Chapter Fourteen: Where No Bullets Fly
I don't own Bioware
"I will leave these rough pursuits behind, I will return to my home; I have had enough of war.
But should danger once more appear on the horizon, then I will take my rifle and once more defend my family and my life. This is my oath as a soldier. I will never forget.
-Statement given by an Australian Infantry Officer to a reporter at the conclusion of World War I.
JANUARY 7TH, 2001
"In other news, Brigadier General Abraham Lenau, former commander of 7th Special Forces Group, has today been appointed as Operations Advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff," the young anchor announced. "This follows the full recovery of Major General Waters from a heart attack, and the resignation of Rear Admiral Solomon Vance from the position. Admiral Vance said that he was proud of the service he had rendered to his country, and only wished he could have been a stronger man when he was most needed. Conspiracy theories are already spreading that this shakeup is somehow connected to a drug war between rival cartels down in Colombia. This brief conflict was punctuated by the complete destruction of a major..."
Toland reached forward and flicked the television off. "Well, just goes to show that there's some justice in the world."
Sitting beside him on the couch, Beth cocked her head, curiously meeting her father's eyes. "What do you mean Daddy?"
"Nothing baby," Bob lied. "Just something silly. Come on, let's go grab some ice cream before you Aunt gets back."
"Okay," Beth ran for the front door, Bob just a few paces behind her, panting with mock effort.
"Oh, you're far too quick for an old man like me," he groaned as he swept her off her feet and onto his shoulders. "Let's slow down a little."
"Hey Daddy?" Beth wrapped her arms around his head. "Are you going to go away again?"
"Not for a while honey," Bob reassured her. "Uncle Abe is giving me a long holiday."
"Good," Beth perched contentedly on his shoulders for a while. Then a thought struck her. "Oh, I'm sorry Daddy. I forgot to give you your dog tags back."
"Keep 'em," he replied instantly. "I'll get another set made up. That way, I'll always be around you."
"I'd like that," Beth yawned. "For you to never, ever leave."
Toland didn't try to dispel her of her illusion. He was still a Green Beret, a sworn protector of his country. There would be times still to come when he would be tried and tested. And one day, he might not be up to the challenge. But right now, he had everything he wanted. Peace, home and family. Right now, Robert Toland's life was good.
"Here he is," Angela handed her son to his father. Chris Shepard smiled with untempered pride at the infant in his arms.
"Boy, we made one heck of a kid, huh?" He almost choked with emotion. "Honey, do you mind if I give him his middle names?"
"Sure, what do you want?" She already knew what they would be.
"Michael, Travis, Jack." Chris stroked his son's brow. "After three of the best men I've ever known."
"Gerry Mike Travis Jack Shepard," Angela slipped onto the bed with him. "That sounds good. Let's hope we raise him to be as great as they were."
"He's a Shepard," his good humour returned. "Greatness is almost mandatory."
"I'm sorry ma'am," the doctor explained to Maria. "He lost a lot of blood. Maybe too much. I don't know if he can make it. He's been in a coma for a week, his body is trying to repair itself, but we can't see much brain activity. He has to find a way to come back, a reason to live."
"I think I know a way," Maria sat next to her unconscious husband. "Could I have some privacy please?"
"Of course," the Army doctor backed out of the room. It was sad really, he had seen cases like these before. The wife unable to deal with the fact that she might be a widow soon.
Maria leaned in close to his ear. "Now you listen to me, Staff Sergeant Carlos Estevez. You are going to wake up and get moving. You're going to have your legs put back together, then you're going to walk and run again. You'll do the job that you were born to do. Liberate the oppressed, protect the innocent and punish the guilty. And you'll come back to your children."
Moving his limp left arm, she placed his hand on her stomach. "All four of them. You know why? Because you're stronger than any man I know. You were stronger than your friends back in LA. You were stronger than everyone else when you qualified for your beret. And you were stronger than those bastards who shot you. That's why I love you, that's why I'll never stop loving you."
For almost a minute she sat there, holding his hand. Still there was no response. Feeling moisture gathering in her eyes, she stood up and moved toward the door."
"Hey bambino," a voice called softly from the bed. Spinning around, she saw Carlos grinning softly, his eyes barely open. "I think the doc needs to turn down the meds. I could have sworn that an angel's been hanging around my bedside."
"...funerals of three Special Forces operators, killed during a helicopter accident, that took place two days ago at Arlington, have sparked off a request by Congress into the circumstances surrounding their tragic deaths..."
Brian Andropov sat in the living room of his house. Actually, it wasn't really his house anymore. As was customary, a war widow was given an almost indefinite amount of time to move out of the on-base housing area. 1st Sergeant Andropov had planned carefully for the future. Numerous college trust funds had been set up for his kids, and Strikeout was personally footing the payments on the new house. Half the men in 7th SFG owed their hides to Pixie. To turn their backs on his family would be dishonour and inhumanity for all of them. They would take care of their own.
Sitting with Brian was Bulldog and Sean. "I was going to join up after school," the eldest son confessed. "Dad didn't like it. Said I had more potential than just gruntwork."
"He was right," Bulldog gently broke down the idea. "You're smarter than that. Go to West Point, get your commission. It's the best way to honour him."
"I guess so," Brian felt almost numb. "He didn't really die in a chopper crash did he?"
"No," Sean ignored the look he was getting from Bulldog. "No he didn't. He died the way he lived. Sacrifice? Friendship? Those weren't just words to your dad. They were his core beliefs. He loved you, was proud of you. And you can sure as hell be proud of being that man's son."
Her weapons were all laid out on the kitchen table. The .44 Smith & Wesson newly polished and shined. Her M-40, the custom walnut stock glowing. The blue blood had been cleaned off her machete and dagger, the spooks had wanted it for examination. Her beloved carbine was lying in pieces back in the jungle now.
"So," Tom took his seat opposite her. "You thinking of going back in? Agency wants someone to deal with that problem in Korea."
Alice wistfully ran her hand over the barrel of her pistol. The free falling rush of adrenaline, the satisfaction at a job well done. She couldn't deny the appeal returning to the field had to her. But it wasn't powerful enough.
"It's not my time anymore," placing the eight inch revolver back in its case, she shut the lid. "Better leave it to the young blood. I've had enough of war Tom. I'm not that angry kid anymore."
Regretfully, she placed the weapons back in their closet. Returning to the table, she took Tom's hand. "I took the mission to fulfil an old promise. Now I've done that. I know my sister's at peace. Now I can be too. After all, I'm not going to live forever."
Lieutenant Hector Lancero finished consoling Sergeant Vega's widow. Such a sad thing, that a brave man could be killed so easily. But the time for mourning was drawing to a close. There were still so many things that needed doing. The cartels would still need to be fought, tooth and nail.
He found his sense of purpose renewed. The path to defeating the cartels would be long and arduous, paved with danger. It could take decades to wipe them out. So be it. Lancero had a job to do. He would complete the mission that he had set out to do. The deaths of his men, of the Americans, they would count for something. Justice would come, for all involved.
"Keira Triune," the stern looking matriarch stared down at the asari sitting in front of her. Without makeup, high heels or her secretaries, the businesswoman looked remarkably small and plain. The jury had found her guilty on all accounts, including third degree murder, deliberately interfering in the development of a sapient race, and a dozen other charges. The judge was renowned for the severity of her punishments, today would be no exception. "Never, in a thousand years of experience, have I seen such a blatant disregard for the rules upon which our society is based. In the name of profit, you have violated every law regarding developing sapients that we have."
Romus Vakarian sat at the back of the courtroom. Part of him felt smug, part of him felt righteous, most of him felt nothing. No matter how harsh the sentence, Keira would be getting off easy.
"Ordinarily, I might show leniency, in view of your youth and inexperience," the matriarch shook her head. "But not only have you shown yourself to be both intelligent and cunning, you have also demonstrated an incredibly malicious intent in your actions. Therefore, I have no hesitation in sentencing you to the maximum penalty of four hundred years, without the possibility of parole. My only regret is that the law does not allow me to lock you away for the rest of your natural life. Per the request of the prosecution, you will serve out your sentence in a turian maximum security facility."
"Your Honour," Keira's defence attorney, a frazzled looking salarian, made one last protest. "What of the evidence we have, regarding the illegal extradition of my client."
The matriarch paused as she stood up. "No authorisation was ever given for an extradition outside of Citadel territory. Certainly no C-Sec or Council operatives were involved in this extraction. Miss Triune's travel arrangements, I must confess, do not interest me in the slightest."
"Well, that's it, out of a job again," Wrex chuckled as he turned off the view screen. "Do me a favour Quarian. Drop me off somewhere that has good employment rates."
"Sure," Kalya'Zorah twisted in her seat. "I'm sorry I have to do this, but with the Ilium police confiscating my accounts, I figured that now would be a good time to return to the Fleet. I'm dreadfully sorry that you won't be paid."
"No problem," Wrex reassured her. "At the end of the day, it was a good hunt. The best I've ever had."
ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY TWO YEARS LATER
"So, Shepard," Wrex casually questioned Lieutenant Commander Travis Shepard. "Is there a history of warriors in your family?"
"There is as a matter of fact," Travis was glad to talk with Wrex. The two were forming a fast friendship, ever since he had helped Wrex recover his family armour. "My father and grandfather were both N7's. My great-grandfather was in the United States Army Delta Force. It stretches back a long way, not sure where it started."
"I see," if it were possible for a krogan to look completely innocent and inquisitive, Wrex was accomplishing it. "And ahhhh...any mention of a man named Robert Toland in any family stories?"
"There might have been," Shepard frowned. "Why do you ask?"
"Just curious," Wrex chuckled. "Do you believe in fate Shepard?"
"Not really. Why?"
"Well, if Fate does exist, then she's a cross eyed varren bitch with a batarian's sense of humour," Wrex declared. Shepard just looked even more confused. "Long story, I'll tell you about it another time."
Travis just nodded. "Wrex."
A/N: Took me a few tries, but I finally came up with an ending that felt satisfying. This concludes Predators, I hope you enjoyed the ride.
Toland MIGHT be in a POSSIBLE Self Insert Fanfiction that I've been considering. The only reason I've been thinking about doing one, is that I always wondered if it's possible to write one of these things that doesn't suck. Regardless, I'm not planning on writing it any time this year. Thanks for reading.