What belongs to Bioware render unto Bioware. This was written more out of a dedication and inspiration.
What can be found in the passing of small things? Private Karl Morrison could not help but ponder this in the cramped quarters of the transport he was waiting in. He and about two dozen other marines were crammed in the space vessel, awaiting their deployment to some where else in the galaxy, some other faraway place that the Alliance decided through their bureaucratic mind that he and this particular group needed to go to. However, Karl could not think on this, only the small bracelet of polished white stones resting in his open palm. It was the simplest of things and yet the small trinket caused him no end of wondering, as if the small band of cheapest jewelery was an enigma befitting only for the wisest of sages. It all started only three weeks ago...
Karl was only twenty one, though he had been born on the fringe colonies before his parents scrounged enough money to move to Earth, the human home world where they hoped they would have better chances to etch out a living. Their gamble paid off, and Karl grew up in a relatively well to do place in society before he joined up with the Alliance armed forces. However, his parents never forgot their roots and never ceased to remind him of where he first came from. That was why on this particular furlough his parents decided to take him back to where he was born.
The new soldier found himself quite out of place in the colony which still fighting to get by and prosper. He was excited to meet the one side of his family he never got see, only hearing about it in the stories of his parents. However, he did have a few misgivings. This side of the family was more fluent in the local language rather than the standard business language of English, which was the only language he spoke. Regardless, he was still able to converse with them, those that could more readily speak to him.
Karl soon decided that after a day or two, it was going to be a long vacation. Twenty one still put him behind by at least twenty if not more years from the rest of the adults. They were all catching up with each other, which mostly left him with his dozen or so cousins, of whom he was the oldest. It was a rather bizarre situation since the oldest among them was about seventeen, followed by fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, twelve, and rapidly decreasing smaller numbers from there. While the older adults chatted in the other room, Karl was stuck with all the teenagers and children in the other. He wasn't sure of them and they really weren't sure of him either. He was certainly an oddity in his military fatigues and his differently accented English, that despite their ability to speak it, was not their mother tongue.
The soldier tried to make the most of it. When he wasn't getting a crash course in the customs and culture of the colony, he unofficially took up the role of watching his younger cousins whenever they went out to horse around the hills and fields outside the small home. It often meant finding a comfortable spot overlooking the general area they were playing in before pulling out a book and reading, every now and then glancing to see that they weren't going to kill themselves or anything. This little plan worked for a day and, enjoying the success, Karl decided this would be how he would get through the vacation. However, he didn't expect what would happen next.
The next day as he shepherded the gang of kids through the colony streets and to the hills, an act he admitted was probably not necessary since they had probably been doing the same thing long before he showed up, he slipped his hands into his pocket and clasped his book close to him. Every now and then he glanced at anyone who happened to be watching him and the procession in front of him. He had been told that if anything, he was more in danger than his cousins in front of him since anyone could tell he was not a local and certainly seemed to be more well to do than they were. He had probably caught the attention to every pickpocket, thief and mugger in a two block radius and perhaps the only thing that kept them at bay was the military fatigues he was wearing. Perhaps the pistol resting on his belt also helped. Regardless, he suddenly felt a smaller set of hands taking hold of his arm. He cast a suspicious glance to his side. It was Sarah.
Sarah was the twelve year old of the group. Karl had picked up she was a bit mature for her age, but nonetheless, still a twelve year old girl. It was probably that annoying time in a girl's life when she was getting too old for dolls, what little they could afford in this backwater colony, but still too young to go out with her older cousin when she went out with her friends.
"What are you doing?" Karl asked simply to his younger cousin.
"Come ahead of me." Sarah answered in her peculiarly accented and spoken English.
"No, you stay ahead of me." Karl stated firmly, he couldn't watch her when she was behind him.
"No, go ahead." Sarah replied, showing that she would only be one step behind him.
"Why?" Karl inquired, deciding he would at least humor the girl.
"For safety." Sarah answered. Karl was immediately thrown off.
How under the sky above was a twelve year old girl going to make sure he was going to be safe? Sure, she knew the locals better and could probably warn him if someone with a known shady reputation was approaching, but still. What would she be able to do after that? Karl reminded himself he could not stop and contemplate this, so he simply settled for her walking next to him. Sarah decided to accept that.
This time when they got to their favorite spot, and Karl found his favorite perch to watch them and read his book, things turned out a little differently. The soldier sat down to read and had probably gone through two paragraphs when he felt about a dozen pair of eyes watching him. Looking up cautiously just over the top of the book, he confirmed his suspicions that his cousins had not gone down to play but were in fact still there and apparently very intently watching him.
"...Is something wrong?" Karl asked nervously.
"How old are you?" The fifteen year old, David, asked.
"Twenty one." Karl answered.
"What do you do?" the fourteen year old, Leslie, asked.
"I'm a soldier."
"So you know how to use a gun?" the eight year old asked.
"More or less, yes..." Karl shrugged.
On and on the questions went. Eventually, the whole gaggle insisted on him joining them as they went down the hill. Karl more or less resisted but eventually was persuaded to at least follow them. He left his abandoned book at the top of the hill as the other dragged him down to see where they always frolicked. The soldier couldn't help but notice that twelve year old Sarah was still at his side keeping an eye on him.
The group brought him through the narrow, tunnel like rock formations that led to the mining fields where most of colonists worked. His visitor status certainly showed in his rather awkward, if not clumsy, navigation over the twisted and jagged rocks. It caught up with him when, behind everyone else, he rubbed his ankle the wrong way next to the rock wall. Karl let out a small grunt as he winced in pain. No sooner had he bent down to inspect the damage, he suddenly found Sarah looking over him.
"Hurt?" she asked. Karl quickly glanced at the small beads of red liquid forming on the damaged skin. A little blood, but certainly nothing to get concerned about.
"No, I'm fine. Go ahead, go on." Karl told her quickly before picking up the pace again.
In the end, Karl never got to finish that book. Instead, his time was preoccupied answering the questions to the never ending curiosity of his dozen cousins. Sometimes they would ask questions for hours on end while he patiently and earnestly answered. Other times they would lead him around to see the local sights. Karl was a bizarre mix of competence and complete helplessness. He was responsible for the safety of each of them, and yet he could not speak the local language and mostly ignorant of the culture. It certainly didn't help that he was not familiar with their customs. Karl also found out it could lead to strange situations.
One time, sitting on the hill listening to his cousins converse, he got the vibe that he was in fact the topic of the discussion. The cousins every now and then brought a friend along so there were sometimes new faces. It seemed like the discussion was pretty interesting but Karl had no clue what they were talking about.
"Ha, forget about talking behind my back. They can talk about me straight to my face in front of me and I won't understand a thing." Karl thought to himself. Suddenly, he found Sarah patting his shoulder, talking to the others in abrupt words. Her tone was a bit softer than the rest of the conversation had been. This puzzled him, so he leaned over towards the oldest boy of the group who seemed to be keeping neutral on whatever they had been talking about.
"What did I just miss?" Karl asked.
"She's defending you." It was the only answer he got, and no elaboration was made. Karl found that strange but decided not to dwell on it. Everyone had the right to their opinions.
At night, Karl and the others would often look up high into the night sky. The soldier was often the speaker during these times as he told them the names of the stars in the sky and the constellations they saw. Lying back in the grass after he was done, his simply listened to the others talk. He often caught little Sarah staring at him and he often wondered what that was about.
In fact, Sarah continued staring at him as the time for his departure got closer and closer. As each day went, it became clearer and clearer that last day of the vacation was rapidly approaching. Karl found her staring at him longer and longer. It unnerved him. Was she playing a game? At first he simply rolled his eyes at her behavior, perhaps it was some game among the local girls. As her behavior persisted, Karl would often glance back with a firm look for a few moments before looking away. Finally, he started retaliating by simply staring back at her. She still kept up with her actions though.
Finally, it was the afternoon before he would have to leave. He was sitting on his favorite hill while the others played. Sarah was sitting next to him. She was staring again. Karl glanced over at her before sighing.
"You ever get the feeling that you're living under a microscope?" Karl asked her.
"No." Sarah answered quietly. Karl sighed.
"What I'm trying to say is why are you staring me?" Karl inquired.
"Nothing." Sarah answered.
"You've been doing it for so long. Why do you stare at me?" Karl kept up.
"You're asking me the wrong way." Sarah replied. This utterly confused Karl.
"...Okay, could you please tell me why you stare at me?"
"No, don't ask me like that. Ask me differently." Sarah replied. Karl softened his tone.
"Please. Tell me why you stare at me."
"No...say..." Sarah hesitated as she tried to fish for the proper English words. Karl waited, still quite unsure what this was all about.
"Say...'because.'" Sarah told him.
"Because?" Karl asked, dumbfounded.
"No, 'you stare at me because...'" Sarah instructed. This time, Karl hesitated.
"All right...You stare at me because...?"
"...Because I will be sad when you go." Sarah answered before becoming very sullen. The soldier could not help but blink.
Karl was, certainly not the first time this whole trip, utterly at lost with what to do. How and why of all things his twelve year old cousin would become so attached to him in just two weeks was the least of the problems going through his mind.
"Oh don't be that way. I'll try to visit again soon." Karl told her.
"Yes...you will be forty two and I'll be thirty three." Sarah answered, still sulking. Karl sighed.
"I certainly will try to get back before then."
"No." Sarah mumbled. Karl rubbed his head in mild frustration. Clearly she had become very attached to him, Lord only knows why, but it wasn't like he had not developed a soft spot for her. Out of all the cousins, she had certainly, in some way, looked out for him.
"I will forget your face when you leave." Sarah stated sadly.
"So that is why you were staring." Karl replied. Sarah simply nodded. By now, the soldier was shifting around uncomfortably. There had to be something he could give to help this little girl. Suddenly, he stopped and reached into his pocket.
Sarah glanced over curiously as her older cousin pulled out a small rosary. The whole family had been practicing Catholics, so this small trinket wasn't foreign to her. She reached out to see the small object.
"Can I see?" she asked. Karl handed it to her as she examined the small thing.
"Do you know how to pray the rosary?" Karl asked. Sarah nodded. Even at a young age she had been responsible enough to memorize it. Finished, she offered it back to him. To her surprise, Karl simply closed her hand over the rosary.
"I want you to keep it now."
"Wh-no, no. I can't." Sarah protested.
"No. I want you to keep it. It'll help." Karl insisted. Sarah hesitated for a moment but eventually, she could not help but smile.
The two sat in silence for a few minutes. By now, Karl had decided he could rest easy. It probably wasn't a picture, but perhaps it would be a way that she could most easily remember him. He had been rather fond of that rosary, but he had another one. Besides, Sarah would probably place more value on this one since it had belonged to him. His thoughts were scattered when he felt her smaller hand opening his own and dropping something in it.
"So you will remember me." Sarah smiled. Karl found her small bracelet, perhaps the most expensive piece of anything he ever saw her wearing. To be quite honest, it really was not that expensive at all. It was made of the local stones, polished so that they would at least shine and would be pretty enough to catch a young girl's fancy. Sarah was probably giving him the most valuable thing she owned.
"Sarah, I can't take this." Karl stated.
"No. So you will remember me." she answered. Karl realized she was only being fair. He couldn't tell her "no" because she did not own much, as that would certainly be offensive. He struggled emotionally for a moment. He did not want to take away the most valuable possession she had and yet...perhaps it would now be more valuable to her knowing that it would help him remember her.
"All right..." Karl whispered.
Sarah held onto the rosary the next day. She couldn't find the strength to return the hug Karl gave her as he departed. She was still only a twelve year old girl who was seeing her new friend go. She held onto the words Karl whispered to her just before he left.
"I will always pray for you...I will not forget."
Sarah held onto the rosary and those words, just as she started to let go of the tears that started to flow down her small face. After all, she was still only twelve. She could not hold onto the feeling of Karl's rough hand's wiping away the water from under her eyes.
Sarah tried to hold onto these things, the promise he made her and the rosary he had given. She always held onto it in one of her pockets. She held onto the thought that a guardian angel was praying for her. Sarah Shepard held onto that rosary, knowing that an older cousin, somewhere out there, was praying for her. There were so many times Sarah Shepard would need it in the days to come.
She held onto it in the sad days immediately after he went away.
She held onto it when her sister mysteriously became ill and passed away.
She held onto it four years later, when the raiders came and took the lives of her friends and family away.
She held onto it at Akuze when the Maw came.
She held onto it at Eden Prime when the Geth attacked and soiled the land with stains.
She held onto it at Virmire when the lives of one of her friends was claimed.
She held onto it on the Citadel when Sovereign went up in flames.
The little girl on Mindoir found a guardian angel when she was twelve. She often smiled when she heard others speculate on where she found her inner strength from. It was a story that really only she knew, even though she had seen Karl a few times more. Even the greatest hero in the galaxy needed an angel during those dark days. Her angel had only kept a promise given in so few words as well as the simplest of things. Her angel had saved her and she had saved the galaxy. It was the Spectre's Angel who was the unsung hero, the angel that never knew how high he was holding her up, and how tightly she held onto what he had given her.
This is dedicated to a relative of mine who lives in a country fairly distant and poorer than my own. May we never forget those who can smile though they be in places less fortunate than ours.