Lions in Blue and Silver

The story of a legacy, and how a legacy dies.

'The first combination of N-rate and S-rate military forces was the team of Commodore Tradius Ahern, N7 leader of NCT Eleven, combined with that of Lord Commander Yonis Chu, commander of the AIS Reactive Force Corps. No existing team could pull together the required force, and this team had been as one long before, when they were all merely Marines.

'Tradius Ahern died in fire, defying death and spitting curses as he took out a force of Reaper Brutes and Banshees that would have crippled Hammer's final approach. Michael Saracino died smiling, having stopped a terrorist at the cost of his own life. Rachel Florez, we know now, died screaming and alone, a traitor to everything the SA should have stood for due to her loyalty to what the SA did stand for. Preston Kyle died in glorious revelation, opening the eyes of many to the fact that somewhere along the way, the SA had lost its path. Yonis Chu died last week, at the age of sixty-seven, surrounded by family.

'That they left a legacy behind cannot be denied. Kyle, Ahern, and Florez all shaped and molded Shepard, while Saracino's hatred of turians led to the darkening of Florez and of Cerberus moving beyond mere black ops. The Ahern Doctrine, the Kyle Maneuver, the Chu Gambit – these are all enshrined in human military tactics, while the ships SCB Florez, SSV Chu, and the carrier-dreadnought Preston Kyle keep their names alive in a different way.

'But these five simple people were not mere legends. They stopped the turian advance at a time where all humanity was about to fall. They survived a trial that would have killed most people, in a day and age where humanity had no biotics, no omni-technology, no medi-gel, nothing but grit, skill, and determination.

'We may disagree with the politics of Saracino, the rogue actions of Chu, the violent rejection and slaughter at the end by Kyle. We may curse Yonis Chu for his actions at Aratoht with the batarian relay. Many, I suspect, have already cursed Ahern for beating them into the ground during training.

'But we cannot discharge our burden of debt to them; to the bravery and courage it took for them to face the bared might of the Hierarchy with nothing more than guts and trust.

'Marines, present arms! Color guard, honors to the dead, hymn five.'

-Admiral David Anderson, at the dedication of the Memorial to the Legacy Team, two years after the end of the Reaper War.

'I once asked Florez why she slept with Saracino, and she told me: 'Mainly to make Kyle blush.' Bitch.'

-Tradius Ahern

"Get up, boyo. No time for slackers in our glorious corps."

The youthful face of Marine Captain Tradius Ahern glared at the heavily muscled form of Master Chief Free, cursing under his breath as he staggered back to his feet. Shaking his head once to clear it, he managed to step back into a ready position on the tatami mat, and bowed shallowly.

"Ready, Master Chief." The bulky padding he wore on his shoulders and body made him feel sluggish as he hastily wiped a trickle of sweat out of his eyes.

The man towered over him, broad shoulders and thick arms mounted on a muscular barrel of a torso and legs like tree trunks. His head was almost absurdly small by comparison, thick brows and a jutting jaw the frame for an oft-broken nose and narrow, beady green eyes. His head was shorn, an Alliance 'A' tattoo on either temple, and he wore the undress bottoms of his BDUs with a crisp white undershirt barely dotted with sweat under the protective white leather vest.

"Ach, you're stiffer than a sailor in a whorehouse, boyo. Ye have to move your body with the motions, not hack about as if ye're swinging your kick like a bloody claymore." The big man flowed through a series of rapid, elegant attacks, ending with a rapid kick that elevated at the last second to swirl the air centimeters over Ahern's shorn scalp. "Ye're fast and ye're stubborn, and not full o' yerself, but ye still need to remember to stay focused."

Ahern nodded tightly. "Yes, Master Chief."

Free sighed, stretching slightly. "Yer—"

He cut off his words, as the somewhat clunky communications pendant on his neck chain vibrated. Cursing, he placed it in his ear, eyes narrowing as he listened to some instructions that Ahern couldn't make out.

The Master Chief sighed. "Go rack yer gear and hustle up yer squad for evening PT after chow. Once yer done, go on leave early. Problems just came up and the brass needs me there pronto." The big man turned away, already dialing someone on his cell phone.

Ahern nodded slowly and sighed, undoing the straps of his practice gi, even as he glanced around. Quantico was the primary station for the training of all Systems Alliance Marines, and on any given day was swarmed with new recruit battalions being run ragged by iron-hard drill instructors. The gleam of the arcology dome glimmered fitfully in the hazy sunlight that made it past the fouled atmosphere, the distant horizon revealing little but blackened sticks where lush forest once stood.

Earth, in the aftermath of the collapse of government and its radical reconstruction during the Days of Iron, was not the same as the stories in old books. His father had lived through those sickening times, when humanity lost any claim to the word 'civilization' and people fought tooth and nail for mere survival. Sickness, radiation, pollution, and unrelenting wars had killed billions of people, left the atmosphere so acidic and foul it could not be inhaled for long periods without causing lung damage, and seared tens of thousands of square kilometers into radioactive wastelands or horrible murky toxic sludge.

As Ahern racked his gear, he thought about the things that his father spoke of, before. When the stars were just a thing to stare at in the night sky, instead of the destiny of humanity. A part of him was excited about humanity's future, and it was why he'd joined the Systems Alliance in the first place. The life of an arcology worker, or worse, a drudge on the barely livable moons of Jupiter, Saturn, or Neptune was not for him.

He wanted to get out and see space, to help humanity recover from its stumble. His belief in the guidance of Lord Manswell and the Systems Alliance was absolute, and if the training he got as a Marine was tough, it was only to make him a better protector. He'd enjoyed his years in the military so far, and had worked hard at being successful. His being promoted to captain at his age was nearly unheard of, but he'd heard flickers of whispers of lots of other promotions, and rumors of military expansion.

There were plenty of reasons why, he supposed, the military would be expanding. The most obvious, of course, was that SA had found some trace of alien life.

Humanity, after all, did not have to wonder any longer if they were alone in the galaxy. The ruins discovered on Mars had unlocked technology beyond the wildest dreams of humanity – the ability to control energy itself, to manipulate mass and weight. Even the basics had turned human society on its head, bringing about a world more akin to ancient science fiction stories than anything expected. Flying cars. Spaceships. Jumping between stars. Guns that shot farther and faster than gunpowder.

It had also opened the military's eyes to the fact that something had happened to the owners of all the tech left behind. And that if they were not alone, then someone might show up with a gun or six.

The SA had called for more Marines, more sailors, more protectors, and Ahern – driven by his father's tales of a better time – had answered. It had not been easy. Like most Marines, he'd graduated basic and spent a single two-year tour on basic guard duty, in his case, Luna. The low gravity and lack of any threat meant he was out of shape, but he'd practiced his skills diligently, mastering not just the advanced rifle and pistol courses, but actually outshooting one of the pistol instructors.

His efforts as a sergeant in smashing a smuggling ring in his second deployment in the moons of Jupiter had gotten him a bit of media attention, and he'd upped that by increasing his skill with pistols, eventually outshooting even the famous Major Ralshon.

That little feat, along with his blossoming relationship with the daughter of Senator Dale Adkins, had gotten him tapped for a new experimental program being kicked off by the Marines and (he suspected) his rather hasty promotion. The existing special forces, the Guard of Iron, were seen as too tightly associated with the family of Manswell to be fully adapted into the Alliance military.

While the Guard of Iron were indeed, elite, they were also weird. Alliance Command had decided to create an entirely new program for the next step in the military machine, and had selected some five thousand possible applicants.

Given that the last heavy fighting had tailed off almost fifteen years before he was even born, there were very few true 'veterans' to build a force from. Rather, the SA picked people who were young, with perfect records, and who demonstrated advanced skills. People who could be shaped into a first generation of special forces, and develop a living curriculum for further improvement.

Ahern wondered, as he walked toward his barracks, why exactly special forces might be needed, and it dovetailed with his concerns about what other races might be out in the galaxy. Humanity would be stupid to expect peaceful contact with something that might be entirely alien in both outlook and composition. Better to be safe than to be sorry, after all.

He arrived at the narrow barracks assigned to Echo-Three, his squad, and entered without knocking.

The barracks was simple and functional, as thousands upon thousands of Marines transitioned through Quantico every year – some staying on for training, others here for only a day or two for transfer processing or skills evaluation. Rather than stick such transients in dedicated barracks buildings or dorm-style rooms as they did permanent residents, they constructed single-squad units, arranged in neat squares around training grounds, food trucks, and transport stands.

It worked… but left much to be desired in terms of creature comforts. The barracks was about nine meters long and half that wide, a good fifth of it taken up by the restroom and shower area at the back. Six heavy bunks, three to aside, took up the wall areas, along with heavy footlockers, while the middle was given over to a pair of tables, each with six seats. A simplified communications panel was installed next to the flat-panel TV flush with the wall.

His squad was already here.

Technical Sergeant Yonis Chu lay bonelessly on his bed, eyes closed lazily. The squad's communications specialist and tech, his features were a mix of his Ethiopian mother and his Chinese father. Chu was related to the third most powerful noble house in the Alliance, the House of Chu, but his was such a cadet branch that, combined with his mixed heritage, he hardly considered himself noble. Technically, he was a Shang – the Chinese version of a Marquis – but only Rachel called him Shang Chu, and then only to needle him. His dark hair was cut close and his narrow frame looked utterly relaxed even dressed in full BDUs.

Sitting on the bed next to him, her legs tucked away Indian-style, was Corporal Rachel Florez. A pretty young woman of mixed Hispanic and Japanese ancestry, her exotic features were fixed in boredom as she glanced up when he entered, before flicking back the manual in her hands. Florez was an enigma, sometimes flirty and lighthearted, sometimes bitchy and cutting. She was one of the two riflemen in the squad, well-suited to digging into a fight. Fierce and competitive, she hated when men assumed she was weaker because she was female, and despite the big chip on her shoulder, was always kinder when someone honestly complimented her. She kept her brown hair savagely tucked away in the SA bun, and her green eyes didn't stray from the tech manual she was reading.

Sitting at the table nearest him was the bulky, muscular form of Lieutenant Preston Kyle. Barely nineteen, the man was powerfully built, with long arms and legs and a graceful elegance in his motions, much like Master Chief Free. He looked up from trimming his hair before smiling gently. Hard and intelligent eyes scanned Ahern before returning to his task. Kyle was weird, in many ways – the guy was a talented violinist and painter, doubled as both the squad medic and the squad's other rifleman, and could probably outshoot Ahern and outfight Florez at the same time. Yet he was incredibly humble, self-effacing, and almost fragile.

Snorting to himself, Ahern glanced further back. As usual, the other lazy ass, Chief Michael Saracino, was out like a light. Lanky and awkward, Saracino was hardly what one expected when they thought of a Marine. His conditioning was weak, his hand-to-hand ability nil, and his discipline problems legendary.

He was also, even at only twenty, the deadliest sniper in the entire Systems Alliance, famous for making a killshot to a terrorist from a staggering one point nine kilometers. While fragmentary pre-Iron records existed showing a longer shot had been made in those days, Saracino had taken his shot while under heavy fire, from a moving vehicle, and in heavy rain. His promotions had been one of rewards for his skill, not due to his leadership ability or military bearing.

With a grin, Ahern slammed his foot down next to the bed, sending Saracino jolting into full wakefulness and drawing a sigh from Chu.

Florez merely sighed. "What's up, Cap?"

Ahern smiled. "Chow and PT, and then early leave. Master Chief Free got a call in the middle of our beatdown session. Report back here at 0800 Monday, unless something changes."

Saracino sighed. "Can't we skip the workout, Captain? Seriously, my shoulder is killing me and those hacks at Medical said it's fine."

Kyle frowned. "Exercise is a part of our daily curriculum. We can't just circumvent it." He gave a smile, and Saracino rolled his eyes.

"Kyle, you should go into toothpaste advertisements rather than the military—"

Ahern sighed. "Shut the fucking hell up, Saracino. I swear—"

Saracino interrupted. "Yes, all the time!"

Ahern opened his mouth, then closed it, then glanced at Rachel. "Why haven't you killed him for annoying you yet?"

Florez smirked. "He thinks I'm pretty."

Ahern rolled his eyes. "So's a goddamned eezo flare. I'd rather kiss that, more likely to have lips afterwards." He clapped his hands. "Exercise gear and let's hit the tarmac in ten. Quicker we get done, quicker I can get showered and head out on the town."

They mumbled (except Kyle), but obeyed, and Ahern headed to the back to dig out his own gear when Chu caught his arm gently. "What did the Master Chief leave for, if you know?"

Ahern shrugged. "Dunno, some kind of call. Why?"

The man looked troubled. "After PT, we will talk. I heard something disturbing today and wish to know your thoughts, Captain."

Ahern nodded, then sighed and nodded. "After PT, then."

Author's Notes:

This is not likely to be a long fic, but I don't know. It's the story of several characters – my versions of Tradius Ahern and Preston Kyle, along with three OCs – Rachel Florez, Yonis Chu, and Michael Saracino – who broke through turian lines in the mission Ahern describes in the Pinnacle Station DLC in ME1.

In my version, the mission was to prevent a turian fleet from getting a huge advantage, and was a huge turning point in the First Contact War. Given the importance of Kyle, Florez, and Chu (and I guess Ahern) to the main fic series I write, having this side piece might be interesting reading for some people. It is generally far more upbeat and less morally gritty than my other works, along with people who are, gasp, actually fairly well-adjusted, except for Ahern's Tourette syndrome.

Notable cameos are Jack Harper, a bit-appearance from Matriarch Benezia after the big fight, and possibly both Saren and Tetrimus (prior to his fall from grace).

Ideas and scenes you'd like to see are welcome suggestions.

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