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.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sol Bulletin #27

The following is excerpted from issue #27 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 #27 was released twenty nine days after the Crucible fired.

Arcturus Command Reports Contact With Eden Prime Colony

Today Admiral Quwil of Arcturus Command sent word that elements of the advance force sent through the Arcturus-2 relay to the Exodus Cluster have successfully activated the Exodus relay and returned to Arcturus. Even more significantly, they report successful contact with the human colony of Eden Prime. For the first time since the Crucible fired, the Sol system is connected with another inhabited world.

The news was a welcome relief to sentients across Sol. Many ships were run by skeleton crews as impromptu inter-ship celebrations were announced on ships large enough to host them, and traffic to the Terminus fleets ships that have been serving as space-bound pleasure destinations rose dramatically. The milestone is more than symbolic. Eden Prime has an extensive agricultural base, and while some fighting took place during the war, infrastructure is largely intact. Eden Prime will probably be able to supply all levo-amino sentients in the various fleets with food for the foreseeable future.

Even while the celebrations continued, many fleets announced plans to relocate the bulk of their forces to either Arcturus or the Exodus Cluster, including the Asari, Salarians, and the ships of the Terminus Fleet. The tense political situation in Sol that likely accounts for these hasty re-deployments was reflected in a noted lack of jubilation among officials of the Earth-based governments. A spokeswoman for the Chinese People's Federation seem to captured the mood when she characterized the reconnection with Eden Prime as "good news for aliens" - the implication being, perhaps, that only bad news for non-humans would be viewed as good news on Earth in the current political climate. 

The Inter-species Summit did not meet today, for the first time since it was first called to order. Officials on both sides of the Earth/space divide seem relieved that the galaxy has suddenly gotten bigger again.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sol Bulletin #26

The following is excerpted from issue #26 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 #26 was released twenty eight days after the Crucible fired.

Second Persephone Broadcast Addresses Alleged Conspiracy, Shadow Broker

Today what seems to be a second Persephone broadcast went out on a widely-used civilian channel. It featured the same electronically disguised voice as the first broadcast, but originated not from Earth, but from within the Alliance fleet - seemingly from Commander Shepard's old ship, the SSV Normandy. A transcript of the broadcast is presented below:

"This is Persephone. To be precise, this is another member of the organization called Persephone. Kasumi Goto made our first broadcast in an effort to protect our member Miranda Lawson. Since her broadcast was clearly insufficient for that purpose, we intend to release more information in this second broadcast. If a third broadcast is necessary, still more information will be released.

"Ms. Lawson and Ms. Goto, as well as Khalisah al-Jilani, were arrested as part of a conspiracy between certain Alliance personnel, various individuals associated in one way or another with Jenna Shepard, and the infamous information broker known as the Shadow Broker. This conspiracy aims to conceal the current whereabouts of Commander Shepard, who survived the Battle of Earth and is presently recovering from the trauma of the war. Proof of this will be released to the Sol Bulletin publication for independent verification.

"I will now address the members of this conspiracy directly. We know you you are. We know Commander Shepard's current location. We even understand your motivations.  We believe that you have made a serious mistake, and we ask you to reconsider your course. We ask you to reconsider if this is really what Commander Shepard would want. However, we will take no further action against you if Ms. Lawson, Ms. Goto and Ms. al-Jilani are released.

"If they are not released, our next broadcast will begin revealing your identities. If our remaining members are targeted, the remainder of the Citadel security footage that was leaked when Ms. Goto was arrested will be released.

"The Shadow Broker, in particular, should be aware that we will not hesitate to unmask her.

"Shepard is the one person, more than anyone else, who brought the galaxy together against the Reapers. She is a unifier, and a symbol of unity. The conflict that your decision to hide her has created must end. We are not your enemies. I am not your enemy."

The Sol Bulletin can reveal that we have received additional information that seems to bear out Persephone's claims in this second broadcast. We will release it publicly as soon as it can be verified.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sol Bulletin #25

The following is excerpted from issue #25 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 #25 was released twenty seven days after the Crucible fired. 

Indoctrinated Individuals Found Near Reaper Remains, Evacuated to Luna

In the first confirmed case of Reaper indoctrination since an indoctrinated Asari destroyed two ships in the Arcturus Flotilla, two inhabitants of Mogadishu in United East Africa were taken into custody yesterday. The couple attacked their neighbors after reportedly living near a destroyed Reaper for some time.

The Sol Bulletin spoke to Ayana Dalmar, a resident of the same apartment building as the alleged assailants. "I heard yelling, not words, just noise - like a moan. They came out of their apartment. There were a few of us in the hallway - they'd been distributing food in the city center, and we all came home together - and they just came at us, moaning like that. They were refugees, the woman had told me about how they were living beside a Reaper wreck before the police made them leave, so we guessed what was happening right away." Dalmar and the other building residents took shelter in an apartment until local police arrived.

"They talked some," Dalmar said. "Not like the husks from when the Reapers were around. They just rambled, though - about the Reapers were gods and how everyone was going to die. I was around some people during the war who I think were getting indoctrinated. It's pretty much the way they sounded."

A statement from the United East African National Police confirmed that the couple - whose names have not been released - are believed to be indoctrinated. "They will be transferred into Alliance custody. The Alliance assures us they can be treated," said a spokesman.

"Scientists from the Crucible project have been working on the idea of treatment for the indoctrinated since before the Battle of Earth," said an Alliance spokesman in a separate statement. "We can't guarantee success. But we have some ideas for how to go about treatment."

Friday, June 1, 2012

Sol Bulletin adjacent: "The Paragon Conspiracy" twitter essay

The plotline of unruly Earth governments undermining the wider community reflects a pet theory of mine about the ME universe, by the way.

Namely, that the Alliance essentially seized power after the First Contact War, radically de-democratizing humanity's transition into space.

Think about it: the Alliance is like if NATO held parliamentary elections and announced they'd handle foreign policy for member nations.

Yes, there's a parliament, and elections matter, but (as we experience today), in large federations each vote matters less.

Money & influence matter more. So the people with those things jumped on the Alliance's popularity after Shanxi to lock out nat'l govs.

With the best of intentions! They ushered in a golden age. But they left Joe & Jane Public behind. Now, Joe & Jane are catching up.

Sol Bulletin #24

The following is excerpted from issue #24 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 #24 was released twenty six days after the Crucible fired.

Asari Justicar Killed Attempting To Escape Police Custody

Despite an eleventh hour compromise in the Inter-species Summit that would have delivered her to Systems Alliance jurisdiction, the Asari justicar known as Samara was killed today attempting to escape from UNAS military police. The Alliance personnel charged with relocating her to the fleet had actually touched down at the facility where Samara was being held when she reportedly used biotics to break out of her cell and began to fight her way toward the base perimeter. Images released by the UNAS military show a hole torn directly through a thick cement wall.

Samara went down fighting, and the UNAS is reporting that she killed 3 soldiers and wounded many more during her escape. Several eyewitness accounts contradict that number, however; one soldier who spoke to the Sol Bulletin on condition of anonymity estimated that at least 20 soldiers had died fighting Samara, with several times that seriously wounded.

Responses have varied across the Sol system, and camps that praise or decry Samara's action have sprung up in almost every fleet present in Sol. Admiral Zaal'Koris of the Migrant Fleet made a statement to express his sympathy with the loved ones of the soldiers who died, while his counterpart Admiral Han'Gerrel delivered a fiery invective in the Inter-species Summit protesting "the disrespect of our Asari allies" that he said characterized the incident. "It's less than 30 days since the Asari entered Sol and helped rescue Earth," Gerrel said. "I didn't realize humans had such short memories."

Alliance High Command issued a measured statement, expressing regret over the lost life on both sides and urging continued cooperation between Earth and the various fleets in Sol. The lack of a firm stance is widely suspected to belie a divide among Alliance leadership. Admiral Hackett, famous for his role in multilateral operations like Operation Sword or the Battle of the Citadel, has historically been extremely friendly to alien and extrasolar concerns, but not every member of his senior suborindates shares a similar disposition. Such a divide would mirror the opinions of rank-and-file Alliance soldiers.

Even the Asari response is far from unified. Matriarch Lidanya has already survived a vote-of-no-confidence from all Asari in Sol, via an electronic referendum, and is expected to face another today or tomorrow. Her opponents, however, come in equal numbers from the camp that says she should have taken a hard-line and extracted Samara by force, and from the opposing camp that says she should have worked closely with the UNAS from the start to avert the foreseeable consequences of Samara's escape attempt.

Only Earth-based governments presented a united front, with every government condeming Samara's actions and the lack of cooperation from the Asari government. Several nations, including the European Union and the Chinese People's Federation, are in the process of expelling Asari relief workers and soldiers. The UNAS has taken an even harder-line stance, and has ordered all aliens out of its territory immediately. Many aliens are being shuttled back to their fleets, but a general evacuation is pending attempts to negotiate with President Lisa Ford in the Inter-species Summit.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sol Bulletin #23

The following is excerpted from issue #23 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 #23 was released twenty five days after the Crucible fired.

Asari Justicar Arrested On Earth  

The Asari justicar responsible for the deaths of dozens of UNAS citizens in an anti-alien riot was arrested today on Earth by UNAS soldiers after a tense standoff with Asari commandos that almost ended in bloodshed. The justicar is currently in Alliance custody as debate over her fate rages in the Inter-species Summit and across the Sol system.

The justicar, known only as Samara, was located when UNAS military police responded to reports of a firefight in a devastated area outside New York City. An armed gang was apparently operating out of an evacuated housing complex, running a protection scam against local refugees and selling goods on the black market. Samara engaged gang members and had killed 9 of them by the time authorities responded.

The justicar refused to surrender to authorities, leading to a tense standoff that grew worse when a team of Asari commandos violated UNAS airspace to land their ship and deploy against the UNAS. The commandos and UNAS forces were reportedly on the verge of opening fire on each other when Samara agreed to surrender to the UNAS, averting a conflict. 

Samara's behavior is difficult for non-Asari to understand. Justicars operate according to a strict code of justice which they abide absolutely and to the letter. Justicars are trained to follow their code regardless of the consequences, whether that means their own death or - as in this case - a major diplomatic incident. In this case, Samara apparently decided that, under the circumstances, a part of her code requiring temporary cooperation with local authority, traditionally only invoked by Asari law enforcement, applied to UNAS forces.

An expert on Asari justicar the Sol Bulletin spoke to emphasized that Samara's cooperation is only temporary; after the first day, her detention will be unlawful under the code, and she will fight to the death for her freedom.

With the clock ticking, an intense debate took place in the Inter-Species Summit over Samara's fate. UNAS President Lisa Ford insisted that she will not be extradited and will be tried on Earth for the murder of UNAS citizens. Matriarch Lidanya said that the UNAS was not properly equipped to hold and try Samara, and that furthermore her trial on Earth would be an intolerable insult to the Asari people. She said that the Asari must take custody of Samara and will take responsibility for her good conduct while in Sol.

Representatives for the Systems Alliance, which technically has no jurisdiction on Earth, called for patience, suggesting Samara might be turned over to them temporarily while the issue is debated further. Perhaps ironically, the Geth and Quarians, whose personnel were rescued by Samara, were the loudest voices in the Summit supporting the Alliance's compromise proposal.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Dark Knight (twitter essay)

A twitter essay:
Watching The Dark Knight last night, it struck me: this movie is really well done, but did the plot really need to be this complicated?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sol Bulletin #22

The following is excerpted from issue #22 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 #22 was released twenty four days after the Crucible fired.

Sol Bulletin Exclusive: Recovered Video Shows Commander Shepard On The Citadel

Shortly after the arrest of Kasumi Goto, the rogue broadcaster who operated under the Persephone, the Sol Bulletin received an email, apparently written by Goto and programmed to send on a time-delay if she failed to check in and stop it. The email contained a video file attachment and claimed that the video in question was security footage from the Citadel that had been recovered by search-and-rescue teams and hidden by the Alliance.

Sol Bulletin reporters have spent the last several days investigating and attempting to verify this footage. We spoke to a number of video and data experts and asked them to confirm if this footage was indeed from the Citadel and whether or not it had been altered. All our experts agreed on the following basic information:

  1. The footage was marked as coming from the Citadel during the Battle of Earth.
  2. There was no reason to believe the time and place indicators had been altered.
  3. The footage had been enhanced for better audio and image quality.
  4. There was no reason to believe the audio or image content had been significantly altered.
All our experts emphasized that, in a galaxy of AI and quantum computing, no video can ever be 100% authenticated. However, none of them found anything to suggest that the footage you are about to watch has been in any way altered.

[Video not available in this archive.]

The video shows the meeting chamber of the Citadel Council. The image is grainy and slightly off-kilter. Standing on the dais reserved for Council petitioners is Commander Shepard, her face clearly visible, the N7 on her Alliance-blue armor plainly visible. She's in the middle of speaking, and seems to say (the audio is more degraded than the video) "-to end. It never ends." There's movement at the edge of the screen; a barely visible figure standing at the bottom of the dais replies, "Shepard, you've done the impossible over and over again. You saved my life... you-". 

The figure is apparently Quarian, and though a positive identification is impossible to make, the words "you saved my life" suggest that the figure might be Admiral Tali'Zorah vas Rannoch of the Migrant Fleet, who took part in Operation Hammer and whose history with Shepard is well-documented.

Admiral Zorah declined to comment for this story. So did Major Kaidan Alenko, who was with Shepard earlier in the Battle of Earth, and Garrus Vakarian, another of Shepard's known associates who has fought alongside Admiral Zorah. The Alliance responded to requests for comment by attempting to raid the Sol Bulletin offices in London, which had been preemptively relocated.

Twitter Essay: Feminine Monsters in Bioware games

Inspired by something posted by a twitter friend.

I've gotta say: I find the preponderance of horrifically feminine monsters in Bioware games - banshees, brood mothers - upsetting.

If a monster in a Bioware game is supposed to make you go "Oh god how awful!" it probably has exaggerated female sexual characteristics.

Granted, there are scary masculine things like Brutes or Abominations, but then they don't have huge dicks, do they?

I didn't love the brood mothers in DA for this reason, but it was easy to say, "well, it's one example." And then Banshees came along.

Masculine Bioware monsters are scary because alien or dangerous, while female monsters are scary because female.

Rant over, had to get it off my chest.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sol Bulletin #21

The following is excerpted from issue #21 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 #21 was released twenty three days after the Crucible fired.

Asari Biotic Attacks Human Rioters, Kills Over 40
Tension between humans and aliens on Earth exploded today as a crowd suddenly turned against a Geth/Quarian relief team in the city of Los Angeles. A team of Geth and Quarian engineers were working together to repair a damaged ground vehicle overpass, and a large crowd formed. What sparked the initial violence is unclear, but eyewitnesses report that a segment of the crowd suddenly rushed the team of Quarian marines providing security.

The Quarians discharged electrical weapons, which they had been issued by the Quarian fleet to use as non-lethal ordinance. However, these weapons, while relatively safe when used on suited Quarians, proved unexpectedly dangerous against unarmored humans. Thy halted initial the charge, but seriously injured several people and provoked the rest of the crowd, which advanced on the marines and started throwing stones and rubble. Disorder spread out from the worksite as well, as rioters began looting the damaged businesses and homes in the area.

Aircraft from the UNAS military scrambled to evacuate the engineers. Their arrival on the scene triggered another charge from the crowd; eyewitnesses say people in the crowd thought the aircraft were Quarian gunships. The Quarians discharged their electrical weapons again, but this time the crowd closed with them and started fighting hand-to-hand.

At this point events took an unexpected turn. Reportedly, an Asari biotic appeared on the scene and came to the aid of the Quarian marines. She biotically pulled several rioters out of the melee with the marines and sent several shockwaves into the crowd, allowing the marines to retreat to the evac ships. However, the Asari did not retreat; instead, she continued to advance into the crowd, creating shockwaves and setting off several biotic explosions. When rioters started to flee, she fired on them with an assault rifle.

Authorities are reporting 44 dead humans at the scene, all killed with either biotics or rifle fire. Two more humans died in hospital, both from electrical burns from the Quarians' weapons. Meanwhile, the Quarian marines sustained several serious injuries. Two were killed using improvised weapons before the marines were able to retreat.

Admiral Tali'Zorah, who represents the Migrant Fleet on the Inter-species Summit, deplored the violence and expressed her deep regret for "the terrible loss of life on what was supposed to be a mission of peace." However, Admiral Han'Gerrel took the unprecedented step of issuing his own statement, saying that "these thugs deserved what they got, and anyone who harms a Quarian anywhere in Sol will get the same." President Lisa Ford of the UNAS protested Gerrel's remarks, calling the Asari biotic "bad as a Reaper," and refusing to "apologize for the actions of UNAS citizens against aliens who show such a callous regard for human life."

Matriarch Lidanya of the Asari Fleet issued a brief statement in response to queries about the Asari biotic. "The Asari in question was a justicar acting in accordance with her religious beliefs. We will take responsibility for making sure that this tragic incident is not repeated."

Asari justicars are a small religious order with law enforcement powers inside Asari space. They enjoy a remarkable degree of authority and independence within their usual jurisdictions. Matriarch Lidanya made no comment on the justicar's current whereabouts or how exactly she came to Earth.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Twitter Essay on Avatar: the Last Airbender

Sorry, not a Sol Bulletin! I find something about tweets - literally the format of 140-character messages - oddly soothing, and sometimes I fire off an impromptu little essay about whatever's on my mind in 5-10 tweets. It's probably not the best way to use twitter, but I like it. Anyway, they tend to disappear in twitter, so I thought I might try capturing them here from time to time. Here's one now!

Since one of the appeals is that this format combats my native loquaciousness, I'm going to resist the urge to edit at all, even where something is unclear or could be explored further in a blog format.

One thing that's great about A:tLA is that the characters' nation has a profound influence on then. But this is rarely said explictly.

Aang's silliness comes straight out of being an Air Nomad. Katara's passion and Sokka's sense of duty are Water Tribe attributes.

Ditto Zuko's penchant for decisive action, rash mistakes and all. Ditto Toph's stubborn persistence.

But you just meet them as people. Sure, Katara's from the Water Tribe but nobody ever goes "Oh, those bleeding heart Water Tribe types."

You meet them as people, and then when you learn more about the history and culture of their nation, the pieces fall into place.

It makes the four elements seem like an underlying truth of the world, rather than a template applied to a cast by a trope-savvy creator.

Here endeth the lesson.

Yeah, and isn't Katara just great? She's super-great. But I have to admit Sokka is my favorite.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sol Bulletin #20

The following is excerpted from issue #20 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 #20 was released twenty two days after the Crucible fired.

Persephone Arrested On Independent Cruiser
The Alliance is reporting that the rogue operative known as Persephone has been arrested on Alpha, an independent cruiser that took part in Operation Sword as part of the so-called Terminus Fleet. "The Alliance received intelligence that Persephone was aboard Alpha," reported Alliance spokesman Commander Chris Larson. "At approximately 2300 hours Sol Standard Time, Alpha was sequestered by a wolf pack of Alliance frigates. A team of N7-rated marines boarded Alpha and successfully captured Persephone." Persephone - who Larson said Alliance officials had identified as Kasumi Goto, a high-tech thief with known Cerberus ties - was apparently renting quarters from one of Alpha's many part-owners.

Goto's arrest has led to a new focus on the complex status of Alpha and other Terminus ships in the delicate power-sharing arrangement in Sol. The Terminus Fleet is not represented in the Inter-species Summit, though it does have representatives with various military high commands. Larger Terminus ships like the Alpha have in certain cases begun to operate more as space stations than as vessels, receiving large amounts of incoming traffic and serving as lawless centers of black-market trade. The Summit has been unable to agree on a multilateral approach to these independent ships, while the various military commands have thus far been unwilling to commit to unilateral actions.

The captain of Alpha, the Salarian Kido Sayn, was allowed to address the Inter-species Summit to protest Goto's arrest. "The Alliance soldiers who attacked Alpha are criminals and they should be treated as such. The Alliance forced their way on board by threatening to kill anyone who resisted - or blow us out of space if we fired on their shuttles. It was an act of piracy against an independent ship, and it will not stand. The ships of the Terminus Fleet will not stand for this kind of treatment again."

Lieutenant James Vega, the N7 operative who led the team that arrested Goto, went before the Summit to defend his team's actions. He said they received intelligence regarding Goto's identity and location, and had to act immediately to prevent Goto from escaping as she did on Luna. He provided the Summit with the intelligence provided to the Alliance, including surveillance footage and com records that seem to tie Goto to the Persephone recording. When questioned, Lt. Vega declined to identify the source of the intelligence, citing operational security.

The Summit did not provide a joint comment on the affair. Matriarch Lidanya said that while she is glad Goto has been caught, she regretted the Alliance's heavy-handed approach. The Conclave of the Quarian Fleet issued a statement supporting the right of a captain to decide who is permitted aboard hir ship.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sol Bulletin #19

The following is excerpted from issue #19 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 #19 was released twenty one days after the Crucible fired.
Arcturus Command Reports First Ships Through Arcturus-2 Relay

A number of ships from all fleets jumped out of system today to reinforce Arcturus Command. The mobilization occurred following news that a task force had successfully traveled through the Arcturus-2 Relay to the Exodus Cluster.

"Admiral Quwil has accomplished his mission admirably," said Admiral Hackett on behalf of the Inter-species Summit. "The first ships left Arcturus 12 hours ahead of schedule. Those ships are jumping directly into the Utopia system, where they will hopefully make contact with Eden Prime." Hackett noted that, while the ships that left Arcturus come from all fleets in the Sol system, Systems Alliance vessels comprise a majority, in order to ease contact with the oft-attacked human colony.

The news was welcome across the Sol system, as representatives of the Summit warned that a shortage of food for levo-amino sentients was imminent. Lt. Kahlee Sanders of the Systems Alliance is part of a team tasked by the Summit with maximizing the efficient use of the food supply; she said in a press conference that the Sol system's food supply will last weeks, not months. "It's hard to give an exact number, especially with all the chaos on Earth," she said. "But our best guess is that we're looking at five to ten weeks before extreme rationing becomes necessary."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sol Bulletin #18

The following is excerpted from issue #18 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 #18 was released twenty days after the Crucible fired.

Sol Bulletin Speaks To Major Kaidan Alenko
With the quarantine lifted on the Arcturus Flotilla, all Flotilla ships have rejoined their regular fleets, including the Flotilla's famous flagship, the SSV Normandy. Normandy's current commanding officer, and the commander of the entire Arcturus Flotilla, is Major Kaidan Alenko of the Alliance Marine Corps.

Major Alenko very kindly agreed to speak to the Sol Bulletin about the mission to Arcturus.

SOL BULLETIN: Thank you for speaking with me, Major.

KAIDAN ALENKO: It's my pleasure.

SB: Can you describe how you felt when you heard that the Joyous had rammed the Manila?

KA: Wow, you don't waste time, do you? (long pause) It was pretty devastating, yeah. One minute, you think everything's fine, the next... And we had no idea what had happened. It seemed like it couldn't be real. I've lost soldiers under my command before, lost friends even, but this was something else.

SB: How did you carry on?

KA: Well, that's the job, isn't it? That's what we train for. I guess the training took over. I ordered all ships to break off the activation procedure and maintain station. It was automatic.

SB: How did you first learn about the footage from Joyous' blackbox?

KA: Samantha Traynor, Normandy's com officer, decrypted the flight recorder with... using the ship's computer. So she was the first one to see it, and then she showed it to me privately. It's confusing on first viewing - the angle's not good and the... the perpetrator isn't especially coherent. But we were both thinking the same thing.

SB: Indoctrination.

KA: Yeah.

SB: What did you do?

KA: I decided to share the information with the rest of the Flotilla. I informed the captains and asked them to inform their crews.

SB: Really?

KA: Sure. We were days away from activation and the loss of Manila and Joyous set the work back considerably. I couldn't have people looking over their shoulders wondering what had happened.

SB: You weren't worried about a panic?

KA: Of course I was, but I was mostly afraid there would be a panic if people thought there officers weren't telling them everything.

SB: Given that position, what do you make of the decision to quarantine the Flotilla on your return?

KA: It was a different situation. I only had to worry about a team of military professionals with a job to do. I'm glad the Summit eventually decided to make the information public, but they were right to be careful about how they did it.

SB: I see. Then let me ask you, what do you make of the mystery surrounding Commander Shepard's fate?

KA: The commander is missing in action. If you're insinuating...

SB: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to insinuate. Let me be direct. Were you ordered not to tell anyone what happened to Commander Shepard?

KA: (long pause) No.

SB: Do you know what happened to the Commander?

KA: Look, the fight on the Citadel was chaotic, I couldn't...

SB: The Citadel? (pause) So are you saying Commander Shepard was on the Citadel?

KA: No comment.

SB: Where was the Commander when you last...

KA: Thank you for your time.

SB: No, Major, thank you.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sol Bulletin #17

The following is excerpted from issue #17 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 #17 was released nineteen days after the Crucible fired.

Persephone Evades Arrest On Luna Despite Alliance Mobilization
Today saw a massive mobilization of Alliance marines on Luna. Residents reported seeing dozens of soldiers in both Aldrin City and Serenity in full tactical gear. A source in Alliance High Command, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the troops were deployed in an attempt to arrest the mysterious Persephone behind the broadcast from Earth several days ago. In that broadcast, Persephone disputed the Alliance's claims about Miranda Lawson and alleged that a conspiracy existed within the Alliance to obfuscate the fate of Commander Jenna Shepard.

Alliance High Command admitted that the troops were part of an effort to capture Persephone, and that the operation failed. Asked why so many troops were deployed, spokesman Lt. Daniel Lucas said that Persephone is a high priority for High Command. "As an associate of Lawson, Persephone may be a member of Cerberus, and is almost certainly Indoctrinated."

Lucas had no comment on Persephone's accusations regarding Lawson and Commander Shepard. He also declined to comment on how so many troops failed to capture one individual.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sol Bulletin #16

The following is excerpted from issue #16 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 #16 was released eighteen days after the Crucible fired.

Mob Attacks Quarian Relief Team in UNAS
A Quarian relief worker is in critical condition today after a mob assaulted his team in New York City. The attack occurred as the combined Geth and Quarian team was working to repair water infrastructure in the district of Brooklyn. A crowd formed, apparently under the impression that the relief workers had come to distribute food. When the team began working on the water main, a rumor spread that the team was polluting the drinking water with an Indoctrination agent of some kind.

"I don't know what they were doing with the water," said Harvey Kingsley, a Brooklyn resident who denied taking part in the attack. "Maybe nothing, maybe not. But they shouldn't be working on our water anyway. It should be humans. What if we get an alien disease or something?" (The odds of Quarians carrying a disease that would infect humans are infinitesimal.) Kingsley said he did not support the attack, but he also didn't want aliens in Brooklyn.

The crowd started throwing stones and rubble and one Quarian was struck with an improvised club, breaching his suit. The team was unarmed, and took shelter in a derelict building until an Alliance biotic detail assisting with rubble-clearing operations in the area arrived on the scene. They used biotic shockwaves to disperse the crowd, causing several minor injuries in the process, and escorted the Quarians out of the area.

Admiral Zorah of the Migrant Fleet took the lead in appealing for unity in the Inter-species Summit. "This is a difficult time for everyone. This was a terrible thing, and obviously we need to do more to protect our recovery teams and to reach out about our mission, but we're still committed to helping Earth."

However, President Lisa Ford of the United North American States objected to the deployment of more fleet troops to UNAS territory and criticized the Alliance biotics. "People are afraid. They've been through a lot. More alien and Alliance soldiers on the streets will only scare them. We need to reach them with patience, understanding, and help, not biotic shockwaves and threats to 'rip them apart.'"

Migrant fleet officials announced that the injured Quarian was in stable condition and expected to make a full recovery. The Geth with the team suffered no injuries and declined to leave New York City with the Quarians, pledging to continue supporting the relief effort.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sol Bulletin #15

The following is excerpted from issue #15 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 #15 was released seventeen days after the Crucible fired.

Arcturus Flotilla Rejoins Fleet; More Ships Sent to Arcturus
Today the Arcturus Flotilla was officially cleared to rejoin the other fleets in the Sol system. "We've spoken with every sentient in the Flotilla," said Admiral Hackett on behalf of the Inter-species Summit.

"Indoctrination isn't very well understood, but nobody showed any of the usual signs - no agitation, no mood swings, no hallucinations, no changes of behavior. We don't believe there were any Indoctrinated individuals left in the Flotilla, so we released the ships back to their usual fleets. The lack of Indoctrination suggests that going through the Relays isn't what caused Indoctrination aboard the frigate Joyous, so we're continuing with plans to activate more Relays and establish contact with the rest of the galaxy."

A large fleet of ships, mostly Alliance, Asari and Salarian, jumped through the Charon Relay, under the command of Admiral Quwil of the Salarian fleet. This is intended to be a semi-permanent force and has been dubbed Arcturus Command. Their first priority will be to activate the Arcturus 2 Relay - a Primary Relay that could reestablish contact with the Exodus Cluster.

Upon jumping through, Arcturus Command deployed a com buoy near the Arcturus Relay. The first message transmitted - "Arcturus Command reporting in. All ships safe, proceeding with mission" - may be the first FTL transmission since the Crucible fired.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sol Bulletin #14

The following is excerpted from issue #14 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 #14 was released sixteen days after the Crucible fired.  

"Persephone" Contests Alliance's Story on Miranda Lawson
Today a broadcast was made from a remote location on Earth on a frequency that's widely used for civilian ship-to-ship communication. The powerful audio-only broadcast featured an electronically disguised voice that made several allegations about the Alliance's arrest of Miranda Lawson, the woman who was arrested alongside Sol Bulletin reporter Khalisah al-Jilani several days ago.

 The broadcast opened with the cryptic pronouncement, "This is Persephone." "Persephone" then laid out their accusations against the Alliance. First, they claimed that Miranda Lawson played a heroic role in Operation Hammer, and was briefly being considered for a Star of Terra after the battle - making her Indoctrination seem highly unlikely. Second, they said that Lawson once worked for Cerberus, but left almost a year ago and has been actively hunted by Cerberus agents since. Third, they said that Lawson left Cerberus after taking part in Commander Shepard's attack on the Collectors, which was infamously sponsored by Cerberus.

These assertions, taken together, paint a very different picture of Lawson than the one presented by the Alliance. Persephone's final claim is the capstone: that Lawson was meeting with al-Jilani because she knew "where Shepard is" and wanted to publicize the information.

Alliance High Command has denied that Lawson was ever considered for decoration after the Battle of Earth, pointing out that only active-service military personnel are eligible for the Star of Terra. They denied all knowledge of Lawson having left Cerberus or served alongside Commander Shepard, and they dismissed as "ridiculous" the idea that they would try to prevent Lawson from publicizing information about Commander Shepard. "We want to know what happened to her too," said spokesman Lieutenant Daniel Lucas.

The Sol Bulletin can now reveal that we received a communications via Extranet moments before the broadcast started that purported to be from Persephone. The message revealed details of al-Jilani's correspondence with Lawson that were found by Sol Bulletin staff in her personal email after her arrest, details which were not shared with the public or authorities. Whoever Persephone is, they do have a legitimate connection with Lawson.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sol Bulletin #13

The following is excerpted from issue #13 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 #13 was released fifteen days after the Crucible fired. 

Renewed Focus on Disposal of Reaper Remains
Today saw frantic activity in near-Sol space, where the majority of ship-to-ship combat between the Reaper forces and the fleets comprising Operation Sword took place during the Battle of Earth. Following the discovery of at least one Indoctrinated person in the Arcturus Flotilla, disposing of Reaper wreckage has become the first priority for the fleets inhabiting the Sol system.

"The truth is there's a lot we don't know about Indoctrination. It is possible that even a dead Reaper can Indoctrinate," said Garrus Vakarian. Vakarian was formerly in charge of organizing Citadel search-and-rescue, an effort that was hastily abandoned after concern arose that rescue workers might be affected by Reaper tech on the station. Now, Vakarian has been put in charge of an ad hoc task force that is gathering and destroying Reaper wreckage in near-Earth orbit.

"It's pretty simple, really. We send out remotely controlled drones that latch onto Reaper fragments and accelerate them onto a trajectory that will take them onto Sol. Time consuming and dangerous, given what we're dealing with, but easy enough in principle."

Vakarian acknowledged that the problem of Reaper remains in space pales in comparison with the issue of wreckage on Earth. "We still aren't sure how to tackle that one. As far as we can tell every Reaper in Sol pretty much fell to pieces when the Crucible fired. The decision was made over my pay grade to at least deal with the easier part of the equation first, while we formulate a plan. The best advice I can give everyone on Earth is, stay away from Reaper tech."

Major Kaidan Alenko, commander of the Arcturus Flotilla, made a brief public broadcast from the command and control center onboard the SSV Normandy today, the first time any ships from the Flotilla have communicated on a public channel. He assured the sentients of Sol that no signs of Indoctrination have been found anywhere on the Flotilla and he's confident that all Flotilla ships will rejoin their respective fleets shortly. He praised the excellent work of every ship under his command, and expressed his deep admiration and regret for the crews of Joyous and Manila, the two ships destroyed by an Indoctrinated agent in the Arcturus system.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sol Bulletin #12

The following is excerpted from issue #12 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 #12 was released fourteen days after the Crucible fired. 

Chaos Erupts Across Earth In Wake of Indoctrination News
Panic erupted today in cities across Earth in the wake of renewed fears about Indoctrination. In London, there was a riot at an Alliance-run aid center. In New York City, a team of Quarian engineers was trapped inside a building by an angry crowd and had to be extracted by Alliance marines. Several cities, including Sydney, Shanghai and Cape Town, experienced widespread rioting which shattered police forces were unable to contain. Less severe protests and violent incidents occurred across the globe, as well.

Many observers blame the sudden outbreak of violence on renewed fears about Indoctrination. Following the devastation of the Arcturus Flotilla by a potentially-Indoctrinated Asari, tensions have been running high through out Sol. "People are nervous," said General Corinthus, a Turian officer deployed with troops to assist police forces in the European Union. "We saw a sharp increase in disturbances and calls two days ago. They atmosphere changed as well - you could feel it on the streets. The victory celebration was over."

However, Corinthus and others feel that the real trigger for the intense violence in many of Earth's cities was the arrest of Miranda Lawson on Luna, who the Alliance claims may be Indoctrinated. Much of the violence seems to have involved disputes over food, water, and other essential supplies. A Sol Bulletin reporter on the streets of Shanghai heard many variations of "I need to take care of my family" among looters in the downtown area, where a great deal of relief aid from the fleet was being stored.

Numerous marines from the Alliance fleet - as well as a number from the Asari and Turian fleets - are being redeployed to Earth to join the existing missions that are assisting terrestrial authorities. At the same time, however, the Inter-species Summit ordered a temporary halt in the transfer of food stores to Earth. "Food - especially food for levo-amino sentients - is one of our most precious resources," said Admiral Zhora on behalf of the Summit. "We want to do everything we can for our friends on Earth, but we can't keep sending food until the current situation is resolved and we know it will not be stolen or hoarded."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sol Bulletin #11

The following is excerpted from issue #11 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 #11 was released thirteen days after the Crucible fired. 

Sol Bulletin Journalist Arrested On Luna
Sol Bulletin reporter Khalisah al-Jilani was arrested today on Luna while pursuing the ongoing investigation of Commander Shepard. al-Jilani was taken into custody by Alliance marines while meeting with a source for an interview. The source, a woman named Miranda Lawson, was also taken into custody.

Alliance High Command claimed in a statement that Lawson is a member of Cerberus and may be Indoctrinated. They claim that they have reason to believe al-Jilani and Lawson were conspiring to undermine Alliance security in the Sol system. They said the evidence they have against al-Jilani and Lawson is classified and cannot be publicly released.

As of press time, the Sol Bulletin had not been permitted to speak with either al-Jilani or Lawson. We did speak to Satina Garang, owner of Moon Rocks, the cafe in Aldrin Base where al-Jilani and Lawson were arrested. "They didn't stick out or anything," she said. "Just two women having a business lunch. Although I recognized Miss al-Jilani, of course. The soldiers just came from everywhere all at once. I remember I poked my head into the kitchen for just a second, and when I turned around there were probably a dozen soldiers surrounding them, pointing guns and everything."

"They didn't fight, just put their hands up and went along with the soldiers, but Miss al-Jilani didn't let up shouting at them even while she was walking along. 'You can't do this, I'm a law-abiding journalist, I have every right to be here...' I heard her keep talking til they were out of sight."

The editors and staff of the Sol Bulletin stands behind Miss al-Jilani and will continue to make every effort to have her freed.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sol Bulletin #10

The following is excerpted from issue #10 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 #10 was released twelve days after the Crucible fired.

Betrayal Devastated Arcturus Flotilla; Was Indoctrination To Blame?
The Arcturus Flotilla remains outside the Oort cloud today, and is not responding to comms from civilian ships. After a marathon session, the Inter-species Summit finally commented on the Flotilla's status. President Lisa Ford of the UNAS, Urdnot Wrex of the Krogan forces, Matriarch Lidanya of the Asari fleet, and Admiral Hackett of the Systems Alliance appeared together in a broadcast made to the entire Sol system, each reading from the same prepared statement.

"Major Kaidan Alenko of the System Alliance broadcast his report on the outcome of the mission to Arcturus to Alliance High Command upon reentering the Sol system," President Ford said. "As previously agreed, that report was immediately shared with every Earth government and with each military high command in the Sol system. Major Alenko reported full success in restoring the Arcturus Relay. However, his report also noted the tragic loss of the Asari frigate Joyous and the Alliance cruiser Manila, and included several deeply troubling details surrounding the incident."

"Approximately thirty six hours after the Flotilla left Sol, Joyous made an unusual broadcast on an open channel." Urdnot Wrex continued. "The message was unintelligible, and Joyous stopped responding to communications. Alenko - I mean, Major Kaidan Alenko - placed the Flotilla on alert. Manila was near Joyous and moved closer to investigate. Joyous accelerated suddenly and moved to ram Manila, which was unable to avoid a collision. The impact destroyed both ships."

"Search-and-rescue operations were attempted, but no survivors were found," read Matriarch Lidanya. "However, Asari ships do contain flight recorders designed to survive even the ship's destruction. Joyous' recorder was discovered and its data included in Major Alenko's report. It includes security video footage of a commando assigned to the Joyous assaulting the command deck and killing the crew. The communications officer tried to signal the fleet for help, but was killed before she could complete the transmission. The assailant then sealed the command deck, took control of the helm, and, noticing Manila's approach, moved to ram the other ship."

"Based on the behavior of the assailant, and certain statements she made that were captured by the flight recorder," concluded Admiral Hackett, "it's possible that she was acting under the influence of Indoctrination. In light of this, the only known case of Indoctrination since the Reapers were destroyed, the Flotilla is being isolated so that its members can be screened to the best of our ability. Initial interviews are already underway. I'm afraid we have no information on how this particular individual might have become affected."

"On behalf of the Summit, please allow me to say to every sentient in Sol: stay calm. Obviously the possibility of Indoctrination outlasting the Reapers is deeply troubling. We are proactively making preparations to account for any number of scenarios. We will get to the bottom of this. And we will protect you."

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sol Bulletin #9

The following is excerpted from issue #9 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 #9 was released eleven days after the Crucible fired. 

Arcturus Flotilla Returns Through Charon Relay
The Arcturus Flotilla returned to the Sol system today, seven days after it first departed and five days after its predicted return. The Flotilla's flagship, the famous SSV Normandy, marked its return by broadcasting the message, "Welcome back to the galaxy, Sol. You're welcome." Celebrations matching the ebullient tone took place through out the Sol system in recognition of what Admiral Hackett called in a statement, "The first step toward restoring galactic civilization."

However, the festive mood was quickly dampened when observers noted the absence of two ships, the Asari frigate Joyous and the Alliance cruiser SSV Manila. The entire Flotilla moved beyond the Oort cloud at the edge of the Sol system and in what some experts say looks suspiciously like a quarantine procedure.

The Inter-species Summit began a closed-door meeting hours after the Flotilla's return. No explanation has yet been given for the missing ships or for their current station beyond the Oort cloud. Admiral Hackett did issue a brief statement on behalf of the Summit. He stated that the Flotilla's mission was a success and that it did not encounter any Reapers, active or otherwise. He confirmed that the Joyous and the Manila were both lost with all hands, but said that the Flotilla took no other casualties.

"I'm sorry, but we don't have all the details yet," he said. "We'll release them to you as they become available.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sol Bulletin #8

The following is excerpted from issue #8 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 #8 was released ten days after the Crucible fired.

Quarian Admiral Visits Earth As Relief Missions Begin
Today marked the first large-scale deployments of personnel from the various alien fleets to assist in the recovery efforts on Earth. Although every species made contributions – including even the aquatic Hanar, who sent a team that will assist in the repair of several undersea geothermal power plants – by far the largest deployments came from the Geth and Quarian fleets, which have the largest pools of much-needed technical talent.

Admiral Tali’Zorah vas Rannoch absented herself from the Inter-species Summit today in order to accompany the combined Geth/Quarian mission to Mexico City. She assisted the team in restoring 90% of the city’s power grid in one day, a feat that has restored electricity to millions for the first time since the Reaper’s first attacked. She also took time to meet with President Lisa Ford, and even to visit an elementary school and speak to the children.

“I’ve been lucky to serve on ships with many humans,” the Admiral told the press on her way off-world to return to the summit, “but today I got to see a new side of your people. You are not just the brave warriors and skilled professionals I have met out in the galaxy. You also come from a beautiful world, and raise beautiful children. My people’s greatest wish is that, someday soon, our children will live happy and healthy lives on our own homeworld. It is a great privilege for us to be able to help you restore such a life to your children."

Admiral Zorah downplayed reports of Quarian and Geth relief workers being met with suspicion and hostility by the local populace. “Most humans do not know very much about us, and the human history with the Geth is obviously very complicated. Our suits and the Geth platforms must seem strange to people who just spent several months fighting the Reapers. Things will get easier as we get to know each other better.”

Asked about her time with Commander Shepard, Admiral Zorah said the Commander was “one of the best people I‘ve ever met. Everyone on Earth should be proud of her accomplishments.” She declined to comment on Commander Shepard’s current well-being.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sol Bulletin #7

The following is excerpted from issue #7 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 #7 was released nine days after the Crucible fired.

This story is one of very few to appear in the Sol Bulletin with a byline. Before the Reaper War, Khalisah al-Jilani had a reputation as a "gotcha" journalist, a performer and pundit who focused more on embarrassing public figures to grab ratings and push a pro-human agenda than on getting at the truth. During and after the war, however, she put her investigative instincts and fierce intelligence to better use. At the time the Crucible fired, she had become respected for her ability to doggedly chase down a story and dedication to speaking truth to power.

The appearance of her name on this story is often interpreted as a deliberate choice by al-Jilani and her associates at the Sol Bulletin to add credibility to what they knew would be a controversial story. al-Jilani also had a history with Shepard, albeit a frequently contentious one, and it's possible she felt the need to put her name on this story due to its personal significance to her.

Special Report: The Fate Of Commander Shepard
By Khalisah al-Jilani

In the wake of the Battle of Earth, Shepard is undoubtedly the most celebrated name in the Sol System. Commander Jenna Shepard's remarkable military exploits are matched only by her diplomatic achievement in helping to form the galactic alliance that attacked Earth and activated the Crucible. It is perhaps surprising, then, that Shepard's fate in the Battle of Earth has remained a mystery - until now. The Sol Bulletin has collected circumstantial evidence that suggests that the Alliance may deliberately be hiding the truth about Commander Shepard's fate.

Alliance High Command currently lists Commander Shepard as missing in action, and they refuse to make any comment about her role in the Battle of Earth, claiming details of the operation are still classified. Nonetheless, based on eyewitness testimony, the Sol Bulletin has put together a rough outline of Shepard's movements during the conflict.

Though Shepard was nominally in command of the famous SSV Normandy, Shepard was a marine officer first, and it has been widely assumed that she was attached to Operation Hammer, not Operation Sword. The purpose of Hammer was to bring ground forces to the Beam, the transit the Reapers had set up between the Citadel and Earth, so that they could retake the Citadel and open its arms. The Crucible would then be able to interface with the Citadel in order to fire.

The Sol Bulletin spoke to many soldiers who took part in Hammer and eventually found Operations Chief Daniel Ogawa, an M35 Mako tank driver with the 12th Mobile Brigade. He says Shepard, in characteristic blue N7 armor, provided infantry support to his column. Ogawa reports that Commander Shepard was accompanied by a biotic in Alliance armor, who seemed well-known to the Commander - this was almost certainly Major Kaidan Alenko, currently commanding the Arcturus Flotilla - and an unknown Asari commando.

Ogawa's unit achieved their objective (albeit with heavy casualties) and, in conjunction with other heavy units, destroyed the Reaper guarding the Beam. Ogawa reports that Shepard then left the column with the rest of the infantry support, presumably to go to the forward rallying point where Admiral Andersen organized the final attack on the Beam - a desperate rush across a killing field under fire from several Reaper capital ships.

It is widely assumed that Shepard died like so many others on the killing field. However, some members of Hammer did reach the Beam and achieve their ultimate objective of opening the Citadel - obviously, since Hammer succeeded and the Crucible did fire. One of those soldiers, the "poster boy" most publicly celebrated by Alliance High Command after the battle, was Major Kaidan Alenko - Shepard's companion for the first stage of the battle.

Knowing that Shepard and Alenko were togther earlier suggests that Alenko might be able to shed light on the Commander's fate. Either she made it to the Beam with him and he would presumably know what had happened to her on the Citadel, or she did not and most likely fell to fire from the Reapers. Unfortunately, Major Alenko is unavailable for comment; he was put in command of the Arcturus Flotilla and is currently unreachable beyond the Charon Relay.

Though it went largely unremarked at the time, Alenko's appointment to this command was somewhat unusual. While a decorated and experienced officer, Alenko is part of the Alliance Marine Corps and has never had command of a ship. This is not to suggest that Alenko is necessarily unqualified: he does have other types of leadership experience as well as a technical background that makes him uniquely suited to the Flotilla's scientific mission. Nonetheless, there are any number of more obvious candidates in the various fleets stranded in Sol.

Is it a coincidence that one of the best sources for information about Commander Shepard was rushed out of the system on an assignment outside his area of expertise? And why does the Alliance High Command claim that events pertaining to Operation Hammer are classified once Commander Shepard's name is mentioned when every soldier the Sol Bulletin spoke to was happy to speak to press, never having been ordered issues otherwise? And, of course, what really happened to Commander Shepard?

The Sol Bulletin does not have answers to these questions. But we pledge not rest until we do.