Long-Winded Opening Author's Notes (just background stuff, you don't *need* it for the story—it's just giving credit, whys, and hows.):
Okay, this story's format takes a little explaining. It's centered around the 100 Themes challenge (you can find it at www[dot]100themeschallenge[dot]deviantart[dot]com – you know the drill. I'm using variation one).
Taking to heart the old adage 'a picture's worth a thousand words', this piece will be comprised of 100 1000-word snapshots, of Shepard's life from Mindoir, to the Blitz, to a few days pre-Normandy. Some of the prompts will be less interesting than others, and there's creative license taken, because the Mass Effect Wikia didn't have certain small details (e.g. when Mindoir was founded as a colony) and because I've only got the thousand words.
Special thanks to the Mass Effect Wikia (masseffect[dot]wikia[dot]com[backslash]wiki[backslash]Mass_Effect_Wiki) for providing so much information in one place.
Special thanks to Bioware, who owns Mass Effect – this disclaimer applies to any and all chapters of this work. So you know in advance, I'm not 100% sure how the N program works, so I shall assume there's the straight-shot through (for people like Capt. Anderson) and a more stretched out method of certification. It makes no sense, to me at least, for all Ns to be officers.
Shepard here is Jalissa Aileen (though her first name appears only rarely) and follows the Mindoir/War Hero track, eventually as an Infiltrator (combat/tech).
So, here we go. Enjoy.
The only part of Jalissa Shepard currently visible were her legs, sticking out from beneath the battered groundcar. A quiet, growled litany of encouragement alternated with mild profanity—running along the lines of 'come on, you greasy, oily bastard…twist already!'—issued from beneath the vehicle, punctuated with grunts, growls, and the occasional hiss of pain as something slipped unexpectedly.
Jeb Shepard leaned on the barn doorframe, watching his daughter's frustration taken out on the groundcar. True, the vehicle gave more than its fair share of trouble, but Jalissa very rarely found it necessary to lock herself up with a project at which she could spit and swear unrestrainedly. Such a thing always signaled a day of unusually concentrated 'bad'.
Clang. Clunk. The sounds were not unlike Jalissa taking a wrench and smacking the undercarriage with it. Silence fell, a slight squeak as if testing something, then Jalissa rolled out from beneath the behemoth.
Jalissa's expression crumpled into a wince. "Heya dad," she raised the hand holding the wrench in greeting, a smile fixed on her face, unsure if a reprimand for her coarse language waited in the wings. It would, she fumed, only add to an already bad day.
"Rough day at school?" Jeb asked mildly.
Implicit understanding that she was not to receive a reprimand, Jalissa got to her feet, wiping her hands on her coveralls, leaving dark handprints as she did so. She produced the key, gave it a turn, and listened to the groundcar start, the machinery whirring softly as it had not before beginning work on it.
"The worst." Jalissa turned off the groundcar, leaning on it heavily. "Car's fine." The unnecessary announcement, accompanied by tossing the keys to her father, spoke loudly. Jalissa rubbed her forehead with her wrist, leaving a spectacular grease streak across her skin.
"You want to talk about it?"
"I expect you'll hear all about it from the principal…if you haven't already." The old bat had suspicions, but nothing else. Who, Jalissa demanded of herself, would want to plaster the school computers with a password locked screensaver detailing the last dance's mishaps?
Certainly, and for once truthfully, not she. Yes, she hijacked computers like this before—several times—but never for no reason. Not that hijacking the computers was difficult, it merely took guts and proficiency, and would continue to take little else until the school paid someone to oversee computer security.
Jeb watched the disgruntled grin of grim determination cross Jalissa's features. In truth, he had fielded a call from the principal, telling him Jalissa was the prime suspect in a recent outbreak of 'computer graffiti'. Jalissa, he knew, did not arbitrarily make trouble. Her parents raised her to know better. On the other hand, she did not take the crap running rampant in a high school meekly.
The fact she had not yet come to blows with a couple of the students spoke loudly. "I've gotta go into Port. Want to go?"
Jalissa's grease-streaked face broke into a grin.
"Get cleaned up, let's go." Jeb shooed her, even as she scrambled past him. Making sure she was gone, Jeb stretched out on the trolley, rolling under the groundcar. He taught his children to work on farm equipment as soon as they were old enough. Of those so far trained, Jalissa showed competence for machinist's work.
Her skill with a computer was greater, seemingly instinctive.
Sure enough, the problem he cited the night before no longer posed a problem, though the fix was obviously temporary, meant to hold only until the groundcar could make it to a garage—exactly where he intended to take it.
Jalissa—in jeans and without the grease—climbed into the groundcar, once her father rolled out from beneath it.
Jeb gave her a shifty look, embarrassed to be caught double checking her work, before climbing in himself. "You're definitely my daughter," Jeb pushed the trolley away and climbed into the groundcar. "So. Did you do it?" Jeb asked, as they pulled out of the Shepard homestead.
"Did I do what?" The wind whipped her hair into her face.
"At school," Jeb prompted neutrally.
"No, I didn't. But I'm going to find out who did…."
"And?" Jeb did not really need to ask. Jalissa's brand of social sabotage worked far better than any rumor or fistfight. Fighting one person was easy—fighting public opinion was not.
Jalissa smiled at the scenery. "If I can prove it, Ms. March'' get off my back. So what if this thing," she pounded the groundcar indicatively, "dies on us?"
"I don't think it'll die," Jeb answered, knowing the vote of confidence would sooth Jalissa's ruffled feathers.
"The Alliance's yearly recruit-a-thon is coming up," Jalissa noted cagily.
"You thinking about enlisting?"
"A lot of my friends are. Baza and Codie both want to, in two years. Dietrich's going to let the Alliance pay for school, then go in as an 'O'."
"It's a good plan." Jeb nodded, glancing sideways at his daughter. "But that doesn't tell me what you think."
Jalissa leaned back in her seat. "I don't want to leave Mindoir. I wanna say on the farm with you and Mom."
"That's fine," Jeb answered carefully. "Whatever you want to do, sweetheart."
Heartened, Jalissa nodded. "Dietrich thinks it's a waste of time…but who wants to live on a spaceship most of the year? Fake air, fake sun, fake food…"
"And being allowed to say you're 'fixing on something', whether it needs fixing or not," Jeb teased.
"That too. I like...the simplicity out here. Is that weird?" Unseen by her father, Jalissa's vivid eyes held all the insecurity of a normal teenager.
"No, I don't think it's weird," Jeb assured her.
Settling back in her seat, Jalissa exhaled her relief, glad the conversation occurred, but equally glad it was over. There was time, in the future, if she should change her mind about the Alliance. She was only sixteen, which meant she had a long span of life ahead of her.