BOOK ONE: INSURRECTION
CMDR JOHN SHEPARD: Earthborn, Colonist, War Hero
LT. CMDR JANE SHEPARD: Ruthless, Sole-Surviving Spacer
In the year 2148, explorers on Mars discovered the remains of an ancient spacefaring civilization. In the decades that followed, these mysterious artifacts revealed startling new technologies, enabling travel to the furthest stars. The basis for this incredible technology was a force that controlled the very fabric of space and time.
They called it the greatest discovery in human history.
The civilizations of the galaxy call it…
PRELUDE: IN THE NAME OF SHEPARD
Captain David Anderson had sat at his private terminal nearly all night. His eyes were weakening to the sting of lethargy, but time was running out. A decision needed to be made. He rubbed at his eyes and straightened his posture, returning his stare to the screen. He had already looked at several files, but none of the names were enough. None of these soldiers would be good enough. None of them would be the man for the job.
And he had already told them as much.
“Well, what about Shepard? He’d have our interests close at heart being Earthborn.”
This was the voice of Councilor Udina back on the Citadel pouring over the comm. inside the Captain’s office.
He had not considered that Udina would have suggested him. Shepard had always been tugging at the back of Anderson’s mind, and he had wanted to put his name forward, but he had not been sure that the councilor would have approved the choice.
Anderson didn’t even have to look at the profile in front of him. “Military service runs in the family. Both his parents were in the navy. His father, though, requested a post on Mindoir to raise him while Hannah traveled.”
The admiral, who was also present in the room via video comm. seemed to agree. “He proved himself during the Blitz. Held off enemy forces on the ground until reinforcements could arrive.”
“He’s the only reason Elysium is still standing,” added Anderson with a nod.
Then Udina chimed in. “But some of our sources say he never quite recovered from his father’s death.”
Anderson shook his head, frustrated. Anyone would carry the scars of seeing their parent die, but the massacre John Shepard had witnessed as an adolescent had surely caused more grief than most. Anderson often wondered if that was the reason John had enlisted so soon after the incident. “He knows how tough life can be. I’d call that an asset.” He hated referring to the death of Shepard’s father like some acceptable casualty--a slave raid was beyond acceptable--but Shepard already needed redeeming in Udina’s eyes, that was plain.
“Hmm, well we can’t question his courage,” said Udina, but he still did not sound convinced.
Anderson took that pause to make a bold move. “There’s always his sister,” he piped in, and it was clear through the immediate frowns on both Udina and Hackett’s faces that this was a bad idea. Anderson continued in their silence nonetheless. “She’s a spacer, like her mother. Lived aboard starships most of her life.”
When Hackett spoke it was with disdain. “She got most of her unit killed on Torfan. And she see saw her whole unit die on Akuze. She could have some serious emotional scars.”
Now that they were even discussing the possibility of either of the Shepards, however, Anderson was not about to back down from the fight so easily. “Every soldier has scars. Jane Shepard is a survivor.”
“Is that the kind of person we want protecting the galaxy?” pressured Udina.
Udina knew the Shepards were his favorites, but considering Admiral Hackett’s responses, he was certain the admiral seemed to have reservations just as he did. This made Anderson press the issue even harder. John and Jane Shepard were damn good soldiers, no matter their history. They had what every other candidate lacked. That rare quality that made people listen and believe in what they said.
John and Jane had experienced and lived through more than most at their ages, and somehow they had still been able to keep their attitudes in check. Even if Jane’s anger did flare now and again, she had never disobeyed an order, and she had never failed her CO. Where John had never been afraid to voice his views and bring his morals onto the table, Jane had sometimes questioned an order or requested to revert to a different plan of attack to get the job done. Neither had jeopardized the Alliance or the humans’ place in the galaxy, and they would never betray them. The Shepards would raise a voice before a gun.
“They’re the only kind of people who can protect the galaxy.”
Admiral Hackett’s head inclined only slightly. The admiral was aware of their service records, but not as thoroughly as Anderson. He had seen John’s name come up here and there for distinguished honors in his diplomatic approach, and he had also come across Jane’s on occasion when a dire situation had finally resulted in all the hostiles being arrested or annihilated. He had to trust Anderson’s judgment, knowing that he would not put forward a name in which he did not have complete faith.
“Which name should we put forth to the Council?” Anderson asked, directing his question to the admiral.
“They’re both equally qualified, and you know their tastes better than anyone,” replied Hackett, still indecisive. Finally, he reached the only conclusion that seemed to make any sense. “We’ll put both names forward and let the Council decide how to proceed.”
Anderson took a moment of pleasure from the dissatisfied tone in which Udina replied, “I’ll make the call.”
The councilor was not thrilled, but that did not matter. The comforts of one man would never matter in the long run. If humanity was to have a chance at even being considered as equals to their neighbors in the galaxy, it was a Shepard--and only Shepard--that mattered. No matter how the Council chose … together, they would bring stability.
Anderson was just glad it was not his name this time around.
She had thought of little else since the call from Anderson had come through a few days ago. Now, she stood on the observation deck of the SSV Normandy, the first ship to incorporate both human and turian design, the best ship in the Alliance, some had said. She could feel the hum of the engines beneath her feet. Having been raised on one ship or another her entire life, it was the most familiar and most comfortable feeling in the galaxy, so much so that it was almost strange to see Earth hanging like a glowing blue beacon out the viewport.
Jane Shepard had only been to Earth on a few occasions, and most of them had been at the behest of the Alliance, to accept medals or promotions. Most of her sightseeing had been done at the press of a button on her personal terminal. Data provided in this manner had been her tutor since a very young age, and most of her schooling had been done on her own time, or when her mother had instructed her. She had attended schools, but since she had always been on the move, following her mother from one posting to the next, she had always had little time to get comfortable with any routine that acquiring the necessary education expected of a child had only happened due to her unquenchable thirst for knowledge.
Unlike her brother, who had moved back to Earth after the death of their father, she did not know if she could ever live planet-side. She had fantasized about it when she had been younger, but now … the solid mass of the planet’s dirt under her feet … it just never felt quite right, and she was always happy when she was able to move on to the next mission, to the next destination. The journey was everything to her. Living in space her entire life had not taken away its marvel.
However, now they were finally on the move toward the mass relay, moving away from that beautiful yet still world and on to continue the journey. She watched with silent curiosity as the planet shrunk and erased Sol from view behind its northern hemisphere.
“I miss it, already,” came a voice from the doorway. She gritted her teeth as the older, better, wiser (and more widely spoken of) version of herself stepped up alongside her. She had rarely ever seen her brother with their lives so separated by their places in the Alliance, and this was going to be the first time that they would have ever worked the same mission together. What made matters worse for Jane was that she would be taking orders from him, without room for improvisation, most likely, with his by-the-book attitude.
“I prefer the hum of an engine under my feet,” said Jane. Her voice was deep for a woman, but her brother’s was a pleasant, sometimes nasal, tenor voice. Something she was sure had attracted plenty of women, whereas she usually seemed to scare men away. Not that she had ever had much to choose from anyway. Most of the men she knew were officers or politicians, and since fraternization was not allowed and she hated diplomats….
“Well, the air’s fresher,” John said, trying to pry a smile off his sister’s face, but it seemed his affectionate, brotherly jousting was not doing the trick.
She dryly replied, “Not really.” She wanted to continue with the technical jargon of how efficiently the air was recycled on a starship, but she knew John would not understand a word. He never was much of a tech geek. A soldier one hundred percent. She, on the other hand, had poured over every subject growing up and had learned at least base level everything. Jane smiled at the image of him struggling to even turn on his private terminal.
John mirrored her grin, thinking that their banter had brandished it, but when Jane noticed that look in his eye, the look of accomplishment, she erased it immediately and cursed herself for breaking. John, on the other hand, only smiled wider at her discontent … like any big brother.
He was a muscular man, with a firm jaw and intense blue eyes, and he had always kept his hair styled like any other grunt. Though, Jane thought perhaps he had recently shaved his head, for it looked like the hair was only just starting to thicken up again, leaving the short scar leading into his left hairline visible. He had never said much about the origin of the scar, only that it had happened on Mindoir … the place where their father had died.
Though, where she did not ask the details of his wounds, John had evaded the questions surrounding the marks on her cheek and through her right eyebrow. All he knew was that her complexion had been left relatively untouched by her profession … until Akuze. He loved his sister dearly and wondered why she avoided all his attempts in spending some of his R&R with her while she, too, had downtime. He wanted to know her beyond the service record to which he had access and the observations of their mother, with whom he rarely had opportunities to speak. Where were their younger days when they had called each other up to talk about colony or space life? Where was the loving sister he had known long ago?
Jane still loved her brother, though … she just did not have to like him anymore.
John pierced the silence with a mission update, the reason he had come in the first place. “We’ll be at the relay soon.”
I know, she wanted to say, feeling the tell-tale vibration in the floor, but she held her tongue. He was talking business now, she could hear it in his tone, and he was her superior after all.
“Anderson wants us suited up and ready to go once we’re through. I’ll meet you on the bridge.”
She noted how John was somehow allowed to dismiss rank with the captain, assuming some kind of casual link. “Yes, Commander,” said Jane in her deep, bitter voice.
She listened as John receded from the room, and found herself able to breathe again. She had been having a difficult time lately in keeping herself together. Torfan was only the most notable of her most recent disasters she had led men into, but one thing remained the same in all her endeavors.
Lieutenant Commander Jane Shepard never failed to get the job done.
She looked at her reflection in the viewport. Twenty-seven years … and already a long service record with the scars to show for it. She pursed her lips, unsure of how things would turn out on the upcoming shakedown run. For a split second she thought back on their parents as she looked herself over. And she wondered … why the unoriginal names? She had often wondered that. Why was she Jane and why did he have to be a John? Surely she was more individualistic than any Jane. Ashley … she could have been an Ashley.
She shook her head free of the slip into her curiosity and finger-tossed her unfailingly messy short red hair, stepping away from the viewport.
It was time to heed the call of the Alliance once more.