unconquerable s o u l
From the moment you were born, it seems that your destiny has always been tied with your family. You hail from a long line of soldiers, well-respected and proud to serve.
Well, your family name is hardly respected by the time you make your big entrance into the universe.
It all starts with Grandpa Williams. General Williams, infamously known as the first human to surrender to aliens, tainted the Williams family name for generations to come. Stripped of his rank and disgraced, he came to Earth in shackles and was shoved behind a desk to do paperwork for the rest of his life.
The sins of the father are passed on to the son, otherwise known as your father.
A proud family man who passed on his love of God and poetry to you, he adored all four of his daughters. You were the eldest, followed by Abby, Lynn, and Sarah. As oldest, you were something akin to a second mom to your sisters, as your father was enlisted into the military and frequently deployed. Still, your parents made sure the four of you knew how to take care of yourselves, and thus got you into self-defense training classes. You felt as if they were a perfect introduction to what life was like out in the military.
Dad was your idol. You loved your mother immensely, but you aspired to be just like your father. Even at a young age when you didn’t quite understand them, you tried to get into the poems he was oh so passionate about. Works by Tennyson soon became engraved into your head, and before you knew it, poetry was one of the few ways you felt you could genuinely express yourself.
Your father was a hardworking soldier, but he was a Williams. Of course he could never get to a higher rank than Serviceman third class. You knew damn well that he deserved better treatment than that, but he never did, all because his father was labeled a goddamned coward.
You were crushed when he died. Even if you found some comfort in believing he was in a better place, you wished that he was still alive, right by your side, telling you that everything was going to be fine. A smile stapled onto his face even as the world around him fell apart meant everything to you, and it was hard to wake up and realize that it was gone forever. Some of his favorite poems were stained by tears you cried while reading them in hopes of coping with his death. Water-damaged pages were the only witnesses to your sobbing and frantic prayers for some semblance of grief acceptance; with Dad gone, you had to be there for your sisters more than ever, and you refused to let them see you cry.
Straight out of high school, you picked up a service rifle and never looked back. Military life was essentially the family business, so it was only understandable that you’d be part of the marines. Even if your grandfather had made it so much harder for you to get anywhere in your military career, you’d be sure to do better than your best. Blood, sweat, and tears were poured into every little thing you did just to prove that you were more than just a tainted family name.
Your body had a habit of pushing back at you for giving it more than your all. Muscles screeched out frail whimpers of “uncle” in hopes that you would stop exerting yourself so much, but you ignored them. You had to. It was all you could do to show that you were better than the best and then some.
Hard work paid off. People noticed how much effort you put in everything you did. They saw how you treated your squadmates as if they were your family, how willing you were to put your life on the line just to make sure they got out of a tight spot safely. Your peers looked up to you as a leader, and you even saw a few promotions come your way… until you reached the rank of Gunnery Chief.
You were constantly planted onto firm soil and stuck with performing useless ground missions, yet you yearned to be up with the stars and standing proudly with a crew on a shipboard. That’s where the best of the best went. Again and again and again you requested to be transferred onto a ship, but each time your request was denied without explanation.
You didn’t need an explanation. You knew why you weren’t being transferred. You knew why you didn’t earn any more promotions. You were still a Williams, and it felt as though nothing you did was ever going to get the higher-ups to see you as anything more than a disaster waiting to happen. A taste of real action was unlikely to ever come your way.
Or so you thought.
One of your assignments was on a little colony planet called “Eden Prime.”
You, the squad leader of Unit 212, and your team were assigned to do some recon. An ancient relic had been unearthed, a beacon of some sort, and the 212 needed to retrieve it. You weren’t the only ones looking for this strange object. Synthetic lifeforms, “geth,” also had a strong interest in it. Geth weren’t really known for being a friendly, talkative bunch. No, they were more of a “kill all organics in our way” sort.
You witnessed the death of your entire team. One by one, they were slaughtered mercilessly, leaving you as the sole survivor. You should have been faster, you should have been more alert, you should have went out of your way to sacrifice yourself for Serviceman Bhatia, you should have saved all of your squad or you should have died with the rest of them, because without your team, you were nothing. You were a failure, and every organism in the universe would look at you and say “you’re just as bad as General Williams.” You let down your squad. You let yourself down.
With danger surrounding you, you had no time to wallow in your own self-pity. You had to find a way to survive. You had to convince yourself that your fallen comrades would have wanted you to keep living, to stick it to those geth bastards. You held off geth for some time, and then a pair of saviors came your way in the forms of Commander John Shepard and Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko. You gave them a rundown of what happened, and they recruited you into their small party so that the three of you could recover the beacon.
You pieced together that a rogue Spectre, an alien named Saren, was behind the geth attack, and he was looking to take the beacon for himself. Luckily, you and your crew got to the beacon first. Not so luckily, Shepard got a little too close to the beacon, and it… printed something into his brain. A vision, or something. You weren’t sure, but you sure didn’t hesitate in hauling his ass all the way back to his ship: the Normandy.
Upon your arrival, it was decided that you would be transferred to work alongside the Normandy’s crew. Your old squad was gone, and you got along swimmingly with both Shepard and Alenko, so you didn’t have too much of an issue with it. Together, you were going to get to the bottom of what in the hell Saren was up to.
Along the way, you ended up having a ragtag bunch of crew members all working together to stop Saren. A handful of aliens dedicated themselves to helping take down Saren. Honestly? You were quite surprised by this. Never in a million years would you have guessed that nonhuman species would rally to a cause primarily led by humans. At first, you were suspicious of them. You were certain that at the first sign of trouble, they’d leave their human allies behind and leave you to die, but gradually, you realized that wasn’t the case.
You learned to call them your friends, trusted allies that you could depend on. Even when times got tough, you all figured out how to work together, and you started to realize that maybe you were a bit too snap with your judgments on others.
Mortality is a funny thing. You always believed in God and heaven and hell and purgatory sandwiched in there somewhere. You always accepted that the moment you don your uniform, you may be buried in it. Yet, there’s a finality to death that scared you. There was a lingering fear in your heart that when you died, your soul would go nowhere. There was still so much for you to see, so much for you to do. You were not even thirty and yet you were expected to come to grips with the fact that death could quite literally be on your doorstep.
It’s not until you were sitting beside a bomb when you truly realized that your life may very well end soon.
Shepard’s journey to stop Saren led you to the planet Virmire, and it’s there where you absolutely had to destroy his headquarters. You poured blood, sweat, and tears into stopping Saren, and you weren’t about to give up now. A bomb was set up to detonate the base, and it was you who was assigned to make sure that happened. Even as geth swarmed towards you, you held them off and made sure that bomb wasn’t destroyed in the process.
You were going to make sure that bomb went off, even if it meant you were going to lose your life after initiating the nuke sequence.
Your fellow comrade-in-arms Kaidan was assigned to fight off geth at an AA tower, and you heard radio chatter about how he too was fighting off swarms of geth. You quickly realized that only one of you was going to make it out of this mess, and you volunteered Kaidan to be the survivor. He insisted that you be the one to be saved instead. In the end, it was Shepard’s call to pick who lived and who died.
Even though you told him to save Kaidan over you, even though you knew he was making the right choice, there was still a sinking in your heart when you heard him say that he’s going to save Alenko.
You told Shepard you understood his decision. Kaidan’s a good guy, and he’s your superior in rank. He should have been saved over you, and you’re glad that you were the one left behind.
You wouldn’t go down without a fight. You fired your rifle at geth left and right until you ran out of rounds. It was a surreal moment when you heard the beep, beep, beep of the bomb sitting right behind you as you shut your eyes and winced, expecting to hear a loud explosion emerge and engulf you in a heat to rival the lowest levels of hell.
Maybe, just maybe, your death would finally redeem the Williams family name. It’s the only comforting thought you could reach out to as your limited time reaches an end: that you’ve finally done something that people would notice in your career.
...But the explosion never comes.
V. TO KINGDOM COME
The halt of incessant beeping immediately tells you that there’s something wrong. Your brown eyes blink open and you’re not in Virmire anymore. You’re not crowded by geth, nor is there any bomb behind you. You still have your rifle clutched in your hands though, and your armor still plates your body. That’s about the only sense of familiarity you have, though. Replacing geth are people staring at you, wondering what you’re doing on the floor. You ask someone what the hell is going on, and they tell you you’re in the Capitol. Those words mean next to nothing to you.
You ask and beg for explanations, some sort of reasoning from science or faith, but the only thing anyone ever tells you is that there’s no way you can return to wherever you’re from. The only conclusion you can come to is that you must be in the afterlife, though who knows if you can truly call it heaven or hell.
You quietly learn to embrace this strange life you’ve found yourself in. You end up living in Terminus, perhaps the most familiar sector you’re exposed to, and you try to enjoy yourself, but there’s something about hearing the words “Officer Williams” that makes you feel like you don’t quite belong.
You’re not sure you'll ever really get used to living here.