Nihlus Kryik was surprised how well things were going. Putting four survivors from opposite sides of the Relay 314 Incident in a room, as well as a third member of each of their species, and telling them to unanimously agree on something sounded like the start of another interspecies “incident.” So far, though, things had gone smoothly.
Of course, they’d only been through the initial pleasantries, but it was a start.
Despite his Spectre status, Nihlus was the lowest ranking turian present. It was harder to establish superiority between the other two, Ambassador Alestis Orinia and Spectre Cirano Drusan. They fell in the same citizenship tier and had held the same rank during their military service. Normally, Orinia’s position as ambassador to the Council would have given her the edge but Drusan was the senior-most turian Spectre alive. In many ways, this meeting fell nearer to his realm of expertise. Still, if they were uncomfortable with the ambiguity it didn’t show. They both seemed completely at ease.
The humans didn’t quite manage the same show of solidarity. There was an almost imperceptible friction between the two military men, Captain David Anderson and Admiral Steven Hackett, and the third human, Ambassador Donnel Udina. They seemed the slightest bit more reserved with the politician than each other, just a little more polite. Nihlus filed the observation away for a time when it might be useful or necessary.
“Shall we begin?” Orinia suggested.
Udina accepted with a gracious nod and they moved to the conference table.
There was an awkward moment as they tried to decide who should sit where and Nihlus mused that the next war between the turians and the humans would begin because the six of them had failed to pre-arrange a seating chart. After a few minutes of shuffling, Orinia took the chair at the head of the table with Drusan on her right and Udina to her left. Nihlus sat on Drusan’s right, across from Anderson. Hackett, sitting on Nihlus’s right, had the seat closest to the door.
“I’d like to start by making a comment for the record,” Hackett began.
The request was posed to his own ambassador as well as the turians and Nihlus understood the strain between them. Hackett and Anderson were unhappy with Udina’s level of involvement in the task at hand. Based on that statement, Udina, a politician, was leading the team in what was largely a military, albeit a politically-charged, decision.
Orinia said, “Please do.”
“After reviewing the sealed Alliance records of the incident at BAaT, as well as those your government provided, we have decided not to include Kaidan Alenko in our considerations today. However.” He paused, to further emphasize the word. “We would like to stress that all three of us included the lieutenant in our final list of recommendations. Although we believe another candidate would better at this time, we do not want to diminish his accomplishments within the Alliance and we encourage his potential candidacy in the future.”
“So noted, Admiral,” Orinia said. “Thank you for your sensitivity to the issue. Let me be clear that the Turian Hierarchy investigated the incident at the time and found the lieutenant’s actions completely justified.”
“Thank you, Ambassador,” Hackett said.
Nihlus wanted to laugh. They sounded like hanar. He knew the excessive formality was a response to the recent tension but that didn’t make it any less amusing.
“We would also like to withdraw Veerla Sterling from consideration at this time as well,” Hackett continued and Nihlus made a conscious effort to keep his face neutral. Sterling, an impressive biotic, the Hero of the Skyllian Blitz, and Star of Terra recipient, had been the favorite among the turians.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Drusan said. Disappointment was evident in his subvocals but the humans didn’t seem to notice. “Her preliminary evaluation was excellent.”
The corners of Udina’s mouth turned down ever so slightly as he nodded. “Unfortunately, our intelligence community was unwilling to release her records for further review.”
“What a shame,” Orinia sighed. She waited a beat then brought them back on topic. “Would you care to start, Captain Anderson?”
“Gladly,” he said, glancing at the list on his datapad. “First up is Gina Ewing.”
“She’s the one who lived through the thresher maw attack on Akuze?” asked Drusan.
“That’s right,” Hackett confirmed.
“I’ve encountered threshers on assignment,” Nihlus said. “Even with vehicles and heavy weapons they’re nasty creatures. She must be a supreme survivor.”
“Exactly my point,” said Anderson.
“What about pre-service?” Drusan asked. “We do need to consider her involvement with the Tenth Street Reds.”
“That was more than ten years ago,” Udina said. “They were contained on Earth at the time. They weren’t the same group we’re seeing today.”
“Even if they were,” Hackett added, “Ewing wasn’t involved in any violent crimes and has shown no indication of bigotry since enlisting.”
An uncomfortable silence followed, which Udina eventually broke by asking, “Who else do you have, Captain?”
“The Butcher of Torfan,” Drusan said. “Most of his unit died under his command.”
Although the Spectre meant nothing more than a statement of fact, Anderson mistook it for a dig and countered, “He got the job done. If it had been anyone else the mission would have failed entirely. And then how many casualties would we have?”
Before there was further argument, Nihlus clarified. “The idea of sacrificing everything to achieve the objective is not frowned upon within the Spectres.”
“There are other concerns, however, from a political standpoint.” Orinia fixed her green eyes on Hackett. “His mother served with you on the Moscow, Admiral.”
“Along with approximately 400 other people.”
“You were part of the same platoon,” she continued. “Your involvement on this committee could raise suspicions of nepotism if we recommend him.”
“The media will find a way to spin it no matter who we choose,” the admiral argued. “Hell, if we’re looking to avoid any conspiracy theories we should have stuck with Ewing. She doesn’t have any family at all!”
“No, the ambassador’s concerns were fair,” Udina interceded. “The Reds made headlines four times last year for attempted anti-alien hate crimes.”
Hackett threw up his hands. “Fine, Ambassador. Who would you recommend?”
“Well,” Udina took a moment to consult his datapad then said, “What about Shepard?”