Edward Malcolm Pepper (9 March 3234 – early November 3267) was a Terran Imperial soldier and a veteran of the Great War. He served for over ten years in the Imperial Army as a non-commissioned officer of the dismounted infantry, or dragoons, of the armoured cavalry branch. He died in the Battle of Khoz, and was posthumously awarded the Knight's Cross for valour.
Despite being a junior NCO in an army of over a trillion soldiers during a war of enormous scale, Pepper is of significant interest to military historians for his leadership of the Lonely Hearts squad, a small unit that is among the most-decorated of its type and which produced numerous persons of fame and influence in the current Republic. His leadership capability is examined as a classical example of non-commissioned officer duties and responsibilities, and is believed to have been a major contributing factor in not only the military service, but the later lives and careers of William McGrady, Zenzi Rothschild, and planetary governor Artem Meshcheryakov.
Early life and education
Edward Malcolm Pepper was born the child of Matthew Brian Pepper and Jonathan Pepper (nee Harrison) at the Central Hospital of the city of Quarry Bank on Calderstone in the Alderton System on March 9th, 3234. As his parents were both male, Pepper was born through the male egg in-vitro fertilisation process using the combined genetic material of his fathers, a cloned egg implanted with one of the fathers' genes, and an artificial womb. The fathers have never disclosed whose genetic material was implanted in the egg.
Pepper was raised by his fathers in the Roman Catholic faith, and was well-disposed towards the humanities, history, and music. He learned the piano and the viola from an early age, and excelled with the flute in his adolescence.
Pepper was sent to the Starkly School for Boys, an elite private Catholic academy in Quarry Bank from age 6 to age 16. While at the Starkly School, he participated in numerous extracurricular activities and performed in the school orchestra as a flautist. He was reported by his teachers to have had homosexual liaisons with his fellow students, a relatively common occurrence at the school. He periodically had girlfriends, too, often girls that attended the neighbouring St. Helen Girl's School, a private academy affiliated with the Orthodox Church. He matriculated the Starkly School with intent to pursue education to become a priest of the Church. At age 16, he chose to attend the Calderstone Seminary School in the planet's capital, Saint Georgetown. He attended from August 3250 to May 3253, joining the local chapter of Opus Dei as a lay brother during his education, and graduated with a Master of Divinity degree. He seemed set to enter the priesthood, but enlisted in the Army in 3254 and never took Holy Orders.
Edward Pepper enlisted in the Imperial Army Cavalry Corps on April 10th, 3254. He shipped out on May 1st for Basic Training at Bittrich, the Inner Colonies training depot. He graduated boot camp and followed it with Infantry School and Harsh Environment Training. In basic training and infantry school, he showed "conspicuous initiative and leadership qualities" among the enlisted and was recommended for NCO leadership courses, which he completed and was consequently promoted to Corporal in January 3255. He was assigned to the 505th Dragoons Battalion of the 12th Guards Cavalry Division, stationed in the Outer Colonies, as an assistant to the battalion staff. He undertook further training to become a "journeyman" Chaplain, studying with battalion chaplain Lieutenant Jeffrey Beams. However, after Beams' death from suicide in early July 3257, Pepper discontinued studies. He requested reassignment to a rifle unit, and was selected to lead a fireteam in 1st Platoon. He was promoted to Sergeant in 3259, and assigned to lead the rifle squad when the unit's NCO in charge received a promotion to a platoon staff NCO position.
In February 3260, his unit was rebased to Nausicaa, in the Banat region. It was alleged by Pepper's fellow NCOs that he may have had a liaison with a schoolteacher in the city of Windy Heights. These rumours ran in contradiction to the official reported information from Pepper, his superiors, and members of his squad, which allege that he remained celibate after graduating the Seminary. It would not be until 3286 that it was revealed by Pepper's fathers that he had indeed fathered an illegitimate child while stationed on Nausicaa, though he was not made aware of it until 3264. The unit was rebased in to the Perseid Frontier after four months on Nausicaa for field combat duties.
His squad's composition was rearranged in 3264. Five members of his squad were discharged at around the same time at the end of their ten-year service period. The only members that remained from his assignment in 3257 were Corporal Richard O'Toole, Lance Corporal Jayne Rossum and PFC Ophelius Greene. Joining in 3264 were PFC William McGrady, Specialist Zenzi Rothschild, PFC Lucy van Marten, and Specialist Daniel McRogers. They were assigned to police duties on Nausicaa again, where the squad was instrumental in foiling a terrorist siege of the Windy Heights Academy. The results were considered a failure, as many civilians died, but the terrorists were all killed or apprehended. Pepper was promoted to Staff Sergeant after the incident.
In September 3265, the 12th Guards Cavalry was mobilized for combat duty in the Great War. The division first saw action against the Soviet Republic in December as reinforcing ground forces at the battle for Kalabaska, a large, hot terrestrial planet with vital industrial infrastructure and orbital installations. Almost the entirety of 1st Platoon was wiped out in the orbital shuttle drop, with Pepper's squad being the only survivors; this earned the squad the moniker "Lonely Hearts". Their hard-fought journey to the battalion rendezvous point was only the start; over the next several months, the 505th Dragoons bitterly engaged Soviet forces across the planet's single large continent. Pepper recommended his subordinates for decorations and promotions, and he was honoured with the Iron Cross.
McGrady and the 12th Guards Cavalry were garrisoned at Kalabaska from March to August 3266. For eight months afterwards, they were redeployed for policing duties on various other worlds in the end-stages of capture. In May 3267, they were deployed as part of a large task force to capture the Khoz System. Along with two Marine divisions, and another fourteen reinforcing Army divisions, the 12th Guards Cavalry were landed on the surface of Khoz Prime. The Battle of Khoz turned out to be one of the largest battles of the Great War, with Khoz Prime being the locus of the battle. The fighting lasted six months, during which the 12th Guards Cavalry at first encircled Soviet forces but then themselves became encircled. Pepper served over 120 consecutive days on the front lines, commanding his squad and some attached support fireteams during constant trench fighting. He and the Lonely Hearts were dispatched on November 4 to re-establish communications with the 503rd Artillery Battalion. Pepper led his squad through dense forests and riverine terrain, fending off dangerous wildlife and enemy attack. Pepper was injured during a wildlife attack on their camp, and moved the squad towards City Zone 231 to resupply and obtain medical assistance. He led the squad in assisting a breakthrough by pinned-down battalions deep in the city.
Sometime between 6 and 8 November, Pepper and the squad holed up in a makeshift bunker constructed from a bombed-out apartment building. The surviving squadmates have commented little on the subject, and the official reports are sparse. Pepper and another squadmate, PFC Lucy van Marten, were struck by enemy fire and both died from massive gunshot wounds to the head. Private Van Marten died instantly, but Pepper lasted a few minutes before succumbing to his wounds. Attempts at emergency medical attention were to no avail, and he was determined to have died.
The squad command was given to Artem Meshcheryakov, and the Lonely Hearts continued afterwards to aid the breakthrough assault before departing the city to link up with the 503rd Artillery. They assisted the 503rd in a ground assault on a Soviet redoubt north of the city which proved vital to the conclusion of the encirclement, and thus the battle.
Posthumous treatment and legacy
Staff Sergeant Pepper's body was buried at the site of his death the next morning. It was recovered a few weeks later after the battle had been decisively won by the Imperial forces. The corpse, which had seen surprisingly little decay, was cryogenically preserved for its comportment offworld, where it was delivered to his fathers. Pepper was posthumously awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his meritorious and gallant service, and posthumously promoted to the rank of Sergeant Major. The body received a Catholic burial at his homeworld with full military honours, and he was buried with all of his medals and decorations, pinned to his finest parade uniform.
Pepper was not of particular concern to military historians until the mid-3280s, when it came to light that both Lord McGrady and his wife Zenzi Rothschild, as well as now-Governor Mescheryakov had all been members of the Lonely Hearts squad. Historical and political science studies investigated the connections between these political figures and uncovered the common connections. Historians soon tried to uncover as much biographical information about Pepper as they could, intensively studying this one sergeant from the Great War for clues as to the effect of his guidance during their formative experience in wartime on their current personalities and behaviour. Reports of Pepper's leadership and moral character abounded in military records. Historical analysis has, however, cast some criticism on the glowing official reports, depicting a man with possible psychological issues including depression and potential for self-harm. However, overall, he is respected as a model NCO who put his squad and the mission above his personal safety, and whose bravery was unparalleled by his peers in the Army. After petitions by Lonely Hearts squad veterans, a bust of Edward Pepper was sculpted and placed in the Hall of Heroes in the capital city of Constance in a public ceremony held on 8 November 3287, on the estimated twentieth anniversary of his passing.
Pepper had an illegitimate son, Eugene Cartney Hawkins (born 8 November 3260) by schoolteacher Cynthia Hawkins. Eugene was officially recognised by his grandfathers at the municipal court of Quarry Stone in December 3286. Peppers intentions in regards to the mother of the child are not known, and she has declined to comment publicly on the matter, as have Eugene Hawkins and Pepper's fathers. Eugene joined the Space Forces in 3287, as a reserve officer in the Navy Hospital Corps.
Summary of Army career
Enlisted in the Terran Imperial Army on 10 April 3254. Went to Basic Training from 1 May to 2 July 3254, Infantry School 4 July to 1 August 3254, and Harsh Environment Training 16 to 31 August 3254. Attended NCO leadership courses 10 September to 10 December 3254. Assigned to battalion staff, 505th Dragoons Battalion, 2nd Armoured Brigade of the 12th Guards Cavalry Division from 12 January 3255 to 8 July 3257. Reassigned to 1st Platoon, 505th Dragoons Battalion from 19 July 3257 to November 3267.
Killed in action, circa early November 3267.
Dates of rank
- Recruit (E-0) 10 April 3254
- Private (E-1) 1 May 3254
- Private First Class (E-2) 31 August 3254
- Corporal (E-4) 11 December 3254
- Sergeant (E-5) 14 April 3259
- Staff Sergeant (E-6) 11 September 3264
- Sergeant Major (E-9) posthumously, 9 March 3268
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (posthumously)
- Iron Cross
- Distinguished Service Cross
- War Merit Cross
- Silver Star
- Bronze Star
- Panzer Badge
- Infantry Assault Badge (in Gold)
- Close Combat Badge (in Gold)
- Army Service Medal (2 times)
- Wound Badge (6 times)
- Banat Province Police Action Medal
- Perseid Frontier Police Action Medal
- Kalabaska Campaign Combat Service Medal
- Sigarit Campaign Police Action Medal
- Urahaz Campaign Police Action Medal
- Baharat Campaign Police Action Medal
- Annos Campaign Police Action Medal
- Khoz Campaign Combat Service Medal (posthumous)
Behind the scenes
The character of "Sergeant Pepper" was developed by Leeland Hallett as part of the tabletop roleplaying game conducted by the Unionverse creative team. He appeared, like William McGrady, Zenzi Rothschild, and Artem Meshcheryakov, in the second episodic campaign in that game, as a soldier in the Lonely Hearts squad. The name of the Sergeant, the squad, and other details of Pepper's backstory were crafted as an homage to the Beatles, of which Hallett is a big fan. Overall it references the Beatles' psychedelic album "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", which was released in 1967. The setting of the episode in 3267 completed the reference.
Pepper was conceived as a homosexual or bisexual soldier with homosexual parents, as a way of subtly exploring the degree to which homosexuality and same-sex relationships had become normalized in the far future. Regardless of current-day preconceptions about homosexuality, Pepper is a masculine fighter and leader, defying what would be typical expectations and affirming the normalcy of sexual freedom among humans in future civilization. Pepper's sexuality was never confirmed in-game until the game's third season when it was gradually revealed that a major non-player character, mercenary captain Eugene Cartney Hawkins, was his illegitimate son from one of his few heterosexual liaisons. Hawkins later met his grandparents and was recognised as such.
Pepper is one of the few characters broadly considered by the audience and fanbase as unambiguously "good". In game terms, his roleplaying alignment was solidly "Lawful Good". His visual appearance is based partly on Leeland himself and on his hero, actor Nathan Fillion.