SSV Normandy-Deck 3-Memorial Wall
Abigail Shepard ran her hands over the smooth gray metal of the names on the Memorial Wall. In the decades since she had been in command on the Normandy a few names had been added to the list. Where now the wall had been extended connecting life support bay with the crew quarters. But the center, the core, that was hers.
A thin film of dust had built up along the wall and she rubbed a finger along it and the dusk came off, she checked her finger, and rubbed them together. Looking back at the wall it read Wrex.
Oh Wrex, she collapsed against the wall laying her hand out on it, splaying her fingers out, her heart suddenly heavy with a wave of memories. She sniffed and rubbed her right hand through her almost white hair.
"Thinking on the ghosts?" A voice spoke behind her.
What the? She whirled around and came face to face with the gray and black bristled face of Joker Moreu. Wearing his typical Normandy SR-2 hat. "Joker!" She greeted excitedly, "what are you doing here?"
"You mean you don't know?" Joker smirked folding his arms under his chest, "I am the ceremony Commander for the Normandy's last tour. Considering I am one of the actual people from the crew still officially in the Alliance, they tapped me to see her into the bone yard."
"Wow, how is that working out for you?" Abigail grunted.
"Pretty good," Joker smiled, "EDI and I have had a lot more time to spend together as a result. Sometimes otherwise her com link to her body gets a little…wonky. But now we get in twenty four hour life."
"How is that working out for you?" Abigail grinned.
"She is fine."
Abby turned and saw EDI come walking up right on cue.
"It is good to see you again Admiral."
"I'm retired EDI," Shepard smiled.
"No you're not," She smirked, "once in never out."
Abby's eyes narrowed, "Where did you hear that one?"
"Some old vid on the extranet." EDI replied.
"I see," Abby said contemplatively, "I certainly feel retired." She muttered under her breath.
EDI arched her eyebrow giving her a contemplative look.
Abigail cleared her throat trying to change the subject, "I hope the shutdown isn't going to cause you any problems. After all your main frame is in here."
EDI smiled and nodded, "Doctors Lawson, T'soni, and the newest Solus have been working on upgrading my circuitry. Now this body is fully capable of containing my entire matrix without the need for the Normandy."
"How does that feel?" Abby smiled wanly.
"It is…" The AI hesitated scrunching up her face… "Unsettling." She admitted finally. "Throughout my existence I have been tied to the Normandy, I always thought that if it would die then I would die with it. The idea of living on after the Normandy has been…"
"She is not being scrapped, in fact I hear the new Prime Minister is petitioning to turn her into a museum ship." Abby acknowledged.
"Which I am sure we can get in on that action, right EDI?" Joker ribbed her.
The AI nodded, "It's not going to be the same."
Abigail sighed looking around the dark corridor and back to the memorial, "no, it isn't."
She regarded Joker again, "you know, I am surprised this is still here."
"Well it wasn't," Joker admitted sheepishly scratching at the back of his neck, "Commander Hernandez removed it when she was on tour because it…took up space and wasn't fair to the others who had died serving the Alliance…but I had it put back in when I took charge along with an updated list of everyone who had died in the service of the Normandy."
Abby smiled and nodded, "Good job Joker."
"Hey Lola," James's voice broke out, "Way to leave your man behind to pick up all the baggage while you go on ahead."
Abigail whirled around and saw the Lieutenant carrying three duffle bags full of supplies of the Shepard family and what they would need for the last tour of the Normandy before the official decommissioning ceremony.
James came up next to her and Shepard leaned back into him, "Well James," She teased, "That is what your manly muscles are for."
"Right," He grunted looking around the room, "hello everyone, long time no see."
"Hey James." Joker agreed smiling.
Abigail looked around the room, "Who is still coming?"
"We are only missing Cynthia and Ashley, the newest Solus did not really think it was his place since he did not serve on here in the immediate aftermath or the Reaper war."
Abby sighed, "it almost doesn't feel right to go anywhere without a Solus onboard."
"I know," Joker sighed.
Abby frowned, "And I have not seen Cynthia in a while…not since Paul's…funeral…and even then she was distant."
"Paul meant a lot to her." James sighed saying a semi curse in Spanish.
Abigail glanced back at the memorial wall, "you know each day, each year, we lose more people, more names, fewer and fewer of us left, it makes me feel…old."
"Feel like the last one standing Lola?" James remarked ironically.
She sighed and snorted, "Well, just hard to imagine, I always thought that we would be going down together, dying. Just seems hard to believe we both survived the War, Cerberus, the Collectors, the Disciples, Leviathan, we made it through all of that, lucky enough to not take a bullet. But unlucky enough to watch each other get old." She ran her hand along the cool metal surface of the memorial wall and leaned on it, splaying her hand out.
She stayed like that for a few minutes, wallowing in the feelings, not knowing where they were coming from. Maybe I really am old.
"Come on Captain, let me introduce you to the bridge crew, and we can get connected while we wait for the others." Joker offered.
She sniffed and nodded, "Sounds good Commander, lead on."
And that is how the last mission on the SSV Normandy started, Shepard was introduced to the crew, slowly walking through each deck up to the CIC and the Bridge. They all looked so young, a woman was now driving the ship, and no one was at communications so Traynor took over her old job. The ship was at the barest of Skeleton crews to accommodate all the VIPs that would be spending the next few weeks together.
Shepard slowly got reacquainted to everyone who could make it, everyone who was still left alive. Ashley, Cynthia, Gardner, a few others.
The biggest shock perhaps was Chakwas not in the medical bay, she passed on a few years back trying to save a group of Salarian colonists from a land slide. But she was not able to keep up with it and fell.
Now a young woman was in her stead, thin, blond, exuberant, but not having the experience of the ages the elder Doctor. In her last years the Normandy was relegated to a training ship, a walking museum, clearly it showed in the age of her new crew to replace the generations of others. Serving on one last tour.
Their last mission was to visit all the hot spots of the war and the journeys throughout the Galaxy, their fame and their infamy. Omega was their first stop, followed by Tuchanka, Tiptree, Virmire, Illos, Feros, Illium, Thessia, the Citadel, Sur'kesh, Palaven, Earth, Mars, the Leviathan Home World, and Rannoch.
On Illium they picked Liara up, the woman looked as young and vibrant as ever, Abby felt a slight spike of jealousy rage through her spine but kept it down. They had speeches and dedications to make at Serrice University and the temple on Thessia, filled with bright eyed maidens looking in and taking in the great Commander Shepard and crew.
On Rannoch they spoke at Tali's memorial to the new members of the Admiralty Board and Quarian Conclave. And they did the same at several other locations, remembering the lost, but promising to forge a brighter future.
On Omega the new leader was skeptical about them, tales of Shepard's exploits and relationships with Aria and Kurl being decades dead and gone. No one knew what they were there for, so they left in a hurry.
Which only left Arcturus, their last stop, before Normandy took up her new mission to educate and remind the future, of the sacrifices people made in securing their very existence and civilization.
Abigail Shepard sat in the Normandy mess hall, alone, eating a bowl filled of Oatmeal, and she looked at it skeptically rolling the spoon around in the air in front of her, twirling it between her fingers, bits of mush falling off it as she went. Well I guess I couldn't expect a luxury liner full of orange juice and bananas on the last trip of a war ship…why waste the resources? She snorted, though this is a sign of how things have changed, just 70 odd years ago I was crawling around a street in Los Angeles fighting for scraps of rotten pizza, and now here I am, complaining I do not have fresh Orange Juice…life as an Admiral has softened you Shepard…she chastised herself playfully.
"I always underestimate the human capacity for sentimentality, it's not something my species is very good at." A familiar voice murmured at her.
"Vakarian," She smiled turning around.
The Turian general made a move around her and sat down on the table across from her, on the bench, awkwardly perching.
"You know you have been scarce on this trip since you came on board."
"Oh you know how it is Shepard, getting old, joints are starting to ache, more interested in…watching…the young ladies rather than spend time…and catching up with Joker."
"Are you blushing Garrus?"
"Hmm? No, nope, not blushing." He denied, Shepard arched her eyebrow, Garrus cleared his throat, "if you really wanted to see me you could have always come visit me you know."
Shepard leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms over her chest, "Well you know how it is Vakarian, I may be old but I still know how to enjoy the….uh….company, of certain large and muscly comrades."
Garrus blanched and snorted, "Well played."
"Joker to Commander Shepard, come in Shepard,"
She frowned "what is it Joker?"
"We are approaching Arcturus, ten minutes."
"Very well, I'll be right there." She glanced at Garrus, "time to get this show on the road."
"Fun, fun, fun." Garrus tapped his hand on the table before getting up.
"Abigail Shepard," She said extending her arm to the bearded man in front of her.
"Admiral Chamberlain, nice to meet you Commander Shepard," he replied shaking it.
She frowned holding his arm, "Uh that is Alliance Navy Admiral…retired."
"Sorry ma'am," The Admiral blushed, "force of habit. I was still in school when the Reaper War broke out, grew up listening to stories, read about you in Military History, my thesis was based on yours and Mordin's work on the genophage cure."
"Ah," She smiled lightly, "a fan."
He laughed self-consciously, "Well I hope not ma'am. I hope not indeed. But this way, we have a podium set up in front of the star port for you and anyone else of your compatriots who want to give a speech."
"Thank you Admiral," She nodded gratefully being lead, as the long line of her comrades followed her.
The podium looked out at the Normandy docked behind her, the grand embarkation and arrival room was set up by rows of chairs looking out at the grand spectacle. Shepard behind the noble seal of the Alliance, highlighted by the vessel that made her famous, painted by the grand sweeping design of the Frigate.
Abigail Shepard cleared her throat, organizing her notes and laying them out, she glanced at the Normandy behind her using the ship for inspiration.
She smiled, looking down, then facing the crowd. The young and the old, the recruits and the seasoned veterans, her crew and complete strangers, all of them staring at her.
"You know, the Normandy, she was a great vessel. Born out of an idea and a theory. But its designers could never have imagined just how important she would become. Just how insane it even sounded to them.
"For generations the idea of true stealth travel was an impossible dream, wishful thinking…" she smiled "and besides, even if it were possible then what was the point? It was mocked and ridiculed by politicians and generals, admirals and pundits. People only imagined pitched space battles fought between heavy war ships lashing out at each other. Of clever Special Forces ops, stealing ships, hiding behind rocks hurtling towards planets, operations that took months to set up and often failed because we missed our window of opportunity.
"The Normandy was meant to change all that, and they were laughed at. But it was delivered in our darkest hour. Without it we wouldn't have had the ability to hunt down Saren and the Geth. My mission would have been next to impossible, I doubt we would have even survived. Then recruiting my team for the Suicide Mission through the Omega 4. Without the Normandy I would not have been able to sneak into a hundred different locations. But finally, for the Reapers, we were able to get in behind enemy lines. Ignore the blockade of Palaven, hit the Geth Dreadnaught and the Geth base, and take out Cerberus. All of this we did, this we all know because of our history."
She glanced around the room taking a breath, bringing up a smirk. "But there is the funny thing about history. To you, separated by the decades, it looks stale and dusty. It has been sixty years since the commissioning of the SR-2 by Cerberus, sixty years of relative comfort, to forget. Life is still hard, but time adds protection from where we have come from, the reasons."
She breathed, "But that is the point of a museum, that is the point of me, Garrus, James, Ashley, and Miranda. As long as we are still alive, as long the Normandy is still here, we will remember. And we shall never forget."
She smiled feeling the inspiration well up within her, "The Normandy will never be forgotten, it will never die, but its mission is changing. From protector of the future, to guardian of the past. A living will, speaking out from the ages, through war and sacrifice and sweat, to say 'we remember, we will never forget.'"
The crowd erupted in cheers and applause, at least the younger, the older members of the audience sat and smiled, some slow clapped. She smiled, nodded, and dismounted the podium exchanging her place for the Admiral.
Later, after all the speeches, and the political grand standing Abigail stood in a small knot towards one corner with James, Ashley, Miranda, and Liara. She took a sip from her large wine glass and eyed the black haired woman up.
"It's not fair."
The woman laughed at her and cocked her head in such a way to make her hair fall to her shoulder, "And just what is not fair?"
"It's been sixty years and you still look like I just barely met you, maybe some laugh lines are finally starting to form." She peered at Miranda closely, and sighed, "at least Liara has an excuse, her being a damned Asari with that damned Asari life span."
"Hey!" Liara broke in.
"Feeling a bit matronly are you Shepard?" Miranda teased.
Ashley snorted, "Who are you kidding? You'd be feeling just as jealous if the roles were reversed, I mean hell I'm a lot more secure in my feelings about myself and it's hard for me to not look at you and feel self-conscious."
"Must be the sun screen I use," Miranda said looking away.
"Right," Shepard murmured.
"Well, I don't care." James said.
"You don't?" Abigail asked.
"Nope, not getting involved in this one." James murmured.
The three woman smiled with each other sharing the moment.
Miranda frowned, "you know it has been a hell of a sixty years."
Abby snorted, "At least it got quiet after we kicked the hell out of the Leviathans, and deposed the Council."
"Well…mostly quiet." Miranda teased, "always something going on."
"Still, not our job anymore, I mean despite me still being in the military." Ashley said.
"And me being the exotic spy watching over the Galaxy, sipping martinis and smoking cigarettes."
Abby snorted, "You reminiscing over your old boss."
"Someone has to," Miranda said darkly.
Abby smiled, "don't worry Miranda, I remember him to."
Sigh, "To the Illusive Man," Miranda raised her glass.
"To all those we have lost," James agreed.
"And to the Normandy," Abby finished as they toasted their glasses.
A memorial to the past, a promise to the future, their role and their mission in life was over. But now it would pass to new guardians, who would always remember, the legend of the Normandy and Commander Shepard.