Kaidan folded his arms across his chest and scoweled at his parents. Not that they noticed. His parents were searching for a new mech maid and it was taking forever. He was soo bored.
He'd heard that Illium was awesome and exciting, but so far this trip just sucked. Kaidan started wandering around, not too far, he could still hear his parents if they called for him, but at least there was a little bit more to look at. He checked out a few kiosks; one was selling fish and model ships; that one was okay; another was selling different technical services, boring again.
Kaidan turned the corner and finally found something more interesting. There was a little boy sitting on a bench, kicking his feet back and forth. Kaidan was still puzzling out what he was doing here, with no parents around, when the kid noticed him looking. He stopped swinging his feet and looked back at Kaidan, almost defiantly. Kaidan thought it was pretty funny that this kid, who looked about four, would think he could intimidate Kaidan.
But even with that look, or possibly because of it, Kaidan decided he wanted to walk over and talk to this kid. He looked interesting. More interesting than maids at least.
"Hi," Kaidan said to him.
"Hi," the kid said back.
"My name is Kaidan," Kaidan said, holding out his hand. But the kid just looked at it, then him, then raised his eyebrows as if to say, really? Kaidan felt kind of dumb, so he dropped his hand back down, but he didn't want to give up just yet.
"What's your name?" he tried again.
"That's a strange name," Kaidan commented, because, well, it was.
"Yeah, well, your name sounds stupid."
Kaidan sighed. This kid, Shepard, was being so difficult. "I said strange," Kaidan explained, "that doesn't mean I don't like it. It's not stupid, it's just different."
"Oh,” he said, and at least he looked ashamed for being so defensive. Shepard dropped his head down a little and then said to Kaidan's feet. "I'm sorry I said that about your name. I didn't really mean it."
Kaidan wanted Shepard to stop being difficult, but he didn't want him to be sad. "Hey, it's okay." Kaidan said softly. "My name's kind of a weird too. I don't know anybody else named Kaidan. And, well, I like your name. It's unique."
Shepard finally looked back up and the corner of his mouth moved up tentatively. "You know what Kaidan, you're kind of weird," Shepard's almost-smile shifted into a small smirk, "but I like it."
"Uh, thank you, I think."
"Oh, it's a good thing, don't worry. I'm an excellent judge of character." And he was so confident but so small. It was actually pretty cute. Although, now that he was thinking about it, Kaidan didn't think Shepard acted four.
"How old are you?" Kaidan had to ask.
"Six," Shepard answered like he was proud of it. Years of experience, his look said.
Kaidan smiled at him. "Yeah? I thought that..." but then Kaidan trailed off because, if the kid was sensitive about his name, he'd probably be sensitive about being told he looked four.
But Shepard just rolled his eyes, "And now your gunna tell me I look like I'm five, aren't you?" But he didn't look offended, he was actually giving Kaidan a full smile now.
"Four actually," Kaidan felt comfortable enough to say.
"Four! Jeeze, give me a little credit," Shepard said, looking alarmed. "I don't talk like I'm four. At least give me that."
"No, you don't."
"And what are you, like nine?"
Kaidan's eyes widened. "Yeah, how'd you know?"
"Like I said," he continued, but with a more serious, and maybe a little sad, tone to his voice, "I'm good at reading people."
"Where are your parents?" Kaidan asked. He was concerned that Shepard was all alone. Why weren’t they keeping him safe?
"Oh, somewhere I'm sure," Shepard said, like it didn’t really matter.
"Oh, um, well, what are you doing here?"
"Waiting," Shepard answered, and Kaidan got the sense Shepard was getting tired of his questions.
"Uh, yeah, me too. Waiting," Kaidan clarified and then felt kind of stupid. For some reason this kid put him off balance, which wasn't really fair because Kaidan was three years older. "So, um, want to do something fun? You know, while we're waiting."
"Well, what do you do for fun?"
"Um..." Shepard looked unsure. Like he didn't know. How could he not know what he did for fun? Unless he didn't do anything for fun?! As the pause lengthened, Kaidan started to worry that was really the case. "Oh!" Shepard finally said, "sometimes I read comic books," and he sounded so happy to come up with something.
"Hey me too." Kaidan said, relived that Shepard did do fun, and that it was something they had in common. "Which ones?"
"Well, my favorite is The Dark Knight."
"Really?! He's my favorite too," Kaidan gushed excitedly. "He's so cool. First human Spectre. Saved Gotham Colony from the geth."
"And he has all this money so he can make anything he wants," Shepard added, getting caught up in Kaidan's enthusiasm.
"Isn't his ship so cool?"
"Yeah, and his weapons."
"And his armor."
"Yeah, so cool."
"Wasn't the newest one, where he takes down the rogue Spectre, awesome?"
"...Oh," Shepard said, softer, slowing the conversation, "well, I haven't read the newest one."
"Oh, here, I can show you," Kaidan said and then opened up his backpack to pull out his pad. He scooted right up next to Shepard so they could both see the screen. After a few pages Shepard looked up at Kaidan and smiled really big. It gave Kaidan a nice warm feeling in his stomach. He also noticed Shepard's eyes were really blue.
"You know what," Kaidan said, "we should be friends. Do you think your parents would let you use the extranet? We could play online games. I don't have anybody to play with."
"Um, Kaidan," Shepard said, looking down at his hands, "thanks. It's a nice idea and all, but I don't have parents."
"But..." Kaidan said, really confused, "who takes care of you?"
"Well, I do," Shepard said with a shrug, and then looked at Kaidan's worried face. "I'm really good at it," he said reassuringly, "so don't worry, okay?"
Kaidan was not reassured. "But how do you get food? You're too young to have a job."
"No I'm not," Shepard said with confidence, "I work sometimes. And besides, I'm really good with computers, so I can get money if I need it."
It only took a second for Kaidan to figure out what Shepard meant. "So you hack them," he said flatly. "You steal."
Shepard turned his face away and replied, "If you're going to judge me, then maybe you should just go."
"No...I...I'm not trying to, Shepard, I just don't want you to have to." Kaidan bit his lip and scoweled at the floor. This was not good, but Kaidan didn't know how to help. "What are you doing here, anyway?" he asked instead.
"Um, well..." Shepard smiled sheepishly, "see, I kinda got a ride from this ship, but...I wasn't officially supposed to be on the ship, and when I went to get some food one night they found me, and well...I couldn't exactly pay for it, so now they're going to get their money back by...selling me."
"What?! People can't be sold!"
"Sure they can," Shepard said sounding far too unconcerned, "This is Illium, everything can be sold."
"Oh..." Kaidan said totally at a loss, "...but..."
"Do you, like him?" a voice interrupted him. He turned to see a volus regarding them critically.
"What?" Kaidan said when he realized the volus was talking to him.
"Do you like, the human child?"
"Yes." Kaidan answered quickly.
"He is quite the deal today. Quiet and very gifted with technology," the volus said between loud breaths. "Maybe you want to ask your parents, if they will buy him for you."
Wow, Kaidan hadn't even thought of that. He turned and asked Shepard, "Would you like that? If we bought you? You could come home and live with me." Shepard's eyes got really big like he hadn't thought of that either and he nodded mutely. "Great. Wait here, I'll be right back," Kaidan said, excitedly, and ran all the way back to his parents.
"Mom, hey Mom. There is this kid and his name is Shepard. He's being sold, and that's not right so I want to buy him so he can have a nice home. I can take care of him, you don't have to do a thing. It'll be great." He said, practically jumping up and down with excitement.
"Dear, you can't have a pet yet and I'm busy right now," his mom said distactedly, still trying to listen to what the retailer was saying. "We can talk about getting you a dog later."
"But he's not a dog, he's a person," Kaidan said, starting to get frustrated.
She turned to him and gave a short serious look. "Not right now, Kaidan," she said and then turned back to her other conversation.
Kaidan let out a frustrated growl and trudged, sulkily, back to Shepard. "They're busy right now," Kaidan said to the volus.
"Oh, well kid I have some other customers, who want to look him over. I'm going to have to ask you to leave. I'm sorry," the volus said and then turned to talk to a couple other humans.
"But..." leave? Kaidan couldn't leave. He needed to take care of Shepard. Make sure he was okay and had a good home. "I have money," he blurted.
The volus turned back and assessed him, "How much?"
"Five thousand one hundred and forty-two credits." Kaidan said. He knew exactly how much because he had been saving up for a beginner omni-tool but this was a lot more important.
"Well, I was hoping to get more for him, but that pays off his debt to us." He paused and thought for a short moment, then said, "You seem like you will take good care of him, so I'll sell him to you at a discount."
"Hey, I'm willing to pay four times that," the human customer said angrily.
"The boy came first," the volus said, "I'm selling the child to him."
"Thank you so much, sir!" Kaidan said, and the customer stalked off in a huff.
"Well, I didn't really like that guy anyway," the volus said to no one in particular. "This work for you, kid?" he asked Shepard.
Shepard nodded. "Thank you, Doran," he said, earnestly.
Kaidan pulled out his chit card and his pad so he could pay and complete his contract. He made sure to read the whole thing and looked up a couple words he didn't understand before he signed.
"Well young one, he's yours," Doran said when everything was finished. "Take good care of him, he's a special one."
"Oh, I will," Kaidan said with seriousness. He was going to do the best job he could.
"Good," Doran said, with a nod, and then left.
Kaidan turned to look at Shepard and gave him a huge smile. "Come on, you've gotta meet my parents." Kaidan was so excited. Shepard was his and he was going to have a friend to play with all the time and Shepard would have a nice home and he would never have to go hungry again.
"Do we need to go pick up any of your other stuff?" Kaidan asked, looking at the small backpack Shepard was pulling out from underneath the bench.
"No. This is everything," he said softly. He pulled his backpack on and turned to Kaidan, "Kaidan, I..." Shepard trailed off, apparently at a loss for words.
"I'm really glad I found you," Kaidan said.
They walked back, but Kaidan's parents were still talking to the retailer so they went to sit on a nearby bench to wait.
"Kaidan, how did you have so much money?" Shepard asked after a short silence.
"I get an allowance and I've been saving it up."
"For what?" Shepard said, nervously.
Kaidan nudged him, "For you, apparently," he said with a big smile and after a moment Shepard returned it.
"Kaidan, who's your friend?" Kaidan's mom said. He hadn't even heard her come over. When he looked up she was smiling warmly at both of them.
Kaidan hopped up and Shepard followed. "This is Shepard," Kaidan said happily, "he's mine."
"What do you mean, he's yours, honey?" she asked, running her fingers through his hair affectionately.
"I bought him with my allowance. He's mine. See?" he said and brought the contract up on his pad screen to show her. Her smile morphed into a frown as she read.
"Kaidan, honey, if you want a pet you buy a fish, or maybe a dog. You don't buy a person. We have to take him back."
Shepard stiffened at her words and so Kaidan reached over to grab his hand and then stepped in between Shepard and his mother. "No Mom, I'm not taking him back. And you can't make me either. Nobody but me can sell him or else it would be stealing. It says so in the contract." Then he begged her with his eyes, "He's mine, Mom, and I want to keep him."
She sighed, frown still in place. "I don't like this Kaidan. We are going to discuss this with your father. But I suppose we have to bring him home with us for now. We'll figure out what to do then."
Kaidan beamed at her. He knew now she was going to give in and let him keep Shepard. "Thanks Mom. Shepard won't be any trouble. I'll take of everything, you don't have to do a single thing. It will be great. You'll see."