A/N: Turns out one of my readers, AlsoKnownAsMatt, wanted to see the Emily Wong interview.
Gave me an idea. I'll be doing a series of the ANN interviews throughout the works, mostly with Emily Wong, as a kind of side piece where they don't fit into the main story.
These will be different than the Westerlund News transcripts in the main story in that they are actually stories, not merely textual descriptions.
DOWNLOADING: Data feed, prime broadcast segment 493
Direct recording dump 996-tertiary omega, classified rating [ALPHA]
This is an official Systems Alliance data capture dump, replication or rebroadcast is restricted.
"Good evening. I'm Emily Wong, with Alliance News Network, and this is the Evening Talk."
Wong smiled at the camera, dressed in a conservative grey pantsuit with black trim, a soft grey blouse under that, her short-cut hair bobbed. The backdrop, an image of the Vancouver skyline was matte-painted on a curved wall behind her, with haptic projections of small ships and the ANN logo displayed on it.
She raised her voice slightly, faintly smiling. "Tonight we have an extremely honored guest, a person who not only has been critical in recent galactic affairs, but who is one of the most inspiring people in the Systems Alliance." She half turned to face the woman facing her in turn.
"It is with great pleasure that I wish to introduce Baroness Sara Ying Shepard, Knight Protector of the Knights of United Earth, Major-Commander of the Systems Alliance Battlegroup Chiron, and humanity's first Spectre. Welcome, milady."
Shepard took a deep breath and nodded. "I am glad to be here, Ms. Wong." The famous Butcher of Torfan was wearing an immaculate dress uniform, her many valorous decorations arranged in a neat block on her left chest, and her dark hair and dusky skin was only highlighted by the bright scarlet ribbon of the Star of Terra around her neck. She gave a thin, humorless smile, eyes flat and cool.
Emily leaned back slightly. "I am sure that there are many questions people would like to ask you, but before we get started in the interview properly, I understand you wish to make an announcement?"
Shepard nodded, turning to face the camera. "Yes, I would. I understand these sorts of things are usually done somewhat differently, but I would rather just get it out of the way. Tomorrow morning, at 9 AM upon the estates of House von Grath, I will be entering into marriage with Lady Liara T'Soni, chatelaine of House T'Soni Outrier."
Wong took almost two full seconds to regain her composure, absently noting that Shepard had developed a very slight amused smile as she did so. "Ahem. Well, ah, congratulations. That was certainly rather … unexpected, Baroness."
Shepard only gave a faint nod. "I'm told I'm good at doing what people don't expect." She then smiled a bit wider. "But more to the point, I didn't particularly want to have media speculation going rampant. This way, everyone knows."
Wong kept her expression neutral, but her mind was racing. Shepard was well known for disliking the media, and most of them would have indeed treated this like fresh meat to sharks. But she wanted to maintain whatever fragile repoire she had with Shepard, so she had to handle this carefully.
"Milady, while I'm certainly very happy you chose ANN to announce your marriage, I don't want to pry into the details if that's a problem for you, but I would like to ask a few simple questions, with your permission."
Shepard's smile defrosted at that, her eyes losing their steely focus just a bit. "I appreciate the concern, Ms. Wong. Ask away."
Wong nodded. "If I understand correctly, Lady Liara was a part of your team that hunted Saren and Benezia. Given the last name, is she related in any way to Benezia?"
Shepard's voice took on a sad overtone. "Benezia was Liara's mother, Ms. Wong. They were estranged, but not for a long period of time as asari look at it." Shepard's gaze darkened. "And in the end, it was Liara who overpowered and defeated Benezia."
Wong blinked. "I see. That sounds as if it must have been hard for her to cope with. I can't imagine what it must be like to have to kill your own mother."
Shepard nodded, her expression matching her tone. "It wasn't easy for her to get over. Asari value the relationship between mother and daughter very highly, and Liara already felt like she was not a good daughter due to the distance between herself and Benezia." She paused. "I understand that the footage of the fight was widely broadcast. Liara had no real choice but to do what she did, but that doesn't make it something she can move past without support."
Wong nodded. "I see. You've been linked in the media to more than a few eligible bachelors and the like, including your very striking Commissar that you have been seen with in more than a few places, but none of these has ever been proven to be more than baseless rumor mongering. I would like to ask if this relationship with Lady Liara been an ongoing affair…or is this marriage political?"
Shepard's lips quirked in a sour smile. "A mix of both, I guess. Liara spent a great amount of time helping me deal with the aftereffects of some Prothean technology I was forced to use in the hunt for Saren, and we grew very close during the Benezia Incident. She was isolated from her own society, and I did what I could to make her feel welcome – things just sort of fell into place."
Shepard paused, mind obviously working before speaking a bit more slowly and carefully. "At the same time, there are legal issues involving Liara and her place in asari society, issues most easily resolved by having us get married now."
Wong nodded. "Sometimes such events are driven by politics, for things to happen that would not have otherwise occurred. Would you say it is fair to say this is the case?"
Shepard paused yet again, and then shook her head. "No, I think I would have done so anyway – maybe not this quickly, but she's a very important part of my life. "
Emily smiled. "I have heard few nobles marry for purely love, and many matches are made for political reasons – I'm glad yours was not entirely for that purpose, milady." She glanced at her datapad. "I understand that Lady Liara is herself highly placed in asari society – I can only assume she is helping you adjust to your sudden elevation?"
Shepard smiled. "Some. A lot of what I've been through since the award ceremony has actually been command training and refining my tactical and strategic education – I haven't actually done a lot in terms of my nobility."
Wong folded her arms. "I suppose there will be time for that soon enough. But along those lines, it has been over twenty years since the High Lords of Sol agreed to a new Family being established – I have to ask, what is it like?"
Shepard laughed, a coolly husky sound that was surprisingly pleasant. "Ah, God, it is very confusing. I'm afraid someone with my background isn't exactly a natural at dealing with all of the, ah, intricate parts and pieces of noble life just yet, but I have people helping with that."
She folded her arms. "That being said, nobles are just people, Ms. Wong. A lot of what they do is to keep the politicians from getting too uppity and preventing any coup d'tats from the military, and they give heavily to charity work as well. I'm afraid I'm still too new to it all to really give more of an insight into the average noble than that."
Wong nodded. "I have a few questions here, gathered from readers and viewers, I'd like to run past you, milady."
Shepard shifted in her chair slightly. "Oh, this should be good."
Wong smothered a grin at her sharply sarcastic tone and began. "First , a question from Leslie Borogal, on Elysium, wanting to know what it's like to be a Spectre."
Shepard looked thoughtful at that, then nodded slowly. "That's a very good question. From what I've seen of the Spectre Corps so far, each one is unique, specializing in one thing or another. Saren was actually more the exception than the rule – many of them are more like spies and assassins than warrior-types."
She rubbed her chin. "The Spectres' work from special offices on the Citadel itself – I have one there, although I've only used it for about an hour all told. We get special rights – access passes, weapons stores, discounts – and more than a few companies want to sponsor us in hopes of having the Spectre do them a favor down the line."
Shepard looked up at Wong. "But at the end of the day, every Spectre I've spoken to has the same worries I do, of getting something wrong. We are usually called in when all else has failed, and the consequences of us also failing are usually both high and ugly."
Wong nodded. "Not exactly James Bond in Space, I take it?"
Shepard laughed. "God, no. Everything gets reviewed – the Council itself picks apart data from your suit cameras and will not hesitate to rake you over the coals if they disagree with your choices." She made a sour face. "And they disagree with everything."
Emily smiled at that. "Is dealing with the Council difficult, then? And what are your thoughts on humans and quarians joining?"
Shepard's expression grew rueful. "I think the Council does the best they can in a job no one in their right mind would want. No matter which way you cut it, whatever they do will make somebody unhappy, and few people I've met in life use common sense when it comes to what they expect out of life. The Council can't magically protect everyone in SA space, for example, and even if they moved the entire fleet to cover our colonies, what would happen to other alien colonies?"
Shepard leaned back some, pausing to sip at the water on the small table at her side before continuing. "As far as the whole humanity joining part….I said a while back that humans wouldn't sit at the kids table forever. I did what I thought was the right call in picking Udina – he's a good guy. I don't really have much to say about the quarians, except that I had one on my team and she's a very good engineer."
Wong raised an eyebrow. "Another question touching on that from Vincent Cals of New Edo. Many – including Charles Saracino – have made mention of your having aliens aboard the Normandy is improper, given that they were not Alliance military – or in some cases, even militarily trained. Do you feel having to carry such aliens along hindered you?"
Shepard rolled her eyes. "Will all due respect to Mr. Saracino – which is to say, none – what he knows about the requirements of being on a military vessel are on par with my knowledge of how a mass relay works. Every Council Observer was trained enough to go toe-to-toe with geth, with Cerberus, with a Spectre and with an asari war-priestess. Many of them had skills the Normandy needed for its investigations but lacked – and we lacked them because we were never given any additional resources to chase Saren."
Shepard folded her arms. "As for this statement that having them on the ship was hindering us, I'd like to hear anyone explain how they expected me to proceed, as if it wasn't for said aliens we'd never have been able to go after Saren in the first place."
Wong smiled and folded her hands. "Do you think the Alliance did enough to support you in your chase of Saren? You obviously aren't happy with Mr. Saracino."
Shepard sighed. "No, I don't, but the reasons for that have been explained to me. I don't like politics, Ms. Wong, especially when it gets in the way of doing my job as a Marine. I'm not a fan of the outlook of the current Coleman administration or their interference in going after Benezia, and that makes it very hard for me to take them seriously when they claim to be acting in the best interest of humanity."
She shifted her position slightly, making her medals clink together softly. "But at the end of the day, I'm just another solder. A more heavily trained one, perhaps – one with more rights than most, but still a soldier. I have been told that I lack the perspective to truly understand a lot of the choices the SA has made over the years to protect us. I am not happy with the way things turned out, but it's not up to me to decide if those choices are 'good' or 'bad', only to work around them."
Emily consulted her pad. "Another question, from Genella Jergens. Do you feel as if the choice you made at the Battle of the Citadel, putting the human fleet in harm's way to save the Destiny Ascension, was the right one? The Council didn't believe humanity at first when we fingered Saren and didn't offer any help to the Alliance."
Shepard grimaced. "This is why people need to stop watching that al-Jilani woman on Westerlund News."
Wong grinned. "I totally agree!"
Shepard laughed, then sobered. "To answer the question. I've had to make the call to sacrifice lives more than a few times in my career. Most times, it was when the choice was between getting a lot of my men killed, or all of my men killed. No one bothers to point out alternatives I could have found at Dirth, or at Horizon, or Torfan." She grimaced at the last name but exhaled and continued. "It's easy to criticize decisions when you're not on the spot making them – and when you don't have to live with the cost after the battle. I do."
She folded her arms. "When I made the call, Admiral Hackett was flying blind into a situation he knew nothing about. The Destiny Ascension wasn't just 'the Council' – it had almost fifteen thousand asari on board, and several thousand civilians as well – including, even though he didn't know it, Admiral Hackett's family. It had Councilor Udina's family. It had high ranking and important turians, salarians and asari aboard. If we'd bypassed saving them, what kind of message would that have sent to the other races of the Council? Or the quarians, who lost seventy thousand lives defending people who had exiled and insulted them for centuries."
She scowled. "Most importantly, going after the geth flagship at that point would have been pointless. I'd stopped Benezia by then, preventing her from whatever she planned. In the time it would have taken the Alliance to destroy the flagship, a good portion of the Citadel Fleet would have been destroyed, thousands upon thousands of lives lost. And we might not have had the strength to take the remaining geth afterwards."
Shepard smiled. "In the heat of battle a thousand things flicker through your thoughts, but I will admit right now that wasn't the only reason I did it. I did it because it was the right thing to do. Because for once I had a real choice between the quick, dirty and costly way and the way it should be done. I grieve for every sailor and marine lost aboard the eight cruisers we lost – but I don't think for a moment I'd change my decision if I had to do it again."
She glared at the camera. "As for this line about the Council doing nothing…the Council made me a Spectre. The Council sent out the STG to find where Benezia was hiding. Council forces bled and died at Feros, when they were destroyed by the geth flagship. They bled and died at Virmire, where they were willing to die to the last for a chance at bringing her down. It wasn't Alliance ships that helped me at Ilos, but quarians and volus ships."
She shook her head in disgust. "Whoever keeps saying the Council did nothing to help out is a liar, and needs to stop."
Wong nodded. "Several people sent in the same question – 'What is your take on humanity's role, and what does your job as a Spectre play in that?"
Shepard leaned forward, putting her fingertips together at the base of her chin. "Huh. I'll be honest, I had not really connected the two, but I suppose I should. To me, humanity's role right now is simple – getting on our feet, making sure our people are safe, and I guess learning how to work with the Council. People have whined and whined about us not having a seat – now we do, we have to show we're mature enough for it."
Shepard ran her thumb along her jaw. "I suppose my role in that is being a role model, as laughable as that idea sounds."
Wong arched an eyebrow. "You don't want little girls to grow up to defend the SA?"
Shepard gave a grimace of distaste. "I want people to join the SA military because they feel they have a need to protect, not to imitate anyone, especially someone who joined in the first place because of the bad choices and criminal acts I committed. People's reasons are important – when things get hard, the whys of someone's life are what determines if they stand and fight, or break and run."
Her voice softened. "And a little part of me hopes no little girl who sees me will think the path I've chosen is the right one. I'd rather them life and be happy, settle down and get married, have kids or whatever they want to do, than die in agony on some batarian slave world, or be crippled and have a 55% cybernetics payout with no job prospects after twenty years of sacrifice."
Wong sat back. "A question from Riliee Veras, from Horizon. People tell all these horrible stories about you, but nothing about the personal issues – do you have hobbies? Favorite music? Sports teams you follow?"
Shepard leaned back, relaxing a bit. "I build spaceship models as a hobby, and I dabble in creating personal defense weapons. All my musical tastes tend to run to the kind of stuff we listened to in the RRU – battle metal, Jorge Quintaro remixes, that kind of thing. I follow GASCAR, but not much else – always wanted to try my luck at a race or two."
Wong gave a smile. "Do you have favorite movies, perhaps? Shows?"
Shepard smirked. "I will admit I like watching Metal Minutes, with the turian drill instructor challenging soft civvies to try a few days of real military life." She laughed. "And Liara has me watching the Discovery Network."
Wong checked her padd. "Did your tastes evolve over time, or are they the same since you were younger?"
Shepard sighed. "In many instances, they've only developed in the past few years. I'm not sure if they've changed or not, my early life gave me few chances to relax. I do know that I've been told I'm something of a tomboy, which is pretty funny given my childhood."
Wong nodded. "Not to pry…but most of the information we have about your childhood was pretty bad to view. What did you take away from your childhood and young adulthood that you think people need to understand?"
Shepard bit her lip, thinking. "That's a hard but very good question, Emily. I'd say the most important thing is that a lot of people in the poorer arcologies have been written off for a long time, and for a lot of them crime and gangs are the only way to survive. I'm sure that will piss off the mid-habs and uppers on some of the bigger arcologies, but I'm living proof of that."
Shepard shook her head. "My own childhood was a mess, but I blame my parents for that – they were the ones who made the choices to sell their own daughter into slavery."
Wong gasped, but Shepard continued. "I won't go into what I suffered as a seven year old. I'll say that an eleven year old girl should not have to kill someone to survive, that a fifteen year old shouldn't have a criminal record longer than I am tall. Those failures I do lay on the Alliance, because we spend more money on locking up the criminals than stopping the reasons for crime."
Wong nodded slowly. "You've given this some thought, I see – do you think people can really understand what it's like?"
Shepard shook her head. "No, they can't. That's one of the reasons I wear this uniform, why I pushed so hard on Dirth and Horizon. I don't want any other little girls going through the … ugly things I had to live through. I'm tired of seeing crying parents, shattered families, and burning civilian homes."
She lifted her head, staring straight at the camera. "And I want the pirates and slavers, the runners and the kidnappers to know – I'm coming for you, sooner or later. And as a Spectre, there's no where you can run now that I can't find you. With a battle group, there's no where you can hid I can't blast you out of, and hang you by the neck until dead."
The stare was icy, cold, and Wong found herself trembling nearly uncontrollably just catching the edge of it. Shepard's features twisted into a flat smile.
"I'm still the Butcher."