The lecture hall of the University of Serrice was buzzing with activity as various students talked among themselves. While Galactic History was not a subject that many would expect to get a degree in, it was still a course many took for various reasons during their studies on Thessia. Needing the extra credit, thinking it was a (relatively) easy class, getting it assigned as part of their first semester, or even just simply wanting to know. The class fell silent as the professor, an aged asari matriarch, entered the hall and took her place in front of the assembled students.

"Good morning everyone," She said, receiving few responses. "Last week, we finished with the Turian Hierarchy and their ascension to the Citadel Council. Today, we will start our studies on the Holy Star Empire of Jerusalem. Who can tell me what makes the Empire unique compared to other nations?" She asked, looking around. "Liara, perhaps you can tell me?" She said and pointed towards a young asari in the front seat.

"Huh? Oh, me?" The young asari maiden's cheeks flushed a brighter shade of blue briefly. "Um, the Empire's people are one of two known species and the only Citadel member not to hold their homeworld."

"That is correct," the professor nodded as she adjusted the hologram to show the political state of the galaxy at that time. "In 1692 GS, a batarian slaver group hatched a brazen plan, one even more illegal and dangerous than anything they had ever done before. They traveled, using normal FTL methods, into parts unknown and began to open Mass Relays, their goal being the opening of a backdoor into Citadel space, thus bypassing all the patrols and attacking lightly defended core worlds with high population densities."

"What could go wrong?" a turian jeered briefly, getting an agreeing snicker from her fellow students.

Ignoring the remark, the professor continued on. "However, a faulty navigation computer led their fleet to a homeworld of a pre-industrial species, called humans. In direct violation of Citadel Conventions, they had not only opened unknown Relays, but also proceeded to abduct thousands of these people."

"However, during their return to the Terminus Systems, their captives managed to escape and overpower their captors. Several ships carrying the captives crashed on the salarian colony of Dinalin. The Council initially planned return the captives to their homeworld, but in the end it did not. Who can tell me why?" hands rose and she looked to one of the students in the back. "You in the backseat?"

"The ship's navigational data was lost and since the relays were located in unknown space, they were never found. So the Council just gave them a planet to call their own," a salarian answered.

"Good. However, it was not that the Council simply gave them a planet, but merely acknowledged their ownership. The planet, which we now call Nod, had colonization rights which were bought by several rich philanthropists who then offered the planet as a new home for the displaced humans. The Council merely accepted this offer of goodwill."

"Of course they did, they're the asari's children!" someone scoffed. The professor was quite sure it was one of the turian students. Their vocals were quite distinct.

"Yes, that is a common belief. It is quite true that the asari played a large role in uplifting the humans. However, it should be remembered that human society developed in a different direction than the Asari Republics, contrasting asari e-democracy with their absolute monarchy. For a while, humans fought among themselves, blaming each other for summoning demons and angering their god. What changed? You there."

"Some dude talked some sense into them," an asari to the left side of the room offered.

"And who was this 'dude'?" the professor pressed.

"Peter... the Third?"

"Peter the Second, actually. He preached that humans were to put aside their squabbles over details, as all three human religions centered around the same god, but had theological differences on this god's will. Can anyone name these three major religions before the formation of the Faith of Abraham?" the teacher looked around and saw no hands, with several students looking shamed and others frustrated.

"I see several of you skipped that part of our textbooks," she said with a smirk. "Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Those three were the dominant human religions until Peter the Second. While initially he was not listened to, several human leaders eventually chose to convert to this religion in order to end the infighting. But while there was pragmatism, there was also real religious zeal amongst these converts. So, what eventually made this Faith of Abraham so central to their culture?"

"They see their god everywhere!" someone shouted.

"It's a tradition?" someone else offered.

"The cultural backlash reaction as a result of our interference," a turian - the same one who had asked what could go wrong - offered.

"Very good, cultural backlash is the correct answer. As external cultures began seep into their daily lives, there was a growing concern of cultural extinction and loss of themselves in galactic society. This was realized even in the Citadel, where some protested against offering aid to the humans on the grounds that it stunted their natural cultural evolution and the fear of having another krogan case in their hands."

"Except humans don't require anti-tank munitions to take down," someone whispered just a little too loudly, earning a swift glare from the professor before she continued.

"However, in the end, humanity rallied behind the banner of the Faith of Abraham and made it their central cultural tenant. Following the appearance of Saint Adil, who claimed that their god wanted humanity to unite under a single banner, the Empire of Jerusalem was formally founded. Who was their first Emperor?"

"Baldwin the First?" an asari offered, before her companion next to her shook her head.

"No, that was the third Emperor. First one was... Hassan the First?"

"Yes, Hassan the First is the correct answer," the teacher said before a loud buzzing noise rang out, signaling the end of the period. "We are out of time today and we have skimmed over the early history of the Empire. Next time, we will study how Empire earned the Star part of their name and next week, we will discuss the Batarian Crusade and its implications for the galaxy at large. For next class, I want a two page report of position of the Emperor and how his dual nature as a head of church and head of state intertwines in the Empire's government. Class dismissed."


Citadel Council Chambers

2657 GS

"Councilors, you requested my presence?" ambassador Abd-Al-Azis said as he bowed to the three Councilors in front of him. Around them, numerous attendants were looking over the proceeding.

"Yes. There has been some... disturbing news from one of our border patrols, Ambassador. We had thought that the Empire knew the consequences of breaking the law," Tevos said, looking down at the human coldly. To his credit his face did not reveal anything.

"Ambassador, the Empire is aware that the opening of new Relays without having scouted it's counterpart is illegal, correct?" Councilor Bruha - an aged salarian - asked.

"Yes, quite so. The danger such recklessness poses is too great. Everyone knows this. Why do you ask?" Azis asked, confusion finally showing on his face.

"We recently located a colony of yours, well outside the territories given to the Empire. Worst of all, they tried to open a relay without permission," Tevos said, bringing up the holographic image of the colony. Azis looked over it. Around them, the observers spoke among themselves, shocked by the reveal.

"Relay 314's counterpart is not known, as such, it should-" Sparatus began, before Azis cut him off.

"Relay 314? Isn't that in the southern part of the Attican Traverse?" the ambassador asked, raising his head.

"Yes, so?"

"We have no presence there," Azis said, reaching for his omni-tool and checking the records of the Imperial Administration. "You can see that for yourself," the Councilors turned their eyes to their consoles, looking over the data sent to them.

"Interesting... Please continue," Bruha commented before tapping something into her console. Azis suspected Bruha was requesting confirmation from STG. A few minutes later, Bruha turned to her fellow Councilors and nodded.

"A rogue colony then?" Tevos asked.

"Perhaps, but as far as we know no sect has declared that they would be doing anything like this," Azis answered. "Nor have any of the Orders or Noble Houses declared colonization projects. It may be secret, but opening a relay... no one is that stupid. We are still newcomers in galactic terms, but we have been well educated about the dangers of the unknown."

"Too true," Tevos said when Sparatus's omnitool chirped. He turned his attention to the display, reading whatever message had arrived, before turning to the other Councilors.

"The occupation fleet just sent a message," Sparatus said. "They had problems with the translation software, apparently the dialect was not something in the program. They finished updating the software and found sound something... interesting."

"Spit it out already, Sparatus. You have never been one for theatrics," Tevos demanded from the newly appointed turian representative, surprising those present with her sudden aggressiveness.

"They have no knowledge of the Star Empire or the Citadel and claim to be from something called the Systems Alliance. Which hails from Earth."

"Earth?" Azis asked asked, barely believing his ears. "Do you mean...?"

"Yes. Humanity's homeworld," Sparatus answered.

Silence deep enough to hear a fly buzz fell upon the Council chamber. Eventually, Azis made a sign of the cross and crescent upon his chest before whispering in a tiny voice, which could be heard among silent chamber.

"By God... it has been found."


One Week Later

SSV Horns of Hattin, Shanxi Orbit

2157 CE (2657 GS)

Second Lieutenant Steven Hackett sat in his chair, waiting for the representative of this new alien species to arrive. While the Second Fleet had been preparing a counterattack to liberate Shanxi from the invading aliens, a transmission from General Williams had arrived saying that aliens had pulled out and had left a message saying that they wanted to talk. The Second Fleet had entered the system after scout ships had confirmed that it was clear.

A few days later, a new ship had entered the system, different from the earlier vessels. It had hailed the fleet from the Mass Relay and declared its intentions to open communications. They even provided (using one of the transmission stations left behind by the invaders) what they said was an 'updated' translation software, which had been uploaded into the ones used by Hackett and his guards once the cyberwarfare specialists were sure that they were not trojan horses.

Then again, it was not his job to decide these matters. He had been chosen to serve as the representative, because he was in that nightmarish position where he could speak for humanity, but was also expendable if this went sour. He really hoped nothing would go wrong, he did not want the last memory of his wife being them arguing about his career.

The door opened and what looked like a blue woman stepped inside, flanked by two others with body armor and holstered pistols. Hackett stood up, signaling his guards to be ready in case this went wrong. The aliens, all of them, looked exactly like attractive human women, except with blue skin and a weird tentacle-like crests instead of hair. He had to stop himself from commenting on how it looked like an old school sci-fi film that used rubber foreheads for the aliens.

"Guess that space does have blue skinned alien babes," one of the marines on his flank muttered. Hackett let the man's comment pass, it was somewhat unexpected.

"It is an interesting biological and evolutionary question that is still being worked on," the alien said, making Hackett glare at the guard.

"I apologize for my men, I hope we have not insulted you," Hackett apologized, raising his hand defensively.

"No harm done, it's an understandable reaction. My name is Amathema and I am here on behalf of the Citadel Council. We wish to apologize for this tragic chain of events and share some important information before the official delegations arrive," the alien explained. Hackett noticed that her lips movement did not quite sync with the words he heard. Hackett assumed it was due to the translation software.

"Very well. I am Second Lieutenant Hackett and I was ordered to meet you. Do sit, it is considered rude by us to keep the other standing," Hackett offered, gesturing to a chair next to Amathema.

"Thank you," she (Hackett was quite sure it was a she) said, sitting down. Hackett sat down himself, before Amathema continued. "I hope you understand that this is not yet an official meeting, I am not authorized to actually agree on anything or offer anything, merely to lay a groundwork to set up official talks."

"I understand. I am very much in the same position myself," Hackett paused for a moment to think. "I assume official diplomats will be conducting talks later?"

"Yes, we are hoping that after this meeting you could send your own diplomats who could speak for you."

"I'll talk to my superiors, but I can't make promises."

"That is acceptable. Now, I should explain the situation somewhat. But first, I must ask you what does the name Jerusalem mean to your people?"

"Jerusalem?" Hackett asked, raising his eyebrow. What did the aliens want to know about that for? And why did they have the word for the city in their language? Or was it one of those exceptions due to being a name?


"What about it?"

"We wish to confirm whether or not certain information has survived on Earth, or if details have been lost to time," Amathema said, "If the details have been lost, then we will explain them to you."

"I see." Hackett curled his lip uncertainly for a moment. "Well, Jerusalem is a city back on our homeworld. Some say it's a holy city, others say it's a source of headaches for politicians. It was destroyed by a meteor strike a long time ago, easily a thousand years, before being rebuilt."

"Yes. We expected that. Well, you see, about... let me see…" an orange device around her wrist glowed and the soldiers were immediately on guard and hands were on their pistols, their alien counterparts responding likewise to this action.

"Peace," the ambassador said, "I am simply confirming dates."

"Stand down, men," Hackett said, making a mental note to commend their quick uptake to a potential threat.

The alien nodded as her device finished. "That estimate matches up with our end. A thousand years ago, a group of slavers broke several Citadel laws and ended up over your homeworld, Earth. An event called the Third Crusade was happening at the time," Hackett blinked at the fact that they knew of Earth's history and of specific events. "These slavers, using their significantly more advanced technology captured over 30,000 people in and around the city called Jerusalem, before destroying it."

"Wait wait wait, back up a bit," Hackett said as he realized what she was saying. "You are saying that Old Jerusalem was destroyed by aliens?"

"Yes," the alien ambassador said, wincing faintly.

It took a minute for Hackett to finally process the revelation. "Jesus Christ on a pogo stick, those loons were right," Hackett muttered to himself, before turning back to Amathema. "How many other aliens have visited our world?" Hackett asked a little too harshly, the prothean ruins on Mars in the back of his mind.

"None, as far as we know," Amathema said. "As the slavers were returning, either through skill or luck, the enslaved humans managed to overpower their captors and free themselves. Luckily for them, the ships were passing through a system colonized by the salarians - another Council species - and the ship crashed onto it. We were informed of this and sought to help the confused and scared escapees."

"I see. Um, thank you, I guess," Hackett said awkwardly. How the hell were you supposed to respond to finding out about that? "What happened to them?"

"We helped them. Tried to find their homeworld so we could return them. As you might guess, we didn't succeed. Space is pretty big place after all," Amathema said with a brief smirk. "As such, we offered them a world to live on. It has been a long time since, but these days they travel the stars with us, under the banner of the Holy Star Empire of Jerusalem. Pretty nice people, as long as you do not try to practice slavery."

"Holy Star Empire of Jerusalem?" Hackett asked incredulously and was fairly sure he could hear one of his guards blanching in shock. "Huh, haven't heard the term 'Holy' in a nation's name since medieval times. Most people don't want like idea of mixing religion and politics these days."

"You are not religious yourself?" Amathema said, surprise evident on her face.

"You're asking about me or our species?" Hackett asked, confused as a nudging sense of worry creeped up his spine.

"Both, really," Amathema said.

"Well, I guess you could say there is spirituality, but most people just pay a lipservice out of social traditions rather than from any real sense of belonging," Hackett explained. "A lot of humans have, well, outgrown such silly superstitions," what the hell are you doing quoting archaic sci-fi you moron… he angrily berated himself before adding. "Er. Well, it's sort of fallen out of favor, it's just not as popular as it used to be."

"Oh dear, this might complicate things... still, it can't be said that nobody saw this coming," Amathema muttered to herself, though clearly distressed.

"I hope our beliefs are not something to worry about," Hackett said cautiously. There was no knowing what sort people these aliens were.

"No, we have no issues with you. Religious freedom is something we take extremely seriously on the Citadel. The thing I worry about is certain elements of the Empire's population. The citizens of the Star Empire are quite religious, their Emperor is both head of state and the leader of their religion. But as with everything in the galaxy, there are those who take it too far," Amathema explained, pausing often as she was clearly trying to put it diplomatically.

"Oh... I hope they have not been causing troubles for you. Back on home, we had... how to put this nicely..." Hackett said as he rubbed the back of his neck trying to think of a good way to put it. "We had bad runs with religion our own history, with people mixing religion and politics. Bad experiences. So..." Hackett concluded as he trailed off and could not think of a better way to put it. If this group of humans were just as bad as certain groups back home, the Alliance could be coming into the galaxy with preloaded expectations against them.

"That depends on your definition of trouble. As a whole, they obey galactic law and their missionaries are rather well known for running charity as part of their efforts, but there is bad blood between them and the batarians."

"Oh," Hackett said, his body relaxing as the worst case scenarios were unfounded. "Well, that is good to hear. Though I can't say for sure, since I do not know these, uh, batarians, myself."

"I can pretty safely say nobody, or at least anyone I know of, has issues with the Empire beyond some minor complaints."

"I hope you do not mind me saying this, but this all sounds like some sci-fi thriller novel. Aliens kidnapping humans, those humans building an empire while the rest are unaware of it... It's quite a lot to take in."

"I understand. It is an improbable chain of events, but in the end, this is the situation amongst the stars at the moment."

"So how does this all tie back to these...?" Hackett said gesturing towards space and Shanxi uncertainly as he decided to leave the matter of other humans to his superiors.

"Turians," Amathema supplied.

"These turians attacking us?"

"There is a law against opening unactivated Mass Relays without knowing where they lead," Amathema elaborated. "Punishment for breaking such laws are quite severe. Opening a relay once almost lead to destruction of the galactic community."

"Well, we were unaware of such laws, so I don't see how that excuses these turians for coming in guns blazing," Hackett retorted.

"Normally, you would be right. However, the Star Empire knows this law. The turians, seeing that humans were opening a relay, assumed you were part of the Star Empire. We only recently realized that you are not part of the Star Empire, after they notified us that they did not have a colony in this region of space."

Sloppy, Hackett thought. Not even checking to make sure you were going after the right guys? He chalked it down to an overeager commander looking to prove something.

"After the translation softwares were upgraded with your languages, the turians were ordered to pull out and I was dispatched to set up talks. We do hope that this incident has not completely soured your views on alien life," Amathema concluded.

"I see," Hackett said. "So what happens now?"

"First and most importantly, we are hoping to put an end to this conflict before it grows and help you to join the galactic community. Official representatives from the Citadel Council and the Empire are currently en route to formally meet with your representatives."

"You didn't mention what this Citadel Council is, by the way," Hackett added. Was it just a local government, was it some sort of UN analog, was it a governing body like a senate?

"The Citadel is, simply put, the controlling government of half of the galaxy," Amathema said with a smile.

Hackett's mouth, much to his shame, dropped open.


SSVMakaluka, Shanxi Orbit

A few days had passed since the asari had contacted the Alliance and called for peace. With knowledge that high level representatives were to arrive, Hackett had quickly called his superiors, who had called for their superiors, and so forth until a diplomat had been sent to Shanxi, alongside reinforcements.

Amathema had warned that each Citadel representative would be arriving with their own ship and told him not to worry about them. It was still worrisome to see four ships, most larger than the largest Alliance ship currently in service, enter the system. The only upside was that they had kept their distance and the first thing they did upon exiting the Mass relays was to request permission to come closer rather than just setting course for Shanxi.

The turian ship had a bird of prey look to it, with 'wings' on its side. The asari vessel was a sleek, curvy blue ship with four fin-like protrusions poking from it. The salarian one was hard to pin down, it seemed like it was a series of tubes put together, not really being sleek like asari, but not quite there with the turians. What, however, interested Hackett the most was the fourth ship, which belonged to the Star Empire. It looked like a flying brick. A flying brick with stubby wings. It also screamed that it could take any Alliance ship and break it in half with its main gun, but even the broadside batteries on the side made Hackett uneasy. The Alliance would need to speed up Kilimanjaro construction; the current Everest-classwas too small compared to these to be able to fight them head on.

The meeting had been delayed even with the arrival of the alien diplomats, since it took some time for the Alliance diplomat to arrive. The aliens (and other humans) had been understanding to the situation, fortunately. In the meantime, the Empire had already requested if it was possible to set up routes for pilgrimages who would want to visit Old Jerusalem and other Holy Lands on Earth. Admiral Drescher had responded that it was not for him to decide and asked them to wait politely.

However, with the arrival of the diplomat from Earth, the meeting was scheduled to begin very soon. Hackett had been told to participate, since he had been first one to talk with these aliens. He wasn't really sure what he could do, really, besides maybe chime in or talk to Ambassador Amathema to break the ice.

The meeting was held on board the SSV Makaluka, flagship of the Second Fleet. As the door opened to let in five people. Amathema and four representatives entered, including another asari, a walking bird thing that was apparently a turian, a thin alien that somehow reminded Hackett of frogs, and a human. He concluded the frog-like alien was a salarian. Amathema saw Hackett and gave a smile to him, which he wasn't sure if he should respond, merely gesturing to the Alliance ambassador, Ambassador Mendoza. The ambassador gave a wave of his hand before speaking.

"Welcome aboard the Makaluka. We apologize for the delay with these talks, but it takes time to travel even with the Mass Relays," Mendoza said.

"We understand," the new asari said. "It is a common issue. Amathema, if you would introduce us?"

"Yes. Representing the Citadel Council are Ambassador Iliam of the Asari Republics, Ambassador Aurelius of the Turian Hierarchy, and Dalatrass Vilk of the Salarian Union. Representing Holy Star Empire of Jerusalem is Duke Walter of House Drake."

"It is good to finally meet our brothers from Earth," the human ambassador said with a warm smile. Hackett was still processing that the man looked like he had stepped out of Lord of the Rings with sci-fi bolted on.

"Yes, quite so. I am Ambassador Mendoza, representing the Systems Alliance. With me are Admiral Drescher and Second Lieutenant Hackett," Mendoza said, gesturing to Drescher and Hackett respectively with the two nodding in response as they were introduced. "Now, if you don't mind me saying so, we would like to know what the Council wants with us. This attack was not the best impression we could get," which was putting it mildly, as Hackett knew there were war hawks who wanted alien blood.

"Yes, we understand this. It is an unfortunate misunderstanding on our part," ambassador Iliam began. "As Amathema explained, the turian battlegroup assumed you were part of the Empire and proceeded with a police action," Iliam explained.

"Invading a world hardly sounds like a police action, if you do not mind me saying so," Mendoza said. "Over a hundred people are dead on our side, not counting the damage from your orbital strikes on urban regions."

"Perhaps," the turian representative admitted. "But at the galactic level, you need something stronger. Fear of retribution for breaking galactic law works better than what is essentially a slap on a wrist," he paused a moment before elaborating further. "If this were an Imperial world, it would be made into a protectorate. However, since it is not and this merely a misunderstanding, the Turian Hierarchy will not be taking any more offensive actions. We pulled out as soon as we realized the situation, and you have our sincerest apologies for this tragedy."

"There will be reparations, of course. We do not expect you to just forget this event with just an apology," Iliam said, earning a glare from Aurelius, but the turian remained silent.

"That is good to hear," Mendoza said, nodding.

"If you do not mind me cutting in here," the human duke spoke, "I wish to say how great a moment this is to our people. We have always dreamed of a day when we could be united with our brothers from Earth. Tell me, how is Earth these days?"

"Little bit overcrowded but access to FTL-travel has been helping on that front," Mendoza said.

"Ah, I see," The duke commented, "I shall speak with our Emperor, perhaps we can show you some areas we have claimed but not yet developed."

"Now, we wish to talk about the Systems Alliance joining us in the galactic community," Iliam spoke up, cutting off the Duke before he could go on further. "The Citadel Alliance is currently the largest governing body of the galaxy. From the first contact package you gave to us, it would be analogues to your United Nations, or even the Systems Alliance and its member states."

"But, if Earth's people joined the Empire, humanity would finally be united and fully represented in the Citadel Alliance," The duke added.

"Yes... I gather you have expected our two nations to merge?" Mendoza asked, raising an eyebrow at the aliens.

"Not truly, after all it has been a long time since your two groups interacted. We were hoping two of you could find some common ground and work together with representing humanity," Iliam explained. "Of course, we do not expect you to join the Citadel right away without heavy consideration. After all, this is a big event for you."

"Thank you for that. But, should we join, why not have our two nations represented separately?" Mendoza asked. "I mean, surely it would be absurd to have newcomers put under another power simply because both are human."

"You do not wish to form an unified state?" the duke asked, tilting his head in confusion. "Surely our two states can exist in some form of union, together, instead of competing over minor things."

"Why is the independence of our two nations an issue?" Mendoza asked, "Surely the two of us can exist side by side. I mean, I'm certain that there's splits in your governments!"

Even as he spoke, however, Hackett had a sinking feeling that the galactic setup was not based on multinational lines.

"Well, you see, that is a kinda funny thing..." the duke said, waving his hand as if to find the right words to explain the situation. He gave up and nodded to the asari ambassador. Iliam was rubbing her forehead before finally speaking again.

"At the moment each Citadel species are represented as one group. One representative," Iliam explained. "There has never been two representatives from any one species."

"I fail to see how this would be problematic," Mendoza said in confusion.

"If humans get two representatives, why not everyone else?" Aurelius cut in. "How would these be divided? There is only one turian representative, representing the one turian state - the Turian Hierarchy. But the asari have dozens if not hundreds of small republics, should they all get a representative, thus being able to outvote everyone else?" he explained before raising one talon. "One species. One representative. That's the rule."

"I see," Mendoza said, leaning back in his chair and putting his hands together. "And the Empire already represents humanity?"

"For the last four hundred years," the duke answered, regaining some of his confidence. "A thousand years if you count since our ancestors were abducted, though the Empire didn't exist then... yet."

"And we can't join the Citadel Alliance unless we become part of the Empire?" Mendoza asked, raising an eyebrow. "We would like to work with the galactic community, but if the rules are such then..."

"The Empire has it's own wishes, but for the moment the Council is not forcing anything on you," Iliam cut in before he could finish the statement. "As a first step, you would be granted observer status within the Citadel Alliance. This would be a time for you to observe the benefits you could gain from joining. Observer status would not bind you to joining the Citadel, but it would let you observe the proceedings and allow the Systems Alliance to gain first hand knowledge of the benefits that being with the Citadel entails, and a taste for the responsibilities. If you were to decide to fully commit to joining the Citadel, then we would need to speak about how to arrange the representation between yourselves and the Empire."

"I do not believe there would be any major issues," the duke said, smiling weakly. "I am confident that whatever issues are raised, can be solved diplomatically," Hackett noticed from how uncomfortable the duke was becoming that the meeting had clearly not been going like he had been anticipating.

"I will talk with our leaders and let you know," Mendoza answered with a slow nod. "But that is the most that I can promise at this stage."

"Understandable," Vilk said at last. "Only a fool jumps in with only half the information. However, a basic groundwork for integration and diplomatic channels should be established swiftly as so to prevent further incidents as have already occurred."

"I understand. I will ask my superiors to put a check on expansion while this occurs, though in the meantime I would ask for kid's gloves in dealing with any incidents as there will be lag time for news to spread around."

"We can grant a short stay on this," Illiam said, "though we will ask that you enforce our biggest laws - no opening relays without knowing the other side, for one - in the meantime."

Mendoza paused for a moment before nodding. "I'll ask that we put a halt to that and I'll explain why. Again, there may be a delay for news to get out."

"We understand. We will instruct our patrols to be extra careful and always check the nationality. Thank you, Ambassador. If there is nothing to discuss immediately…"

"I had few things, but the situation is clearly not the one that had been expected and as such, they can wait until a later time," the duke said. "I hope we will meet again, in better circumstances."

"Nothing more," Vilk said.

"We will need to discuss the details of the reparations, but that can afford to wait," Aurelius commented. Somewhat sourly, but Hackett had a hard time blaming him. He would have to explain why taxpayer dollars (or whatever the aliens used) would not only go to military efforts but paying to repair the damage done by said efforts.

Iliam nodded and the meeting adjourned. Hackett found himself rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly as the representatives left. Once they were all gone, Mendozza leaned back in his chair and the room was silent until finally he slammed his fists against the table.

"A real fucking mess," he said, earning a raised eyebrow from the admiral. "I read the first contact package while I was heading here. A theocratic absolute monarchy. The people back on Earth would never accept such an arrangement. Sharing representation with them would just put us in conflict with them by dogma. Yet, we can't let these people be representatives of humanity in the galaxy. They are not even from Earth anymore!"

"I still can't believe that they didn't have a plan to deal with multiple nations," Drescher commented.

"That's because other than the asari - the blue woman's people - they're more or less unified into one government. And the asari had an arrangement to share the representation. If the Empire didn't exist, the Alliance would automatically get the position. But with the Empire, it's now in question."

"Brilliant," Drescher said with a sigh. "I am worried about their military, though. You saw that dreadnought. It was bigger than anything we got and from the bits of alien tech General Williams' men managed to grab, more advanced than ours." He sighed. "Only Kilimanjaro is about the same size as one of those Citadel ships, and that isn't out of the dock yet. Hell, it doesn't even have its main gun ready! If this 'Star Empire' decides to force the issue, we might not have the military strength to repel them. And that's not counting the Council..."

"The Council seemed to be reasonable and I don't think violent expansion is in their agenda. The Empire? Given they have a stake, that's more uncertain, but I don't think they'll launch an invasion unless we provoke them first."

"Still, it couldn't hurt to see about getting our hands on this Citadel's tech and implementing it for our next gen ship classes," Drescher commented thoughtfully. "Maybe a defense budget increase."

"If only because we now know for sure that there are external parties rather than infighting. The real problem, though, is going to be the Empire's head start in diplomacy. Trade, bureaucratic inertia, reputation… we need to get out there. Start building up a network of trade partners and allies. We need to prove that we're a legitimate human government. Or failing that, show people that the Empire does not completely represent humanity and they can't apply their standards to us," he sighed. "Though if we are lucky, the Empire has been a reliable trading partner and we can ride on that reputation, to a degree."

"A tall order. Any idea where to start?"

"I'm going to advise we take up the Council's offer," Mendoza said after taking a moment to think. "At least for now, since it's just observer status and not actually committing. We can see if the Citadel is right for us or not, but we can't cut ourselves off from them unnecessarily. Besides, we'll need access to their collective knowledge to catch up to the Empire."

"Permission to speak freely, sir?" Hackett asked. Drescher nodded. "How are we going to break this to people back home? 'Very Carefully' is not going to cut it."


Three Weeks Later

Imperial Palace, Nod

"The Systems Alliance is forming a parliament?" Emperor Titus asked with a frown as he read the datapad. His assistant was currently taking a blood sample to see the status of his vitals.

"They are," Crown Prince Baldwin said as he took a step away from his father and stood next to his brother, Abdul-Rahman.

"An interim government, no doubt, to keep order while we figure how to integrate their society into the Empire," Titus said after a while as the assistant finished what he was doing and was transferring data with his omni-tool.

Baldwin gave his brother an uneasy look. "I'm not sure they're planning on it being short term," he finally said as he activated his omni-tool and brought up the speech from the Alliance's first prime minister. Titus leaned forward to observe as the speech began.

"Thank you," the man on the podium in the recording said, "members of the United Nations Security Council. Your work will not be forgotten as humanity enters a new age, and a new government forms," he paused and looked to the camera. "We are not alone in the galaxy, as we have discovered in the orbit of Shanxi. But we are not surrounded by enemies, but other nations. Just as the United Nations transformed to meet the challenges of space, now the Systems Alliance must transform to meet the new circumstances we find ourselves in…"

The speech began to drone on for a bit, rather verbosely and unnecessarily in Baldwin's opinion, and it went on for another few minutes before he finally got to the point.

"Therefore, as your first Prime Minister, I hereby begin the first meeting of the Systems Alliance Parliament. This body shall act as the government of Earth and her colonies, representing its people in both internal affairs and to foreign nations across the stars. Together, we will blaze a new trail for humanity…"

"This... this is an INSULT!" Emperor Titus shouted, throwing the datapad on the table before leaning back on his chair, causing Baldwin to pause the speech. "Not only do they not recognize my authority, they dare to create this... parliament and declare it the legitimate government of man!"

Baldwin and Abdul looked at each other uneasily. They knew how well their father was taking this news.

"Father, I do not think they planned to insult you," Baldwin said, speaking up uncertainly, moving his hand towards the play button to continue.

"Oh? Then what is this!?" Titus demanded, stopping Baldwin from hitting the play button. "Not only do they spit in my face, but on God's face! The Emperor is ruler of all mankind by God's mandate. It is my duty to rule and protect humanity!"

"Yes, father," Abdul said as he stepped forward. "Yet, we must understand that these people are not us. They are-"

"God forsaken infidels," the Emperor spat, curling his hand into a fist. "We had one Prophet - ONE gift from God - and we managed to pull together. They had hundreds, and who knows how many more charlatans, and they still fight amongst themselves. I will not accept this. I want ambassadors send and want them make clear that this... this Alliance of theirs is to submit to my authority," he shouted, standing up.

"I doubt they would dissolve their new government just like that," Baldwin said, stepping forward as he saw the terrible consequences of a militant stance early. His omni-tool's holographic display faded from idleness. "They are just adjusting to the shock of us being here. Give them some time, they had no idea that our forefathers survived."

"They can keep their petty parliament, I shall treat it like a noble House, but they must recognize my authority. I will not be remembered as the Emperor who failed to unite mankind! I will not be remembered as a weak Emperor!" Titus shouted before collapsing in a coughing fit, covering his mouth. His sons ran to his side, helping to steady him until the fit ended. Titus laid a hand on his chest with a tired sigh. "I will retire for the day," he finally said, all strength gone from his voice. "I want those ambassadors sent and this mess taken care of."

"We... will take care of it, father," Baldwin assured as the Emperor of the Star Empire rose and left the room, an attendant following him and calling for the doctor to prescribe the evening medication. Baldwin let out a sigh as his father left earshot. "He is taking this personally. He is letting his emotions cloud his judgement again."

"A year ago this would have not been such a problem, mom would have been able to calm him down," Abdul said with a long sigh. "He is still grieving. He has been so focused on leaving a legacy behind. His age isn't helping at all."

"I just fear that this legacy of his won't be the one he wants it to be," Baldwin said, rubbing his neck as he remembered how many aliens viewed Kadar the Third after the Batarian Crusade. "I just hope this all is solved soon. I would not want this problem thrown on my lap; I'm not sure if I could handle it."

"Still, I have to wonder, why do these Earth humans resist us so much? I kinda expected them to gleefully join us in the stars," Abdul said, scratching his chin. "I mean, it's all part of the God's plan, right?"

"God works in mysterious ways. Maybe it's a test? I do not know," Baldwin said and waved his hand. "In the end, it does not matter. We can't prevent father from trying to aggressively make them join us, but we can try to mitigate the damage from this. I am going to try to learn as much as I can about Earth and its history. This might be just a knee jerk reaction from them. It is quite shocking to find that there is already a sizable portion of your species in space."

"You do that. I will try to talk to our father and have him calm down," Abdul nodded. "Though I don't think there is much learn, they can't be that different, right? They are humans after all."

"Maybe," Baldwin said as he looked down at his idled out omni-tool and moved his hand closer to it, reactivating the display and letting the recording continue. The Alliance's Prime Minister picked up exactly where the recording had been paused.

"... and will continue to chart our course forward until such a time that the people of the Systems Alliance believes that a new path must be taken in the road of governance."


End Chapter

Authors' Note: This story is a multi-writer project, and I am posting its end on Fanfiction dot net. The main three in this project is Mandemon, Teen Spirit, and myself, over on the Spacebattles forum. Much of this prologue and the Codex entries below were written by Mandemon, with both of us adding to the core structure and correcting typos.

This story began as a simple musing by Teen Spirit, then exploded into a much larger project as ideas were put up for the concept. However, as with all fanfiction, we do not own the Mass Effect series. That belongs to EA. The batarians owned some Crusaders a millennium ago, but that ended badly for them.

Codex Entries are also available for those who wish to read them, and will be included at the end of every chapter if applicable. While not required, it is a way for us to go into details in the AU setting without having to stop the fic to explain it. However, anything you require for the story itself will be explained there in brief.


Codex: Holy Star Empire of Jerusalem

The Holy Star Empire of Jerusalem is composed of the descendants of humans captured by batarian slavers in 1692 GS (Galactic Standard), who managed to overpower their captors and crash landed on the salarian colony of Dinalin. The Citadel offered its assistance to the dislocated humans after being informed of their situation. While initially mistrustful and superstitious of Citadel species, the humans eventually accepted the aid after suffering food poisoning from local flora. The Citadel Council was unable to trace back the route used by the slavers or locate the homeworld of the humans. As such, they were offered a small planet to colonize.

The Holy Star Empire of Jerusalem is highly religious nation, with it's main religion being the Faith of Abraham, formed after the appearance of the prophet Peter the Second. His speech of ending the schism of three former conflicting religions, (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and of how it was wrong for God's children to hold such deep divisions lead to a merging of the three into a singular religion. This event is generally held as the birth date of the Empire, though its formal founding was not until later. The Empire is ruled by the Emperor, who is both head of the Holy Church Of The One God and is said to receive an heavenly mandate to rule over the Empire and humanity. Imperial missionaries are a common sight in Terminus Systems, though their official presence is limited. The Empire is also widely held as an aggressive nation, particularly after their Crusade against the Batarian Hegemony from 2412 to 2422 GS.

Codex: Relay 314 Incident

The Relay 314 Incident, also known as the First Contact War by the Systems Alliance, was a two week long conflict over the colony of Shanxi. A turian patrol, meeting Alliance vessels activating a relay, opened fire on the humans and followed the survivors to the colony of Shanxi, which they proceeded to occupy as a police action. The situation was soon resolved however, when the Turian Hierarchy informed the Council and the Star Empire of the Empire's supposed violation of Citadel Law and the occupation of Shanxi. Surprised, the Empire responded that it did not have such a colony. Realizing the mistake that had occurred, the turians withdrew and a ceasefire was soon established and peace followed, with the Systems Alliance being granted observer status in the Citadel until their decision to seek affiliate status. The turian reparations for the incident came quickly, helping smooth over the issues that could arise from it between the Systems Alliance and Turian Hierarchy, with Primarch Fedorian saying "The occupation of Shanxi was a mistake, one born of upholding duty. Therefore, it is also our duty to repair the damage from this mistake."

Codex: The Human Situation

The Human Situation refers to the political situation involving the Holy Star Empire of Jerusalem and the Systems Alliance. While the two sides do not have official grievances, the appearance of the Systems Alliance on the galactic stage has raised questions over which one is to be the representative of humanity on the Citadel. The Empire holds that it has the right, due to its long membership, whereas the System Alliance claims that the Empire speaks only for itself, but the Alliance represents a larger variety of human traits and hold that the Empire is only a fraction of humanity's history yanked out of its context. The Empire holds that the Alliance has strayed from "the grace of God" and seeks to absorb Alliance into itself. The Alliance, while officially having no position in the matter, refuses to acknowledge the Emperor's status as the Emperor of Mankind and also rejects the Faith of Abraham as a state religion.

The Alliance holds that it is ready to accept a two nation solution, with both nations being represented as separate political entities with their own embassies and representation. However, this has raised issues of humanity gaining too much representation compared to other species, or even Council species. The Empire holds that there is only one Humanity to represent and they are already representing it and urges the Alliance to merge with the Empire to prevent needless complications in Citadel law.

However, the recently crowned Emperor Baldwin the Third has lessened Empire's stance somewhat and has stated that he is open for a possible joint representation. The Alliance has yet to officially state their stance on the offer as Emperor Titus' hardline stance has left relations between the two human states frosty.