Monday, June 25, 2012

Galaxy Bulletin, 3.17.2201

As the fleets that fought the Battle of Earth spread out further and further into the galaxy, the Sol Bulletin was rebranded as the Galaxy Bulletin to reflect the new breadth of its coverage.

The 3.17.2201 issue of the Galaxy Bulletin was published approximately fifteen years after the Crucible fired. It has been selected to close out this archive of Bulletin stories relevant to the end of the Reaper War not due to its significance on the galactic political stage or the intrigues of the Persephone Affair, but because it marks an important transition in the life of the woman who, sometimes unwillingly, found herself at the center of the galaxy's attempt to right itself at the close of the war. It is by no means the end of Shepard's story; but it is, perhaps, an end.
Thessia Commando School Opens Doors; Faculty Headed By Human War Hero

The Thessia Commando School, the first of the new military academies called for by the comprehensive military reform bill passed last year by a referendum of the Asari Republics, opens its doors today. Matriarch Aethyta, one of the bill's sponsors, issued a characteristically terse statement to mark the occasion. "This is just a beginning, but if we get enough of our girls in schools like these instead of wandering around joining merc bands maybe won't let the galaxy down quite so bad the next time they need us."

The academy will eventually offer courses in all fields of modern military theory and practice, including a full naval warfare program. For the first several years, however, it will focus solely on ground warfare, including such diverse fields as basic infantry tactics, biotic combat techniques and mech deployment and maintenance.

As required by the reform bill, the school will have a diverse faculty of experienced professionals from all across the galaxy. To head the faculty of this pilot school, Matriarch Aethyta has secured the legendary human war hero, retired Admiral Jenna Shepard, until recently of the Systems Alliance Navy.

"I'm greatly honored to be taking on a leadership role at the first Commando School," Shepard told the Galaxy Bulletin. "It's a good program and an overdue first step towards Asari military reform. I'm looking forward to coming to Thessia. My wife grew up there, and she's always wanted to return home." Dr. Liara T'Soni, Admiral Shepard's bondmate, will also serve part-time on the school's faculty, teaching intelligence analysis.

"This feels like a good next step," Shepard said. "After so many years trying to keep the galaxy spinning, preparing the next generation to continue the job is exactly what I want to be doing."

This has been a curated archive of the Sol Bulletin and Galaxy Bulletin. Thank you for reading.

Galaxy Bulletin, 6.14.2191

As the fleets that fought the Battle of Earth spread out further and further into the galaxy, the Sol Bulletin was rebranded as the Galaxy Bulletin to reflect the new breadth of its coverage.

The 6.14.2191 issue of the Galaxy Bulletin was published approximately five years after the Crucible fired. As part of a retrospective on the Reaper War and the Battle of Earth, this issue and the one preceding it contained excerpts from the first chapter of a new book, "Out Of Hell: The Battle of Earth and the Rise of Persephone". The book was about the early history of the organization known as Persephone, which by this time had become a powerful force in the Terminus Systems.

The entirety of what happened after Shepard chased her team off the Council dais has never been revealed. Generally, Shepard's squadmates haven't been willing to talk about it, while the woman herself has offered only the barest detail. The so-called Persephone videos - only the first of which was actually released by Persephone - provide only enough information to infer the general course of events, along with any number of tantalizing details.

What is known is this: unwilling to kill her, Shepard's team attempted to talk her down. This was her own squad from the SSV Normandy, sentients she'd known and fought beside for years, and Shepard was still in an early, transitional phase of indoctrination. Maybe they genuinely believed they could bring her back, maybe they just couldn't bring themselves to kill her. In any event, the task was complicated by the appearance of the Illusive Man, who, speaking from a hiding place in the chamber, dismissed her comrades' arguments and reinforced her indoctrinated behaviors.

But in the end, Shepard's resolve, bolstered by the support of friends and allies, proved stronger than her indoctrination, at least momentarily: feigning agreement with the Illusive Man, she lured him into the open and killed him herself. Her teammates charged up and opened the Citadel arms. The next moment is poignantly captured on the last of the Persephone videos; the footage shows Shepard slowly raise her pistol to her own head. Her whole team is momentarily focused on making sure the Citadel arms open, and nobody sees what Shepard is doing except for Dr. Liara T'Soni. Noticing almost too late, T'Soni raises her hands in a desperate precision biotic throw, which catches the pistol head on at the last possible moment and sends it flying across the Council chamber. Before Shepard can make another move, Dr. T'Soni catches her in a half-tackle, half-embrace.

The rest is, of course, a matter of historical record. The Citadel arms opened in the nick of time as the Seventh Fleet, facing the entire attention of every Reaper in the skies above Earth, began to collapse. The Crucible docked with the Presidium Tower and emitted a pulse that deactivated the Reapers in space and on the planet below, causing most of them to explosively self-destruct. A signal went out to the Charon Relay and from there through the entire Relay network, and the Reaper War was over.

The last survivors of the charge on the Beam - including the small team left behind to hold off Reaper forces at the top of the Presidium Tower elevator - were evacuated just as the Crucible fired by the SSV Normandy, whose alert pilot received word of the team's location through a dedicated channel between the team's custom combat mech and the Normandy's onboard VI.

But although the fighting was over, Shepard's troubles were just beginning. Back on board the Normandy, Shepard quickly lost control again. Her moods began shifting wildly, from manic delusion to violent aggression to deep depression. She was kept under guard and tried to fight her way out several times. She was the first to experience the now-familiar symptoms of post-Reaper indoctrination, the fiendish purpose of the wartime Reaper forces replaced with confusion, erratic violence and despair.

It was at this point that Shepard's friends and allies made a fateful decision. None of them have ever been willing to speak about it on the record. The Alliance, and probably the Turian Hierarchy and the government of the United Rannoch Peoples, must have some information, but each government denies all knowledge about the Shepard conspiracy. No (official) investigations were ever launched or consequences meted out to the participants, and the decision seems to have been made to let the matter rest.

Despite the lack of direct evidence, however, a great deal can be inferred from what followed. Fearing for Shepard's life if her condition was discovered, to say nothing of her legacy and reputation, the other survivors decided to hide her, and hide the truth about what happened in the Citadel Tower. The plan they decided on was this: corroborated by the loyal crew of the SSV Normandy, they would report Shepard as missing in action. Influential sentients like Major Kaidan Alenko, Admiral Tali'Zorah vas Rannoch and Garrus Vakarian of the Turian Hierarchy would use their pull with their own governments to keep the authorities from finding Shepard, while tech-savvy Normandy crewmembers reached out through backchannels, illicitly accessing, monitoring and altering Alliance databases to aid and hide their efforts. Somebody on board even leveraged a connection with the mysterious information dealer known as the Shadow Broker, who had secretly come to Sol for unknown reasons sometime prior to the battle, to aid in the deception.

While all this was going on, Dr. Liara T'Soni would take charge of Shepard herself, using her connections with the great minds of the Crucible Project to gather a team to look for a cure for Shepard's indoctrination.* She took Shepard to a small facility on Luna. Luna, less thoroughly devastated than Earth and with easier access to space, was the site of extremely aggressive construction as the fleets rushed to set up basic facilities to attend to some of their basic needs, and her project could blend in among the frantic activity there.

In this way, Shepard's allies created a small but extremely influential and well-hidden conspiracy. Through its prominent members and its backdoor access into the Alliance's systems, they were able to operate undetected. They even came up with contingencies to use the Alliance as a weapon against anyone investigating Shepard who got too close, the stories that could be told, and to whom, to have an individual detained indefinitely. The methods were unsavory, but they would also be temporary: once Shepard was restored to full health, the charade could be dropped.

The conspiracy to conceal Shepard made their plans quickly, but well. What they hadn't counted on was the tenacity of some of Shepard's allies outside their immediate circle. Where the conspiracy built their nest within the authority of the Alliance and the other governments, Shepard had other friends, including some acquired during her cooperation with Cerberus, accustomed to operating at the margins and subverting authority to their own ends.

And so the stage was set for the Persephone Affiar.

*Ultimately, of course, she was - more or less - successful. Victims of indoctrination are still not so much cured as successfully treated, and the side effects of some of the medications used in indoctrination theory frequently lead to other health complications. But the technique that Dr. T'Soni pioneered with Shepard in a small facility, funded by the Alliance but without Alliance High Command exactly knowing it, is still the basis for indoctrination treatment, and the first recipient has been able to go on to an active life of public service. 

Galaxy Bulletin, 6.13.2191

As the fleets that fought the Battle of Earth spread out further and further into the galaxy, the Sol Bulletin was rebranded as the Galaxy Bulletin to reflect the new breadth of its coverage.

The 6.13.2191 issue of the Galaxy Bulletin was published approximately five years after the Crucible fired. As part of a retrospective on the Reaper War and the Battle of Earth, this issue and the one following it contained excerpts from the first chapter of a new book, "Out Of Hell: The Battle of Earth and the Rise of Persephone". The book was about the early history of the organization known as Persephone, which by this time had become a powerful force in the Terminus Systems.

...In the end it was a very small force indeed that successfully reached the Beam and transited to the Citadel. They found themselves standing on the Presidium ring, which had already been extensively altered by the Reapers, so much as to be almost unrecognizable. The soldiers were effectively in a maze of Reaper construction, their only clue as to their position the sight of the Presidium Tower rising in the distance. To make matters worse, they were almost immediately engaged by Reaper slaves and surviving Cerberus troops - a distinction that was, by now, largely academic, as the Cerberus troops' Reaper implants had in many cases been expanded, creating new creatures not unlike Marauders.

Admiral David Anderson was one of the survivors of the charge on the Beam. Accustomed to quick tactical thinking after months of leading the resistance on Earth, he quickly took command and went on the offensive. The Admiral split his forces, a diverse group from a variety of units, mostly Alliance marines but including a cross section of the other species that took part in Hammer. He placed Commander Jenna Shepard in command of a small unit of the most elite troops, taking command of remaining the remaining force himself. Shepard was tasked with reaching the Tower and opening the Citadel's arms, while Anderson screened her and distracted the Reapers.

The Reaper fleet reacted quickly to the incursion on the Citadel just as they had to the charge on the Beam - but now they were fighting on three fronts, and the tempo of the space battle shifted. Several capital ships left to reinforce the Citadel, leaving a gap in the Reaper formation. The Destiny Ascension and its support ships moved into this position, drawing heavy fire but flanking a large force of Reaper destroyers. Caught between the Destiny Ascension and the dreadnoughts of the Alliance Sixth Fleet, four destroyers were destroyed in a matter of minutes. The Reaper fleet attempted to reposition, but was disrupted again when the Quarian Patrol Fleet successfully predicted their maneuver, flanking a capital ship with the Geth fleet. The capital ships dispatched to the Citadel were recalled. Meanwhile, the Crucible entered Sol via the Charon Relay, along with the allied forces' only significant reserve - the Turian Seventh Fleet, tasked with protecting the Crucible.

Fighting was fierce and confused aboard the Citadel. Shepard's force reached the Presidium Tower and succeeded in activating a lift, but only after taking heavy losses. They were down to the squad from the SSV Normandy, Shepard's own ship - an irregular force of Alliance marines and alien allies - and a handful of Krogan and Alliance marines. They held the lift for Anderson's unit, but could only watch as the last of Andersen's soldiers - and Anderson himself - were shot down within sight of the Tower. Shepard's team reached the pinnacle of the Presidium Tower without incident. A few soldiers stayed behind to hold the lift while Shepard and her own squad went to the Council chamber to take control of the Citadel, just as in the Battle of the Citadel several years earlier.

Operation Hammer had practically succeeded. Despite heavy losses, it was on the verge of achieving its main objective. But it was here, on the verge of victory, that Shepard had what has been termed a "breakdown." The term perhaps oversimplifies the immensely complicated process of indoctrination, but it does capture the abrupt change in Shepard's behavior rather well.

Psychologists and neurologists who study indoctrination have speculated about exactly what caused the sudden shift in Shepard's behavior. Some say it was the trauma of witnessing the death of Admiral Anderson, who had been Shepard's mentor before she became a Spectre and a friend ever since. Some suggest that returning to the sight of a former battle - Shepard had, after all, nearly died in the Battle of the Citadel - may have triggered a stress response and pushed Shepard over the edge. Still others say it was just the presence of so much Reaper technology on the Citadel.

Most likely, all of these and many other factors played a part. Regardless, the facts are these: Shepard's squad met no resistance, reached the Citadel override controls on the Council chamber dais, and sent the signal to bring in the Crucible. At this point, Shepard suddenly became erratic, even violent, forcing her squadmates to take cover as she held the dais alone, refusing to let them open the arms. It was a cruel reversal of her position during the Battle of the Citadel, when an indoctrinated Saren Arterius held the same position against Shepard.

Unaware of the new development, Operation Sword responded to the signal and began its last desperate phase. The ships already engaged began a reckless attack, breaking formation and closing to point blank range. Simultaneously, the entire Turian Seventh Fleet accompanied the Crucible in a risky short-range FTL jump, emerging on the edge of the battlespace. The ships of the Seventh Fleet screened the Crucible and made a beeline for the Citadel - even as it became clear the station's arms weren't opening as expected. Already committed, Sword had no choice but to carry on and hope for the best.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Galaxy Bulletin, 5.29.2187

As the fleets that fought the Battled of Earth spread out further and further into the galaxy, the Sol Bulletin was rebranded as the Galaxy Bulletin to reflect the new breadth of its coverage.

The 5.29.2187 issue of the Galaxy Bulletin was published approximately one year after the Crucible fired.

Palaven Named As Seat of New Council
Today the Interspecies Council announced its new permanent seat: the Turian homeworld of Palaven. “The old Council always looked to the Turian Hierarchy for protection,” said Dalatrass Narra, acting Salarian Councilor. “During the Reaper War they reminded the entire galaxy why. Between Turian strength and Turian honor, Palaven is undoubtedly the safest place in the galaxy for the new Council to meet.”

The announcement was cause for celebration on Palaven, one of several planets that have been lobbying to serve as home for the new Council. The final decision was made in a closed-door session, but the choice of a Turian planet over an Asari world – other strong possibilities included Thessia as well as several other Asari colonies – seems to be another sign of the Asari's decreased power on the new Council. Despite the devastation of Thessia and a number of other worlds, the Asari remain one of the wealthiest and most advanced species in the galaxy, but the Turians have emerged from the Reaper War as seemingly the most influential. Their active role in the war forged strong bonds with the Systems Alliance, Krogan Clans, and United Rannoch Peoples that are now paying off politically.

The Council will relocate from its temporary seat on the Alliance colony of Terra Nova within the next year. While all Council seats to date have officially been temporary, several Council members announced today that they will become their nations' permanent representatives. Urdnot Bakara will be the permanent Councilor for the Krogan Clans, and Admiral Shala’Raan vas Tonbay will represent the United Rannoch Peoples.

General Jenna Shepard of the Systems Alliance confirmed that she will be stepping down from the Council before the move to Palaven. Shepard’s ongoing health concerns have caused many to predict that her Council tenure would be brief. Her departure may pose a diplomatic conundrum for the Council: Shepard stepped into the role as part of a compromise between the Systems Alliance and the newly-formed United Nations of Earth. The UNE has suggested in the past that it will apply for separate membership in the Council after Shepard’s tenure, an almost entirely unprecedented event in Council history.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Galaxy Bulletin, 1.14.2187

The Sol Bulletin was originally intended as a temporary way for the survivors of the Battle of Earth to stay informed in the chaos following the firing of the Crucible. As time passed and more and more media outlets began running again - for instance, the Alliance News Network, which was back to running constant coverage less than two weeks after the Crucible fired - the editors and reporters of the Sol Bulletin considered closing up shop. 

However, the Sol Bulletin's independent reporting and willingness to keep publishing even under pressure from  the Alliance - for instance, after Khalisah al-Jilani was arrested, or after their London offices were raided following a rebroadcast of Persephone footage - had won them a loyal readership and an unexpected prominence in the nascent new galactic society. In the end, the publication continued to operate.

However, the name "Sol Bulletin," it was decided, had become a misnomer, as the majority of the Bulletin's reporting now took place outside the Sol system. The Bulletin was rebranded as the Galaxy Bulletin. The rebranding effort included a new numbering scheme based off of Earth standard dates.

The 1.14.2187 issue of the Galaxy Bulletin was published approximately six months after the Crucible fired.

Alliance Parliament Will Convene Without Earth Delegates

Alliance High Command and diplomats from various Earth-based governments announced today that the latest round of talks over elections for the Alliance Parliament have failed to resolve disagreements over the role of Earth-based governments. "The 'Earth First' proposal President Ford brought to the table is a violation of the Systems Alliance Charter. It's not acceptable to us," said Major Kaidan Alenko, head of the Alliance delegation to the negotiations. "National governments haven't had the power to directly assign their parliamentary delegations for decades. And the idea that certain parliamentary privileges would apply to Earth-based representatives is frankly ridiculous."

President Lisa Ford of the UNAS was equally dismissive in her statement. "The Alliance couldn't protect Earth during the Reaper War. They failed us. Now they want to go back to the same old system with the same people in charge. It's not acceptable. The people of Earth deserve better."

Major Alenko said colony and spacer elections will go forward and the Parliament will convene next month as planned, and operate to the best of its ability until arrangements for elections on Earth can be agreed upon. President Ford responded that Earth would recognize no Parliament without Earth-based delegates. 

Despite the apparent impasse, both Alenko and Ford emphasized that this was a temporary arrangement and negotiations would continue. Some analysts consider the end of these latest talks as de facto secession of Earth from the Alliance, however. After Ford and Alenko's statements, the Salarian Union announced that it would be opening separate diplomatic relationships with several Earth-based nations.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sol Bulletin #29

The following is excerpted from issue #29 of the Sol Bulletin, an ad hoc news sheet distributed electronically among survivors of the Battle of Earth in the chaotic period following the firing of the Crucible. Issue #29 was released thirty one days after the Crucible fired.

Fleets Withdraw From Luna; Shepard Speaks

Today the force of Asari, Geth and Turian warships assembled over Luna withdrew back to their respective fleets, after a nearly 24 hour standoff saw recently-friendly fleets locked in a standoff over Luna.

The combined fleet was deployed around Luna to pressure the Alliance into releasing war hero Commander Jenna Shepard, who was apparently being held in an Alliance facility on Luna's surface. The withdrawal followed a lengthy closed-door session of the Inter-species Summit, which met without any representatives from Earth due to their walk-out protest yesterday when it was first discovered that Commander Shepard was being held in an Alliance facility. By agreement in the Summit, Primarch Victus of the Turian Hierarchy was allowed to visit the Alliance's indoctrination treatment center and speak to Commander Shepard, who has apparently been living there since the Battle of Earth.

Following the visit, Primarch Victus issued a statement: "I am satisfied that Commander Shepard is not being held against her will and is being accorded the respect due to a sentient of her stature. The Inter-species Summit will continue to monitor the situation, but for the moment we're satisfied that she's alright." The Primarch pledged that an investigation into the affair would continue. "The Alliance will face a lot of hard questions about exactly what happened here."

Primarch Victus also presented a brief recorded video message from the Commander:

[Video not available in this archive]

Transcript follows:

"Hello, I'm Commander Shepard. I'm sorry that I haven't spoken to you before now. The truth is, I wasn't up to it after the battle. I had a lot of Reaper contact before and during the war. At the very end of the battle I was beginning to feel the effects of indoctrination. Fortunately I was with an exceptional team, and they completed the mission without me. Despite me.

"I want to say two things. First, I'm here, I'm safe, and the last thing I want anyone to do is fight because of me. We all stood together to fight the Reapers. A lot of people died to make that Alliance real. Don't throw it away now.

"Second, I'm ok. I was feeling the effects of indoctrination. Indoctrination is a spectrum - we've known that since before the Battle of the Citadel. At one end are the monsters the Reapers made out of our fallen soldiers and loved ones. At the other end are people affected by Reaper contact who are struggling with strange thoughts and feelings. If that's you, or you're afraid it might be - you don't have to live with it. You can get better. The people here can help you. They helped me.

"Thanks. That's all I wanted to say. That, and... it's late, and I'm sorry, but... we won. Thank you to everyone. Survivors on Earth, fighters in the fleets. Thank you."

The Sol Bulletin attempted to reach some of Shepard's known associates, such as Garrus Vakarian and Admiral Tali'Zorah, but located nobody who was willing to comment. Major Kaidan Alenko answered the Sol Bulletin's emails with a brief statement in which he implicitly confirmed he fought alongside Shepard on the Citadel: "I won't contradict the Commander's story. But I have to set one thing straight: we couldn't have done it without her, and I'm not being polite or making a point. I mean Hammer and Sword would have failed and the Crucible would never haved fired if not for what Shepard did up there."

Alliance High Command has not issued a statement and spokespeople refused to comment. The Alliance did, however, quietly and without fanfare release Miranda Lawson, Kasumi Goto and Khalisah al-Jilani from custody.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sol Bulletin #28

The following is excerpted from issue #28 of the Sol Bulletin, an ad hoc news sheet distributed electronically among survivors of the Battle of Earth in the chaotic period following the firing of the Crucible. Issue #28 was released thirty days after the Crucible fired.

Shepard Alive On Luna

A sparsely attended press conference called by the team that will attempt treatment of two indoctrinated individuals from Earth was the scene of unexpected drama today, when Commander Jenna Shepard surprised reporters and event staff by walking onstage and taking the podium.

The Commander was visibly unwell. She was pale and haggard and her hands shook as she stood before the small crowd of reporters. When she spoke, however, her voice had the firm and decided tone familiar across the galaxy from countless interviews and ubiquitous Alliance recruitment vids.

"I need to say something," the Commander said into the microphone. "Miranda Lawson and Kasumi Goto are good people. They're heroes. They should be released at once, or if they're really indoctrinated they should be sent here for treatment."

Reporters started to shout questions; some rushed forward toward the podium and had to be restrained by local police officers on hand at the event. Meanwhile, Commander Shepard was hurried out of the room by Dr. Liara T'Soni, the scientist scheduled to speak at the conference.

News of Shepard's brief appearance was at first met by widespread skepticism, but after a video taken by an alert journalist hit the extranet doubt was quickly replaced by rampant speculation. Local authorities on Luna denied any knowledge of the Commander's presence; Lt. Chris Larson, a spokesman for Alliance High Command, admitted that the Alliance had sponsored the indoctrination treatment program but denied that Command had known Commander Shepard was there.

Nobody from the indoctrination treatment team could not be reached for comment. Eyewitnesses noted that Shepard's arrival seemed to surprise Dr. T'Soni, but that Dr. T'Soni's speed in assisting the Commander offstage suggested she was not completely shocked.

An Alliance special forces team was deployed to the facility housing the team and has cordoned off the area. Nobody has been seen coming in or out since.

Shepard's sudden appearance, and the Alliance's apparent complicity in her disappearance, created a political firestorm. Representatives from Earth-based nations walked out of the Inter-species Summit in protest to what President Lisa Ford called "conspiratorial and frankly tyrranous behavior from our so-called friends in the Alliance." Meanwhile, the Asari, Turian and Geth fleets hastily cooperated to deploy a large force to close orbit over Luna. Primarch Victus explained the move on the floor of the Summit, saying all three fleets, together with the Krogan ground forces, were prepared to take drastic steps to rescue Commander Shepard from Alliance custody if her welfare seemed to be in any doubt.

Primarch Victus specifically called on the Quarians to join their newfound Turian and Geth allies, but the Quarian Admiralty Board is reportedly deadlocked on how to react to the new development

No official has been willing to comment on the question of what Commander Shepard is doing at an indoctrination treatment facility, or on whether Commander Shepard was or is indoctrinated.