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A/N Oops. A bit more confusion than I had expected. It shouldn't have come as a surprise though, because what some people thought is actually something that I considered at one time. For the record: The first contact war has already started at Relay 314, more or less as it happened in ME canon. The two ships in this system just hadn't gotten the news yet.
At one time I considered starting the FCW here, by having the turians make the exact same mistake they are making now and that leading to war. However, I found two big problems with that scenario.
1) Like metaladdict said in his review, under normal circumstances the turians should have contacted the survey ship the moment they entered the system, especially since they knew there was a possibility of a first contact situation. (Having the turians enter the system just as the Anzio opened fire would have been too much of a coincidence.) So, no need to overreact. Plus, with the turians approaching openly, the humans could easily have waited a little before blowing things up. It's not as though the freighter is going anywhere.
2) With the crew of a survey vessel ready to testify that it was all a misunderstanding, the war could be stopped before it started, even if there was a battle. Initially neither side would know where the others lived and there would be plenty of time to work things out and get the council involved. One explanation would have been that the survey ship had accidentally brought a xenomorph on board that wiped out the crew and that the turian commander lied to cover his ass, but it would have been tough to justify. One xenomorph wiped out the crew of the Nostromo, sure, but the council ship has a much larger crew, many of them combat-trained. I briefly toyed with the idea of having the turians deliberately destroy the survey ship to cover up their mistakes. that would have made for an interesting conspiracy story, but it is not the direction I want to take.
Besides, either explanation would have killed off both Mordin and Liara and I'm not ready to do that yet.
I could probably have worked around the first problem (the turians were pretty trigger-happy in the canon version and it takes only one idiot to start shooting), but the second would be tough. I dont't want to cast either the turian hierarchy or the council as villains (some individuals, maybe, but not the organisations themselves) and it would be very tough to justify them continuing the war if they knew what had happened. So, I chose to keep the Relay 314 encounter from ME canon. It will give me the opportunity to show a messed up first contact in contrast to one that was actually quite successful.
Council survey vessel Light of Dawn.
Shiana felt very, very tired as she listened to the turian captain.
"Approximately two weeks ago, one of our patrols encountered a new species, these humans, in the process of activating a dormant mass relay. The patrol attempted to stop them. I don't have all the information as to exactly what happened, but shots were exchanged and most of the human ships were destroyed. Human reinforcements then engaged and destroyed our patrol. Since then there have been several more encounters, all hostile. When the hierarchy received a copy of your report of a possible first contact, we were sent to investigate, just in case you had encountered the same species. When we entered this system we saw the human warship. We were approaching under minimum power to avoid detection when the humans opened fire."
"They didn't fire on us!"
Captain Victus' mandibles flared in the turian equivalent of a sigh. "I know that now, captain, but that is not so easy to spot from a distance and I didn't have time to make enquiries. Once the shooting started I had to interfere immediately. If they had been firing at you, they could have destroyed your ship in a few salvoes."
"Why did you not contact us earlier, when there was still time? "
"Captain Armali, we are at war. Whatever the exact circumstances, right now these humans are our enemies. Their weapons may be weaker than our own, but their electronic warfare is quite good, possibly AI operated, and there was a serious risk of our signal being intercepted. I-"
"Wait..., what? AI operated? I never saw any sign of artificial intelligence."
"We're not sure. We have seen several examples of small vehicles operating without crew. There have also been indications in the way their electronic warfare systems act and react when they engage us. We have no way to tell unless we capture one of their ships intact. As I was saying, I was not going to risk alerting them to our approach before we were within range. For all I knew they had already boarded your ship. I could not risk them using your ship and crew as hostages, or simply killing you before we could stop them."
"I see. Very well, captain Victus. I understand you acted in what you thought were our best interests. As you said, there was no way for you to know what had happened. What does the hierarchy plan to do about this situation?"
Victus looked down for a moment, then he said, "I cannot go into details, I'm afraid. Those are still confidential. However, I can inform you, that the hierarchy has committed to an operation that will, we hope, bring the war to a swift conclusion and allow diplomats to start negotiating peace settlements."
As he spoke he seemed to study her face, as though he was hoping to read her facial expressions, despite the limitations of the holographic image.
Shiana thought back over the events of the recent past. She remembered airlocks blowing open and heavily armed soldiers rushing in with frightening speed and efficiency. She remembered the bodies of monsters torn to shreds by a hail of bullets and a single ship fighting against three-to-one odds.
"I hope you're right, captain Victus." Shiana carefully kept her voice as emotionless as the turian's. "I sincerely hope that this war can be brought to a swift conclusion."
She took a last look at the wreck of the human freighter. Although the humans had not been able to destroy it completely, the damage was extensive. In many places she could see straight through the hull. Whatever had been on board was certainly dead by now.
"Prepare the ship for departure. We'll make for the nearest relay, then head for the citadel. The council has to hear what happened, immediately."
What in Athame's name have these strutting fools gotten us into?
As the Light of Dawn, together with the turian warships, departed the system, they failed to notice the cloaked ship that had been observing everything. Once the crew was certain that there was no longer any chance of discovery, the ship decloaked and moved towards the wreck of the human freighter. As soon as the range had closed sufficiently, suited figures departed from the ship and entered the wreck. After a while a message was send back:
"We found it. It's wounded and in hypernation, but alive."
Aboard the ship the signal was received with great satisfaction.
"It seems that following the humans was worth our time and effort after all."
"Yes. If we can recover it alive, it will simplify things greatly. We will not have to rely on the eggs from the human colony."
"Perhaps we should have interfered earlier, before the turians arrived."
"No, there was no guarantee that we could destroy both the human ship and the council vessel, before one of them escaped. If one of those ships had survived and reported back, it could have ruined everything. In a way the turians did us a favor. They kept the humans from completing the freighter's destruction. With the creature recovered, we will still be able to set things in motion."
"Even though the humans and the citadel races have now met?"
"That was about to happen soon anyway. But we must be cautious. The turians acted more rashly than expected. Something must have happened to make them behave this way and we cannot proceed until we understand why. In any case, we cannot use the humans. Not anymore. Their new policy regarding the serpents is too... pragmatic. We need someone... someone curious, less prone to destructive solutions, more willing to take risks."
One week later
Human Colony Shanxi, planetside
In a bunker, deep underground, general Williams looked in despair at his dwindling assets. His soldiers had given a good account of themselves, but they could not hold out much longer. They were running out of manpower, they were running out of supplies, and, most of all, they were simply running out of time. Unless reinforcements appeared within the next few days, he would have to make a choice: either fight to the death, or surrender.
Human Colony Shanxi, orbit
General Desolas Arterius cursed, softly and viciously, as he stared at the latest report from the ground-force commander. He cursed again as he looked at the casualty list. Already the losses were more than twice as a high as predicted and with no hope for a quick victory in sight he would either have to slow down their tempo of operations, or request more troops from Palaven command. The first could spell disaster and the latter would further escalate the situation. It was time for a change in strategy.
Councillor Tevos, representative of the asari people on the citadel council, looked at the latest report from the turian fleet near Relay 314. It told her nothing she didn't already know. Turian forces were securing the human colony. They had been securing it for days, but it didn't seem to be getting any more secure, and with every day that passed a diplomatic solution seemed to slip further and further out of her reach.
"Councillor," one of her assistants interrupted her gloomy train of thought. "The survey vessel Light of Dawn has docked at the citadel. Captain Armali has a report for you regarding the first-contact situation she encountered. She says that it is extremely urgent."
Arcturus Station, United System Military headquarters
Admiral Kastanie Drescher tossed the latest status report on the pile on her desk. Second fleet was not as ready as she could have wished and the ground forces that were supposed to carry out the counter attack on Shanxi were still in the process of assembling. Still, with every day she waited, she was sacrificing the lives of the colony's defenders. Contact with general Williams had been lost almost immediately and there was no telling how long he and his soldiers could hold out.
"Ma'am." Someone tried to get her attention.
"Ma'am, we just received a report from Anzio. They claim to have made first contact with several alien species. They have included some visuals, admiral, and one drawing looks like the images from Shanxi."
I started writing this story as an experiment. I had been reading stories at FanFiction for a while, but I'd never actually posted anything. Also, it had been a while since I attempted to write any kind of fiction. So, when I hit on an idea for a story, I decided to give it a try. So far, the response has been very gratifying. Far more people took an interest than I had ever dreamt. Still, it is time to wrap things up. Not to worry. I'm having too much fun with this to stop writing anytime soon. However, this seemed a good point to end the first part. The events on, and around, the Calypso have now reached their conclusion. The next instalment will deal with the First Contact War, following the events from Relay 314 through the battle for Shanxi to the negotiations with the council. I hope to accomplish three things: 1) Describe how a first contact situation can go horribly wrong, as opposed to the generally successful attempt seen in this story. 2) Find a way to show the First Contact War as a genuine tragedy, rather than a product of turian imperialism and council incompetence. (That will be something of a challenge!) 3) Do enough world-building to set the stage for Shepard, the return of the xenomorphs, and the introduction of the predators (yes, they had a cameo in the last chapter). The new story will be a bit different in style (less Ridley Scott, more James Cameron so to speak, maybe with a dash of Michael Bay).
I have posted the first chapter of the new story under the title Someone had blundered. Since I already have the plot worked out I'm pretty confident that I'll be able to update on a regular basis. By the time it is done, I hope to be ready to start the third instalment, which will feature Shepard. In the mean time, I will also continue with the occasional upload to intelligence reports to fill in gaps in the background information.
Once more, thanks for all the feedback!
I suppose Shiana is a bit uncharitable in her assessment of the turians, but she has reason to be upset. Despite the circumstances she managed to pull off a perfect first-contact, only to find out that it was all for nothing.
I'm not introducing robots like Ash or Bishop. To my thinking they were too advanced compared to the rest of human tech in the Alien franchise. Besides I don't want a situation where the humans get to lecture the council on their intolerance for AIs. That has been done before and I don't intend to put humans on a pedestal compared to the ME races. Why do the turians think humans use AIs? Let's just say it is an honest mistake.
Eipok The visual connection could give you the meaning to nouns and verbs, but that is not enough to speak a language. You need some form of grammar. For example, in Latin, the sequence of words in a sentence is largely irrelevant to the meaning. So, unless you know how to manipulate the individual words, you may end up saying the exact opposite of what you mean. In some ways that could actually be worse than not understanding at all. Don't get me wrong, if a mind-meld can indeed link words to images it would be a very good shortcut, but it has its limitations. Also, I don't think we know if it works for an asari in ME canon. Javik can do it, but protheans clearly have a lof of abilities that asari don't have. What Shiala does in ME1 is transferring a prothean cipher, so it is the language of a species that evolved with the ability to transfer information by tough. We don't actually know if an asari can learn any language this way.
I exaggerated a little aobut the rescue ball, because it is being observed by an alien who has only seen humans in space suits and body armour. Rescue balls are indeed not all that difficult to get into. (At least when you're young. When you get older, you'll find it tougher to curl up like that.) However, it is a whole different thing to put somebody who is unconscious into it. You're trying to manipulate a mass of 50-100 kg that is not cooperating. You'll have to pick him up, put him in the ball and then fold his limbs the way you want them. That's quite a challenge.
Quintain Apprentince of Alduin: Just showing the turians what they're dealing with would indeed have been the logical next move, if things had been different. In fact, they would probably be the first to agree with a scorched earth policy against xenomorphs. Unfortunately, right now even Shiana has a very incomplete picture of the situation. Between limited time and poor communications there was no opportunity to show her everything, so she thinks that they are just a bunch of very deadly predators. Smart, yes, maybe about the level of a wolf or a hyena, but not sapient. She doesn't know about the queen and she still underestimates the toughness of the xenomorphs. She has only seen them operate in a normal atmosphere, so she has no way to tell that they don't actually seem to need air at all. Also, she had no way of knowing that the ship had been travelling for years and that they had survived all that time in hibernation. That ignorance is going to come back to haunt everybody, because the humans believe that they have cleared up the entire mess and would rather forget about the whole thing. Also, by the time the first contact war is done, they will not be in a generous mood, so as far as they are concerned, the whole xenomorph situation is classified information and the ME races should just mind their own business.
Compared to the rachni, I wouldn't say the xenomorphs are necessarily worse. Just very different. Rachni can build spaceships, the xenomorphs cannot. Xenomorphs are more like a disease than an enemy. You can contain them, if you're willing to make touch choices.