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One week after "Finding Peace, Rest Now
It was where she was born and lived happily for sixteen years. It was the planet that was ravaged on the day she lost everyone and everything she held dear. It was the place she was when she found her path in life.
It was where she drew her resolve from in the memories and the horrible scars etched on her soul left from that terrible day the slavers came. And until Therum, it was where she drew on her only happy memories for wisdom and love.
Now it would be her final resting place for eternity.
Mindoir, a planet of beauty, hope, terror and peace.
The sky was heavy and grey with thick ponderous clouds rolling in from the east that hung low over the wide, pristine valley. As threatening as the clouds were, the air was still, silent and cold.
On top of a small hill in the valleys' center a casket sat upon a dais made of marble. A Marines' coffin, draped with the flag of the Galactic Republic. Not ornate, not gilded in gold. Just strong, resilient and true, as it's occupant was in life.
Five feet away a small line of five Asari women stood facing the casket. One in dress blue, four in black. Four with eyes of green, one of blue. Three sobbed openly, two desperately tried to hold on. Four mourning their father, one devastated at the loss of her one true love. All with broken hearts and fresh open wounds scaring their souls.
Sarah Shepard's wife and girls. Liara, Commander Elena T'Soni-Shepard, the twins Mira and Dr. Mara T'Soni-Shepard, and the youngest, Riell.
Behind and around them stood the family they grew up with. Heroes, leaders, crewmates, comrades
friends. People of all walks of life and of all races who followed Sarah Shepard against the greatest threats to sentient beings that ever darkened the skies of any world. Each had legendary names like Vakarian, 'Zorah, Wrex, Lawson, Taylor, Grunt, Goto, Samara, Lawson, Naught, EDI, Traynor, Vega and Cortez. They stayed close to the Asari women, lending strength they did not feel themselves. Hoping to comfort when they needed it so badly too.
At the insistence of the family, to the right of the group stood a line of eleven life-size pictures on easels, each with a photo of a fallen comrade and friend. The pictures brought back memories of how it was when Shepard's first family stood together. Jeff Moreau sat in his pilots chair wearing his hat and his trademark smile and giving a cocky salute, Karin Chakwas stood at her desk in the med-bay with a half empty bottle of Serrice Ice Brandy, Admiral Anderson stood tall amid the ruins of London, Mordin Solis so proud and resolute on Tuchanka with the Shroud in the distance behind him, Javik stood proudly in front of a dead Reaper, Legion on a cliff as the sun set on Rannoch, Thane Krios sat with his son reading scripture in a Drell temple on the Citadel, Kaiden Alenko sat in the back of a Mako smiling at the camera while he stripped and cleaned his rifle, Admiral Ashley Williams sat on the bridge of the SSV Saratoga engrossed in a book of Tennyson's poems, Admiral Hackett stood imperiously with his hands clasped behind his back as work continued on the Crucible behind him.
Liara remembered going to each of their funerals and how each one destroyed a little bit more of Sarah's soul. Especially Anderson, Karin, Jeff and Ashley. But in this small way, they reunited Sarah's full family to say good-bye.
To their left stood the rest of the crew in ranks, smartly turned out in dress blues. Each were touched by Shepard. Each owed their lives to her. Each would walk through hell for her. Master Gunnery Sergeant Urdnot Mordin-Shepard stood in front of the formation. First born son of Wrex and Bakara, first Krogan to join the Galactic Marines, senior Non-Com of the Normandy SR-6 crew, and honored to be master of troops for this ceremony.
Fifty meters behind, in a line of seven, stood the honor guard. They stood motionless for hours in their dress blues, moving only to salute the casket with their ancient earth M14 rifles as Admiral Sarah Shepard was carried by to the dais.
Spreading out around the hill and across the valley, hundreds of thousands of people from across the galaxy stood silently in respect for the fallen hero. Nearly the entire populaces of the colonies of Mindoir, Elysium, and Feros were there. Thousands of Krogans, just as many Quarian, Geth, Turian, Human and all the other races stood together in unity to honor her. Not a word was spoken among the multitude, very few even moved, and all eyes were turned to the hilltop with the casket and the small, devastated family grieving there.
To honor the family's wishes only two speakers were allowed, much to the chagrin of the many dignitaries and diplomats that wanted to get face time at this event. Except for Emily Wong who kept a discrete distance and only recorded the event for the family, there were no microphones, no cameras, or over-flights, just friends and loved ones.
Primarch Garrus Vakarian stepped forward, lowered his head and collected himself. He shook his head and covered his eyes with his hand before taking a deep breath to hold back a sob. 'Spirits, how do I do this? Give me strength, Shepard.' he said to himself. Finally he turned back to his friends and cleared his throat.
friend of mine, of ours, told me once, 'You can't predict how people will act. But you can control how you respond. In the end, that's what really matters.' It was the first of many lessons Shepard taught me, and perhaps the most important. But if you knew Shepard, you could predict her acts. They would be decisive, kind, strong, giving, and above all, selfless." He paused to gather his thoughts.
"There have been many called hero throughout time. Each one, earning the title in their own way while facing extraordinary circumstances. As Shepard said, 'Leaders will rise, we just have to have the faith to follow them'. Well, we were blessed enough to have followed the very best. A leader who was willing to sacrifice everything for us all, an officer who always strove to do the right thing no matter the pain to herself, a woman who always took care of her own, never flinched from a challenge or a good fight
or a bottle of whiskey." A small wave of laughter spread through the mourners.
"What can I say about my best friend?" He asked. "Little that has not been written in the history books already. But maybe the most important things are not in the history books. They don't say that she had her doubts, her fears. That she played a hell of a game of poker. She obsessed with the welfare of her crew, her family. And that was her defining characteristic, I think. She would tear down the gates of hell to protect the ones she loved." He looked to Liara and the girls. "And I think it was the love she had for Liara that doomed the Reapers all those years ago." Liara lifted her gaze to the sky and fresh tears ran down her delicate features as she remembered the strength of the love she had just lost.
Garrus continued in a stronger voice. "I can tell you to never bet against her, never think she would not sacrifice everything for her friends and family, huh
never challenge her to a drinking contest
" Another wave of chuckles. "Above all, I can say, I've never met a better person or had a better friend in my life. She was by far, the very best this galaxy had to offer, and I'm sure she's watching after us even now." He turned to the casket. "Rest well, Shepard. You earned it. And if you're where I think you are, have a drink on my tab. I hope to meet you in that bar someday."
As Garrus stepped back, Liara came forward and placed her hand upon the casket, her head and shoulders bowed. Powerful emotions and wrenching sorrow filled and swirled throughout her very soul and consumed her reality. As the tears coursed down her cheeks and the heaviness in her breast grew, she knew that there were no mere, ugly, awkward words that could come close to expressing what she felt for Sarah. She lurched forward, as her world blackened on the edges and her knees buckled.
Two pairs of strong hands gently caught her, held her from falling to the ground. Two voices murmuring loving words and giving strength that kept her from losing her mind. Her eyes cleared enough to see her eldest, Elena and Tali standing on either side of her, and all the rest had stepped close to try lend support and ease her pain.
Liara looked into her daughter eyes. "I
" She stammered between sobs.
Elena hugged her mother close and waited until her sobbing eased. "It's okay, mom." She murmured. "Let me do it for you. It's okay." Elena's sisters gathered round Liara and held her close.
Elena felt her love, Lieutenant Commander Breanna Williams, slip an arm around her waist as she desperately fought for the right words to honor her father. She looked around and saw the love in Breanna's eyes, and in the eyes of all those around her who loved Sarah and her little family for so many years.
A small smile came to her lips as she started. "All of you here knew my father during the hardest times this galaxy ever faced. You knew the Commander Shepard that saved the Citadel from Saren and Sovereign, destroyed the Collectors, and saved the galaxy, and pushed for and helped build the Galactic Republic." She looked to her sisters seeing the loving strength in those green eyes. "My sisters and I only knew her as dad."
"There are no words to describe what an incredible father she was, and I don't think I need to say it." She lifted her gaze and met those of her gathered family and friends. "You have all felt what we have. The genuine care, the steadfast devotion, and the enduring love she gave to us all. The only thing she ever asked for in return was for us to be true to ourselves." She paused remembering back to when she was fifteen and saw the vid of her mother and father in the ICU on the SSV Nightingale. "We were all blessed and still are. In dad, we knew unconditional love. Looking around here today, I still see it. The love we have for each other that she instilled in each and every one of us." She paused and bit her lip to keep from crying. "I
I think that the family gathered here today, is her true legacy." She turned to the casket and placed her palm on the cold metal. "Thanks dad. We love you."
One by one, other hands joined her and each murmured their own thoughts and prayers for Shepard, her family, each other.
The senior non-com of the ship, Master Gunnery Sergeant Urdnot Mordin-Shepard cleared his throat and called attention in his usual loud, rumbling voice that echoed across the darkening valley. Then he called the roll.
"Lawson!" He bellowed.
"Here." Came the crisp answer from the stately woman.
"Here." Called the tattooed woman with flowing gray hair with a slight crack in her voice.
"Here." The regal Asari answered.
Liara choked back a sob knowing no answer could ever come. Only the cold wind in the hard, wet branches answered the call and accompanied the time-stopping pain Liara felt.
Young Mira hunched over and wailed her anguish openly. Mara, feeling her pain, held her twin sister and cried with her, for once not analyzing anything, just feeling the building pain in her heart and almost hoping it would never go away so she could keep her father with her always.
Only the vast, empty silence answered.
It was too much. Riell moaned and threw her arms around Grunt as hot tears scalded her young eyes and her body shivered relentlessly. Tali, Kasumi, Garrus and Wrex gathered round Liara and they held each other and wept for the friend they knew, loved and missed so very much.
"Commander Sarah Alexis Shepard!"
The silence was complete, all-consuming, greedy
Elena's control and discipline finally broke and tears streamed down her lovely face. She still stood at attention, and honored her father as any Marine would, but the sobs racked her shoulder and her body shook uncontrollably. Her only solace was the loving touch of Lieutenant Commander Breana Williams' hands on her shoulders and her low voice whispering loving encouragement as the human woman lent what paltry support she could to the Asari who captured her heart.
Suddenly, seven rifles fires in perfect unison to begin the twenty one gun salute to honor Admiral Sarah A. Shepard. Everyone jumped at first and Liara felt as though the emotional dagger in her heart had been twisted cruelly.
Again the rifles fired. The reports echoing throughout the valley across the multitude of people gathered. A tortured moan escaped Liara's lips.
Again the rifles fired, the echo fading into the gathering darkness like a soul passing on to the great beyond.
The Master Gunnery Sergeant saluted the coffin and all the Marines and Sailors present did the same. A moment later, a lone bugle player standing atop a small rise to the east and just visible against that darkened sky, sounded Taps. The heart-rending notes floated pure and soft in the cold breeze. Then another bugle player standing on a cliff's ledge to the west and silhouetted against the orange-red sky, joined in to echo and answer the first.
Liara pictured one as herself and the other Sarah, desperately searching for each other in the gathering darkness. Lonely, heart-broken, yearning for each other, but never to touch on this plane again. She lifted her eyes to the darkening sky and prayed to the Goddess to please let them meet in the next world.
As soon as the last note faded, the honor guard came forward around the casket, lifted the flag and folded it expertly as everyone watched in the ponderous silence. A moment later Master Gunnery Sergeant Mordin-Shepard knelt in front of Liara, offering the flag as a symbol of gratitude from the government and people of the Galactic Republic.
She reached out with trembling hands and took triangle folded flag and clutched it desperately to her breast as if it were all that remained of her love. Everything Sarah was, everything Liara felt was somehow wrapped tightly in that little triangle.
Still kneeling, Mordin-Shepard took her hand in his and caught her tear filled gaze with his own. "I never thanked her," he began in a voice unusually soft and laden with emotion, "for my life and for the rebirth of my people. So I thank you, the other half of her soul, with everything I am. I know no one could love her as you did, but she is truly in my heart every day."
Liara sobbed and sank to her knees as the pain, loneliness, heartbreak consumed her and she her soul felt pulled into a dark, swirling pool of hopelessness. As the dew soaked through her dress, she felt the hands of loved ones on her shoulders, heard their love-filled voices in the dark, but her control was gone. She felt so utterly alone knowing the greatest love she could ever have had was now forever kept from her in the next realm. Hope seemed to abandon her.
"I can never leave this place." She whispered. "I can never leave Sarah alone."
As the sun finally set behind the western ridge, she felt it. A light caress of love flitting across her spirit, her soul. It felt so familiar and comforting yet distant and remote. She lifted her head as the caress came again, easing her pain, filling her heart, restoring her hope.
She knew then that Sarah would always be with her no matter where she was. Always love her in this world and the next.