Monday, June 25, 2012

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. 

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