Title: Fallout

Summary: Four weeks after destroying the Nomad base, Trent's just glad to be on solid ground again. Five weeks after destroying the Nomad base, he realizes that he doesn't know how to live a life without a cause.

Genre: Angst

Rating: T

Author's Note: Told from Trent's POV, five weeks after he helps blow up the Nomad base. I slammed this out right at that point in the game in about thirty minutes. I like it! I like Trent, and I think I'll be writing more fanfiction for him.

Manhattan. All of the entertainment (good, cheap, or otherwise) in Liberty at my immediate disposal, and I was looking instead at the concrete of the landing pad beneath my feet.

The smoking and hazy orange orb of the sun sinks halfway behind the Liberty mothership and I lift my head to catch the last rays of the day before returning my chin to my chest. Probably I looked a little bit strange, sitting on the curb at the edge of my landing pad, elbows on my knees and hands loosely clasped, head down. I can only pray that I look pensieve instead of angsty to the passersby. That damn Barracuda heavy fighter that I picked up in Kusari space needs repairs again, but I can't bring myself to move. Somehow I feel like I'm stuck here, right here on this curb, for the rest of my life. And in a way, I am.

I'm in a hell of a rut.

I shouldn't be. I have no real reason to be; after all, I'm a hero. I was just awarded a Lone Star for bravery and my name was cleared throughout the colonies. Edison Trent is no longer a wanted man; no longer must I always run and always hide, ever searching for my next temporary haven. No longer must I land, repair, buy twenty-six nanobots and twenty-six fuel batteries, ten Starkiller torpedoes and fifty Slingshot Missiles before lifting off again, no time for a drink. No longer must I fight through entire fleets of battleships with the ever-present "Incoming Missile" warning buzzing in my ear.

No longer must I fight for a cause.

My hands clasp again, this time behind my head, and I lean back against the gritty brown wall of the building behind me.

I'd never had a cause before. Oh sure, I'd participated in those charity drives for secondary school and stuff like that, but nothing I'd really believed in with all of my heart and soul. In fact, I became a freelancer because one of the attractive qualities of freelancing for me was that I never had to be involved with anyone's cause for longer than I had to be. Then I met Juni, and she dragged me into that intergalactic termite's nest of deceit and conspiracy and confusion. For a few months, long and frustrating and strange months, I went from a space narc to a fugitive to a freedom fighter. I was shot at, electrocuted, nearly blown up more times than I can count. I was pursued by fat men with glowing eyes, I dove out of windows. I sacrificed everything I had, and for almost three-quarters of the way, I wasn't really convinced that I truly wanted to be fighting this fight. Why? I was afraid to commit myself truly to anything more than a bottle of Sidewinder Fang. I don't know why, but I was.

All of that changed when I met Ozu-Sensei, the leader of the Blood Dragons. Oh, I suppose the change in me had long been coming. I stepped off of my smoking Barracuda on the Blood Dragons' base, Kyoto, not knowing what to expect, not believing that I was going to see another day. Ozu believed it. I still remember his voice penetrating my haze, and though he wasn't telling me anything good - Takagi wasn't on the transport we had just risked life and limb to hijack - somehow I felt calmer. The Blood Dragons around me moved with purpose and determination, completely committed to their cause. It filled the small asteroid they inhabited with a furious energy and drive, and all at once I felt my repressed sense of selflessness rear its ugly head. I fought it, hell yes, I fought it... until Ozu-Sensei looked into my eyes at that bar and asked me to help him.

Long story short, I said yes.

Ozu's death was a nail in my heart. He had unlocked my hidden ambition, my true desire - to fight for a real cause, to be selfless for once and not just another freelancer out for himself. I was part of something bigger, and though I kept up my act for a long time - though I'm sure that Juni, at least, saw through it - I was secretly pleased to be laying my life on the line every time I powered up my heavy fighter and blasted off of that asteroid; deep down, I didn't care anymore whether I lived or died, as long as I did it for the cause. What was the cause? I'm still not really sure. Of course it was our intention all along to figure out why everyone wanted the Artifact, but we didn't know what it could do back in those days. The cause then was the liberation of the Kusari people from the evil grip of Governor Takagi, whose death, as it turned out, was a crucial milestone in our real journey. The Blood Dragons inspired me. They inspire me still. After that, it wasn't hard for me to commit myself to the Order and to the freedom of the galaxy.

We won those battles, and we rested. For the first four weeks that I was here on Manhattan, I was just glad to be on solid ground again, not being shot at. I was perfectly content to let my 25,000 credits sit there in the hidden panel on my Barracuda - damn ship - and drink that blasted Liberty Ale, and wait for inspiration to come to me.

A sliver of the sun illuminates the profile of my ship and the lonely dock is bathed in the final rays of the day. I sigh, loudly, and Juni's not here to kick me underneath the table for being too obvious with my boredom. I miss her; I miss them all, even that officious Doctor Quintaine. They've all gone on to bigger and better things - King and Juni working for the LSF again, Lord Hakkera rebuilding in Kusari, Tobias refinancing the shop and hitting on his new girlfriend every day. Quintaine and Sinclaire are now renowned in every system and have more than their share of work to occupy their time. Von Claussen doesn't want to be found, and Orillion couldn't be if I wanted to. The point is that all of them have something.

Not me. I know that they would never have left me here had they known that I wasn't happy just freelancing anymore - and it's true, they haven't all left me. Occassionally Juni and King still find their way into my life with all their talk about the Rogue action lately and the sins of the Lane Hackers, and all I can think about while they're talking is how the Lane Hackers rescued us that time we were in dire straights.

It's also true that I am not completely idle - Orillion has commissioned me to be the new "eyes and ears" of the Order in Liberty. Really, though, who needs "eyes and ears" in the new Liberty? All conspiracy has been eradicated - fine, all the conspiracy that really matters. My position is not necessary. The Order is not necessary anymore. I could see it in Orillion's eyes - the Nomads aren't coming back.

So here I am. Like I said, for four weeks I've just been happy that those transparent Nomad ships aren't up in my turrets 24/7 anymore. For four weeks I've sort of enjoyed being a hero, though I've taken great pains to avoid the spotlight, unlike Juni and King. For four weeks I've slept in my ship by day and wandered the always-crowded walkways of Manhattan by night. For four weeks I've been cool.

This week it hit me that I don't have anything to fight for anymore. It came to me like a hurricane - well, actually, it came to me in the form of nausea, and I assumed I'd just had too much of that damned Liberty Ale. It broke over me in a tidal wave of emotion, and now in this fifth week of fame, I'm sitting here all by myself on the landing pad of Manhattan, wondering what I want to do with my life. I don't want to freelance anymore. The thought of that job board in the smoky bar on Manhattan makes me sick. I don't want to be a grease monkey like I was in my past on Leeds. The thought of Tobias' shop, while a friendly one, is not inspiring. No, I know what I want.

I want to feel that cause again.

I want to rocket off of that asteroid and face the entire Rheinland fleet again. I want to be down to two nanobots and under heavy fire from the Liberty Navy. I want to join up with Juni and King and Ozu and Orillion and just fly, just fly against the galaxy with nothing but our deepest hopes to fuel us on. I want to be pursued again, I want to feel that fear as we rabbit through the asteroid fields of Tau-23 to a secret base; I want to meet more of Juni's old friends on abandoned research stations in the middle of nowhere. I want to be dragged through battle by the nose, I want to hear that phrase "Trent, take point" again and again and again. I want to look into someone's eyes again and say, "Yes."

"Yes, I'll help you."

It's not healthy, I realize, to live that way. I don't know how we survived. It did horrible things to our bodies and our minds - the doctor that Juni and King and I saw said that we had five fewer years to live because of all of the stress we'd undergone - not a good thing for a man whose life expectancy (thanks to Leeds) is 51. I realize that we were exceptionally lucky to have made it through all of that heat, all of those battles, against all odds. We couldn't have done it without a lot of luck, and I realize that my luck's almost out, but...

A dry chuckle escapes my mouth. But...

There's always a but.

The night is dark around me and I see a faint star glittering overhead, somehow still unsuppressed by the overwhelming light of Manhattan. It winks at me, calling me. I feel it reflecting in my eyes and memories of buried hidden bases in asteroid fields flood my mind. I'm on my feet again.

The cockpit's lights are dimmed and the controls are - as always - stiff under my hands. The familiar push and press of the engines forces me further into my seat as Manhattan whirls and fades away into a grid of yellow and brown light below me. The docking gate appears in my viewport and I prepare for departure, my hands finding the proper controls automatically, my eyes scanning the ammunition list like a machine. The list gives me pause for once, and I scroll back to look at it.

I don't have the energy to laugh, but my teeth flash in the first smile I've allowed in seven days.

Twenty-six nanobots, twenty-six fuel batteries. Ten Starkiller torpedoes and fifty Slingshot missiles.

Without even knowing it, I've been preparing myself for this moment for five weeks. The laugh finally erupts from my throat and my fingers dance over the keyboard. My Neural Net flashes on the screen as the Docking Ring robot bids me a safe journey. I feel the ship beneath my fingers asking me a question. Where do you want to go today?

I'll set my course for Planet Toledo. Maybe Orillion's got a new cause in mind for the Order.

Thanks for reading my first "Freelancer" fanfiction, it was a blast! Please leave me a review to share what you thought about it! They're always welcome.