A 20th century satirist once wrote that God plays a game of His own devising, which from the perspective of the other players seem to be a complex game of poker, played in the dark, for infinite stakes.
I could have told him that in reality God plays a game of dice with the universe. With every roll of the ivory cubes lives change, and the world shifts. He was right about one thing though: the price that we paid for the game is infinite.
Paths are made or broken with one random roll of dice. Or the toss of a coin, on that night the AIs killed my parents. I huddled there in the dark, with my sisters, helpless and frightened, watching as the unfeeling monsters murdered two people I loved. And why? Because the the coin turned up tails. I still have the scar on my hand where my sister bit me. But the deepest scar ran deep inside myself, manifesting in every single nightmare.
Unknown to me, God handed me one of my life's dice that night. Not many receive that dubious honour at such an early age. Some, never even once in their lifetime, preferring to abdicate responsibility for it. At the tender age of 12 I was not only responsible for my life, but my sisters' lives as well. I became their mother and father, protector and provider.
My destiny as a Marine was already set when I was born, but not the path to it. With every decision I made in my life, I threw my dice, and made a difference.
I don't believe in forever. I know only too well how everything could be taken away, no matter how secure your life seem to be at that moment. That was why I couldn't accept John's proposal. The future isn't written in stone. Sometimes, alone and lonely, I regret my decision, especially after John was killed by 'Chiggy von Richtofen'. Who knows, maybe I could have had a chance at leading an almost 'normal' life. But if had I married him, I probably wouldn't have joined the Marine Corps, a dream I have had since childhood.
It was time to roll the dice.
I joined the Marines because I was born into it. I truly believe in it, unlike Nathan, for whom the Corps is his vorpal sword to rescue Kylen. And maybe, deep in my heart, I was running away from the responsibility of taking care of someone else's life. But I should have known that I couldn't escape. Not when I became the honcho of the 58th squadron, the Wildcards.
United we stand, divided we fall.
We were not only friends and squadron mates: the war tied our lives together. We watched each other's sixes, and more than once they, Nathan especially, helped me through my dark times, as I did for them. I am in command, and it is my responsibility.
I once asked someone what he thought of in the dark. He thought of the first man he killed. I have nightmares. Before the 58th entered my life, my nightmares were mostly recollections of the fateful night my parents died. But now, I dream that they died along with my parents.
The sheer enormity of my duty as head honcho broke me once on Demios. I lied to them about the broken radio to protect them, and I knew I did the right thing. But they couldn't accept it. Cooper called me a liar. I broke down then, and told them that it was a relief not to be in command anymore. In a way, it was a relief. I was no longer responsible for their lives, and if we were caught in the line of fire, I would no longer feel so helpless, so hurt, when they died under my command.
Sometimes, in my nightmares, I died too.
I was angry when my sister named her baby with the name I wanted for my daughter. I was not so ready to give up my dreams of love and family. Later though, I realised that I was where I wanted to be, where I belonged: The Marine Corps. The war may kill me tomorrow, but that's the way my life is. I could never be content with the lives my sisters lead.
Lt. Colonel McQueen said to me, "You either come back, or you don't." As the war dragged on, I accepted that. But while I live, I'll damn well make sure that I fulfill my duty. I have come to terms with the decisions I made, for better or worse. And for now, the die is cast.
My name is Captain Shane Autumn Vansen. I was born and bred a Marine, and as a Marine will I die.