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- "When I live during the day I'm always alone, no matter who's around with me. But when I close my eyes at night, I see the bodies. Dozens and dozens of corpses, all staring at me with their horrible eyes. And the scariest thing about it all? I recognize every single one of them. It's then that I know the truth: the UNSC got it right the first time, No one really made it back from Operation: PROMETHEUS. I left most of me amongst the bodies on that miserable rock."
SPARTAN-A294, also known by his first name of Shephard, was a member of the Alpha Company of the SPARTAN-III program. Born on the politically unstable world of Mamore, he experienced tragedy at an extremely young age when his entire family was killed in a crossfire between two of the warring factions. Recruited for the Alpha Batch of the SPARTAN-III program, he would initially fail the program's unorthodox entrance exam but was accepted into the program after successfully hiding in Onyx's UNSC complex for several weeks. Specializing in mid-ranged and close quarters combat, he would excell during training and would become, like all of the other SPARTAN-IIIs, a combat ready soldier by the age of twelve.
Deploying with the rest of Alpha Company, Shephard would see his first combat action on his homeworld of Mamore, fighting the same Insurrectionist group that had been responsible for the murder of his family. After a string of other engagements against the Covenant, Shephard would travel with Alpha Company on a suicide mission to the Covenant shipyard on the asteroid K7-49. In the subsequent weeks of brutal combat as Alpha Company sought to render the shipyard unusable, Shephard was forced to watch as his comrades were slaughtered left and right by the massively superior numbers of their Covenant foes. A sudden surge of infighting amongst the Covenant allowed Shephard to escape in a UNSC exfiltration craft, and he became the only member of Alpha Company to survive the infamous Operation: PROMETHEUS.
Forced to initiate the Cole Protocol and then freeze himself in cryo storage due to his extensive injuries, Shephard was lost for almost fifty years, with his ONI superiors believing that all members of Alpha Company had died on K7-49. However, Shephard's drifting craft would be discovered at the tail end of Operation: SAVIOR in 2596, resulting in his reentry into the UNSC's military. After several more years of multiple cryo sleeps, debriefings, and retraining periods, Shephard would be transferred to the SPARTAN-IV program and would become the Company Sergeant for Bravo Company.
Shephard served with distinction during both the AUR-Remnants War and the Necros War.
Shephard was born on July 23, 2526 to a farming family on the world of Mamore. His parents owned a small farm and made their living growing and harvesting wheat and corn, something that they attempted to do while staying independent of any large corporations and avoiding the use of genetic modifiers on their crops. Naturally, this puritan approach to farming failed to bring in as much business as other, less choosy, farms, and Shephard's early years were spent in relative poverty. During this time, the most profound influence on him was his older sister Ashley, who cared for him while their parents were out working in the fields. Shephard developed a close bond with Ashley and spent most of his time with her. His father, a lifelong conservative and an Evangelical Christian, disliked the local public schooling system and took what time he could off from farm work to teach Ashley and Shephard himself. At an extremely young age, Shephard demonstrated a high level of intelligence, learning to read and write by the age of three in spite of the obvious handicap of being schooled by a man with no college education and very little time on his hands.
When he was old enough to venture out on his own, Shephard enjoyed playing in the wheat and corn fields around the farm, even though this annoyed his father to no end. At the time, Mamore was witnessing the beginnings of severe political and social turmoil, as many political and religious fringe groups began to seek ways to assert their will over the planetary government. When several of these groups began arming themselves and forming private militia groups, the Mamore's colonial governor reacted by raising several battalions of Colonial Militia. Although his father did not respond to the call for volunteers (he was needed to work the farm and, as a former UNSC Army officer, disliked the idea of "amateur civilian soldiers"), Shephard saw several militia convoys pass by the farm and became obsessed with the idea of becoming a soldier. His time spent playing in the fields began to take on a much more militant tone as Shephard used sticks as makeshift guns in solitary games that disturbed both his mother and Ashley.
In 2531, the tensions that had been mounting on Mamore came to a head when the organization known as Kurban began launching militant raids against rival groups, touching off a chain reaction that resulted in dozens of private militias beginning campaigns of their own. When the Colonial Militia stepped in to oppose them, Kurban's militia forces began small-scale assaults on UNSC outposts as well. Since the largest portions of the fighting occurred between private militia groups and did not directly involve UNSC forces, only a small detachment from the UNSC Army was sent in to assist the militia. Although UNSC officials vowed to end the fighting as quickly as possible, the ongoing war against the Covenant meant that little could be done to make good on this promise.
Aside from the official UNSC forces, Kurban's biggest opposer was the paramilitary group Sons of the Silent Blade, and it was to this force that Shephard's father became unwittingly affiliated. When an old family friend, now a member of the Sons, sought refuge for his squad at the farm, Shephard's father reluctantly agreed to shelter them. Unfortunately, a large Kurban defeat at the hands of the UNSC left thousands of militant fighters scattered around the region. Upon hearing of the approach of a particularly large force, Shephard's father instructed his friend and his men to flee the farm. Tipped off by a neighboring farmer, the Kurban troops arrived at the farm hoping to capture some of the hated Sons. Upon finding none, they rounded up Shephard's family in the farmhouse's living room and proceeded to torture his father for information on the Sons' whereabouts. When they were given no answer, the Kurban militia took Shephard's mother outside and proceeded to beat, rape, and kill her. Although he did not witness this horrendous act, Shephard was unable to block out his mother's screams. When his father tried to fight back, the Kurbans shot him dead.
- "No, please! I don't wanna die!"
- ―Shephard as he flees his family's farm
Before the angry Kurbans could kill Shephard and Ashley, the Sons of the Silent Blade returned in larger numbers. As a large firefight broke out in and around the farmhouse, the children were instructed by a Sons soldier to run. As they fled through the wheatfields, sparks from the discharging weapons caused the wheat to catch fire. Panicked by the oncoming flames, Ashley tripped and sprained her ankle. Rather than helping his sister, a terrified and sobbing Shephard continued to run. Her screams were the last things he heard before being overcome by the expanding smoke and losing consciousness. This abandonment of the person he had loved most in the world would haunt Shephard for years to come.
Upon waking, Shepherd found himself amongst the charred ruins of the cornfield. Confused and afraid, he remained where was for several hours before becoming hungry and attempting to make his way back to the farmhouse. On the way, he finally remembered what had happened when he encountered the body of a Kurban soldier. After breaking down into tears, Shephard became possessed with a survival instinct that would serve him well throughout his entire life. Taking the dead man's sidearm and eating a ration bar he found on the corpse, Shephard again set out towards the farm. Before he could arrive, he ran into a member of a squad of Colonial Militia who were investigating the site of the firefight. After shooting at the militia soldier and nearly being killed in response, the now-orphaned Shephard was taken into UNSC custody and sent to an orphanage in one of Mamore's more peaceful cities.
Recruitment and Initial Failure
Living in a government-run orphanage, Shephard isolated himself from the other children as he tried to come to terms with the loss of everything he had ever known (although he still clung to the faint hope that Ashley had somehow survived). Although several older boys saw the grieving and friendless Shephard as an easy target, the young boy fought back and surprised his would-be tormentors with his tenacity and natural fighting skills. Despite his success in driving off bullies, Shephard still despised life in the orphanage and was prepared to give anything in the world for a better life. The chance to do this would ultimately be given to him, springing from a mere coincidence rather than anyone's plans or desires.
- "I know that Colonel Ackerson specifically requested orphans from Covenant attacks, but this kid fits the program's requirements to a 'T'. With your permission, I'd like to forego the standard procedure for this operation and recruit him anyway. After all, if he isn't the material Lieutenant Ambrose is expecting, he'll just wash out like the other failures, right?"
- ―ONI Lieutenant Richard Collins requesting permission from his superiors to recruit Shephard for the SPARTAN-III program
Ironically, Shephard was never intended to even be considered for the SPARTAN-III program. Three months after the death of his family, an ONI lieutenant who had been assigned to be one of the program's recruitment officers arrived on Mamore for a stint of shore leave on "the worst colony in UNSC space" before beginning his mission. Disappointed by the poor quality of his shore leave's location, the lieutenant decided to visit a few orphanages so as to get an idea of what the ones he'd be visiting during his mission would look like. During his tour of one particular orphanage, he witnessed Shephard fight off a chid nearly twice his size. Impressed by the orphan's skill and resilience, the lieutenant investigated Shephard's background and learned of his tragic origins. Remembering the descriptions he'd been given regarding the orphans he would be recruiting, the lieutenant also managed to obtain a sample of Shephard's blood, which showed that his genes were well within the required parameters for the SPARTAN-III augmentations. Desperate for an excuse to return to active duty, the lieutenant contacted his superiors in ONI's Section-III and received permission to begin his assignment early. The man arranged for an interview with Shephard in which he offered him a chance at "the opportunity of a lifetime" and told him that he could help the UNSC defeat the invading Covenant armadas. Faced with the chance to both leave the orphanage and to fulfill his dream of becoming a soldier, Shephard immediately agreed and radically altered the course of his life.
- "No! No way!"
- ―Shephard failing to jump from a flying Pelican during the entrance examination for the SPARTAN-III program
Shephard and 496 other children were covertly withdrawn from their respective orphanages and transported to the classified world of Onyx for training. Upon their arrival, they were greeted by the lead trainer for the SPARTAN-III program: Lieutenant Commander Kurt Ambrose (who was actually Kurt-051, a SPARTAN-II supersoldier). Clad in impressive MJOLNIR armor that awed Shephard and all of the other children, Kurt announced that he would be training them to be SPARTANs like him, but also told them that he could only accept three hundred candidates for the program. In an effort to thin the group's numbers, Kurt arranged for the candidates to perform a sky dive out of a flying Pelican dropship at night. Those who could manage to do this would be allowed to continue in the program; those that could not would "wash out". It was during this unorthodox entrance examination that Shephard, faced by his longtime fear of heights, panicked and refused to jump, failing the test. However, he was desperate not to be sent back to the orphanage and so managed to sneak away from the group of failures before they could be transported off of Onyx.
- "I know that as a CO I'm not supposed to go back on my word, but I just can't let go of a kid like this. He just fought four grown men with military training after he'd already managed to remain outside of our notice for over three weeks. I say we give him another chance and see how he does."
- ―Kurt-051 to Franklin Mendez
For the next few weeks, Shepherd managed to pass unnoticed amongst Onyx's living quarters and training facilities. When not hiding or gathering what scraps he could to eat, he spent his time secretly viewing the candidates who had passed the initial test as they trained. Although he wasn't able to learn much from his hidden vantage points, Shephard remained determined not to be caught and sent away. He was eventually discovered by Ramal-A016, a candidate who had managed to catch a glimpse of him during an early field exercise. Rather than betraying Shephard's existence to his drill instructors, Ramal instead managed to earn Shephard's trust by smuggling him small amounts of food he had taken out of his own rations. This made life considerably easier for Shephard, who no longer had to look for food and instead was able to devote more time to watching the training sessions. However, he was eventually discovered by a DI after breaking in to an equipment shed in an effort to instruct himself in the basics of rifle handling. The DI attempted to restrain him, but Shephard kicked him in the groin and stole the man's sidearm, holding him at gunpoint. Hearing the commotion, Senior Chief Petty Officer Franklin Mendez, the SPARTAN-IIIs' chief drill instructor, arrived with two other DIs. Although Shephard was able to get off a single shot with the pistol, he was hindered by panicked reactions and malnutrition and did not hit any of the men, who managed to knock the gun from his hands. In the ensuing struggle, Shephard broke one DI's nose and even managed to give Mendez himself a black eye. Regardless of his spirited defense, he was forcibly subdued and restrained by his opponents, who hauled him before Lieutenant Ambrose. The lieutenant, impressed by Shephard's resourcefulness, allowed him another chance at becoming a SPARTAN, noting that they were still attempting to whittle the number of candidates down to three hundred.
Although he was far behind the other candidates in terms of training, Shephard put up an immense struggle in order to catch up. This effort was made even harder by the fact that every major training exercise was used by the instructors as a means to weed out unsatisfactory candidates in order to end up with the desired three hundred. However, Shephard was no longer alone in the world. Ramal remained his friend, and did his best to help him catch up with the others. This friendship, while welcome, caused personal problems for Shephard, who harbored personal prejudices against Islam, which he blamed for his parents' deaths. Ramal, who had been raised a Muslim, did not know of Shephard's personal history because, unlike other trainees, he refused to divulge any other details about his past besides the fact that he was from Mamore. Although Shephard fought to overcome his intolerance while with Ramal, he found that he was unable to let go of his preconceptions completely.
As his training progressed, Shephard gradually made up for his late arrival into the program. His natural intelligence and skill helped him to catch up in both academics and field exercises, and Ramal's friendship and help allowed him to advance even faster. The DIs who trained him found that he was a quick learner who devoured all that he was taught, but were surprised that such a skilled trainee lacked many leadership skills. Outside of his time spent with Ramal, Shephard generally kept himself separate from the other children, becoming aloof and detached when not with Ramal. Since Lieutenant Ambrose had still not narrowed the pool of candidates down to three hundred, he refrained from putting the Alpha trainees into teams and instead kept their field exercises limited to solo operations. Because of this, Shephard refrained from forming any other bonds with candidates other than Ramal, as he feared that it would make him less efficient on exercises. His skill during these exercises impressed many DIs, especially George Kage, a nihilistic and psychopathic DI who immensely enjoyed forging young children into killing machines and admired Shephard's innate skills.
- "If you're going to be on this team, then you're going to have to work to us when we're trying to work with you."
- ―Michael-A011 to Shephard-A294 after Fireteam Hyena's first exercise
After the first two years of training, the number of recruits left in Alpha Company had reached the desired number of three hundred. Told by Chief Mendez that their real training "started now", the children were finally paired into three-man fireteams by the DIs. On his eighth birthday, Shephard was placed in in Fireteam Hyena, along with Michael-A011 and Janet-A132. Disappointed that he had not been paired with Ramal, who had been assigned to Fireteam Lion, Shephard maintained his withdrawn behavior even with his new teammates. It was only after being criticized by Mendez for poor teamwork that he began to come out of his shell and connect with Michael and Janet.
During all of this time, Shephard had still been unable to conquer his excessive fear of heights. Worried that such a shortcoming might hurt his combat efficiency, Shephard willingly subjected himself to hours of doing nothing but climbing to high places and intentionally putting himself in positions where he would be forced to face this fear. While others, who also noted that he continued to push himself above and beyond what was expected of the trainees, accused him of masochism, his teammates surprised him in being helpful and supportive during these outings. As his friendship with Michael and Janet grew, Shephard began to finally view his fellow trainees as more than rivals and began to think of them as family. However, he never ceased hoping that Ashley might have survived the firefight on their parents' farm and still maintained some level of distance between himself and the others.
Over time, Fireteam Hyena became extremely efficient and successful during exercises, especially those dealing with close quarters combat and urban warfare. Although Shephard was confident and skilled during combat, he was not a natural "alpha male" and tended to allow others to give the orders while he followed them. Thus, Michael became Hyena's de facto leader, something that Shephard and Janet readily accepted. However, Shephard was seen as the team's primary representative due to his unique past and undeniable skill. Becoming worried for the first time about exciting envy in his comrades, Shephard allowed himself to do slightly less exceptionally than he had in the past in the hope of becoming a better part of the team rather than a loner soldier.
- "If you can't kill then you're absolutely worthless! Stop groveling on the ground like a filthy bitch and show me what you can do!"
- ―George Kage taunting Shephard-A294 during "sparring practice"
While many of the trainees were quietly pleased by Shephard's decision to adopt an average role, one man who was not at all thrilled by this new development was the DI George Kage. Seeing that his "favorite student" had begun to perform below his expectations, Kage began going out of his way to make life miserable for Shephard. Subjecting him to constant verbal and physical abuse, the sadistic drill instructor attempted to unleash Shephard's "inner killer", something that Kage believed lurked within everyone. What he had not counted on was the iron discipline that Lieutenant Ambrose and Mendez had managed to instill in Shephard. Choosing to believe that Kage was being unreasonably harsh in order to keep him alive once he was actually deployed in combat, the young trainee refused to rise to his bait, knowing that it was absolutely inexcusable to attack one's trainers. This calm acceptance infuriated Kage, whose attacks became more and more physical and painful until the other members of Fireteam Hyena, who had been unaware of the indignities that their teammate was suffering, realized what was happening and began spending more and more time around Shephard. This limited the amount of "special training" Kage could give him, and Shephard quietly admitted to his saviors that if he could not have taken much more of it without snapping. However, Kage had still left his mark on the trainee, and his brutality would remain embedded in a dark corner of Shephard's mind for a long time to come.
- In later years, Kage would continue to impose his sadistic brand of "training" on other recruits from both the Beta and Gamma companies of the S-III program. Although he found few people that interested him as much as Shephard in Beta company, the psychotic DI would relish tormenting the substandard trainee SPARTAN-G294. After the end of the Human-Covenant War, Kage would leave the UNSC to train child insurgents for, ironically enough, Kurban.
Augmentations and Graduation
- "Today, you will all transcend the limits of the human body and complete the journey that you began seven years ago. Today, you will become true SPARTANs."
- ―Lieutenant Kurt Ambrose to Alpha Company just before their augmentations
After seven years of intensive training, Lieutenant Ambrose deemed that Alpha Company was almost ready for deployment. The one thing they lacked was the physical augmentations that had been a hallmark of the SPARTAN-II program. Taken to a special UNSC field hospital, the SPARTAN-III trainees were augmented with drugs that, while not as potent as those given to the SPARTAN-IIs, were much safer and were able to imbue the trainees with physical advantages that they could never have gained through just training. During the procedure, the following drugs were pumped into the trainees:
- Drug 8942-LQ99: A carbide ceramic ossification catalyst to make skeletons virtually unbreakable.
- Drug 88005-MX77: A fibroid muscular protein complex that boosted muscle density and strength.
- Drug 88947-OP24: A retina-inversion stabilizer drug. It boosted color and night vision capabilities.
- Drug 87556-UD61: Improved colloidal neural dis-unification solution, which in turn decreases reaction time.
After the successful augmentations, Lieutenant Ambrose brought his charges back to Onyx, where they adapted to their enhanced bodies. Shephard was initially confused and disoriented by his body's new capabilities, but soon he, along with all of the other trainees were fit for deployment. In an impromptu "graduation ceremony", Lieutenant Ambrose congratulated them on making it as far as they had and declared that they had all more than earned the right to call themselves SPARTANs.
- Michael-A011: "It's hard to believe, but after all this time and all that work, we're finally SPARTANs!"
- Shephard-A294: "No. Our training won't be over until we've actually seen combat. Until then, we're still just kids, not soldiers."
- ―Michael-A011 and Shephard-A294 speaking three days before their deployment on Mamore.
In 2537, less than a week after their augmentations and graduation ceremony, the three hundred members of Alpha Company were transported away from Onyx on the UNSC carrier All Under Heaven, a ship that would serve as the SPARTAN-III program's personal transport ship. Crewed entirely by handpicked personnel so as to preserve the secrecy of the program, the All Under Heaven spent a brief time at Reach while receiving new orders. Alpha Company spent almost all of this time performing training exercises in the carrier's specially assembled training facilities. By this time, they had already received extensive training in the new Semi-Powered Infiltration Armor, which allowed them both moderate protection and use of the UNSC's primitive active camouflage system.
While many of his comrades were jubilant at their graduation and acceptance as SPARTANs, but Shephard remained convinced that he had not truly completed his training yet. The dark mark of George Kage's influence still rested on his mind, and he felt that he would not be able to trust himself as a soldier until he had actually fought and taken lives in actual combat. Little did he know that the chance for this would come on the place he had never expected to see again: his old homeworld, Mamore.
Insurrection on Mamore
- Janet-A132: "I just heard the news from Team Lion: we're going to deploy on Mamore. Hey Shep, isn't that where you said you were from?"
- Shephard-A294: "Yes. I'd rather not talk about it if it's all the same to you."
- ―Janet-A132 and Shephard-A294 prior to their combat action on Mamore.
During Shephard's time in training, the conflict on Mamore had ebbed and flowed before erupting into all out rebellion. Kurban was still the most powerful faction, especially after receiving additional weapons and support from the Insurrection, which had used it as a front for its own activities on Mamore since its conception. With the planetary militia extremely weakened and unable to receive support from professional UNSC forces and a population that was growing tired of having no help from its government, Mamore was close to becoming the first planet to ever cave in to the Insurrection's demands for secession. Fearing that other planets would follow Mamore's example, which would make it even easier for the Covenant to exterminate humanity, ONI dispatched the All Under Heaven and its SPARTAN-III payload to strike a crippling blow to Kurban, which would extremely weaken the Insurrection's presence on the world and would allow the militia to restore order.
While Shephard was glad that his chance to prove himself in real combat had finally come, he had mixed feelings about returning to his homeworld. Although he still clung desperately to his hope that Ashley had survived the tragedy on their farm and was glad for a chance at revenge on Kurban, he felt guilty about his private motivations and worried that they might endanger the mission if they got out of hand. Despite his complicated emotions, he still refrained from divulging the details about his family's death to his teammates.
The Initial Raid
The strategy for Alpha Company's assault on Kurban, code named Operation: POINT INSERTION, was thus: roughly fifty SPARTAN-IIIs would be quietly deployed in plainclothes in the midst of a region that was known for having the strongest ties to Kurban. Since the organization was infamous for its widespread recruitment of child soldiers to use as cannon fodder, the deployed SPARTANs would hopefully be recruited by the Kurban forces, which would help them find and identify key leaders. Meanwhile, the rest of Alpha Company would deploy in various hotspots around the region in full combat armor, taking no prisoners and hopefully driving Kurban's leaders out into the open, where they could be assassinated by the infiltrators. With that accomplished, the entirety of Alpha Company would move on to other areas in full force, exterminating any signs of Kurban or the Insurrection that they found.
- ―Shephard, gunning down a Kurban operative who had tried to recruit him
Among those chosen to insert in plainclothes was Fireteam Hyena. Armed only with a single UNSC service pistol, which was concealed in their clothes, the fifty-odd SPARTAN-IIIs were inserted into several towns at night by Pelican dropships. Positioning themselves in the poorest part of town, Fireteam Hyena watched a single street that had been singled out as a hotspot for Kurban recruitment during their briefing. Just as predicted, a man approached them and asked them if they wished to join "the holy war against the fascist infidels". While Michael and Janet presented themselves as being hesitant but willing to join the terrorist organization, Shephard gradually became more and more enraged as he recalled what Kurban had done to his family. He finally lost all self control when the man attempted to take hold of his shoulder and shot him with his concealed pistol. This killing was not only Shephard's first kill, but the first time any member of Alpha Company would take a life. When another operative appeared, saw what had happened, and threatened them with an assault rifle, Janet covered for Shephard by claiming that he had killed the man after he had tried to molest her. The operative, disgusted by his compatriot's supposed action, assured them that Kurban did not operate in such a fashion and secured their agreement to join Kurban.
Michael, Janet, and Shephard spent the next three days "training" with several dozen other child recruits under the watchful eye of Kurban operatives. Secluded to a large warehouse on the outskirts of town, they recognized several other members of Alpha Company, but refrained from making overt contact with them. During this time, Shephard apologized to his teammates for endangering the mission. Although he did not give the exact details of his family's murder, he did say that Kurban was the group that had orphaned him. All of the children received a tattoo on their left shoulders to signify their membership in Kurban. Although Shephard was disgusted by this, he refrained from resisting so as to not put his teammates in jeopardy again.
- "Orders are orders."
- ―Shephard-A294 to himself as he and his comrades prepare to kill sleeping child insurgents
In accordance with their mission objectives, Fireteam Hyena was constantly on the lookout for people who appeared to be leaders within Kurban. However, he was also forced to interact with other, non-Alpha Company children, and in doing so he learned that many of them actually had legitimate reasons to fight the UNSC. Although Shephard would not allow his faith in his superiors or the government he served to be eroded, he also began to view the insurgents he was fighting in a somewhat different light. Before these feelings could develop within him, he and his teammates learned from another S-III team that it had been discovered that a meeting of most of Kurban's leaders would occur in Fajardo, a city a few miles from the town they were in. Therefore, the operation's assault phase would begin in a few hours, giving them only a minimal amount of time to prepare for the battle to come. Stealing away from the other insurgents during the night, they and the other SPARTAN-IIIs that had been recruited by Kurban stole several knives and assault rifles. Using the pistols they had already been issued along with the stolen knives, they proceeded to kill all of the rebels in the warehouse, including the child recruits.
Leaving the body-strewn warehouse behind, the faux insurgents linked up with Fireteam Gazelle, which had not allowed itself to be recruited and instead had remained at large within the town's back alleys. Their mission had been to identify the residences of the Kurban leaders who had not been quartered within the warehouse, and after they had provided the intelligence they had gathered to their comrades all of the SPARTAN-IIIs split up and quietly assassinated the designated leaders. Shephard was both embarrassed and worried to find that he gained immense satisfaction as he and his team killed their assigned target and his bodyguards. Before he could dwell on this, all of the SPARTANs retreated from the town to a nearby hillside, where they used a pre-positioned radio to inform the ONI coordinators in orbit on the All Under Heaven of their success. As the S-IIIs deployed in other towns did the same, the 250 members of Alpha Company who had not been deployed were transported to the outskirts of Fajardo in preparation for the raid on the meeting of Kurban's leadership. Shephard and the other members of the group that had been deployed early were picked up by several Pelican dropships, where they received standard suits of SPI armor and suppressed MA5Ks and M7s in place of their civillian clothes and stolen weapons.
The massive raid on Fajardo began early the next morning. Alpha Company stealthily infiltrated the city and, using previously acquired intelligence from ONI, dispersed by team in order to neutralize a variety of Kurban targets, such as weapons caches and training warehouses similar to the one that Shephard and his fellow infiltrators had wiped out the previous night. Fireteam Hyena was one of four teams assigned to eliminate the primary objective: the meeting of Kurban's leadership, which was being held in a high-profile hotel near the center of the city. Since the meeting was being held in a windowless room, the four teams agreed to quickly kill the guards surrounding the hotel before forming a perimeter while one team entered to eliminate the leaders before they could even realize that they were under attack. However, the leadership received word that fighting with an unknown UNSC commando force in other parts of the city before the teams could make their move. As the various leaders attempted to flee, the four teams were forced to launch an ill-prepared assault on the hotel.
As a large firefight broke out between the Kurban bodyguards and the SPARTAN-IIIs, Teams Hyena and Wolfpack broke off from the other two fireteams in an attempt to storm the hotel before their targets could escape. Michael, Janet, and Shephard provided covering fire for the three members of Wolfpack as they sprinted to and entered the hotel. Although Wolfpack managed to intercept and eliminate most of the fleeing leadership, two high-ranking Kurban officials managed to escape to their waiting vehicles. Although one car was destroyed by an RPG from one of the other teams, the second one managed to escape the firefight. On Michaels initiative, Team Hyena abandoned the ongoing battle in order to pursue the car. Aided by their augmented bodies, the three SPARTAN-IIIs managed to catch up to the fleeing car, which was slowed by the multiple firefights that were breaking out all over the city. When the driver was killed by a lucky shot from Janet, the Kurban official fled the scene on foot. Although Team Hyena attempted to continue the pursuit, a rocket from a nearby building forced both Michael and Janet into cover. As his teammates attempted to suppress the enemies that were now firing on them, Shephard continued after the target and, after killing several insurgents who attempted to halt his advance, managed to corner and kill the enemy leader.
After linking back up with his team, Shephard participated in the large amount of urban combat that was taking place throughout the city. After four hours of intensive fighting, all Kurban forces within the city had either been killed or had fled in an assortment of vehicles, many of which would be destroyed by UNSC air strikes before they could reach other Kurban-friendly towns. Although no official body count was ever made of Kurban dead, the total number of enemy combatants killed during the action in Fajardo was estimated to be close to eight thousand by the ONI after action report. With the majority of its leadership dead along with many of its best soldiers, Kurban would practically cease to exist until the end of the Human-Covenant War when it would regain some of its former power.
- Michael-A011: "Our first battle and we didn't even lose a single person! I feel great!"
- Shephard-A294: "I just feel tired."
- ―Michael-A011 and Shephard-A294 after the action in Fajardo
Alpha Company's baptism of fire had been soaked in blood, but almost none of that blood belonged to it. Although several SPARTAN-IIIs had been injured during the fighting in Fajardo, none had been killed, which meant that the unit would remain three hundred strong. Although numerous civilians had been killed in the crossfire, ONI deemed that the deaths were "acceptable" in light of the crippling blow that had been dealt to Kurban.
Additional Action on Mamore
- "It's been thirteen days after we cleared out Fajardo and we're still stuck doing crap jobs that are better suited for the regular military. I'm grateful to be kept busy in between big engagements, but it's still frustrating to be stuck here of all places. Yesterday one of our superiors came around and asked all the teams how they felt about black ops missions. Michael told him that we'd be happy to do it, but then again, he says that about everything. I don't like the idea of it myself. I still have nightmares about what we did to those kids in that warehouse..."
- ―Shephard-A294 in his personal diary
For two weeks after the Fajardo engagement, Alpha Company was used as a rapid response unit to quell any Insurrectionist activity on Mamore while ONI prepared to send them on a new mission. Based on the All Under Heaven in orbit, they would be transported in groups of three to six to any hot spots that were deemed to be too risky for the planetary militia, which was still getting back on its feet. Team Hyena participated in several of these missions, which ranged from raiding Insurrectionist IED factories to the assassination of Insurrectionist leaders. While all of these missions were successful, only one proved to be at all significant to Shephard.
On the fourteenth day since the battle at Fajardo, Team Hyena was deployed to investigate reports of a group of insurgents camped out in a farming region. Shephard was less than pleased to learn that the region they would be investigating was none other than the one he had grown up in, but he kept his negative feelings about the assignment to himself. Once on the ground, the team agreed to split up in order to cover more ground while remaining within radio contact distance. As Shephard made his way through a thick forest of tall grass, taking care to look out for ambushes, he stumbled into a clearing that contained the worst thing possible for him: the charred remains of his family's homestead.
- "I can't believe how unbelievably unlucky Shephard was. I mean, what're the odds that he'd wind up finding his old house? That level of coincidence brings a whole new meaning to the phrase 'shit happens'."
- ―Michael-A011 privately discussing Shephard's misfortune with Janet-A132 after the mission
Stunned into a state of shock, Shephard forgot about his mission entirely as he shuffled through the wreckage that had apparently been left standing after the firefight that had destroyed it. As he trod the ground he had grown up on, he numbly reminisced about his past life before it had been torn from him. As he did so, he tripped over a headstone. Upon recovering, he realized that there were three markers in a row, obviously left there by the Sons of the Silent Blade after the firefight. The first two bore the names of his parents, whom he had always known to be dead. The third, however, bore Ashley's name.
- Janet-A132: "Shep? What is this place? What's wrong?"
- Shephard-A294: "Please... I still don't want... to talk about it..."
- ―Janet-A132 and a grieving Shephard-A294 in the ruins of his old homestead
For all the time that he'd been in the orphanage, in training, and in the field, Shephard had always faithfully believed that his caring older sister had survived the tragedy. But now that he had concrete evidence of her death, all the guilt he had felt for abandoning her in the burning wheat field came crashing back onto him and he wept openly for the first time since the day his family had died. He remained kneeling there, completely exposed to any enemies that might have been in the area, until he was discovered by Janet, who had been worried by his lack of radio communication and had tracked him to the clearing. After remaining with him for several minutes, she helped support him as they made their way back to rendezvous with Michael, who had already confirmed that there were no insurgents remaining in the area.
All Under Heaven and with it, Alpha Company, left Mamore the next day for Reach. During the time spent en route, Shephard privately told the full story of his loss with his teammates, who showed their understanding by also discussing the loss of their own parents to the Covenant and of their desire for revenge. Shephard, who had just received a taste of this vengeance, silently vowed to help them face their own demons when the time came, and also finally accepted Alpha Company as his true family. With finding a surviving family member no longer a possibility, he was prepared to let go of his past life in order to embrace his new life as a SPARTAN.
In an interesting postscript to Operation: POINT INSERTION, Shephard did not join those in Alpha Company who had been tattooed while posing as Kurban recruits when they had the insignia removed from their shoulders. Feeling that he needed to always have a reminder of the things he had witnessed on Mamore, the young SPARTAN-III would bear the tattoo of his enemies as a badge of shame for the rest of his life.
Mission to New Africa
- "I knew letting Michael talk with that officer when he was asking about black ops was a bad idea..."
- ―Shephard-A294 upon learning that Team Hyena had been chosen for Operation: CHEMOTHERAPY
After arriving at Reach, All Under Heaven and its SPARTAN cargo were docked at an ONI orbital station to receive upgraded equipment and new orders. While this was happening, ONI Section 3 diverted teams Wolfpack and Hyena for a covert operations mission to the inner colony world of New Africa. Designed as a field test for how well Lieutenant Ambrose's training had prepared the S-IIIs for all manner of missions, Operation CHEMOTHERAPY involved the assassination of a cell of three Insurrectionist terrorists who had infiltrated the planetary government.
- "Looks like our man likes to go hunting outside the city. Wouldn't it be a shame if someone else was hunting in the same area? Hunting accidents do happen, after all..."
- ―Michael-A011 during Operation CHEMOTHERAPY
Since their status as children would be more of a hinderance than a help on the relatively peaceful planet, Hyena and Wolfpack did not integrate into the local populace once deployed on New Africa. Instead, they used information given to them by ONI on their three targets to plan creative "accidents" in order to kill them. While Wolfpack stole a car and used it to kill two of the targets in a "traffic accident", Hyena lay in wait for the third in an area he frequently used for hunting. With Janet as their radio operator, Michael as the spotter, and Shephard as the sniper, Team Hyena managed to successfully eliminate their target while making it seem as though he had been shot by a fellow hunter.
The mission to New Africa was a success, and served to alleviate any doubts about Alpha Company's flexibility in the field. Although Shephard was pleased to have more assurance that his training had paid off, he was deeply disturbed by the nature of their mission and privately hoped that the next time they fought it would be against the hated Covenant invaders.
Battle of New Constantinople
Alpha Company's "first contact" with the Covenant would come on the Outer Colony world of New Constantinople, a planet that had already been under attack by a Covenant invasion force for almost three months. With naval forces fighting an on-and-off war with Covenant warships in orbit and the marines bogged down in a brutal war of attrition against alien ground forces on the planet's surface, UNSC HIGHCOM intended to quietly use Alpha Company to turn the tide of the battle in humanity's favor.
Rather than the quiet insertion that had been used on Mamore, Alpha Company was slated to descend on the Covenant with all weapons blazing. Their target was a large Covenant outpost that had been supplying the front lines with enough troops to prevent the marines from making any further headway in the ongoing battle. By eliminating this nerve center, Alpha Company would surprise the Covenant and disrupt their command structure.
While Admiral Danforth Whitcomb coordinated a series of air strikes on every Covenant position in the area, all three hundred members of Alpha Company were transported from a naval cruiser to the surface in a small fleet of Pelican dropships. With the entirety of the local Covenant air force either destroyed or distracted by the ongoing bombing raids, the Pelicans encountered almost no resistance as they landed in and around the already shell-shocked outpost. Alpha Company immediately launched their attack on the Grunts and Jackals defending the outpost, trapping and eliminating them with ease thanks to their superior training. Team Hyena accounted for many of the enemy casualties inflicted during this battle, taking up a position on the rooftop of one of the outpost's buildings and raining suppressing fire down on the confused aliens. When a large file of Grunts and Jackals passed by underneath them, Shephard and Janet dropped down on them and eliminated them at close range while Michael provided covering fire from above. After an hour of intense fighting, Alpha Company had completely annihilated the outpost's garrison, again without a single death sustained by the company.
With all Covenant forces in the area scattered and confused, Alpha Company spent the next week performing mop-up operations. Meanwhile, the marines were able to push forward and gain much of the ground that they had lost to the Covenant at the battle's onset. However, there was more fighting yet to come.
The Great Plains
Alpha Company's next objective was located on a large area of grasslands known to the locals as the Great Plains. A strategically placed area containing roads that led to several major population center, it was being used as a supply and evacuation route by the local marine forces. However, recent Covenant activity in the area was disrupting the convoys going through the area, and conventional marine troops had proved incapable of successfully clearing the area. Alpha Company's task was to locate the Covenant's numerous ground bases scattered throughout the reason and provide coordinates so that UNSC bombers could successfully destroy them.
Closely supported by Hornet-mounted troops, Alpha Company dispersed in small groups of two to three fireteams in order to locate the enemy outposts. Paired with Team Dingo, Team Hyena spent the next three days fruitlessly scouring the area for any signs of enemy activity. On the fourth day, they were lucky enough to encounter and eliminate several Grunt patrols. By analyzing the pattern in which the patrols occurred, the SPARTAN-IIIs were able to successfully locate an outpost, which was being used as a weapons depot. Michael radioed the nearest UNSC air base, and within minutes the outpost was little more than a smoking crater.
- "Lord have mercy..."
- ―Shephard upon seeing the aftermath of a Covenant massacre of civilians
Over the next week and a half, Alpha Company would locate and destroy more than thirty enemy outposts, effectively ending Covenant activity in the Great Plains. In spite of this accomplishment, tragedy struck two days before they were rotated out of the region. A large convoy of human civilians, fleeing Covenant encroachment upon a nearby city, attempted to pass through the Great Plains' central highway in order to reach safety. Before additional troops could arrive to support them, the entire convoy came under attack by a Covenant armored brigade. Pinning their vehicles down with roving squadrons of Ghosts, the Covenant rained energy mortars from Wraiths down upon the refugees. By the time a relief force, which included Shephard and several other S-IIIs, arrived on the scene, it was too late. The entire convoy had been wiped out by the Covenant force, which had already fled back into area that was firmly under Covenant control. The sight of charred and burning civilian corpses would have a profound effect on Shephard, reminding him of the carnage he had already witnessed on Mamore. This and additional atrocities committed by the Covenant would solidify his feelings of hatred for the alien invaders.
Battle of Quetzalcoatl III
Battle of the Bonanza Asteroid Belt
Battle of the Far Gone Colony Platforms
- Michael-A011: "Well this mission looks fun..."
- Shephard-A294: "Wonderful. The last time you said a mission was going to be fun, I wound up playing hide and seek with the Covenant for four hours..."
- ―Michae-A011 and Shephard-A294 after being briefed on Operation PROMETHEUS
In July of 2537, approximately nine months after Alpha Company's deployment, the UNSC discovered a large Covenant shipyard on the asteroid K7-49, which was located extremely close to the UNSC's borders. Afraid that the Covenant would use the shipyard to produce an armada capable of completely wiping out the remaining outer colonies, ONI quickly planned and prepared to launch Operation: PROMETHEUS, an enterprise that would use Alpha Company to shut down the shipyard's thirty plasma reactors (which generated the ore needed to create the Covenant warships) and render K7-49 useless to the enemy.
Although the SPARTANs of Alpha Company knew that they would be facing much greater odds than they had on their previous missions, very few of them were at all worried about the operation. Their lack of any losses during their battles had left them with a sense of invulnerability and pride in themselves and their comrades. Shephard, however, was among the few who actually was worried about the coming battle. All throughout the Slipspace journey to K7-49, he worried his teammates by barely saying a word as he struggled to quell his uneasiness.
During the Slipspace journey to K7-49, Shephard chronologically became thirteen years old. However, due to time spent in cryo sleep he was biologically around twelve years of age instead.
Alpha Company landed discreetly on K7-49 using sixteen Calypso-class Exfiltration Craft, stealth-capable ships that would be both their means of getting onto K7-49 and their means of getting off. Immediately dispersing across the asteroid, the one hundred teams that made up Alpha Company wasted no time in locating as many plasma reactors as possible. Remaining in radio contact with each other, they did not make their presence known to the Covenant work force and security detail that inhabited the shipyard complex. Instead, they performed as much reconnaissance as they could without attracting any attention.
At the beginning of their second day on K7-49, Alpha Company struck. Targeting their plasma reactor objectives, the SPARTAN-IIIs ruthlessly cut down both unarmed workers and any security patrols that attempted to stop them. Using a variety of methods, they managed to shut down seven plasma reactors within the first eight hours of the operation. Team Hyena worked together with teams Gazelle and Leopard in order to eliminate one of these reactors, providing covering fire while the other two teams infiltrated and shut down the complex. With their SPI armor's camouflage system, the SPARTAN-IIIs were easily able to outmaneuver and destroy the Grunt and Jackal security patrols that engaged them.
By midday, the entire facility had been alerted to what was happening and steps were taken to stop Alpha Company's sabotage. The shipyard's military garrison threw together a large counter force composed mostly of Jackal scouts and snipers. Team Hyena was one of the first teams to encounter the new enemy soldiers and its three members used their extensive training in urban warfare and close quarters combat to kill dozens of Jackals. As the hours wore on, Alpha Company managed to kill hundreds of Covenant soldiers as it forged onwards towards more reactors. Shephard, who had been profoundly affected by the horrors he had seen inflicted by the Covenant on human colonists on New Constantinople and the Far Gone colony platforms, felt no pity or remorse for the unarmed Grunt and Engineer workers that he and his comrades killed as they made their way through the facility.
- Unknown SPARTAN-III: "This is too easy!"
- Shephard-A294: "Yeah... that's what worries me..."
- ―Shephard-A294 and another SPARTAN-III during the early stages of Operation: PROMETHEUS
By the end of the second day, Alpha Company had completely eliminated the Covenant response force, along with hundreds of factory workers and security guards. With the back of K7-49's military garrison broken, its commanders were unable to do almost anything to stop the SPARTAN-IIIs, and Alpha Company was able to advance relatively unopposed. Resting intermittently, the unit was able to shut down thirteen more reactors over the course of three days. But unbeknownst to them, the real battle was only just beginning.
- Janet-A132: "What are these things?"
- Shephard-A294: "They're strong, fast, and they have shields. Not good!"
- ―Janet-A132 and Shephard-A294 upon encountering Elites for the first time
On the fourth day of Operation: PROMETHEUS, two Covenant frigates appeared in orbit and deployed thousands of Covenant infantry onto K7-49's surface. Led by the formidable Elite warriors, this massive force was able to slow Alpha Company's seemingly unstoppable advance to a crawl. As the SPARTAN-IIIs engaged in heated building to building and street to street firefights, they began to take their first losses since they had been deployed. As a stunned Team Hyena fought its way towards more reactors, Shephard, who had not been sleeping well ever since the mission began, finally started to run out of energy. As the team rested in a nearby processing plant, they were suddenly ambushed by a squad of Elites.
Struggling to get out of the building alive, Team Hyena stumbled upon a large battle that was taking place in one of the plasma reactors that they were supposed to neutralize. Ordering Janet and Shephard to hold off their pursuers, Michael leapt down to help the other SPARTAN-IIIs defeat their Covenant opponents and neutralize the reactor. But as more and more Covenant troops arrived and began to overwhelm the SPARTANs, the boy who had been Hyena's leader since it's conception resorted to desperate measures in order to achieve their goal. Telling the remaining two S-IIIs to retreat to the walkway where Janet and Shephard were providing covering fire, he managed to expose the reactor's core and fired a rocket launcher into it. The blast killed him and set off a chain reaction that resulted in a massive explosion which destroyed the entire building. The two SPARTANs who had begun to retreat with Shephard and Janet were killed in the blast, but the two remaining members of Team Hyena managed to escape the blast radius.
For the next two days, Janet and Shephard remained holed up in a partially destroyed building. Although both of them were able to cope with the loss of Michael with the help of their training, they were unable to find an opportune moment at which to move out and rejoin the remainder of Alpha Company. By this point, all but three of the plasma reactors had been destroyed by the SPARTANs. Without the reactors to generate heat, the liquid alloy that the Covenant used to create metal hardened and clogged the facility's ability to produce solid alloy, rendering it useless to the Covenant and signaling the success of Alpha Company's mission.
However, the Covenant now had thousands of infantry on the ground that were supported by hundreds of dropships, Banshee fliers, and ground vehicles. Unable to retreat back to the Calypso exfiltration craft, the SPARTAN-IIIs were forced to engage an enemy with air support, numerical superiority, and better knowledge of the terrain. As unit cohesion amongst the young super soldiers fell apart, they were systematically divided and annihilated by the Covenant soldiers. Shephard and Janet finally left their shelter in order to join a group of twenty five other S-IIIs who were planning to make a mad dash for one of the exfiltration craft.
- "It wasn't supposed to end like this..."
- ―Last words of Janet-A132
The charge began at the dawn of the seventh day of Operation: PROMETHEUS. All twenty seven SPARTANs launched an all-out assault on the Covenant forces blocking their escape route. Initially, their momentum proved sufficient enough to force the opposition aside, but when they came within a mile of the targeted exfiltration craft they were caught in a massive crossfire. Trapped and without cover, almost all of the SPARTANs were killed in less than five minutes. Shephard managed to drag a badly wounded Janet from the combat zone, but her injuries proved to be too extensive for his limited medical knowledge to treat and she died in his arms. Alone and surrounded by the enemy, Shephard fled deeper into the facility to plan his next move.
For all intents and purposes, the battle on K7-49 was over. After it stopped receiving footage from the deployed SPARTAN-IIIs, ONI assumed that all had been killed and informed Lieutenant Ambrose to begin work on the Beta batch of S-IIIs. The Covenant, for its part, could no longer use the asteroid facility for any strategic purpose. Withdrawing most of the troops deployed there, all but one warship left for other missions and battles. The one that remained kept troops on the asteroid for two purposes. There first and primary purpose was to conduct a large-scale salvaging operation in order to make the most of the useless facility. The second was to hunt down any surviving SPARTANs.
Shephard had no knowledge of any fellow survivors and had to assume that he was the last SPARTAN of Alpha Company left alive. Burying his grief under years of training and experience, he spent the next two days living in the facility's rubble. While he was able to avoid most Covenant patrols, the young SPARTAN had to engage and eliminate a few. This would always cause swarms of dropships to descend on his position and so he had to flee the area after every firefight. Forced to steal food and ammunition from the bodies of his dead comrades, his only creature comfort was a small diary that he used to record his scattered thoughts in during quiet moments.
Determined to survive to return to the UNSC and report what had happened, Shephard began a desperate search for any of the exfiltration craft that might still be operable. During his two days alone, he managed to find four of the sixteen that had landed on K7-49, but all of them had been destroyed during the battle. On his third day of searching, he was cut off from escape by several Covenant squads and a pair of Hunters. When all hope seemed lost, his attackers were cut down by a squad of three SPARTAN-IIIs: Team Lion.
Among the three survivors was Ramal-A016, the boy who had befriended Shephard during his early days on Onyx. However, their reunion proved to be short lived. Andrea-A134, Team Lion's leader, had no interest in Shephard's quest for a means off the asteroid and was instead obsessed with killing as much Covenant as she could in revenge for the destruction of the rest. Although Shephard attempted to reason with her, she merely brushed off his comments and called him a coward. Hurt and offended by the accusation, Shephard backed down and joined her, Ramal, and the final member of Team Lion, James-A212.
After destroying several more Covenant patrols, the four S-IIIs took cover in a gutted building. On Shephard's advice, James descended to the street below to collect ammuniton and rations from the bodies of other SPARTANs, but was shot and killed by a concealed sniper. A furious Andrea demanded that Shephard present himself as bait for the sniper. Shephard complied, but was shot through the stomach before Andrea managed to kill the Jackal with her own sniper rifle. As Ramal treated Shephard's injuries, a new horror presented itself in the form of a massive Scarab walker, which was dropped from the orbiting frigate to deal with the survivors once and for all.
- "Shephard... live!"
- ―Last words of Ramal-A016 as he saves Shephard-A294's life
As the Scarab and multiple squads of Covenant troops converged on their position, the three SPARTAN-IIIs fled for new cover. As they ran, the Scarab opened fire on them with its beam cannon and wounded Andrea. Rather than become a burden for her companions, the fiery S-III sacrificed herself in a suicide attack on their pursuers, allowing Shephard and Ramal to retreat further. However, when the two of them were finally cornered by the Scarab. Just as it fired, Ramal succeeded in pushing his friend into a ditch before being vaporized by the powerful beam.
With the Crew of Quick Endeavor
Recovery and Retraining
Training the SPARTAN-IVs
During the early years of his life, Shephard was incredibly energetic and outgoing, always curious to learn new things and eager to find adventure and excitement. Once his family was murdered, his personality went through a stunning change. Distancing himself from others, Shephard lost much of his former interest in life and instead became cold and laconic in words and actions. After being accepted into the SPARTAN-III program, much of his old eagerness to learn returned, but almost all of this interest was focused in matters pertaining to his training as he fought to catch up with the others.
During training, Shephard became very objective-oriented, always believing that his most important duty as a soldier was to complete his assigned mission at all costs. While rarely forming competitive rivalries with other trainees, he was very self-conscious and worried about any presumed loss of face he might suffer if he made a mistake in an exercise or lesson. This fear was compounded by his "tutelage" under George Kage, who would savagely beat him if he ever hesitated or made a mistake during training. His relationship with Team Hyena helped to soften these adverse affects, and his training from Lieutenant Ambrose and Chief Mendez instilled in him a firm belief in a SPARTAN's duty to protect the UNSC at all costs. This belief would be strengthened by Shephard's experiences in the field, especially during the battles of New Constantinople and the Far-Gone colony platforms, during which he witnessed many civilians die at the hands of the Covenant. Firmly wishing to prevent others from having to live through the pain he had been forced to endure, Shephard became determined to dedicate his life to defeating the Covenant.
Although this was his primary purpose in life, Shephard had ambiguous feelings about the UNSC in general. Having not had many positive or negative experiences with the government itself outside of the military, he saw it only as a master that helped to give him purpose in life and that he was dedicated to serve. However, during Operation: PROMETHEUS, he barely thought about the UNSC at all and instead focused on the lives that were being saved by his friends' sacrifices. After the death of Ramal, Shephard was only driven onwards by the instinct to survive that had been ingrained in him by training. Once he had escaped, Shephard felt that he had lost all drive and purpose in life and was only inspired to continue living by the failure of his suicide attempt.
The destruction of Alpha Company left Shephard with serious emotional scars that were not erased by extensive therapy and retraining upon his return to the UNSC. After having everything that he considered to make up his world torn away from him twice, he was adverse to forming any kind of bond with others in the fear that it would cause him just as much pain as the loss of the others had. He used his duties as a soldier of the UNSC to provide him with a purpose in life, and was noted by many others to be almost devoid of any noticeable emotion for much of the time. Unlike many SPARTANs, Shephard is willing to utilize sources outside the UNSC over the course of a mission, such as criminals or mercenaries. He is also comfortable with occasionally breaking regulations and laws in order to get a job done.
Relationships With Others
Shephard shared a regular loving relationship with his family prior to their massacre at the hands of Kurban. Although much of his parents' time was taken up by their work on the family farm, his father and mother both did their best to school both Shephard and Ashley in reading, writing, and simple math. Ashley, who was fully five years older than him, would take care of him for much of his early life, a relationship that forged a bond between the two siblings that would linger on in Shephard long after his sister's death.
With Team Hyena
With Other SPARTAN-IIIs
- "Uh... what's your name again?"
- ―Shephard-A294 during a conversation with another member of Alpha Company
Always socially awkward, Shephard did not interact much with the members of Alpha Company outside of Team Hyena unless required to do so by a specific training exercise or mission. Although he respected all Alpha Company SPARTAN-IIIs as worthy soldiers and comrades, he did not make an effort to kindle social friendships with those who were not his teammates. This was mostly due to his lasting fear of loss; after losing his entire family at once, Shephard was reluctant to form too many close-knit bonds with others, especially since he and everyone else he knew were members of a frontline combat unit that could suffer casualties at any time. Regardless of this, Shephard was always polite with those who went out of their way to talk to him and he would always remember his early friendship with Ramal-A016, which would be rekindled during Operation: PROMETHEUS.
After his return to the UNSC and transfer to the 117th Special Operations Regiment, Shephard was surprised to encounter more SPARTAN-IIIs from both Beta and Gamma Companies. Not knowing how to register this development emotionally, he mainly kept to himself and avoided much interaction with these later generations of the S-III program (ironically, Shephard's extensive time in cryo-sleep meant that many of these S-IIIs were biologically older than him).
To the ire of many of his superior officers, Shephard was fairly informal when dealing with those with a higher rank than him, often forgetting to utilize the formal terms "sir" or "ma'am" during discussions. Although never going so far as to be directly insubordinate, he was quite comfortable with questioning orders if he disagreed with what those orders entailed. Shephard was also highly mistrustful of any non-combat officer, or "desk jockey", as he viewed these sorts of people as the ones who had sent him and the rest of Alpha Company to their deaths on K7-49.
S-IVs from Bravo Company
In spite of his quiet and relatively non-commanding personality, Shephard took his duties as Company Sergeant for Bravo Company extremely seriously. Having taken a personal vow to never allow a unit he belonged to to suffer the same brutal fate as Alpha Company, Shephard considered it his sacred duty to safeguard as many of the lives of the SPARTANs under his command as possible. He would always take every opportunity to lead from the front and would deeply mourn all of the losses the company sustained in battle.
S-IVs from other companies
Due to his solitary nature, Shephard rarely interacted with SPARTAN-IVs from companies other than Bravo. When he did, he generally remained polite but formal and would avoid extensive conversations. In spite of this, Shephard took it upon himself to remember every member of the 117th Special Operations Regiment who was killed during combat and would eventually compile a complete list of all the S-IV program's losses during the Necros War.
Faith in the UNSC
Due to a life spent in service to the UNSC, Shephard's loyalty and devotion to the UNSC as a whole is firm, although he is prone to having doubts about many of its more covert and morally dubious actions. He is less trusting of ONI, which he disdains for sending his company on a suicide mission that resulted in the deaths of all of his friends. He fully appreciates any UNSC citizen who is willing to join the military in order to defend humanity, but after witnessing the horrors of war first-hand can fully understand those who so not wish to do so. Despite his loyalty, Shephard is completely comfortable with questioning the orders given to him, although he will ultimately carry them out to the letter. He despises any course of action that is known beforehand to cause civilian casualties and is utterly contemptuous of any soldier who is willing to kill innocents in order to accomplish a mission objective.
During his training on Onyx and early into his first combat deployment on Mamore, Shephard felt nothing but contempt for all rebels against the UNSC. Considering them to be selfish, murdering cowards, he felt fully prepared to mercilessly slaughter them in the name of his mission. However, the short period of time he spent undercover in a rebel training camp exposed him to many "rank and file" rebels who had legitimate, non-selfish reasons for opposing the UNSC. His guilt over having to kill many of these same rebels over the course of his mission forced Shephard to reconsider his feelings about rebels and the Insurrection as a whole. While still despising those who would subvert and use misguided idealists for their own corrupt ends, he at least sympathized with those idealists who were unwittingly sent to their deaths by manipulative power-seekers.
Feelings on Non-Humans
- "So the squid-heads kill billions of us during the War and now we're best friends all of a sudden? Am I the only person who sees the problem here?"
- ―Shephard commenting on the UNSC's alliance with the Sanghelli
During the Human-Covenant War, humanity was forced to fight alone against the Covenant's alien coalition. While deployed with Alpha Company, Shephard grew to hate all of the non-humans he and his comrades fought, especially during the wholesale slaughter that was Operation: PROMETHEUS. After being rescued from cryo sleep, Shephard saw a changed galaxy in which most of the various races were united under the flag of the AUR. Having never fought with any non-human allies, Shephard refused to let go of his hatred for the Covenant races and especially despised the Sanghelli for the many members of Alpha Company that had died by their hands and for the prosperity that they had experienced as a result of the Human-Covenant War.
Shephard was less hostile towards but still mistrustful of other alien races. Although he was repelled by the species-wide atheism of the Machina, he was especially interested by the values of duty and honor within the Vorenus. He also admired the Plainsfierians for their ability to adapt and survive, a trait that he had learned to value from heavy personal experience.
During his deployment with Alpha Company, Shephard utilized a variety of weapons and equipment in the field. Later, while an officer with the 117th, he would radically alter much of the equipment he used while also at times remaining true to his old combat habits.
Throughout his time as a SPARTAN-III, Shephard wore the Semi-Powered Infiltration armor for almost all of his missions. Although it offered only moderate protection from enemy fire, it's primitive active camouflage system allowed him to outwit and outmaneuver many of his enemies so that he could get into position for a good attack. During the first phase of Operation: POINT INSERTION, Shephard dressed in plainclothes that matched what Mamore colonists usually wore and during Operation: CHEMOTHERAPY he deployed in woodland camouflage that would have been easier to explain away than SPI armor if he or his teammates had been apprehended by local authorities.
As a NCO in Bravo Company, Shephard was issued a suit of the CQB variant of the MJOLNIR MARK VII, which was appropriate for his penchant for close quarters fighting style. In a rare display of sentimentality, Shephard named the suit "Alpha" after his former company and marked it with two hundred and ninety-nine black squares in memorial for his fallen comrades. In addition to this, he also bore the Greek α("alpha") symbol on his chest plate.
A practiced survivor, Shephard would carry a variety of survival gear, such as a water bottle and a small medkit, with him at all times. During extended deployments, such as Operation: WARDOG, he would also attach a Marine Extreme Environmental Pack to his armor, carrying in it extra ammunition, survival gear, and various useful odds and ends. He would often strap his unique blade onto the side of the pack.
Shephard would often carry a Camouflage Cloak Mark II with him into combat, utilizing its superb camouflage abilities to get within close enough range of his enemies to utilize firearms or his blade to deal swift, crippling strikes that would end a battle quickly.
"Alpha" (M84 Wolf)
- "If only we'd had these during Prometheus..."
- ―Shephard upon seeing a Wolf exoskeleton for the first time
Although Shephard's MJOLNIR armor was both useful and potent, he grew to like the M84 Wolf exoskeleton during his period of retraining. Appreciating both its speed and firepower, he would use it even more than he would his regular armor and it helped him to lead from the front during combat. Like his MJOLNIR suit, it was embossed with the "α" symbol on its chest and the two-hundred and ninety-nine red squares on its arms. Its overall color is dark, and aside from the alpha symbol and the memorial squares there is no other decoration.
The weapons he used with the frame were the MB67 assault rifle and a pair of MB77 pistols, both of which were strapped to his suit's legs. While piloting the frame he wore a suit of M7 Body Armour. He made sure that a spare assault rifle was stowed inside the Wolf's cockpit, along with survival gear and his sword.
Although Shephard's weapon of choice when he was first deployed into combat was the MA5K Carbine, he soon developed a preference for the suppressed version of the M7 submachine gun, which offered better performance than the MA5K in close quarters fighting. He would use the M7S almost exclusively until Operation: PROMETHEUS, when he would also carry an MA5B assault rifle for added flexibility during the heavy fighting on K7-49.
His sidearm of choice was the M6C SOCOM variant.
After being rescued and hospitalized, Shephard voluntarily underwent a two-year retraining program in order to familiarize himself with the UNSC's modern technology. During this time period, he maintained his penchant for relatively close quarters fighting and armed himself accordingly. Having alwasy felt that shotguns were too inflexible, Shephard instead utilized an MA6A Assault Rifle, which he occasionally would outfit with a bayonet attachment. Although the models he used were variable, Shephard always carried a sidearm into battle. Finally, Shephard used an M13 Machete for extremely close quarters situations.
- "Since when did the battle to save the human race become a competition?"
- ―Shephard-A294's response to a fellow S-III's claims of "surpassing" the SPARTAN-IIs
- "If we can buy the colonists who are counting on us to defend them just one more day, just one more hour, of safety and protection, then it will be worth that one more day and that one more hour that we fight here!"
- ―Shephard-A294 to another SPARTAN-III during Operation: PROMETHEUS
- "We can die here, or we can retreat now and continue fighting the enemy."
- ―Shephard-A294 to Andrea-A134
- "The thing that absolutely breaks my heart is that while all of the SPARTAN-IIs are honored and remembered for their sacrifices, almost no one outside of ONI will ever know or care about what my friends all fought and died for. It's as if they never even existed."
- ―Shephard-A294 reflecting on the eternally classified nature of Alpha Company and Operation: PROMETHEUS.
- "Some days I feel like it was all worth it and that there was an actual reason for me staying alive. Other days I feel like I should have just reloaded the pistol and killed myself properly back in the exfiltration craft."
- "Who am I? Just a lifeless husk, a walking relic of a dead war. For as long as the UNSC has a use for me, I will remain alive even though I have lost my soul. But when my usefulness is used up, I harbor no illusions about what will happen to me. I will be cast aside and will finally be allowed to die."
- ―Shephard-A294 during the Necros War
- Shephard was partially inspired by Adrian Shephard, the protagonist of Half Life: Opposing Force who is noted for having the ability to "adapt and survive against all odds" and by the Sole Survivor background for Commander Shepard in Mass Effect.
- For all intents and purposes, Shephard's name is a misspelling. It was originally intended to be a homage to Commander Shepard, the protagonist of Mass Effect, but the author mistakenly believed that said protagonist's surname was spelled "Shephard". Since the discovery of this error, the author considers the name to instead be a homage to both Commander Shepard and the aforementioned Adrian Shephard from Half Life: Opposing Force".
- As of September 7th, 2009, this is Actene's longest article on the Halo Fan Fiction Wikia, surpassing even the SPARTAN-G294 (which he considers to be his primary character) in length. However, it is only the 43rd longest on the site.
- Shephard's unhelmeted image is taken from a fanart image of Sasuke Uchiha from the Naruto anime and manga series, as is his sword, which is used by Sasuke. Sasuke's face was used because he is the author's favorite fictional characters; the sword was used because it is one of his favorite sword designs.
- Shephard's theme song is the song "Sign" by the rock band FLOW