Author's Note:I wanted to write a short chapter relating to each of the possible pre-service backgrounds the player can choose for Shepard in Mass Effect. Three Shepards, three histories, all in one handy fic! Call within the next fifteen minutes and receive a free set of steak knives! But wait! There's more! :)
1. Spacer Shepard
If asked that timeless question, 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' many children offer up a range of ambitious if a tad fantastical answers: doctor, nurse, astronaut, police officer, firefighter, corporate drone in middle management.
Emily Shepard on the other hand, always gave the same answer, even at a young age. And that answer was, "I'm going to enlist in the Alliance Navy like my parents." There, simple as that.
Emily's parents were Navy. Their parents were Navy. Their parents parents were...and you get the idea. Family history held that Shepards had fought in every major conflict in Earth's history. Usually on the winning side too. That ill-advised tilt at pro-slavery back in the Civil War notwithstanding. Supposedly a Shepard that Emily could trace her ancestry to had fought in that long ago war but she'd never found any proof either way.
For Emily, there had never been any question of her wanting to do or be anything else. Her parents had never made any deliberate attempts to sway her in the direction they themselves had taken but a child doesn't grow up in a military family, steeped in the sometimes arcane traditions and ceremonies, doesn't see her parents going to work every morning wearing a uniform that included a sidearm and think to herself Maybe I'll be a brain surgeon.
But the road that led to the point of enlistment threw the young lady a few unexpected surprises along the way.
Sixteen year old Emily sat at her desk. And it was definitely 'her' desk: she'd carved Em Shepard's Desk into the wood-grain facsimile one day early on in the school year when the teacher's back was to the class. Teacher was, at least in her own mind, preparing her young charges for life in the galaxy. A life that would almost undoubtedly mean contact with the host of non-human species that humanity now shared the galaxy with. Unless the students retreated back to the cradle of civilisation, built themselves a log cabin out in the middle of nowhere and lived out their lives as recluses who came into town once a month to buy supplies...and more ammunition for the small arsenal of weapons they kept for the inevitable fall of civilisation.
Presently the teacher was using a slideshow presentation and droning on about the life cycle of the hanar. Precisely why the class of twenty-five humans needed to know about the life cycle of what at first glance appeared to be giant luminescent jellyfish was never explained to Emily's satisfaction. Despite this, she dutifully sat straight in her chair and took notes as required.
Emily was what her teachers tended to call 'well rounded' which wasn't a reflection on her physique. Emily took after her father - tall and on the slender side. She had her mother's blonde hair and blue eyes. An ill-advised attempt two weeks ago to change her hair colour to what the home dying kit assured her was 'chestnut brown' had resulted in her hair turning a truly eye-hurting shade of pink that repeated washings hadn't yet dulled.
Even now, Emily scowled at the memory. The model on the packaging was probably a natural brunette as well! That's gotta be false advertising! A baseball cap jammed onto her head kept the bulk of her electric-pink hair covered but a few strands peeked out here and there, as though to taunt her.
Emily maintained grades good enough to avoid appointments with the guidance counsellor over her failure to meet her full potential but not good enough to make her stand out as the class geek. That singular 'honour' rested on the scrawny shoulders of Elliot Goode, seated a row behind her and probably even now mentally undressing her. As well as maintaining solid B+ grades, Emily was also good at sport but again, not so good as to be branded a tomboy. Whatever the hell that was.
She was on the high school girls' basketball team and could be counted on to come off the bench to sink a few three-pointers in the dying minutes of the fourth. Her free throw accuracy was horrendous, though.
So young Emily maintained good-but-not-outstanding grades and was athletic without being mistaken for a boy at twenty paces. A boy with electric-pink hair, God save her.
Emily shot a glance at the digital clock on the wall above the electronic blackboard which was actually white and sighed. Twenty minutes until music class. Oh somebody kill her now, please. It wasn't that Emily had been raised by crazy folk who thought music was the tool of the devil but she'd been saddled with the violin when the rest of the kids had ended up with 'cool' instruments.
The music teacher, a short roly-poly little man with a nasally voice had taken one look at the young Emily at the start of the school year and declared, "Young lady, you are a natural violinist!" and proceeded to jam a violin into her hands.
Natural violinist my ass! Emily thought. More likely she'd ended up with the violin because she'd been ten minutes late to class - had been held up by Elliot's truly shocking attempt to chat her up after maths class. She shuddered internally at the memory. Emily, may I just say what a singular honour it is to find myself in the presence of such an image of grace and beauty. Which would have sounded kind of sweet...if Elliot's gaze hadn't been aimed firmly at what little cleavage had been visible inside her blouse.
So, there Emily had been, standing in the doorway of room 101, ten minutes late for the first day of music class and everybody else had already laid claim to the 'cool' instruments. David and his twin sister Krystal Simmons had bagged the drum kit and bass guitar respectively. Tommy Sanchez, who everybody knew carried a massive and unrequited teen crush on Krystal had called dibs on the blue and white Fender electric so he could at least jam in the same group as Krystal even if she refused to acknowledge his existence.
And so it went on down the class. Hell, somebody had even called shotgun on the tambourine and the maracas for Godsake. And Emily could actually see herself with a tambourine in hand, occasionally supplying backing vocals whilst the rock-band-in-training did their thing. Which, usually, was to deafen all in attendance with a massive wall of noise that resembled actual music in the same way the Wright Brothers' aircraft resembled an airliner.
So, the violin it was and ten minutes into the first class, her neck muscles had been screaming in agony from the unnatural positioning of her head and neck required to play the horrid thing. She sighed and looked over at Tommy who had just discovered the joys of drop D tuning and was hammering out power chords with wild abandon. I hope he breaks a string she thought darkly.
The bell rang, jolting Emily out of her reverie. Before the class could bolt for the door, the teacher called out, "Don't forget, class: I want a thousand-word essay on the hanar reproductive system by next week!" This announcement was greeted with much groaning and eye rolling.
As Emily collected her books and headed out the door, Elliot hustled up beside her.
"Hi," she said, pulling her school bag over her shoulder.
"H-hello!" he said back. Then: "Can I walk you to class?" Emily looked into his eyes, a pale and watery brown and cringed inwardly. Why had he latched onto her of all people? Why not Krystal like every other guy in her year level? Emily looked at Krystal and could understand the appeal for the boys: tall, shapely, she wore short skirts and low cut blouses that emphasised her breasts...not that they needed emphasising. "Tits from here to Tuesday!" another classmate had said approvingly.
Emily sighed. "I guess," she answered, feeling what little enthusiasm she had for music class die entirely.
As they walked to room 101, Elliot said, "So, you're playing the violin, huh?"
"Do you like it?" Elliot pressed when she added nothing further.
"Not really, no."
"Oh. 'cuz if you want to swap..."
"Swap?" Emily replied. In class, Elliot played the othe relectric guitar, a beautifully crafted Ibanez of polished black wood. "Are you sure?" she asked. He's only offering just so he can use it screw a favour out of you later, you realise that, don't you, Em? The voice in her mind whispered.
"Sure I'm sure." Elliot nodded enthusiastically. "I find something...soothing about the sounds a violin makes and in truth I find that guitar a little heavy slung across my shoulders for a full lesson. So you'd actually be doing me a favour."
Shyeah right and humans are gonna get a seat on the Council inside my own lifetime. Oh and humans'll be accepted into the Spectres, too!
Instead all Emily said was, "That'd be great! I really appreciate it."
Emily smiled broadly and was able to forget, for the next hour at least, the mess she'd made of her hair.
A/N: Inspiration for Emily of the Electric Pink Hair comes from my own high school days: a blonde girl I knew tried to dye her hair and it came out bright pink. I think she was aiming for something brown.
Also, I have nothing against violins or the people who play them, I just can't picture myself with one. And on a purely unrelated note, drop D tuning is when you tune the sixth string of a guitar, which is normally E to D and you can play chords just by barring the strings with one finger instead of having to use two or more fingers. Then you can go nuts playing songs that are basically one power chord after another after another after...