"Members of Parliament, please, be seated. The Prime Minister has the floor."

Amul Shastri stood on his podium, looking a bit more grim than usual. "Greetings again, everyone. I'll get straight to the point folks: as far as discovering new alien races goes, we've just dived into the deep end. Contact was made with a representative of the Council yesterday, meaning we now, officially, have been made aware of at least 9 new intergalactic species in the past week."

He let that statement sink in while he composed himself. "I shouldn't need to remind you that we need allies in the coming days. While we wait for the Asari diplomats to arrive, let us further discuss and make treaty with the quarians. Anything we can give at small cost for a comparatively big gain, I say we take. Please, keep that in mind. Now, join me in welcoming back our newest neighbors in the stars."

At that proclamation, the quarian delegation walked into the room, this time with all five admirals as well as the captains from the previous meeting. There was polite applause as they entered, which died down quickly.

Amul Shastri wasted no time, saying, "Welcome again, Admirals and Captains of the Quarian delegation. This meeting will unfortunately have to be quicker than normal, as we are under a time constraint due to the arriving asari diplomats."

Shala'Raan took the lead this time. "Of course, Prime Minister. Whether for good or ill, prepared or not, we must soon face the greater galactic community."

"An astute reply, Admiral," Amul replied. "Now, onto the first discussion at hand: the quarian request for a world. I believe we have three suitable planets that are near our borders, each of which we had planned on terraforming. May I remind the esteemed members of parliament that terraforming costs several hundred million credits, as well as at least five years worth of time for the terraforming itself."

Pretty much every quarian in the room muttered "Keelah…" at the thought humanity could terraform a planet on the scale of years instead of centuries. Amul continued on, unaware.

"Now, the Quarians had promised us aid in the form of the support of their Heavy Fleet, which so far has been unneeded, though was very much appreciated under the threat of Turian invasion. They have also agreed to give us a small lump sum of element zero for our use, as well as aid in finding more. A vote will be held to see if this trade shall pass. Inputting the code now."

A minute later, the vote was finished, and it came out mostly negative. Amul sighed. "The vote has failed. The floor is now open to both sides. Further bartering for a dextro-amino world may continue, or a new topic may be discussed. Yes, Admiral Koris?"

Zaal'Koris stepped forward, preparing to speak. "To further our own interests, we are willing to provide ships for humanity's usage. Assuming that the world is acquired, we have acknowledged the fact that we will not need as many ships for our fleet, at least in the short term." Rael and Han looked unhappy, but they had agreed anyway.

Amul nodded, declaring, "A new vote shall be held. Ships that, may I remind you, are equipped with much higher amounts of element zero than our own, are to be traded with the Systems Alliance for the world, in addition to Quarian support and their previous offers. Inputting the code."

This vote came out much more favorably, and there was just enough comments on the votes tab that Amul decided to call for the trade to go to committee, where the numbers and the details of the trade would be discussed. With a bit of cajoling, the members of parliament agreed.

The quarians, though subdued by the formal proceedings, all quietly talked to one another, ecstatic that they had just about finished getting a new world.

The Prime Minister spoke again, addressing the entire room. "The vote has passed. The discussion on the dextro-amino worlds and the quarians shall be tabled until the committee comes to an agreement. In the meantime, the floor is open to further suggestions."

A moment passed, and then one of the members of parliament stood up.

Amul nodded, saying, "Member Ryan Loudell has the floor."

Loudell wasted no time. "We are all aware that the Quarians developed their own brand of AI. In furthering our own advancements, and in the hope of treating or even curing Fulson's disease, I propose a trade for the quarian's expertise and knowledge of the Geth's networking code."

The quarian captains immediately protested, and so did Rael and Han, but Daro'Xen stepped forward and took the mic. "I understand that humanity has had a mostly positive relationship with their own creations, but the quarians have had no such luck. While my colleagues no doubt protest the creation of another version of the Geth, I myself protest the fact that such knowledge belongs to the quarians; in many ways, it is our birthright, no matter the trouble it has caused us. I don't believe humanity has anything to offer us for such a unique and valuable commodity."

Loudell countered back immediately. "I disagree, Admiral…" he looked up her name, "Xen. Humans have mastered gene therapy, as well as the creation of new DNA and RNA in the body, and moreover we can flash create bodies and organs for whatever purpose we need. With the tools we have, I believe we can offer the quarians the option to live without your suits."

This time, the outroar was from the human side, and was much louder by the simple fact that there were more humans that could protest.

The Speaker for Parliament banged his gavel several times. "Order! We will have order in this house!"

Finally, the protests came back down to a dull roar, and then silence reigned again in the Parliament building. Loudell took that chance to speak again. "My fellow humans, I understand your concerns, and your reluctance to trade away such technologies. But long have we suffered from the effects of Fulson's disease, and to my knowledge no one has survived the late-term effects, whether as an organic or a synthetic."

Yeena'Pol asked the others in her group, "Fulson's? Some sort of genetic disease even they haven't been able to cure?"

Something clicked in Daro'Xen's mind, and she shook her head. "No. Meddling with their organic nature, switching back and forth between hardware and the organic mind? It must be a brain disorder, especially if it can affect both their organic minds as well as their minds inside a computer. If I had to wager, it must be something like losing your sanity from heavy dissociation."

That explanation helped Yeena'Pol remember something Hackett had told her:

"For all intents and purposes, we have defeated organic death."

"Keelah…" she muttered. The other captains turned to her. "They don't die organic deaths… Captain Hackett, the one I made contact with, said as much. But, they can die from this? They've traded one kind of mortality for another, organic to synthetic death."

The others were quieted, not expecting that revelation.

Ryan Loudell was just finishing up his speech. "...So while I don't condemn their choice, neither can I stand by and let it happen. If we have the opportunity to try and wipe out Fulson's, then I say we do so. And even if you find it distasteful to trade away what we've worked so hard to achieve, I look at it in a different way: we are giving another species the chance to live. Just like we did with the Zetans and the Deathclaws. And there is no greater honor than in furthering life, in whatever way possible."

Silence, once more, reigned over the room. Then, there was clapping, and then a standing ovation. Eventually, every human in the room was clapping for Loudell's speech.

Rael chuckled, and he nudged Han. "Seems we missed one hell of a speech," he whispered, and Han nodded sagely.

Amul raised his voice once the applause died down. "A worthy cause, Member Loudell. But now we must ask the Quarians what they think." He turned to the aliens in front of him, a curious look in his eye. "So, what do you say, Admirals and Captains? One ground-breaking technology for another. Hopefully an even trade, and one that can uplift both our species to ever greater heights."

Daro looked behind her. The Captains nodded, albeit reluctantly. Rael and Han shook their heads. Zaal and Shala nodded. Daro sighed.

"Prime Minister, Member Loudell, I believe that such a trade would ultimately be very beneficial. Though I have my reservations, I cannot deny how tied to our suits we have become. We will agree to your offer."

Amul smiled fully. "I am glad to hear that. Perhaps this way we will both be freed of our shackles. Now then, Members of Parliament, what do you say?"

There was much shouting, but all of it was clearly in favor. The Prime Minister simply chuckled. "Ah, I should have expected as much! Still, we must make it official. Inputting the code."

Twenty-three seconds later, all but ten votes were in favor of trading the Geth networking code for the human's gene therapy and organic coding.

"It seems we are mostly in agreement. The coding agreement will be passed down to Committee, where I'm sure it will bear fruit for us all. Now, any further suggestions for trade? Perhaps, a full-blown alliance now?"

There was some good natured chuckling all around, but it got everyone's minds thinking about such a possibility. Not now, not so soon; but eventually, perhaps.

Further trades were handled, though, even if they were comparatively minor. The humans would get help figuring out how to put energy shielding on their ships, and how to properly use eezo based on galactic standards. The quarians would get the underlying theory behind the miniaturization of fusion technology, and furthermore nanites and the AI's to run them to further aid their immune systems. Overall, a good day for both humans and quarians.

As one Member of Parliament would soon put it, "It was a shock, debating whether to give each other our respective technologies, but I believe it's beneficial to both our species. Now we don't have to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps; we have someone to help out, as well."

The asari ship coasted through space, escorted by several Systems Alliance vessels. They had made the final massa relay jump, and they were approaching Arcturus station.

Matriarch Kalyta sipped her drink, wondering just what these humans had in store for her. They had wiped out a large turian patrol fleet, but were cooperating with the quarians. They had targeted her ship right as it came out of the relay, but then they had easily stood down when she explained her purpose there. If she didn't know better, she'd say they seemed a bi-polar. But she had been around the block in her time.

Turians were abrasive, rash. It was easy to get on their bad side. Quarians, even reduced to the state they were in, were typically much nicer, if a bit isolationist. And caution drove these humans to protect their land, and then further drove them to seek out peace when offered.

So far, they had behaved rationally and coherently, and that held a lot of weight in her mind. She would do her best to achieve peace, in whatever form.

Of course, she would try her best to welcome the humans as newcomers and invite them to the Citadel, and to get the quarians back into Council space. Those were her official orders. Yet she couldn't help but think that her mission was in vain, or at least the second part was at least.

The quarians had left after they were threatened and wounded, and she could see why they had chosen their current path. She didn't agree with opening a new relay to do so, but that was the reality they all faced.

Still. She would do what she could.

"Greetings, and Keelah se'lai." The five quarian admirals could be heard, and they were delivering a message. Shala'Raan was the one to speak first, though they all took turns in the following speech.

"To all quarians in the Migrant Fleet, we have managed to secure for ourselves a garden world for our own usage. Thanks to the Human Systems Alliance, we are currently in talks to permanently acquire this new home.

"But make no mistake, this is not the end for the Quarian people. We will continue to strive to reacquire our homeworld. But we need to gather our strength, first and foremost.

"This colony, the world of Derenol, will be the first of many stepping stones that will lead us back to Rannoch. We will be patient, we will plant our feet in the dirt of a new world, and we will recover. But we need your support, the support of the people.

"Do not believe, for even an instant, that this means we will become complacent. As soon as the opportunity presents itself, we will strike back, and we will take back what is rightfully ours. But to reach that point, we need to cooperate, and to work together to lift ourselves back into power.

"With the aid of humanity, we can achieve our goals. But trust and aid is a two way street. We will need volunteers to work amongst the humans, to aid them as they will aid us. You will be seeing plenty of them in the coming months and years, make no mistake. A new race, but a healthy and advanced one. And with effort on both sides, I believe we can come to an agreement, and perhaps even form an alliance with them.

"We will not give up our independence, but for too long we have been alone in among the stars. We must seize this opportunity, and we hope that we can count on you, the people, to make this happen"

There was a slight pause.

"One final note of importance. Humanity has seen fit to trade with us technology that, if worked properly, could see us shedding our suits once and for all. This will be experimental, and no guarantees are being made. But, the choice is there. An information packet is being sent to all Captains, to be further distributed amongst everyone. Read it over. Come to your own conclusions. Should you wish to help test this new treatment, report back to your ship Captain - he or she will know how to push along your agreement.

"Remember, this is an opportunity. We will need volunteers in order to make this viable for everyone. But when it is ready and working - and it will work - we can move forward and recapture our culture, and reaffirm what it means to be Quarian! Keelah se'lai!"

Quint'Filn vas Valorant hung back from the other quarians and humans, some of which had started to socialize after the previous day's events. While humans were no quarians in terms of their socialness, they were still very open and willing to talk. He suspected it was partly due to the fact that they had no other race to reasonably talk with. Most of the Zetans were very work-oriented - a carry-over from their caste system - and weren't sociable. And while Deathclaws were sociable, that only went so far as to others of their kind. Otherwise… best to leave them alone.

A human approached him, and Quint recognized him as the human's spokesperson, the same position Quint held. The human stopped right in front of him. "So, ready to talk back to the Council after so much time?"

Quint wasn't amused by the human's flippant behavior. "Not quite. If you knew of their power, you wouldn't be so eager to try and anger them."

The human frowned in return. "Didn't say we'd anger them. But after they wronged your people, I would think you'd appreciate the chance to tell them to fuck off - in nicer terms, of course."

Quint could see the humor in that, but… "I don't know. With the Council, it's always a guess as to what they really want. If they absolutely want us to come back, whether or not to punish us, there isn't much we could do to stop them. We aren't returning, but I'd prefer to keep it as civil as possible."

The human nodded. "Of course. Nothing says we can't be polite about it. Still, I doubt they'd risk going to war with two races at once, just to try and get back at you. I think we're safe."

Quint could only nod; he wasn't filled with confidence at the prospect at facing down the Council.

The human seemed to pick up on his nervousness. Absentmindedly, Quint wondered if it was a coincidence that the two races could understand one another's body language. But the human interrupted that small line of thought.

"Listen. We all get that you're nervous. Hell, we are too. But if we're going to pull this off, we need to appear as a united front. Something impenetrable, something they can't try and tear apart with gilded words. Ideally, they won't question us about it. But we need to back one another up in there all the same."

He paused, seeming to think of the right words to use. "There's a saying back from where I come from. 'The only thing worse than taking care of a brahmin is not having one'. I won't pretend it'll be easy, but better to have each other's backs than risk having everything fall apart when we're so close to solving each other's problems."

Odd words, Quint thought. But maybe he has a point.

While Quint was thinking, the human held out his hand. "Herman Fitz."

The quarian took his hand gently and shook. "Quint'Filn."

The Speaker for Parliament tapped his mic, than said, "Will everyone please be seated, the 258th meeting of the Systems Alliance Parliament is now in session. On today's agenda: greeting Matriarch Kalyta, an asari who has come representing the Citadel Council. Officially, we will be formally establishing ties with Citadel Council, despite not meeting said Council. Prime Minister, you have the floor."

Once again, Amul Shastri stepped onto the pedestal, and spoke into the mic. "Thank you, Speaker. As the face of humanity, the Systems Alliance Parliament and myself formally greet the Citadel Council's representative, Matriarch Kalyta. May we have peace reign between our peoples, and may we have a prosperous and cooperative relationship in the years to come."

Amul motioned for the Matriarch to speak, who was flanked by two other asari - bodyguards or advisors, it was anyone's guess. Kalyta moved forward, and spoke into the mic, noting both how the humans spoke of peace, and that they still used physical devices to amplify their voices.

"Greetings." Already, her voice spoke of someone long-lived, wise, and self-assured. It was the voice of someone who had seen centuries of galactic civilization, at both its best and its worst, and had barely fluttered an eye at it. In that one word, she enthralled the unprepared, and froze the wary. She was a Matriarch, and she would not be cowed.

All held in the power of one word.

"As you may have guessed, I am Matriarch Kalyta," she then lightly joked, easing the tension by a slight degree. "I come bearing greetings from the Council, who wish to invite the Systems Alliance to the greater galactic stage. The Council also wishes to apologize for the brash actions of the Turian fleet who arrived some days before. They did not have the authorization to fire upon any vessel, and we profusely apologize for any misunderstandings that may have taken place."

The Prime Minister took that as his cue, and he played his part well. "We understand, Matriarch. We hope to avoid such unpleasantness, and your apology is well received. We too, apologize for the destruction of said fleet, as it was not our intention to open with hostilities instead of debate."

The Matriarch nodded solemnly. "I am grateful, and accept your apology as well. Now, I hope you are not so ill-disposed that you will not send an envoy of your own to the Citadel. The Council wishes to further ties with all species, especially in cases where hostilities reigned over cool heads."

There was general murmuring heard amongst the Parliament members. Amul nodded, saying, "We will endeavor to do so, Matriarch. Cooperation has always been a goal of the Systems Alliance, and this time should be no different. I suggest we discuss such minutiae once the Parliament meeting is adjourned."

"Of course, Prime Minister," Kalyta replied, as calm as ever. "If I may, I would like to share some history that is common knowledge to the Council races, so that you may gain a better understanding of our culture and attitudes…"

Two hours later, after a lengthy disucssion over history, culture, economy, and ultimately politics, the Matriarch and her entourage were given a tour of the station. An hour after that, she had been escorted to a conference room, replete with refreshments.

It was where she, the human diplomats, the quarian diplomats, the Prime Minister, and the Quarian Admirals found themselves.

"I hope you enjoyed the tour of Arcturus Station, Matriarch Kalyta," Amul opened. "It's the largest of its kind that has been built so far by the Alliance."

The Matriarch nodded. "A very impressive feat, for a race that seems relatively new to the stars. The asari typically prefer ground accommodations, so we have few such space stations of our own, barring the Citadel. Of course, that was built by the Protheans, so take that as you will."

There was some chuckles at that, but it was tense. Everyone could guess why the Matriarch was there, and she knew that they knew.

Amul, though, would not be dissuaded from the niceties. "Of course, we've heard reports of it. Over 40 kilometers long, it's something that sounds amazing and yet hard to believe. I'm sure it will be a sight to behold."

Kalyta smiled serenely. "It very well is, Prime Minister. Of course, both you and the quarian's delegation are welcome to visit."

And there it was.

The quarians in the room stiffened ever so slightly. Zaal'Koris, with a bit more steel in his voice than was normal, replied, "Thank you, but I'm afraid we will have to decline any invitations. We are very busy with… negotiations."

Kalyta smiled again, though it was forced. Though Amul thought he could see a bit of… Sadness? Perhaps pity in that smile? His attention was broken when the Matriarch spoke. "I understand, Admirals. Perhaps another time, when things aren't so, uh, busy."

Four of the Admirals were willing to let it go, especially when the Matriarch dropped the subject so easily. One of them didn't, though.

"We'll be busy for quite some time, actually. I'm afraid such a visit is out of the question for now," Han'Gerrel said impertinently. Everyone could feel the silent groan coming from the rest of the Admirals.

The Matriarch merely sighed. "If that's the way it is… Please, enough of this charade, Admirals, Captains. I must speak for the Council on this, but they want you back. Officially, it's to apologize for the disaster that was Gyling. The Turian Primarch in charge of that sector was punished, and we are ready to receive you."

Amul, surprisingly, was the one to reply first. "And unofficially, Matriarch?"

Matriarch Kalyta frowned. "Unofficially, they are going to, at the very least, berate you for opening an unexplored relay. More likely they are going to sanction you, and make things difficult for you should you return."

Her phrasing did not go unnoticed. "You already suspect we will not be returning?" Shala'Raan asked.

The Matriarch nodded. "Believe it or not, Admirals, I remember what life was like back when the Quarians were part of the Council races. I even had a god-child who was a quarian. So yes, I understand where you are coming from, even if I disagree with the extreme action of opening a new relay. After you were attacked at Gyling, and then your fleet fled, I feared it would be the last I would ever hear of you."

There was an awkward pause. Shala, hesitantly, said, "So… what now?"

"Now," Kalyta responded, "I will be heading back soon to report my failure in bringing you back into the fold. Fortunately, I won't have to report everything I've heard today - just what the Council will want to hear," she said with a wink.

Just then, the Prime Minister's version of an omnitool - the aliens had yet to hear its actual name - beeped incessantly. Amul looked down, and then he snarled.

"Matriarch, what the hell are you playing at?"

Just a few minutes before, a salarian back on board Matriarch Kalyta's ship was quickly typing into his omnitool. He was working on a program to slip into the human's network, see what kinds of things they had in store. What would be best would be to find camera control, and so he focused on that. Thankfully, the STG spared no expense - numerous tools existed to help diagnose and worm through just about any system.

Finishing up, he typed 'enter', and watched as his program started to integrate itself into the station's network. Five seconds later, it beeped. The salarian looked at his omnitool in confusion. Instead of presenting live feed information that was being sent back and forth, or an application to tap into the camera network, he found a simple message:

"Intruder detected. Say goodnight, alien meatbag."

The omnitool then fizzled, crackled, and died. The salarian stared at his broken tool in horror.

Unbeknownst to the salarian, he had just run into his first AI opponent.

"Excuse me?" The Matriarch asked in shock.

Shastri growled. "An unknown user tried to access restricted files and access codes on the station, and the source of the signal originated from your ship. We shut it down. Now, do you mind telling me why you're trying to enact electronic warfare during a political meeting?"

Kalyta's eyes went wide, then narrowed in anger. "Damnit… I apologize for my crew's actions, Prime Minister, truly. If I had to guess, the STG tried to hack into your network by using my ship's network as an access point." She started to pace. "It must have been Nullin, or- no wait, perhaps Filgin - ugh. Regardless of why it happened or how, I am utterly humiliated and I cannot apologize enough for what's happened. I did not come with the intention of spying on you, I assure you."

Amul was mollified, but only just. "Mind explaining who was responsible, then?"

Kalyta nodded, explaining rapidly, "Salarian Special Tasks Group. They're the spies and information gatherers of the greater galactic community. They do whatever it takes to try and gain an edge, and this time they seem to have snuck at least one agent aboard my ship. Please, try not to take it personally, they spy on literally everyone."

The quarians started laughing after the tense moment had passed, utterly amused at how an STG member had been so easily caught. The humans, and the Prime Minister weren't so amused. Amul stepped forward. "Perhaps it would be best for you to leave now, Matriarch. We can meet another time, and I get the feeling further talk would be wasted now. We will be sending a delegation within one earth week, we'll send you the details." It was a clear dismissal.

"Of course, Prime Minister." She wasn't about to contest the sudden removal, not when she had been so thoroughly embarrassed. "I'll let the Council know of your intentions, both you and the Quarians. I won't betray what we've discussed in private, however. Though once they start asking the questions themselves, there will be little I can do to shield you. Have a pleasant day, Prime Minister, Admirals."

The delegation was soon returned back to the ship, and the Matriarch proceeded to tear apart the ship in search of the STG operative. It wasn't hard when said Salarian had a burned hand and no omnitool.

Six days later, another delegation, this time human, made its way into Council space. They approached the Citadel, one lone cruiser, and docked after being given approval.

Two hours later, they had finished a brief tour of the Citadel Presidium and were ready to meet the Council.

A five minute elevator ride later, they were in front of said Council, and the debate began.

Another five minutes passed, and Herman Fitz was staring down the Turian Councilor. By his side was a holographic interface showing the Quarian admirals and delegates, and the Prime Minister.

"I fail to see what the problem is, Councilor." Herman replied coolly. "Matriarch Kalyta apologized for the actions of the Turian patrol fleet, and we apologized for its subsequent destruction. It was a misunderstanding, but in this case the Turian fleet was in the wrong for opening fire on the Quarians."

"And yet it was Hierarchy ships that were destroyed, and Hierarchy soldiers that were killed," Sparatus growled in his flanged voice. "If you believe you are clear of any wrongdoing yourself, then you are mistaken. I demand restitution."

"You seem to be implying that if both sides were injured from said fight, then there wouldn't be an issue. As much as the Human Systems Alliance regrets any loss of life, we are grateful that it wasn't any higher in this instance. As it stands, the turians opened fire first, and then were destroyed in retaliation. We believe that it equals out. I say we move forward, and chalk it up to bad luck. There are more important things to discuss today."

Sparatus seemed ready to argue some more, but Tevos raised her hand. "Indeed, Mr. Fitz. Sparatus, while the death of those men are regrettable, it is not worth pursuing the humans for restitution. We should be welcoming them to the galactic stage. Now, onto the first matter. Quarian Admirals, are you sure that you will not be returning to Council space?"

The Admirals all looked at Rael, who crossed his arms before speaking. "Yes, we are sure, Councilor Tevos. We have no desire to return, and we already have an agreement for our own colony in human space. Moreover, you cannot deny the negative image the Quarians people have in Council space. We would never willingly return to that, especially not now that we have a deal with the humans in place. Frankly, no one wanted us, and we didn't want to deal with them either. Any suggestion to return on that basis alone is laughable." What was unsaid was that the Council also wanted to punish the Quarians for leaving, but with the Quarians out of reach, there was little to say or do on that matter.

Tevos nodded curtly. "Understood. Now, the second matter. I assume humanity wishes to join the Citadel species?"

Herman shook his head. "Unfortunately, I do not believe that is possible, Councilor. Our laws and beliefs would be incompatible, and we do not wish to compromise an integral part of our culture. While we do not wish for an embassy, where we would be beholden to Council laws but could also ask for Council help, we wish for something a little less… strict, could be the word for it. A consulate of some sorts, just so that our two governments can easily stay in contact with one another."

The Council chamber was silent, even amongst the spectators and media on the side. Not even the Batarians had declined Citadel race status, and that had been a much more hectic ordeal. The last race to decline Citadel status had been centuries ago.

Tevos pursed her lips. "I believe we can come to that agreement, Mr. Fitz. Though we would like to know why you believe your culture and laws are so incompatible with ours. Plenty of other races have made due."

Herman looked over at the hologram of the Prime Minister, who nodded slightly. They already had tacit approval, but preferably they would not have had to say why they declined Citadel race status. Still, it had been agreed on that, if directly asked, they would provide the reason why.

"Councilors, please, do not be alarmed, but by your laws we simply would not normally even be allowed in Citadel space."

The Councilors all stood just a bit more rigid. "And why is that, Mr. Fitz?" Councilor Fulnan asked.

Herman collected himself. "400 years ago, as you already may know, Humanity suffered a nuclear apocalypse." Judging by some of the gasps of the media and spectators, it wasn't common knowledge. "But we survived, and today are even thriving. We… well, we have a lot to thank for our survival. But one of the first things that our pre-space, post-nuclear governments dealt with was the concept of AI's, or synths as they were called."

The Council room was silent. Sparatus whispered something into his omnitool, and Herman would have bet a month's salary that he was preparing guards. Regardless, he continued. "There was a war - a skirmish, really, by our standards now - that resulted in Synths being given full sentient rights. They looked like us, talked like us, and now had rights, just like us."

Tevos interrupted. "Are you saying that a portion of your population are AI's designed to look like a human?" There was more than a hint of an accusation in her voice.

Herman merely smiled. "It goes a bit further than that. We've bio-engineered ourselves and the Synths to be one and the same. Essentially, there is no barrier for us between synthetic and organic, digital and analog. We can flash grow people and give them new personalities, and they can immediately join the gene pool. Humans can be saved at the brink of death and given a new body. We can even upload ourselves up into a recipient network, and live as a computer program. So, in a way, synthetic and organic have become one and the same for us."

The silence before was deafening. This silence was all consuming, frozen, and filled with fear and hate. Not even the Keepers seemed to move. Finally, Sparatus gripped his console and grunted out, "Get. Out." He waved for the guards, who had appeared at the side and back of the room, to move forward and remove the delegates. The spectators on the side either frantically moved to leave as well, or they stood and shouted at the newcomers. The media was catching every word and action, despite their own unease, and were shouting questions to both sides.

Herman sighed and, loudly, stated, "We were afraid of this, you know."

Fulnan abruptly stopped the guards, and scrutinized the human standing in front of him. "Your species - if it can even be called that now - has gone further in abandoning your organic nature than any other. What did you expect when you read our laws, our culture? That you aren't being destroyed right now is only courtesy of the fact that you are part of a delegation. Everyone knows AI's cannot be trusted." Even more questions and shouts arose at this declaration.

"And yet have we shown any sign of hostility?" Herman asked. "We proposed an alternative to joining your Citadel, and we have no desire to make war, only to trade and make peace. The aggressor in this case is the Council. Instead of even giving us a chance, you are outright ignoring our desire to cooperate. Don't make that mistake." The room went silent again. Herman had their attention, and he planned to deliver a coup de grace. "I pity the state of the galaxy, if that's how it's going to be. How can a species new to the Citadel be expected to be treated if fear is the predominant reaction to anything different?"

Sparatus drew himself up, snarling, "How dare you! We are the preeminent authority in the galaxy, and we will not be reduced to debating ethics with a thing!"

"Sparatus! That is enough." Tevos' voice rang powerfully. She turned her attention to Herman, and his delegation. "Your words are true, Human. You have not shown any hostility, yet. We will grant a consulate on a probationary basis, and will be watching your race very closely, if that satisfies the rest of this Council."

Fulnan, eventually, nodded reluctantly, while Sparatus refused to even acknowledge her - he stared at Herman Fitz instead. Tevos sighed. "That is two to one votes in favor. Now please, leave before you cause any more of a commotion. We will be expecting another delegation, either this one or another, in the near future to set up the consulate."

Herman nodded, before motioning to the other delegation members present to pick up their hologram projectors.

As the entered the elevator, and left behind a clamoring and hectic Council chambers, Shala'Raan's projection quietly said, "That could have gone better."

Herman shrugged, before saying in a deathly serious voice, "Could have gone a lot worse too."

Back in the safety of their ship, Herman sighed and leaned back in his chair. He ruminated over the course of his life and others' in the coming years, but was interrupted when his Pip-boy beeped.

Odd, he thought. It was a message from the Councilors?

He clicked it, but instead of the Councilors it was something else.

Something else entirely.

"The Geth wish to exchange information."

"You know what to do. Look for anything that could threaten us, but don't get caught. And try and stay clear of the STG; we don't know what tricks they might have up their sleeve."

"Understood," replied the Human AI.

And then she was gone, flitting about in the substrata of the Citadel's network.

The Council adjourned in a private conference room. Across from them stood three of their Spectres.

Fulnan activated his omnitool, forwarding a file to all of the Spectres as Tevos spoke.

"You three are to act as tourists. We are assuming travel will soon be open between us and the Systems Alliance, however restricted it may be. Explore their worlds, and take down notes. Do not contact us using their network; if need be, report back in person. We expect a report every two standard months. And do not expect our support if you are caught; you will be operating outside of Citadel bounds, so officially this mission does not exist."

"What is our goal, Councilors?" One of them asked, a Turian.

Tevos looked at him appraisingly. "Your goal, Saren, is to find out anything and everything about the Humans. Ship numbers, colony locations, politics, foreign policy. Anything."

Codex Entries:

Fulson's Disease: A psuedo disease that was discovered with the onset of Transhumanity. Switching between organic and synthetic form too often, switching bodies too often, and staying in synthetic form for too long all bring about this disease.

It is described as a constant ringing in the ears, and slight whispers when in organic form, and takes its form as a constant stream of garbage data that is automatically generated and collected in synthetic form. Current models predict that, once the disease is discovered in an individual, they have at most 5 years to live. Further use of body switching and flipping between organic and synthetic further this degradation.

In organics, late term Fulson's takes form as a high-functioning form of dementia and paranoia. In synthetics, it takes form as paranoia and rampancy, wherein the human AI perceives most others as threats to its well being, and takes action to harm those threats.

Treatment includes staying out of synthetic form when it can be avoided, and taking anti-dementia and paranoia medication.

A/N: Longest chapter yet, boyos. Enjoy.