He turns seventeen in the waiting room of a counseling center for troubled biotics. Across the hall, down the corner to the right, sitting in front of a clean white desk, an asari matriarch waits to discuss his inner struggles with him. Deep, dark things. His turmoil. Inside, he’s a supernova, but that comes with the black spaces between, the antimatter to balance out the burning heat, the fire. His heart beats. He used to have posture, the kind that came from being an Alliance brat who knew the drills—but somewhere between his first pair of boots for brain camp and the camp itself, he started slouching. Twisting his fingers against the twisting in his gut.
How are you feeling today, Kaidan Alenko?
Same as usual, I guess.
And how would that be? Your best approximation, in a single word.
You said one word. So… I couldn’t exactly say ‘pissed off,’ right?
He doesn’t have to sneak a look at his data file to know what it says after that. The red marks next to his name. The diagnoses that go along with his condition, a drawback more serious or more important, somehow, than the pain in the back of his head. He runs drills on his own when his mom thinks he’s going for a jog to clear his head, light on the balls of his feet and dodging shadows between the trees, under the Vancouver sun. And when the sun disappears behind the clouds, he runs drills in the rain, biotics flickering blue between the droplets. The rainfall glances off him like shrapnel pinging on a kinetic shield. He is the shield. Breathless, sweaty, shoes slipping on slick grass, until hunger gnaws like a varren in the overturned v of his ribcage, latching onto the base of his spine.
He goes home. He pulls the covers over his head. He’s seventeen. He’s not the only careful eyed screw-up in the waiting room.
They all sit differently. Some of them don’t bother with sitting in the first place. It’s the pacers that you have to look out for. Kaidan watches a drell’s lean shoulders outlined by the lowering sun, his arms folded behind his back, pulse at his wrist clasped by his fingertips, just…standing there, standing still, and wonders what it’s like not needing an implant to center, focus, the magnetism of a power that makes as little sense as it has meaning. It just is. He stares too long, too hard, and the drell turns around.
You seem trapped, stranger.
Yeah, well… Yeah. Aren’t we all?
I am told that the ones who believe otherwise are foolish.
Ah. That…is one and the same.
He skips out on his next appointment to meet his new friend by the water. Jaspur, he says, touching the overturned v of his ribcage. Kaidan, Kaidan replies. He rubs the back of his neck. They practice breathing techniques, Tai Chi to manage their cores. Their centers. Their calm. But the anger, Kaidan realizes—it’s still and kind of always there, just under the surface. Just like the riptides; even when the waves seem gentle, they aren’t.
They don’t worry about it, either.
Kissing a drell comes with complications. Hallucinations. A head rush that Kaidan has to figure is better than Red Sand—and a headache after that isn’t quite as bad as the ones he gets from doing nothing. He finds his center. It’s pissed off. And, like the winds on Mars, he stops wondering why he’s so mad.
Which is the first step in how he becomes the leader of the First Street Blues.
…But that’s another story. When he turns eighteen.