Monday, June 25, 2012

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.

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