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.

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