Ashley Williams would have been scandalized by the twenty foot tall bronze statue!
The giant likeness of the late Chief Williams was being unveiled today...a monument memorializing the attack on the Eden Prime Colony by Saren and the Geth three years ago. The statue stood heroically with one foot on the severed head of a Geth, assault rifle cradled in her arms, and long hair flowing back behind her as if in a strong wind. Ashley Williams would have looked at it with the eyes of a soldier, criticizing the exposed stance and the lack of a helmet. Kaidan Alenko could hear her voice. "That's a good way to get your fool head blown off." Still, Kaidan had to admit --the statue was quite inspiring.
The dedication ceremony had been going on for several hours and Kaidan once again wished he had brought a pillow, for really --was there such a thing as a comfortable folding chair? At the very least Commander Shepard was the last speaker, and was now finishing up her thankfully-short speech. She spoke briefly of how Chief Williams had been the only survivor of her unit, and had joined up with Lieutenant Alenko and herself to drive off the Geth...and finally, how Chief Williams had died on Virmire...how the Chief had stood against hordes of Krogan and Geth, so that the rest of them could set the bomb that destroyed Saren's base of operations.
Most of the surviving crew of the original Normandy were in attendance. Looking over at those who sat with him in the second row of seats made Kaidan Alenko smile. Sitting beside him was Dr. Chakwas and Jeff "Joker" Moreau...and just beyond them sat several familiar aliens. The late Ashley's original attitude towards Garrus Vakarian (a Turian) and Tali'Zorah (a Quarian) had been anything but warm. It was rumored that Shepard had had to talk to the Ashley about it...but it was a little hard to blame the Chief. Ashley Williams had always felt she had to live down the shame brought on her family by her grandfather, General Williams, and his surrender to the Turians at Shanxi. Although many thought of Chief Williams as xenophobic, they couldn't fault her skill or dedication to the mission.
After Shepard finished speaking, the marching band began to play. People stiffly started to file out of the rows of chairs. Moving over to the reception area, the murmur of the crowds began to rise. Dr. Chakwas stayed close to Joker, who said "God, if I had to sit in those chairs for much longer my ass bone was going to shatter! But now, it's time to get my groove on!" Dr. Chakwas obligingly chuckled. Really --how much "grooving" could a guy with brittle bones do?
Kaidan made his way over to where Shepard was talking to Ashley's sisters. "Your sister's sacrifice saved more lives than you can possibly know."
"Thank you Commander. That means a lot to us. If you ever get back to Earth, we've placed her headstone next to our Father's and Grandfather's. I'm sure Ashley would appreciate a visit."
Shepard held her tongue. The thought that the spirit of Williams --who was incinerated on Vermire-- would hang around some cemetery on Earth just seemed a bit ridiculous.
The night continued as Shepard and her crew made the rounds. While most of the conversations were little more than small talk, the crew was amazed at just how many of the residents of Eden Prime considered Ashley Williams one of their dearest friends --not to mention that, according to some, she all but single-handedly drove off the Geth! Shepard was just glad that --after her own experiences following the battle of the Citadel-- this time she wasn't the object of such hero worship.
Regardless of the mixed quality of the attendees, Shepard and Alenko couldn't fault the food or drink. It all tasted great and there was plenty of it! Shepard piled a plate high and Kaidan Alenko followed her to stand by a wall --hopefully out of the way of the chattiest of the crowd. Kaidan's eyebrows rose when he saw how much food Shepard had taken. Shepard noticed.
"Don't worry -- I won't be getting fat any time soon. Whatever Cerberus did to bring me back boosted my metabolism. I really have to pack it away or I start to lose weight! Remember when we were going after Saren? I wore fairly light armor...and now I'm toting around armor heftier than what Ash used to wear!"
"Well, I rather like women with a little more "meat on their bones." There for a while there wasn't enough of you to really get a hold of."
The two of them could now laugh about Shepard's death. There were only a few people left alive who really knew how bad she had been. Freefall entry to a planet with no space ship to control the decent was not the preferred way of doing things! Billions of Cerberus money was spent to put Shepard back together... but regardless of how hard they tried to put her back the way she had been, she didn't come out of the experience completely unchanged.
"Kaidan? Kaidan Alenko, is that really you??"
A voice that he thought he would never hear again stunned Kaidan to speechlessness. His eyes wide, he turned to see someone he had not seen since "Brain Camp." It was Rahna.
Looking between this woman and the petrified Kaidan, Shepard eventually spoke.
"I think you broke him."
Kaidan shook his head to try to clear away the mass of conflicting emotions that had flooded his brain.
"er...I'm sorry. Rahna, this is Commander Kira Shepard. Commander Shepard, this is Rahna. We went to Brain Camp together."
Rahna giggled a bit and said, "You're still calling it that?"
"Well it's a lot less of a mouthful than "Biotic Acclimation and Temperance Training." What brings you to Eden Prime?"
"My husband and I had moved here about eleven years ago."
"Wait --you where here during the Geth attacks??"
Rahna's face became sad. "Yes. Joshua was the quartermaster at the docks. He...was one of those the Geth turned into one of those horrible husks..."
This of course meant that either they --or possibly Nihlus-- had killed her husband on that terrible day, three years earlier.
Kaidan put his arms around Rahna, "I'm so sorry."
When Kaidan let go of Rahna, Shepard put her hand on her Rahna's shoulder and said, "Well, at least you had your biotics. You at least were able to save your own life that day."
Rahna shook her head saying, "I don't have biotics. After Brain Camp fell apart I had the L2 implants removed...and I take a drug that suppresses what little power I have left."
Both Shepard and Kaidan looked at her surprised, but it was Shepard who spoke first. "Let me get this straight --you were one of the few humans exposed to Element Zero who didn't die of tumors ...one of the few who, instead, was given an amazing gift ...and YOU TURNED YOUR BACK ON IT??"
Kaidan looked sharply at the scowling Shepard. He recognized the warning signs. Her temper was starting to boil.
"Of course I did. For years you almost couldn't turn on the news without hearing about L2 biotics becoming terrorists or cultists! I didn't want any part of that."
"Kaidan didn't become either one of those! And with the money you had, you could have upgraded to the L3s at least! So all you did when the Geth attacked was HIDE LIKE A COWARD??"
"Don't you dare say that! My husband died in those attacks!"
The two women where all but shouting at each other when Kaidan noticed that they were drawing more than a few stares.
"--And you might have been able to save him or maybe other people who died that day!"
"I'm not a soldier!"
Shepard clenched her fists and the electric blue glow of gathering biotic power began to coalesce around them.
"Oh, don't give me that! If you can swim and you see someone drowning, do you walk away because you aren't the Lifeguard?? You don't belong here. This service was for those who gave their lives in service to others. Oh sure --people like you will bask in the benefits of the sacrifice of others, but when it's your turn --you run away! ...You disgust me..."
At which point Shepard turned on her heal and left. Kaidan began to follow her, but briefly turned to apologetically look back at the girl he had once thought he loved, all those years ago. Seeing Rahna one last time, something occurred to him. Maybe that day when Kaidan used his biotics to kill Commander Vymnus, it wasn't him that Rahna had become fearful of. Maybe Rahna was scared of her own power, and the sudden realization of what she could do with it: kill someone with a thought.
The seemingly endless ocean passed beneath the shuttle. Kaidan Alanko had kept their flight path deliberately close to the surface so as not to ruin his surprise. Shepard sat with her feet propped up on the console in front of her, affecting an apparent lack of interest in their destination. Music played in the background and they occasionally talked of non-consequential subjects. Soon a medium-sized island grew in front of them. Kaidan circled the shuttle around the island, before setting it on the landing pad of a small, prefab structure just off the beach.
Walking into the main room and looking out the large window that dominated the south wall, Shepard cocked her head. "Why does this place look so familiar?"
Smiling, Kaidan replied, "You've been here before...but 'here' wasn't at this location the last time you visited. I figured that Eden Prime was a much better 'retirement' location that the deserts of Intai'sei."
"Okay, Lieutenant, how could you have possibly afforded to move this place to Eden Prime?"
"That's 'Commander' now, Commander. And if you must know, I didn't pay to have it moved. You've spent too much time thinking in terms of your enemies and you've forgotten that you've accumulated a lot of friends along the way --including a few freighter captains! Moving the habitat was the easy part. Acquiring the island took a bit more effort."
Stunned, she slowly repeated, "Acquiring... the... island?"
Kaidan Alenko grinned boyishly at her. "...Merry Christmas? ...Happy Birthday?"
Her brow knitted together --until suddenly she grinned, threw the duffel she was still carrying at Kaidan, and dashed for the entrance! "Last one to the beach cooks dinner!"
Kaidan was nearly knocked from his feet as the duffel hit him square in the chest! Reflex caused him to catch the bag, but he immediately dropped it and ran after her. He nearly fell as he exited the prefab, for there was an airborne shirt thrown directly in his face! Kaidan was once again astonished at Shepard's dexterity, for she was stripping out of her clothes without so much as breaking stride! Having no hope of duplicating the feat, he resigned himself to the idea of cooking dinner later that night. Taking time to strip down to his underpants, Kaidan soon continued the chase down to the beach.
The day had turned golden...that time at the end of the day when the sun has disappeared behind the trees, but it hasn't yet begun to get dark. Kaidan sat on a blanket, out of reach of the gently lapping waves. As Shepard swam in the alien ocean, he put away the remnants of the dinner he had prepared. The anxiety he was now feeling was not for Shepard's safety, but over the contents of the small box hidden at the bottom of the basket that had held their dinner.
Shepard stepped from the surf. The shimmering water that clung to her lithe body gave the illusion that she was glowing. Sitting carefully on the edge of the blanket, so as not to get sand on it, she shook her wet hair in a rare moment of playfulness! Kaidan laughingly shied away from the flying droplets of water! The Reaper threat and all their other worries seemed so far away at this moment.
"So ,mister Alanko... what else do you have planned for me?"
For just a moment his anxiety spiked, and made him wonder if Shepard's father had gifted her with more than the standard biotic abilities. Could she read minds as well? No, that seemed unlikely at best.
"Well... there is something I wanted to ask you."
"Oh, that sounds ominous."
Pulling out a small purple velvet box, Kaidan opened it to show Shepard the contents.
"Kira Shepard...will you marry me?"