Miranda Versus the Prankster
For the record, I used to have a sense of humour.
Strange, I know. How can the ice queen laugh? How can the bitch enjoy a good joke? The truth is, it depends on the joke. I would never laugh at a juvenile or immature attempt at wit. Crude allegations, blatantly sexual innuendos... that sort of lowest common denominator drivel is so, well, juvenile. So average.
But jokes and jibes that displayed a keen sense of wit? Clever double-entendres and wordplay? That subtle twist or hint, smoothly turning the tables? That I liked. Maybe it was the thrill of getting the upper hand and outthinking the other player. Though I would never admit that out loud. While it was the simple truth, most people would simply think I was bragging and take offense. And while I really should be above those concerns, there are times when you want to minimize the amount of distractions in your life.
I suppose I also have my father to thank for my appreciation of humour. He might have indulged, to use his terms, in a bit of witty repartee to deliver the final crushing blow to a particularly annoying competitor or rival. But he generally disapproved of humour. The province of lesser people who used it as a pathetic attempt to compensate for their failure, he said. Looking back, perhaps that’s why I secretly nurtured my sense of humour—to spite him. My one little act of rebellion. A stepping stone, if you will, to the move that changed my life.
Mind you, I didn’t really have to hide my funny bone, as no one seemed to recognize it. The few times I bothered to tell a joke, it went completely over the recipient’s head. It was discouraging, to say the least. What did that mean? Was everyone around me too cowed and scared of me—or my father, or both—to laugh? Were my jokes too subtle for them? Or was I just too serious? Either way, it was another failure. A little one, to be fair. But when joke after joke falls flat, for whatever reason, all those failures add up. So... I guess at some point I just stopped trying to be funny. I gave up.
I still made keen observations of the people and events around me. Noted all the little absurdities that cropped up. Kept track of the people who noted these things and, more importantly, how they showed their awareness. Everything from overt laughter to more non-vocal cues such as body language. It started out as reading enemies—current and potential ones—to anticipate their next move. Applying this talent to something less serious was refreshing. And it provided some small comfort for this particular failure, one that I needed so very badly for some reason.
This talent helped me notice something unexpected about Commander Shepard. Which, in hindsight, was not all that surprising.
One of the first instances was when he was recruiting Kasumi Goto at the Citadel. He was his usual self: polite and diplomatic, thoroughly and exhaustively curious, conveying interest and concern for Kasumi’s plight that actually bordered on genuine—no, it was genuine. I knew that now. While she took pains to pretend she was talking to us through a VI interface, I knew she was actually broadcasting her comm signal from a hundred metres behind us. Benefit of genetically enhanced hearing, you see. Anyway, she decided to conclude the conversation before anyone wondered why Shepard was supposedly talking to himself and looking ‘silly’.
I still remember his response: “Funny. I thought making me look silly was all part of the plan.” His lips quirked into a smirk as he said that. And there was this glint in his eyes. This laughter that didn’t quite make it out of his mouth, but was just as joyous for all its silence.
Then there was our first trip to Omega—under Shepard’s command, that is. I’d been to that ever-so-delightful pisshole myself more times than I’d care to remember. He’d asked where the shops were, knowing all too well that he was ignoring Aria’s express command, issued through one of her many flunkies, to present himself before her. I approved of that move. Just the right amount of defiance to show that he was a strong and independent man, without crossing the line into foolhardiness or recklessness. Few men—or women, to be honest—knew how to navigate that line without tipping over.
But I digress.
I told him that the shops were in the opposite direction he was facing. For some reason, I found the thought that the great Commander Shepard was lost rather amusing. It was all I could do to suppress a smile. When he realized he was facing the wrong way, I saw that glint again. He was laughing again, I was sure of it. At himself, this time. If I was right, he had a sense of humour. One that included self-deprecation. However, he didn’t see the need to voice it out loud.
At least, that’s what I thought until Shepard got around to talking to Aria, the self-appointed ruler of Omega. She started by listing numerous labels to explain her position in Omega’s nebulous hierarchy, including the position of monarch. Queen, to be precise. Shepard promptly cracked a joke. “All hail the queen,” he said. Out loud. To Aria. Perfect timing, perfect delivery. And then he followed that up with a quip about liking her One Rule.
Regardless of when or how it manifested, I noted more and more examples of this humour. I don’t know why I bothered mentally cataloguing these occurrences. Maybe it was because I liked to flatter myself by thinking no one else had noticed. Maybe it was because none of the official logs, psychological evaluations or second-hand accounts Cerberus had collated ever hinted at this side of Shepard. Maybe it was because he’d displayed the same form of subtle wit I myself had, with the difference being that he chose to develop it in that way instead of secretly nurturing it out of fear of being chastised or ridiculed.
I later found myself revising that assessment. While he certainly had a finely honed sense of wit, the ‘subtle’ part seemed situational at best. This fact was made abundantly clear one day when Shepard made an unexpected detour.
He was busy mining systems for minerals, which we needed to upgrade all sorts of things, from weapons to biotic amps to omni-tools to the Normandy herself. I wasn’t surprised when he guided the Normandy towards the closest mass relay after exhaustively scanning the latest system. I was surprised, however, when he took us to the Sol system. All the planets there had long since been depleted of any worthwhile deposits. Why was he taking us here? Specifically, why was he taking us to...
No. He wouldn’t.
As I watched through the surveillance feeds, he put us in geosynchronous orbit around the seventh planet. A wide grin spread over his face as he stabbed the probe launch controls. “EDI?” he said out loud.
“Really, Commander?” EDI asked.
“Commander, this seems wasteful and counterproductive to our mining efforts. Perhaps—”
“Say it,” he said, his voice equal parts commanding and mischievous, even over the speakers. He launched another probe and waited. It was a testament to EDI’s programming that she gave an audible sigh before complying with Shepard’s order.
“Probing Uranus,” she dutifully reported.
Needless to say, everyone in the CIC cracked up. News of Shepard’s stunt spread throughout the Normandy like wildfire.
I found myself wondering whether he’d ever exhibited this particular trait before. Given that all our documentation had proved to be most unhelpful, the only way to know for sure was to ask someone who’d known him in the past. At the time, that limited my choices to three people. Dr. Chakwas may have been reticent to share any information to preserve doctor-patient confidentiality—and, I suspect, out of loyalty to Shepard. Jeffrey Moreau would either be too scared of my reputation to provide any coherent information or attempt to deflect my inquiries with increasingly lewd commentary in order to protect Shepard. That left one more person. Granted, he’d also be loyal to Shepard, but he was the one individual who’d had a chance to observe him during and between missions.
Yes, out of all the available options, Garrus Vakarian was the best choice. He’d shared numerous conversations with Shepard. He’d sought out Shepard’s aid on a personal mission during his hunt for Saren. He’d fought alongside Shepard throughout countless battles. Some reports from Alliance personnel who’d observed them together had thought that there might have even been a mentoring relationship of sorts between the two. I could believe that. The kind of interaction between the two suggested a level of trust that went beyond one following the other’s orders. Look at how Shepard promptly appointed Garrus as leader of one of the teams, despite concerns of Garrus’s mental wellbeing.
You’d think that I would be reluctant to talk to Garrus considering that he wasn’t human. You’d be wrong. I’ll admit, there was a distressingly vocal and growing movement within Cerberus that was adamantly, even virulently, anti-alien. I wasn’t part of it. There was no logic or sense behind that faction’s foolish vision of dominance by way of xenocide. The probability of any long-term goal towards human dominance succeeding by that route was virtually nil. The simple truth is, I had no compunction about working with other species, so long it did not jeopardize or impede the progress of humanity. Granted, I wouldn’t shed a tear if an alien or two had to die to advance our goals, but neither would I go out of my way to kill aliens. In the long run, it’s more practical to keep any alien contacts alive as long as possible. That way, we could get the maximum benefit out of that working relationship.
To reiterate, I had no problem about working with non-humans. Sometimes, it was a necessary evil. Sometimes, it might actually be a pleasure. Working, and fighting alongside, with Garrus was most definitely the latter. He was with Shepard when they encountered some of our cells during the hunt for Saren. He knew what we stood for and how our projects... sometimes encountered unfortunate setbacks. Yet he never once raised his voice in anger or protest about working for us. Never launched into diatribes against the evils of Cerberus. Instead, he poured himself into making the Normandy as ready as possible. Much like Shepard had, he accepted that we were the only ones doing something about all the colony abductions and was willing to put aside his differences and work towards the greater good. And work he did. No one put more hours into maintaining the Normandy’s weapons than Garrus—I could think of several humans who could learn from his work ethic.
And his performance on the battlefield... at first, I thought Shepard assigned him as Team Two leader to ensure he had an ally in place for some eventual coup against Cerberus. Or maybe as some kind of cronyism. But I soon saw how his tactical prowess rivalled Shepard himself. He led his team with the easy confidence born of experience. More than once, he surprised me—and Shepard, judging by his reaction—by coming up with an observation, insight or tactical plan that was instrumental to our winning a fight. It was refreshing to work with someone so... so professional.
The question was how to ensure Garrus’s cooperation. It was one thing to work together towards the common goal of defeating the Collectors, whether by upgrading the Normandy or by fighting next to each other during missions. It was another thing entirely to ask him to give any insight he might have on an ally and... and friend to what he no doubt regarded as an ally of necessity. A trade would be the best way to obtain what I sought. Exchange something he needed to know for something I needed to know.
I decided to tell him about the status of the surveillance devices in Gunnery Control. The present status, that is—he’d discovered and disabled all but one of them. Like Professor Solus and Shepard. However, Solus had returned the surviving surveillance device to me. Shepard, out of some perverse sense of glee, had chosen to re-route the feeds to other vid-cams throughout the ships or connect them to various extranet sites. The randomness of his choices showed both his ingenuity at computer hacking and the humour that I was trying to understand. The last surveillance device in Gunnery Control, however, was still active and transmitting. Garrus might be more receptive if I volunteered that information in exchange for his assistance.
Naturally, I’d only give that information after he told me what I needed to know. “Mr. Vakarian,” I started as I entered Gunnery Control. “I would like—”
“Ms. Lawson,” he greeted me. “A moment, please: I’m in the middle of a calibration.”
Naturally, Garrus was in the middle of a calibration. He was always in the middle of a calibration. It was a running joke amongst the crew. Even I knew that, though I had obtained that knowledge from the surveillance feeds, not random gossip or ‘scuttlebutt’. I don’t do gossip unless I’m forced to do so for the mission. And I had been far too busy for that lately.
Naturally I had anticipated this scenario, which was why I didn’t try to force his immediate attention. Not only would he ignore me, he’d be less likely to volunteer any intel. The resulting lack of cooperation might jeopardize both my immediate mission and the overall mission against the Collectors. Instead, I had established a remote connection between my omni-tool and my computers before leaving my office. That way, I could do some work while waiting for him.
It took Garrus a full ten minutes before he was finished. Plenty of time for me to sign off on the daily maintenance reports, assess the latest intelligence from Cerberus, double-check that the next shipment of supplies would be waiting at our designated drop-off point on the Citadel and reset the vid-cam feed from the lone surveillance device in Shepard’s quarters—his latest hacking had sent the signal to Ms. Chamber’s quarters. I didn’t need to see her model the latest in stripper attire or practise her lap-dancing routine. I really didn’t.
“My apologies for the wait, Ms. Lawson,” Garrus said at last. “Did you want something?”
“Yes,” I nodded.
“Well, this should be good,” Garrus muttered.
My glare was half-hearted. For some reason, I was hesitating. It took me a moment to realize why. It took me another moment to decide what to do about it.
“I... came here to make a—there was something I wanted to know. About Shepard.”
Garrus tensed up. “Are you going to try and force me to talk?” he asked. “Or were you planning on trading information?”
I took a deep breath. Here goes nothing.
“The latter had crossed my mind,” I admitted. “But that sort of thing, trading information in that fashion, is something you do between business partners. Or people you’re trying to use as a means to an end. It’s not something you should do with someone you respect. Or trust.
“And you’ve earned both my respect and trust. For your sheer dedication and professionalism in dealing with us and working with us despite your previous encounters with Cerberus. For your frequent displays of brilliance and competence on the battlefield. For all the times you’ve strived to protect us—not just Shepard, but all of us. Even Jacob and I.
“So that’s why I’m just going to ask,” I concluded. “It’s up to you whether or not you want to answer. It’s your choice.”
There was a moment of silence. I couldn’t believe I’d just admitted that out loud. More importantly, I couldn’t believe how much I meant every word. That moment stretched out for what seemed like an eternity.
“All right,” Mr. Vakarian—Garrus—said at last. “Ask away.”
I suddenly realized that I’d never really told Jacob how much I respected and trusted him. Oh, I gave him the occasional nod of approval when he did what I asked. Maybe even a verbal or written compliment when he did something particularly exceptional. But taking the time to actually express that to Jacob? No, I hadn’t done that. Yet another mistake I’d made where he was concerned. I decided to rectify that oversight.
After I finished this conversation with Garrus, that is.
“You know about Shepard’s... mining expedition to the Sol system,” I started.
“Where he ‘probed Uranus’,” Garrus nodded, a smile spreading over his face. “Heard about that when I was getting lunch.”
“Was he always like that?” I asked. “Back when you first met him, I mean?”
Garrus stared at me. “That’s your question?”
“Why do you want to know? Or is this something Cerberus wants to know?”
Of course he’d ask that. “Just me,” I confirmed. “It’s been distracting, to say the least. Most of the people that I’ve met who indulge in such juvenile activities don’t make it to any level of seniority or authority. Shepard seems to be the exception.”
“He does a lot of things differently from most commanders, doesn’t he?” Garrus agreed. “I always thought he was different, right from the first time I met him. A human actively seeking non-humans out and asking them to join his crew? Not something you see every day. Nor do you see commanders talk to every single person in his crew.”
“Three times a day,” I added.
“I know, right? How does he find the time to do that?”
“He foists all the work and responsibility on someone else so he can wander off and socialize,” I groused.
“So lazy,” Garrus tsk-ed.
“Tell me about it.”
“And no other commander would obsessively search through every crate, container, barrel and corner for something to take,” Garrus added, “be it a weapon, omni-tool or upgrade. Even if he has to hack or bypass a lock to do so.”
“His kleptomaniacal tendencies are really worrying sometimes,” I agreed. “At least he isn’t doing it during combat situations anymore.”
“You know,” Garrus mused, “back in my C-Sec days, any commanding officer who did that would have been put on administrative leave, if not removed from the force.”
“Any commanding officer in Cerberus who did that would have been spaced out the nearest airlock,” I returned.
“There were times where I considered doing just that,” Garrus sighed. “But there were 1984 regulations against that sort of thing, or anything that was similarly... final.” He smiled. “Of course, there were no regulations against doing some investigating on the side, finding out what was bought with those illicit proceeds, determining which mistress received those gifts and e-mailing the financial statements to his wife.”
“Well done,” I approved.
“Thank you,” Garrus replied. “Almost made up for getting beaten to a pulp by his brothers.”
This was actually quite fun. It was the first time in two years and fifteen days that I found myself enjoying a conversation. Even if it was part of the mission. Though we were getting sidetracked. Whether or not that was Garrus’s intent, I decided to bring things back to my original inquiry. “Did Shepard display any signs of humour back when you were hunting Saren?”
Garrus considered that question for a full minute. “Not at first,” he said at last. “It seemed to me that what he displayed was confidence. Confidence in himself that he could figure his way out of whatever hornet’s nest he’d stumbled into. Confidence in the rest of us that we could do our part, do whatever was necessary, to sort things out. Which we did. Shepard—you’ve probably seen this by now—Shepard has this way of inspiring people to do more than they would have ever believed possible.”
I always thought of it as a burning fire that would make us willing to follow Shepard into hell itself. But I kept that to myself. Instead, I just smirked and added “Even if it means following him into one disaster after another.”
“At least he won’t be lonely,” Garrus chuckled. Then he leaned forward. “But after a while, I did see something. In his eyes. It was... every once in a while, it looked like his eyes were laughing. I know, it doesn’t really make sense. But I did see him laugh once or twice. His eyes had this certain... way about them. And then sometimes I’d see his eyes do the same thing, even when he wasn’t laughing. I think it was his way of dealing with things. When you blunder into as many—what is the phrase? Insect’s hive? No, hornet’s nest. That’s it—when you blunder into as many hornet’s nests as we did during our hunt for Saren, it gets to you. All the scary things. All the horrors. I think you need to react to that. So you either laugh it off or you go insane. Or you just shut yourself off from everyone and everything.”
Somehow, I didn’t think he was talking just about Shepard. “And what do you do?” I asked keenly.
Garrus shook his head ruefully. “Usually I find myself being volunteered by Shepard to beat off the hornets.”
“I see,” I said. I really did: Garrus and Shepard really were more similar than I had realized. If nothing else, they used humour as a coping mechanism to maintain some semblance of sanity and balance in a universe that seemed so crazy and chaotic. “You bring up some interesting points about Shepard and the reasons behind his actions. They do make sense, once you put it that way. But I have to know: did he ever do anything overt? Anything as obvious as this Uranus stunt?”
“Well...” Garrus paused for a moment. “As a matter of fact, there was something,” he said. “I didn’t understand the significance until Ashley—Lieutenant Williams—explained it to me. A human tradition that apparently occurred on the first day of the fourth month of each solar cycle.”
“April Fool’s Day,” I identified.
“Precisely,” Garrus nodded.
Something occurred to me. “You know,” I said slowly. “The first of April is next week.”
“Really?” Garrus frowned. “You don’t think...”
“If what you told me about Shepard is true...” I shrugged.
We looked at each other. “Next week should be interesting,” Garrus said at last.
“To say the least,” I agreed. “What exactly did he do?”
Garrus’s account was quite... revealing. It was with increasing trepidation that I counted down the days and hours until April 1st. I actually woke up at 0000 hours, much to my annoyance. But nothing happened.
Nothing would happen until I booted up my computer after my morning exercises—biotic and physical. I was in the midst of changing into my uniform when—
“Welcome to Mistress Lawson’s House of Pain!”
“How may I serve you?”
As no one was around to see me, I allowed a slight frown to appear on my face before initiating a trace program to track whatever Shepard had planted in my system. In my annoyance, I actually missed hitting the ‘Enter’ key the first time around and had to try again.
“Click me baby, one more time!”
This was already eating into my schedule. I couldn’t risk downloading any Cerberus intelligence reports, review the last shift’s reports or do anything else without slowing down the trace program or, worse, force the program to miss something. So I was left with nothing else but tapping my finger on the desk. Again, a sign of impatience that I permitted since no one else was here.
“Oh someone’s been very, very naughty!”
While the trace program itself had been affected, at least it found the code that Shepard had inserted. Now that I knew what I was dealing with, it was only a matter of keystrokes and taps before this annoyance was scrapped. Sighing in relief, I started to download the latest—
“So this ain't the end—I
saw you again today.
I had to turn my heart away.
You smiled like the sun—kisses for everyone.
And tales—it never fails!”
Damn it! Far from eliminating Shepard’s juvenile prank once and for all, I’d inadvertently activated another one. Doubtless, this was Shepard’s intent.
“You lying so low in
I bet you gonna ambush me.
You'd have me down, down, down, down, down on my knees
Now wouldn't you...”
Cursing at how he’d successfully derailed my schedule, I got up from my desk and stormed out of the room.
Any hope I’d entertained of escaping the musical insanity was dashed when I heard a pounding rock beat over the speakers.
“How come you always such a fussy young man?
Don't want no Captain Crunch, don't want no Raisin Bran.
Well, don't you know that other kids are starving in Japan?
So eat it. Just eat it.”
Following my ears, I entered the mess hall. Gardner was scratching his head, his face showing a mixture of bewilderment and annoyance. I could relate. The mess hall was crowded with the day shift’s crew, all excitedly chatting away. From what I could gather, Gardner and I hadn’t been the only ones affected.
“Don't want to argue, I don't want to debate.
Don't want to hear about what kind of food you hate.
You won't get no dessert 'till you clean off your plate.
So eat it.
Don’t ya tell me you’re full.
Just eat it. Eat it...”
“I’m going to take a stab in the dark and guess you got a dose of Shepard’s humour too.”
“Yes I did,” I sighed, turning towards Garrus. “Something about a ‘barracuda.’ What did you get?”
“When we were hunting Saren, we touched down on Feros. Wrex and I had a little argument, which Shepard broke up with a... ‘song’,” Garrus replied. “I got that same song again. Just like old times.”
Garrus didn’t enjoy that song the first time around, judging by the pained look on his face, and two years hadn’t done anything to change that opinion. “Did everyone receive a unique song?” I wondered.
“No,” Garrus shook his head. “Most of the crew, well, the ones on Deck Three anyway,” he quickly amended, “got the same song. Something about ‘taking care of business’?”
“My musical education tends to lean more towards classical than popular culture, much less obscure pop culture,” I admitted.
“Ah,” Garrus said.
“Well, I hope Shepard is happy,” I grumbled. “No one is going to get any work done while this... this prank goes on.”
“It doesn’t have to,” Garrus disagreed. “The music doesn’t interfere with any actual functions. I’ve already gotten two calibrations done. Well, the second calibration should be done by now. I had to get out of Gunnery Control before that song got stuck in my head,” he elaborated when I shot him a querying look.
He had a point. Maybe I had given up too quickly. “I see,” I said thoughtfully. “In that case, maybe I’ll get a few things going and see how the rest of the ship is faring.”
“I’ll take Deck Four,” Garrus volunteered.
“Then I’ll take Deck Two.” I had taken three steps towards my office before turning back. “Garrus?”
“You missed a surveillance device.”
“You mean a bug?”
“Exactly. Far left corner of Gunnery Control, above the coolant valve.”
“Oh. Um… thank you.”
“No. Thank you.”
He looked surprised. So was I, come to think of it. I had never volunteered information so freely. Nor had I bothered with such social niceties before. Why the sudden change? Shepard’s influence, perhaps? Putting that thought aside for the time being, I re-entered my office. The two songs blared over each other, sending a confusing message about having more chicken and pie while making up something quick. I programmed the computer to begin five or six different things before departing. As I entered the elevator, I prayed that Shepard hadn’t slipped a musical number into the elevator speakers as well. He hadn’t, shockingly enough. Perhaps he had thought that he’d caused enough grief as it was.
All I knew was that I had twenty-five seconds of blessed peace before the elevator doors opened.
“No, I don't even know your name, it doesn't matter.
You're my experimental game, just human nature.
It's not what good girls do, not how they should behave.
My head gets so confused, hard to obey.
“I kissed a girl and I liked it,
the taste of her cherry chapstick.
I kissed a girl just to try it,
I hope my boyfriend don't mind it.”
Stifling a groan, I walked over and tapped on Chambers’s shoulder. “Operator Lawson,” she greeted me brightly. “I wanted to tell you that somebody—”
“—hacked into the mainframe and inserted songs to automatically play when you logged in,” I interrupted. “I know. Has it caused any disruption?”
“Maybe a little bit,” Chambers shrugged. “Some people find it annoying, others... not so much.”
Judging by the way her head was bobbing from side to side in time with the music; I gathered she was one of the latter.
“But some people have occasionally gotten more than just music,” Chambers added.
“Look at me! I’m surfing the extranet for porn!” a loud voice screeched from the cockpit.
“HEY!!!” Moreau howled in indignation.
“Case in point,” Chambers concluded as everyone within hearing range broke into laughter.
“I see,” I sighed. “Well, I better remind the crew that we have a mission to complete.”
As it turned out, a simple walk around the CIC was all that was needed to quell the hilarity. My genetically enhanced hearing did hear several hushed conversations start up after they mistakenly thought I was out of earshot. It seemed I had traded one distraction—Shepard’s joke—for another—the unusual appearance of the XO.
Shaking my head, I headed for the Armoury. At least Jacob would make more sense. The doors opened with a hiss...
“I like big butts and I cannot lie.
You other brothers can't deny.”
The music—if you could call it that—was so loud, it drowned the sound of the doors opening. As I strode in, I saw Jacob lower the weapon—carefully, I was pleased to see. I didn’t want to consider what might happen if the M-920 Cain was dropped—he was handling to the table with a frown. Heading over to the nearby computer console, he tried muting the volume.
“‘Cause you notice that butt was stuffed
Deep in the jeans she's wearing.
I'm hooked and I can't stop staring.”
Seeing how that didn’t work, Jacob attempted to fix the problem. Unfortunately, while Jacob might have many talents, fixing computer hacks was not one of them.
“Oh baby, I wanna get with you
And take your picture.”
In desperation, Jacob tried hitting the computer console. Needless to say, it didn’t work. “Jacob?” I called out, before he could cause any damage.
“My homeboys tried to warn me,
But that butt you got makes me so horny”
He jumped and whirled around.
You say you wanna get in my Benz?”
Then he abruptly paled—an impressive feat, considering the natural colour of his skin tone.
“Well, use me, use me,
'Cause you ain't that average groupie!”
“M-Miranda!” he stammered. “T-this isn’t what it looks—sounds—this isn’t my fault! I don’t know—it just happened. One minute I—”
“I've seen them dancin'
To hell with romancin'!”
“I swear I didn’t do this!” Jacob insisted, eyes widening. “You know me, this isn’t something I’d do.”
Of course he wouldn’t. Jacob was far too serious and far too respectful to ever do something like this. He didn’t need to make these unnecessary explanations. “Jacob,” I tried. “It’s all—”
“She's sweat, wet,
Got it goin' like a turbo 'Vette!”
“I don’t know how it started,” Jacob babbled.
Of course, the lyrics of this... song and the timing were rather unfortunate. “I believe—”
“I'm tired of magazines
Sayin' flat butts are the thing.”
“I don’t know how to turn it off. I would if I could, I swear!”
“I know,” I tried once more.
“Take the average black man and ask him that
She gotta pack much back!”
“Oh God,” Jacob wailed before lunging for the computer console again. Somehow, he had the presence of mind to reboot the computer. Unfortunately, the music continued to play unabated.
“So, fellas! (Yeah!) Fellas! (Yeah!)
Has your girlfriend got the butt? (Hell yeah!)”
Jacob shot me a look of abject misery. Taking pity on him, I gave him an understanding nod—at least, I hope he knew it was an understanding nod—and left the Armoury. I still had the rest of Deck Two to investigate, after all.
“Shake that healthy butt!
Baby got back!”
Mercifully, Shepard’s prank was short-lived. It only lasted as long as the song, which varied depending on when each crew member logged into their account. Still, the whole thing was over by 0814. By 0815, Shepard sent a mass e-mail to the crew:
To: [Normandy SR-2]
Hope everyone wasn’t too distracted or offended by today’s surprise. Now that you’ve had your fun, it would probably be best if you resumed your normal duties—we haven’t chastised the Collectors yet.
I scowled at the e-mail. Why he—how could he do this? Cause so much havoc and think he could get away with it. When was he going to learn that there were consequences for his actions? I paused in the middle of reading a maintenance report and pondered that last question.
Consequences for his actions...
An idea germinated inside my head, quickly growing and flourishing into full bloom. Out of long habit, I kept my anticipation down to a mere lip-twitch while opening a comm channel. As I waited for the recipient to pick up, I quickly finished and signed off on the maintenance report—and several others.
“Garrus,” I replied, opening the latest intelligence reports. “Have you recovered from this morning’s traumatic experience?”
“If you’re talking about the music, I think I had finally gotten that song out of my head when you reminded me about it. Damn thing’s starting up again.”
“My apologies,” I returned. Out of a perverse sense of curiosity, I had found that song on the extranet while verifying that the latest shipment of supplies had been delivered to the designated drop-off point. It truly was as horrifying as Garrus had intimated. “I suppose you are feeling less-than-charitable towards Shepard at the moment.”
There was a pause. I winced as I realized what I had just said and how it might be interpreted. “Let me clarify,” I hastily added, “I was hoping to get your assistance in pulling a prank of our own. To get back at Shepard.”
“You? Pulling a prank?”
Why did he sound so surprised? “Shepard’s been brought back from the dead, we’ve recruited supposed terrorists, bounty hunters, criminals and vigilantes, and we just endured an April Fool’s Day joke from our commanding officer. I think it’s safe to say that stranger things have indeed happened.”
“What did you have in mind?”
“I will intercept Shepard during his noon meal and tell him—”
Shepard looked up with surprise as I sat down across from him. No doubt because I didn’t usually eat out in the mess hall. More efficient to take my meal back to my quarters and eat while doing work. “What?” he managed.
“Do you know how much time was wasted dealing with your prank? How many minutes were lost trying to eliminate your pervasive programming? How many hours of work were lost with the inevitable gossip and chatter about this unexpected occurrence? You must be feeling very pleased with yourself right now.”
“You have no idea,” Shepard replied, a smug grin spreading over his face.
“Why did you do it?” I asked. “Why?”
“Because it was fun.”
“Fun?” I sputtered. “Fun? Were you dropped on the head as a child?”
Shepard raised an eyebrow. "You've read my medical records," he pointed out. "You should know if I was.”
"So are you saying you did or you didn't get dropped on the head?" Garrus asked, joining us at the table. Right on cue.
"I didn't," Shepard replied. "Which Miranda should know."
"'Cause I would've bet you did get some brain damage," Garrus continued. "It would explain a lot."
"Now what is that supposed to mean?" Shepard demanded, turning to Garrus.
While he was occupied, I pulled out the bottle from my pocket and uncapped it. Two squirts into his coffee were all it took. One squirt probably would have sufficed, but I wanted to make sure.
“You’re just lucky that we can salvage something from this morning,” I grumbled, catching Shepard’s attention again.
“Was it really that bad?” To my surprise, Shepard actually looked concerned. It almost made me feel guilty for getting back at him.
I raised an eyebrow. “And if it was?”
“Then I would have to say that you really should loosen up,” he shrugged, taking a sip of his coffee.
And there goes the guilt. “Is that an order?”
“Maybe. What would you say to that?”
“I would say that you are in command,” I sighed, “and that I am… entirely at your mercy.”
Shepard grinned at me. “I like that. I really do.”
I gave a slight smile in return and focused on my lunch. It would help me ignore his smile, with all its roguish charm, mischievous glee…
…and blue-stained teeth.