Chapter 5: Cold Revelation

Edition 2.0

“George, stop watching football and go change!” Said his nagging wife Martha. General George Whitaker sat up from his living room recliner turned around and protested, “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”

Martha was busy in the kitchen. She was at the sink, cutting the thorns off a dozen roses she picked out of their back garden,

“A t-shirt and shorts! Really, is that what you want to greet your daughter’s fiancee in? George, we haven’t seen our daughter in two years,” Martha was a little sore that her only child decided to attend the university off world. In her mind it was bad enough that she left home, it was worse that she left orbit. For now, Martha couldn’t contain her excitement that her daughter Emily was on her way home. “Do you see what I’m wearing?” Martha asked him.

Whitaker turned around and looked at her with a blank stare, “It looks nice.”

“It looks nice!” She dropped her pair of clippers. “Good lord, George is that all you can say?” Martha wore the nicest dress in her wardrobe. It was a lightly colored floral print dress that matched the sunlit brightness of their warmly decorated home. Around her waist was a soft yellow colored ribbon, with a non-imposing bow tied on her right hip. “It looks NICE!” She continued. “George, turn off the tv and go put on your nice shirt and slacks.”

Whitaker obliged his wife, he turned off the tv and stood up from his chair, “I was going to get dressed, they’re not due for another hour,” he said.

“If it’s all the same to you, go get dressed now. You’re making me nervous. And for     two     years, all I’ve had were nerves while Emily’s off at school doing God know’s what, God know’s where,” Martha had to pause mid paragraph to catch her breath, “I just want today to be perfect.”

“I meant what I said Martha,” Whitaker said. He walked over, stood behind her and planted a kiss on her ear, “You want this day to be perfect, well you’re looking damn near it.”

Martha smiled and let out a rolling chuckle, “Don’t mess up my hair.” She said.

Whitaker backed away, hands in the air he walked slowly down the hall towards the bedroom, “You look-ed nice,” he said.

Martha smiled and shouted, “Get dressed already.”

A half hour later the doorbell rang. Whitaker had just finished pulling the knot tight on his maroon red tie;  he wore a nicely pressed black pinstriped shirt with grey slacks. Whitaker smiled in the mirror thinking, if his wife hadn’t asked him he’d be looking like a slob.

“They’re here!” Martha shouted from the kitchen. She was busy pulling the chicken casserole  out of the oven with only moments to spare. She hurriedly moved the dish to the dining room and set it in the middle of the decorated table which they used only for guests and holidays. “George are you ready yet?’

Whitaker stepped into the foyer, proudly patting his tightened stomach. A wide-eyed Martha looked over his appearance, “Well don’t you look strapping!” She said.

“I feel a little bit strapping too,” Whitaker tightened his waist-belt two notches.

“I’m proud of you,” She said, planting a quick kiss on his dimpled, bearded cheek.

The doorbell rang again.

“Oh, what’s wrong with me today,” Martha said, feeling a bit scatter-brained, “could you answer the door already!”

George stepped forward and pulled the nob. Standing on the welcome mat was his daughter Emily, a gorgeous looking young woman with medium length blonde hair. Looking evermore beautiful Emily wore a solid red dress for the occasion, “Emily!” Whitaker opened his arms wide for a hug.

His daughter jumped forward instantly into his arms, “Daddy!”

Whitaker squeezed her tight and kissed her forehead, “I missed you sweetheart.”

“I missed you too,” she said.

Emily stepped back and opened her arms again “And mom!” She said, expecting a hug.

But Martha looked flushed, paying no attention to her daughter.

“What’s wrong mom?” Emily asked.

Whitaker looked at the guest Emily brought, who stood patiently outside the threshold waiting for his introduction. “Emily, who is this young man you brought home? You know how I feel about you bringing strange men into the house. Hurry up and introduce us so he won’t be a stranger,” said Whitaker.

 Gracefully Emily waved her companion inside, “This is my fiancee Marcus.”

Marcus wore a finely tailored black suit and brought forth a bouquet of preserved turian flowers.  The flowers were blue and sprouted buds in threes from the same stems. Each flower had bell shaped petals like tulips and grew tall red stems. “How do you do sir?” Marcus said, extending his hand to Emily’s father.

Whitaker shook Marcus’ hand, “I’m thrilled, my Emily’s come home. Welcome, your name’s Marcus was it?”

“Yes sir, and what should I call you?” Marcus asked.

“My name’s George, but I feel like I know you already. After all Emily can’t stop talking about you. I’d be happy with you calling me Dad if you feel so inclined.”

“George it is then,” he said. Marcus could hardly contain his nerves.

Whitaker noticed Marcus’ hands shaking as he held the bouquet of flowers. “This is my wife Martha. Emily’s mother. Martha do you have a vase I could fetch to put the flowers in?”

Martha stood looking confused, “No,” she said shaking her head.

At the same time Marcus awkwardly introduced himself, “How do you do ma’am?” He said, extending his hand.

But Martha just stared at him.

“Martha are you ok?” Whitaker’s smile was fading.

“George,” she said looking only at Whitaker. “George, can we have a talk.”

“Sure,” he said flabbergasted.

“In private,” Martha insisted. She turned leaving the room.

“Would you excuse us for a moment,” Whitaker said hastily, following his wife to their bedroom. He walked into the room, his wife sat on the bed with a scrunched brow and a gaping jaw.

“What’s wrong Martha?” He asked, closing the door.

“You should know,” she muttered so low he couldn’t hear.

He moved closer, “I’m sorry I didn’t catch that,” he asked again, “What?”

She spoke up, “I said, you should know.”

“Know what?”

“He’s TURIAN!”

Whitaker flinched. His wife shouted the word like an insult. In the small one level home she could be heard all the way to the dining room.

“Keep it down Martha, they can hear you!”

She repeated herself louder, “HE’S A TURIAN!” By now she was very red in the face.

“What’s wrong with that?”

Martha felt indignant, “You of all people shouldn’t have to ask me that. You were there during the First Contact War!”

“Look, honey. The world has changed since then. You can’t-“

“Don’t ‘honey’ me!” She interrupted and broke into tears.

From the dining room, Emily and Marcus could hear her say, “You know my father and brother died in that war!”

Marcus felt very out of place. His flowers sat sadly dripping water on the dinner plate in front of him. He thought, if he wasn’t with Emily he’d have stood up and ran. He turned his head over to Emily who sat beside him holding his tense hand, “Maybe I should leave,” he said.

Emily reacted, “No, please stay.”

At that moment her dad started yelling,”Martha you’re way out of line! She’s our daughter, she’s a grown woman, she can love whoever she wants!”

Emily started to worry, “I’m sure when their argument blows over… we’ll have a nice meal.”

Marcus looked at the food, “You know I can’t eat that.”

“Yeah, I didn’t tell them,” Emily said feeling guilty for hiding the truth from her mother.

“Did you know how your mother would react?”

“No. I mean yes, but I pretended like it wouldn’t matter. I didn’t think once you were here that she’d scorn you to your face, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Marcus overheard more shouting in the background, “In her defense she didn’t,” Marcus said.

“No, of course she did,” Emily said ashamed, “she refused to shake your hand.”

Marcus said nothing.

“I was hoping,” Emily continued, “I was hoping my dad could help smooth it over.”

“He’s the same Marcus you were so thrilled to meet ten minutes ago. Martha he’s the same person,” Whitaker shouted from the bedroom.

“I think he’s trying his best to do that,” Marcus said.

“I should have warned them,” Emily said with remorse.

The word ‘them’ stood out to Marcus, “Your Dad didn’t know?”

“I didn’t want him to let it slip to Mom,” she said helplessly.

“I don’t think you’ve made his job any easier by keeping him in the dark,” Marcus said. By now his nose was bothering him, he sniffed the air, “Are those roses?”

Emily looked at the centerpiece on the table, “Yes, they’re from the back garden.”

“I’m allergic,” Marcus said turning his nose away, and breathing slowly.

From down the hallway they could hear the argument reach its peak when the bedroom door opened. Whitaker had the final words, “Martha that’s it. I’m drawing the line here, in my house! If they’re not welcome here, WE’RE leaving!”  He grabbed his wallet and keys from atop the dresser and stuffed them into his pockets. He picked up his blazer from atop the bedpost and marched out of the room, all while his wife Martha said, “Don’t you walk away from me!”

“Emily, Marcus. Get up, let’s go,” Whitaker said.

“Where to?” Emily and Marcus asked standing up in shock.

“I’m taking you out to dinner. My treat,” Whitaker said. He looked them both in the eyes, “If my future son in law isn’t welcome in my own home, then I’m not welcome either.”

Emily practically tackled him with a hug, “Thank you, Daddy!”

“Your mother’s reaction was horrible, wretched and deplorable; and I don’t mind her hearing that. Even though there’ll be hell to pay for me when I come home,” Then he turned to Marcus, “Seriously though, son. You deserved better than that. From me and my wife.”

Marcus was astonished, he didn’t know how to respond to his kindness, “Thank you sir,” was all he could say.

Whitaker took them both to dinner. He found a very nice, high-scale restaurant that served food for all races. Marcus’ rattled nerves finally settled down. Emily’s father turned out to be a very warm and open man. They even shared the same career; Marcus was a first rank officer in the turian military. Whitaker was immediately proud of him, and shared some of his best advice with the young man. His daughter had gotten along well too in the last two years at school. Emily studied at the embassy extension university on the Citadel. She was training to be an economic adviser and hoped to be one of the few ambassadors of Earth to the growing Galaxy. She had a job as the secretary to the Human Ambassador. She met Marcus during one of his regular stops at the Citadel when he had an assignment to deliver a message. Emily was there to greet him. They ended up chatting for an extended length of time while he waited to be seen. He had some shore leave and ended up asking her out to dinner. Since then, one date led to another and after 4 months he decided to propose. To which Whitaker whole heartily approved, no matter the fallout he would have with his wife. But 3 hours later he found himself back at home. He paid for an expensive dinner, costing about 400 credits. Even though earth was a popular tourist destination for other species, Turian food was still extremely expensive to acquire on Earth. But the high bill didn’t stop Whitaker from also paying for their hotel. In his mind Emily and Marcus should be staying at home. But it was all he could do to keep the peace. And now in the dark, walking toward the light coming from underneath his bedroom door he felt the cost of his night out would soon grow higher. As he might be spending the night in a hotel by himself.

Soon as he entered, “George,” his wife said who sat up in the bed holding a book in her lap.

“Martha,” He acknowledged standing in the door frame.

“Don’t think I’ll ever forget that you walked out on me,” she said.

“Martha. I don’t agree with you. And I never will. Not after tonight.”

Martha sighed, looked down at her feet and then back up at Whitaker, “Neither will I.”

“Then it appears we have a problem.”

“My daughter will NOT marry a Turian.”

“Our daughter can marry whoever she wants-”  his passions started stirring him up again. Whitaker calmed himself back down. “Martha, it was a great dinner. You should have been there,” he looked at her with disappointment in his face, “I sat down with the boy and had a long talk. He’s a good man.”

Martha lost her temper, “HE IS NOT A MAN!”

Whitaker couldn’t believe it. He never saw this side of her before.

“I’m sorry George. I promised myself I wouldn’t shout,” she said.

“I don’t know what to say Martha,” Whitaker said, “You’re wrong. You’re just dead wrong. I wish, I wish to god I could take what I know in my heart about him and share that with you.”

Those words stung with Martha. She’d sat at home alone, reliving the pain. They stole the life of her father and brother. Her mother had it worse, she had nothing left except her only daughter. Martha grieved and her pain became hatred, and the hatred grew inside of her. She never let on to how she really felt about the aliens, she never expected she’d have to, “I wish the same,” she said.

“Think of our daughter. Think of her future,” Whitaker said, “She loves him. And after tonight, I think I do too.” Whitaker sat on the bed and leaning over took Martha’s hands in his. “They’re going to get married. There’s nothing either of us can do now to stop it. I don’t want you to miss out on her wedding, and I don’t want her to miss her Mother on her wedding day.”

“I don’t like it,” she admitted, swallowing the frog in her throat. “But you’re right. I can’t stop her. But I still don’t like it.”

Whitaker let out his breath, “Martha, you remember how much I love you? When I first met you, I was smitten. Then I was crazy about you. Then I fell head over heals for you,” Martha sat there listening.

“The day I asked you to marry me was the happiest day of my life. I’d never been so nervous. But I asked you. Because I loved you with all my heart. And I love you the same today.”

Martha smiled.

“Can’t you imagine in any way, shape, or form, that Marcus feels the same for our daughter?”

Martha’s smile faded, “No. No I can’t.”

Those words dropped on Whitaker like a bomb. As an explosion detonated on the ground in front of him, Whitaker snapped out of memory and back into reality. The Reapers pressed harder on all sides, testing what remaining strength Anderson and Whitaker could force out of their bodies to survive.

***

“Colonel Carter, this is Anderson. I’m with Whitaker,” Anderson shouted over the noise of nearby howitzer artillery strikes.

“We’re not 2 kilometers from the base camp, south by southwest,” Anderson knew the direction by daybreak.

The sun was beginning to crack through the clouds of smoke in the new morning. It shown yellow through the thick sky. Through the altered, decimated city Anderson was beginning to recognize fallen landmarks and streets less tarnished by the Reaper’s touch. They ran their last mile as fast as they could trying to outrun the sound, Zip-Thump, Zip-Thump, of the charging banshees behind them. In spite of their effort, the sounds of the shrieking drew ever closer. The banshees were closing distance on them too fast. They were being slowed down, zig-zagging through wreckage from building to building, no matter how hard they pushed themselves they couldn’t outrun the sound.

“We’re diverting 3 tanks and a transport truck to your position. They’ll be there in a minute,” came the confirmation. But Anderson thought they may not have that time.

Dashing down the hallway of a deserted hospital the banshees popped into the hallway behind them, Anderson collapsed his assault rifle to his leg, Whitaker did the same. They couldn’t afford to have anything slowing them down. Not even to defend themselves. Both of them knew that behind the two banshees was a charging Reaper force too great for the two of them to fight on their own. They didn’t risk calling for help earlier because they feared drawing the Reaper forces at them, and they only called now because it was absolutely too late.

At full pace Anderson turned the corner to his right avoiding the dead end. His left leg extended the grip of his boot on the laminate floor below; slammed his knee, locked into position, he pushed off the ground and slams the left side of his body against the wall turning faster than his center of gravity could maintain and charged back into full stride, unfazed he bolted down the next hallway. Whitaker kept pace not two steps behind him.  Zip-Thump, Zip-Thump, the banshee screams turning the corner behind them; its prey just out of reach. At the end of the hallway before the exit in front, Anderson leapt at the door kicking it mid jump, slamming it wide open and crashing against the wall outside. A second later he landed on his feet back into stride.

“Base camp I can see the convoy!” He shouted in the daylight, the tanks stopped dead on the horizon. A small army of Reaper forces blocked their way in front of them.

“Shit,” said Whitaker, observing the large forces.

“Break left, we’ll find a way around them!” Anderson sprinted off diagonally toward a broken alleyway between two building on their left. Ever closer behind them, Zip-Thump, Zip-Thump, Zip-Thump.

***

 “Emily, how are you sweetheart? Are the boys ok?” Whitaker spoke to his daughter on vidcomm the day before.

“I’m fine dad, Lorik and Adrien are fine,” Emily spoke of her two sons. She and Marcus conceived through a fertility clinic that practiced careful genetic selection of compatible alleles between the species. The human genotype is particularly diverse among the species of sentient life in the galaxy and shared many traits viable for selection. With the aid of a Turian surrogate mother, Whitaker’s grandsons were born. In the last 5 years of their lives, Whitaker only saw them once.

“Send them my love,” Whitaker said.

“I will. They always love grandpapa.”

Whitaker smiled, “How’s your mom doing?”

Emily hesitated to mention, “She’s in a hotel.”

Whitaker made a joke dodging the issue, “Running up a steep bill, no doubt.”

Emily laughed, “I think so.”

“Did she at least stop by to say hello?” Whitaker asked.

Emily looked disappointed, “I think she was too afraid to.”

“She’s changed you know,”  Whitaker said on his wife’s behalf, “I told her she would and there isn’t a day that goes by that she doesn’t regret not going to your wedding.”

“I know dad. I’m glad that you were there” She said affectionately.

“I’m no saint and your mother’s no villain. She’s not at fault for what she believes. She’s got a lot of pain and I’m sure if she could, she’d be with you now.”

“I know dad. I don’t resent her either.”

Whitaker nodded in agreement.

Changing the subject he asked, “How’s my son-in-law?”

“Good, Marcus was deployed last night to one of Paleven’s moons. The boys are taking it hard. There’s been no contact with him and when he left he expected the worst. “

Whitaker put two and two together, “His mission is classified no doubt.”

Emily’s voice strained, “I hate it. I only want him to be safe.”

“Sweetheart, he needs you to stay strong for the sake of the boys. Try not to worry more than you can about him now. We’re in the service of the galaxy. It’s been that way for our family now across three generations. My father, myself and now Marcus. We serve a greater cause and when called, it is our honor to carry out our duty.”

Emily knew what that meant, honor unto death, “I love you daddy,” she said and her head sunk.

“I love you too. Keep your chin up. We’re gonna make the galaxy safe again, one way or another. I’ve got to go now, I’ve taken too much time already.”

“I love you,” she said again with finality.

“I love you too sweetheart.”

***

Anderson and Whitaker ran head first into a dead end. The long alleyway continued on through one twist and turn after another. Anderson wondered if they could turn around and make it around some other way but the approaching banshees cut off their only other exit. They were faced with climbing a 5 meter high retaining wall with small pile of overturned dumpsters to prop themselves onto.

“Come on climb the wall,” Anderson held up his palms insisting that the General go first. Whitaker wouldn’t have it, “You first. You’re stronger and can pull me up from the top,” he said making up an excuse.

Zip-Thump, Zip-Thump.

“That’s an order we don’t have much time,” Whitaker pressured Anderson to move. Anderson thought to overrule the order but on the ground an Alliance General outranks an Admiral. He climbed up onto Whitaker’s shoulders and reached the top of the wall with his fingertips. He pulled himself up straddling the wall. Sure enough the convoy was on the other side of the wall holding a battle with the Reaper horde at bay.

Zip-Thump, Zip-Thump, the banshees drew closer.

“Grab my hand,” Anderson reached down to grab Whitaker by the arm. He struggled to pull him up before the banshees appeared within sight.

“It’s too late,” Whitaker said and he pulled out his assault rifle drawing it on the two monsters behind them.

“Go Now David!” Whitaker shouted between firing off rounds as an order but Anderson reacted as well. From atop the wall he unloaded clip after clip of explosive rounds upon the approaching monsters. Whitaker charged in front of Anderson to draw their fire.

“Dammit George, do you have a death-wish?” David shouted. But Whitaker took down the first banshee and drew the fire of the other now 6 meters away the banshee paused to charge a biotic strike. Whitaker had no choice except to protect the one life, or they both would die.

“I’ve made my choice,” said Whitaker before he was knocked to the ground by the biotic blast.

The second banshee closed on him position Zip-Thump; now 3 meters away.  Zip-Thump; and it was on him. It grabbed Whitaker struggling from the ground. Anderson fired through the last of his clip on the monster’s head but the banshee remained unfazed raising Whitaker higher and higher slowly in the air kicking and gasping for air.

The last words of his daughter rang through his head, “I love you,” she said,  “daddy.” 

“George!” Anderson screamed; jumping down from the wall, he rolled to his feet and fired once more on the monster. Whitaker started coughing blood as it crushed him. With its other hand the banshee reached back with its fist and punched a hole through his stomach and dropped him. The banshee let out another scream staring into the face of Anderson meant to terrorize him. But Anderson was filled with rage instead.

Whitaker fell to the ground, mangled in a moment of silence and screams. He thought of his daughter ,”I love you too sweetheart.”

“NO!”  Anderson screamed back into the face of the monster. He dropped his combat rifle and pulled out his knife, he leaped high into the air onto the edge of the dumpster and off it in a quick turn facing the banshee at its neck height he jammed the knife in with all his force through the neck of the beast. He fell to the ground soon after, the banshee dropped dead behind him. Its head severed and dripping synthetic blood, rolled on the ground. Anderson returned to his feet, turned around and dropped to the side of his fallen comrade.

“George stay with me,” he popped out the medigel from his belt and quickly injected it into both Whitaker’s chest and legs. But Whitaker kept coughing up buckets of blood. He barely whispered out the word “stop.”

Anderson used the third medigel pack, “Don’t die, COME ON!” Anderson flinched when Whitaker coughed up blood in his face. “stop,” he repeated. A flush of emotion overwhelmed Anderson. One moment later Whitaker was dead. Anderson closed Whitaker’s eyes with two fingers, he pulled the dogtag from around his neck. He hadn’t a moment of silence when a cannibal marched out from the corner behind Anderson, the enemy fired a poorly aimed shot just missing him. Anderson jumped to his feet in rage and leapt upon the mutant, slicing into its head with his knife. 3 more cannibals followed; and 3 more dropped dead as Anderson slaughtered them all. When the last one fell Anderson stood there with the sun in his eyes, the knife in his hand dripping with the blood of reanimated alien corpses.

“There he is,” Cadet Mathews said. Spotting Anderson in the distance. He ran up with a small group of men and saluted the Admiral. Anderson declined the salute.

“You got here too late,” Anderson said.

“We got here as soon as we could,” Mathews explained.

“Did you hear me? You got here too late,” Anderson said.

“Where’s General Whitaker?” The Cadet asked.

Anderson shoved the rookie aside and walked past, off into the distance.

Chapter 6: London Crypt

Navigation: Chapter 1: Resistance Earth, Chapter 2: Grissom AcademyChapter 3: A Knife in The DarkChapter 4: Smoke and Shadows, Chapter 5: Cold Revelation, Chapter 6: London CryptChapter 7: Ghosts From Shadows PastChapter 8: SkyfallChapter 9: Apparatus DeusChapter 10: The Devil WithinChapter 11: Hades’ DogsChapter 12: TranshumanChapter 13: Phenomenon,  Chapter 14: AeonChapter 15: EndgamesChapter 16: FracturedChapter 17: ClosingEpilogue.

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