happen.
"She's still a kid. You really want her on your conscious Sir? Correct me if I misquote but I believe someone once said: 'keep the good ones away from her, they'll be dead or corrupted within a week'?" The response was the equivalent to a full body flinch on anybody else, but with Anderson's level of control it was mitigated to a slight contraction around the eyes, even so it was enough for Shepard to notice. He clearly remembered where that quote came from, a discussion she certainly wasn't supposed to be aware of. If memory served the full declaration had been something along the lines of: 'Give Shepard the psychopaths we can't control and send them to the places we can't win and we'll get results. Just be damn sure before you point her anywhere and keep the good ones away from her, they'll be dead or corrupted within a week.'
"Miss Zorah's skills and knowledge on the geth will prove invaluable and we don't have time to find another expert if we want the mission to succeed." Was the practical response.
"Oh I got no problem taking her. Just making sure you can live with the consequences. However, if I have got to take them all then at least make sure they've all signed waivers. I'm not being held responsible by their respective governments or families for the inevitable deaths, maiming or psychological trauma that follows in my wake. Non disclosure agreements as well. If you want me to get results I have to be able to do things my way without worrying about some civilian trying to sue me." They agreed albeit somewhat reluctantly and she moved on to her next demand. "I don't want Alenko on my team."
"You're keeping him." Anderson ordered, "You need a biotic."
"I'll take the krogan."
"He's also the only one who's a trained field medic."
"Come off it! I'm an N7 remember? Villa trained me in frontline trauma care for both humans and aliens."
"Yes but we both know you're not going to put your own ass on the line running over to save someone else's life while under fire."
"So you're saying I should take him because he's stupid?" They could have kept the argument going for another couple of hours if the captain hadn't got a call on his omni-tool. She couldn't hear the other side of the conversation but there was a minuscule shift in Anderson's body language and, expert at reading him that she was, Shepard knew it was tantamount to a full blown self satisfied grin of victory. The smug kind that she always struggled against the desire to punch off a person's face. It didn't fade as he turned to look at her, in fact it almost slipped past his professional mask and onto his face where anybody could see it. Fuck, now what?
"Sorry about that Shepard. Trouble at the docks." He stated airily and she felt her insides twist. Oh hell no, surely not? Double fuck with a side serving of oh shit! "Apparently they intercepted a suspicious package from 'Sitra Foundation'. Initial scans were inconclusive and they're requesting authorization to search. You wouldn't happen to know anything about it?" She shrugged nonchalantly but inside she was fuming. You had one fucking job. Get my gun mods and get my booze and get them on my god damn ship. Nobody had ever noticed the extra misspelt medical supply crate before. Still, there was no way anything could be traced back to her. All she had to do was play it cool.
"Sorry Sir, you know me and paperwork, I tend to delegate that sort of thing to the requisitions officer." The look in his eyes assured her that 'oh yes, he knew all about her and paperwork'.
"Pity. We'll have to shut down the docks while we check it, just in case it's a bomb, someone trying to take down humanity's first spectre on her first day. Then if it's contraband we'll have to launch a full investigation... If you vouched for it we could just wave it through and you, and Lieutenant Alenko and the rest of the Normandy crew could go on your merry way." She was actually speechless. Surely he didn't expect her to fall for that? To admit responsibility and then be brought to account? No, she realised as she analyzed his face for clues. This is just good old fashioned blackmail and bribery. So much for him being a boy scout. She knew sometimes you had to pick your battles and for whatever weird reason it didn't look like they were going to budge on this one.
"Never thought I'd see the day Sir." She said tiredly, even when admitting defeat she made sure to keep her words vague enough not be able to be used as evidence against her. 'The day you'd sink as low as me' remaining unsaid.
"I am an N7 Shepard, remember?"
"Fine have it your way." She sighed but then her eyes hardened with determination. "I'm taking the krogan though."
"Commander? What are your orders Ma'am?" Hamelin broke off from her ruminations to find Pressly watching her expectantly. What were her orders indeed? The Council had tasked her with finding a single turian in an insanely large galaxy and hadn't even had any bright ideas on how to go about it. All she knew was he had an immensely powerful and allegedly never before seen ship (because those popped up without government knowledge or corporate funding all the time), an army of geth (because why the hell not) and the alliance of a powerful matriarch (because they take half their followers and disappear for no discernible reason without anybody asking why on a regular basis as well). She bit back a sigh. With luck the wild goose chase would at least waste a couple of months and hopefully be a good enough excuse to stop the Alliance sending her on random suicide missions. Assuming Saren didn't decide to hold a grudge and hunt her down himself. Of course she did have an advantage in having a stealth ship. The possibilities would have been intriguing if she had a different crew. They were good and loyal men and women one and all. That was the problem. Good like Anderson and loyal to the Alliance. Not to her. Right now when they looked at her they saw the 'Hero of Elysium', she'd have to try and maintain that image as much as possible, if she were to count on their support, at least while she was ship side.
"Head for the Artemis Tau cluster." Pressly nodded and turned back to his console, starting the mysterious and necessary processes needed to carry out her instructions. Let's see if we can find this archaeologist, one way or another she will answer my questions.