To SirMaou (chapter 22 . Feb 4, 2020):
That is something that I always thought about. If the Asari do indeed look like us (let's forget the theories that they are tentacle-y eldritch abominations manipulating everybody's minds), we should be damn attractive to them. Adding to that the fact that some theorize the Asari once had males among their species and only evolved monogenderism more recently (something I see in a lot of fics), that would make a lot of sense. Maybe there still remain some instincts that make them attracted to forms that resemble their (now extinct) males and Human males being the perfect ersatz to them. But not only Human males, of course. Asari are largely perceived as pansexual (quite literally, I must say so lol), so Human females being so similar to Asari themselves (and assuming that did actually Asari evolve on their world to be attracted to other Asari, instead of the common fan-theory that their ability to mate with everything that moves is engineered by the Protheans), Human women should mess a lot with their heads too.

To suzumiyaharuhi1 (chapter 22 . Feb 4, 2020):
First, no. I know shit about Fallout. It was actually kind of a random choice.
Second. Warp-in-hyperspace is still very in its infancy and quantum slipstream is still too complicated and too experimental.
Third. I'm still deciding on that.

To Watcher123 (chapter 22 . Feb 4, 2020):
Yeah. The 'drive charge' thing is quite a limitation of Eezo-based conventional FTL. Sometimes it seems too conveniently restrictive... Well, that is why I imagine them being limited (in practice) to clusters with a volume of between 500ly and 1000ly radius. Still, they have dozens of clusters connected by mass relays. As for the B5 races, we know they are limited to the jumpgate network. They can build new ones, but they have to build with them a whole infrastructure of hyperspace beacons to allow them to navigate (as the less advanced races would not be able to locate themselves without them and the more advanced ones would have a harder time) and map all storms, eddies, and gravity wells within hyperspace to discover secure paths. All that hampers exploration a lot. Now, the USF has warp drive and subspace sensors. They can basically go anywhere as long as they have the power to run the drive, they don't need to follow pre-discovered paths or navigational beacons, and they can scan space while at warp. Sometimes I think that, compared to every other sci-fi FTL method out there, Star Trek's warp drive is overall the best (despite being slower than many).
Second. In Human space, the conflict comes from literally not knowing what to do. Remember, Humans live in what is basically (socioeconomic) paradise, and have been isolated for most of their history. They haven't known aliens (except the Éonns) for more than 30 years. So, many people are still insecure about this. Many see Humanity becoming more embroiled in alien affairs and conflicts and want nothing to do with it. For them, just isolating back into the Crescent would do it. Others are pushing for more exploration, more integration with aliens, and fewer restrictions for them in Human space. Those are very different points of view. So, Earth Alliance's anti-alien sentiment was due to past aggression. USF anti-alien sentiment is due to the very novelty of it.
Let's see.

To Blackholelord (chapter 22 . Feb 5, 2020):
I do too, pal.

To RightHandOfPalpatine (chapter 22 . Feb 6, 2020):
Yeah, I think I haven't deal with it very well.

To aDarkOne (chapter 22 . Feb 9, 2020):
First, I agree with you to an extend. But that is the point of this story. I made this story to 1) be able to create my own Star Trek-esque utopian Humanity; 2) Put them against B5 and ME universes in order to see how they would affect them; 3) Question my own utopian Humanity a little; 4) Have fun. I am trying to make it a good, fun-to-read story. I'm sorry if I'm falling short of it for you.
As for the whole Black Star thing, I think you are right. But the significance of it is completely different in THB from what it was in canon B5. Here, the significance of Sheridan destroying the Black Star comes from the fact that it was the first time since the Shadow War that the Minbari lost a battle in their own territory. Before the Black Star, the Human threat was a distant, somewhat ignorable problem that didn't actually affect them. Most Minbari couldn't even recognize that they were outmatched. The Black Star changed that. It was their 9/11. It made the threat feel close to home, real and made many recognize that they could not win. The Minbari don't hate Sheridan just because he destroyed their flagship. They hate him because he gave them the most painful reality check ever.

To Guest (chapter 20 . Apr 28, 2020):
Well, the Atlanti have been on the Milky Way for 300 million years. I figure during that time they had thousands of wars, skirmishes, arguments...
But that will be explained with time.

To deitarionSSokolow (chapter 22 . Jul 24, 2020):
I've been thinking about restructuring the chapters for a time now. Putting the prologue as Chapter 1 and so on. The timeline and the Codex Entries would be post-chapter content, at the bottom of each chapter. But I'm still deciding how I'm gonna deal with the review replies.
As for the reaction to B5, that is coming.

To suzumiyaharuhi1 (chapter 7 . Nov 19, 2020):
I'm thinking about doing something like that. Not V'Ger itself, but maybe another entity.

DeathRayBob (chapter 1 and 2 . Jan 23):
Well, I have been reviewing it. But English is also not my first language. I'm a native Portuguese speaker instead. I actually started learning English by reading fanfic here. So, I expect my work to have a lot of errors. As I learn more, I review it.
About Starfleet weapons, well, I think it is a point of view. Like every franchise, we tend to get a lot of contradictory data all the time. That is why I take some liberties, no one ever said it should be a completely faithful translation of Star Trek. However, power output is not everything. I ]'m always baffled by people saying that phasers are not that powerful and comparing them to, say, Star Wars turbolasers. But the latter is (I believe) no more than funnily named plasma guns. So what if phasers' power output is not that high? That is not their function. Their damage is not heat- or kinetic-based. They have a more exotic effect. Dealing more damage with less power? In my opinion, that looks better than a large plasma gun.
On the 'no poverty' thing, well... Not only it is a general statement, but I explained already how the USF economy works. First, it is post-scarcity. Does that mean that resources are infinite? No. But, in practical terms, there is no scarcity of most important commodities (just like breathing air is not infinite but we live in an effectively post-scarcity in that aspect). 90% of everything one could want only costs energy, which is the 'kind of money' used in Human space. There are no taxes since the government can simply produce more energy to fund its policies. As something's cost in energy is largely unchanging, there is no inflation or price changes for most things. People are entitled to a good amount of energy to use as they please simply by existing (call it universal basic income if you will). That is enough to live comfortably if you will, plus free education, healthcare, etc. In a sense, yes, people own the means of production (as everybody has a replicator). But it is not Marxist-Leninist/Communism (in the way we know it) because the people literally own the means of production. Not 'the state representing the people', but literally every (adult) individual. Outside of that, there is a form of 'post-scarcity capitalism' going on too. People are largely free to exchange energy (in the form of credits) for things that cannot be replicated. Do you want a cake? You can pay only the energy needed to replicate one from public domain, or pay for the energy plus a small 'royalty' to replicate one that was registered by a private citizen, or even pay in credits for the 'creative labor' of a famous baker. That is basically how it works so, yes, no poverty. There is inequality to an extent, but there are certainly no poor people or needy people in the sense we understand it because there is not an exchange economy for most basic things. Only things that have value beyond the amount of energy we need to replicate them can be exchanged. Registered designs or recipes, patented technologies, art (be it a wedding dress from a famous dresser or a book from a famous author), etc.
If you and I (and everybody else) receive, say, 10k credits every month from the government (let's say it is something like 20k dollars) as well as equal access to high-quality, free government services, we both have a very comfortable income that allows a very comfortable life. Now, let's say you create a new flying car engine or design the new Toyota model, then you register it as yours instead of public domain. Every time someone orders a car with that engine or that model, you will get a small cut (the price will be: cost in energy plus your cut). At the end of the year, you have 100k credits saved plus your monthly 10k. I have only my monthly 10k. You have more credits than me but is still have access to a very comfortable lifestyle. That doesn't make me poor.


Chapter 17

"Voices and Whispers"

Serpent Nebula
Citadel, Widow System
Citadel Tower, Presidium:

"Are you certain of this?" Councilor Tevos questioned her Salarian colleague, Councilor Morban. They were now at her personal office, far from the eyes of the public and, most importantly, of Councilor Areatus.

"Evidently," Councilor Morban replied. "The Union has relayed these STG reports to me this morning. They reveal a large mobilization of Turian forces converging to a largely unexplored cluster just beyond the edge of Council Space."

"Do we know what are they doing there?"

"No, the Turians are being unusually secretive," Morban responded. "Data traffic in Turian space has been unusual for weeks now, but nothing too strange to catch our attention until three days ago, when it simply shoot up. The Turians have mobilized over a thousand ships already, five hundred of which are already closing on that cluster."

Tevos looked at the holographic data being displayed in front of her.

"Isn't it the cluster where Admiral Arterius was performing war games? Over nine hundred ships, three dreadnoughts. A force of that magnitude is not easy to miss, training exercises or not."

"Officially, the Hierarchy issued a statement that Admiral Arterius moved the war games to a different cluster, but according to these reports, the fleet just vanished. Even the press was asked to leave. Unless Arterius moved it deeper into the Attican Traverse, someone should have seen it."

"It is a nine-hundred-strong Turian fleet, after all," Tevos said.

They must have found something. Something dangerous but of value, she thought. Otherwise, they would have not mobilized such a large force in such a secretive manner.

Tevos looked back at her colleague. She knew the Salarian would have reached the same conclusion, even sooner than her.

Just like her, he was probably thinking about how to capitalize on this new development in a way that favored his own government.

She was taken back from her thoughts when her communicator beeped.

"Councilor, I have Director Meera Addys calling on channel zara," Tevos' secretary said as she answered the call.

She frowned. What would the Editing-Director of Citadel News want with her now? She had no time for that.

"Tell him to make an appointment."

"Councilor, she says she has information of great urgency for your eyes only. Something that could lead to massive political ramifications."

She sighed.

"I'm busy now. Tell him to send it to us. I will look at it later," she ended the call and turned back at Councilor Morban. "We can't afford to call the Turians out right now. The colonization boom in the Attican Traverse is being threatened by a new wave of Terminus piracy and Batarian slavers have just raided a private Volus colony at the edge of the Traverse, the threat of Turian involvement is the only thing preventing the total loss of market confidence right now."

"We have to act. If the Turians keep diverting military assets to the Attican Traverse without explanation, it will bolden the Terminus pirates," Morban concluded. "An if they refuse to bring back those assets, the Batarians will see this failure in the enforcement of Council will as an opportunity to scale up their criminal activities."

Tevos sighed. The Batarians were certainly the worst of the lot. Their xenophobic, nationalistic zeal and abhorrent cultural practices have been the source of many headaches for C-Space for over two thousand years, they were always trying to test the Council's resolve and to expand their activities to neighboring economies.

As diplomatic as she was, Tevos would sometimes just wish them to disappear.

But what she fantasizes about within the depths of her own mind was very different from what she knew reality was like.

The Citadel Alliance could not lose the Batarian Hegemony.

First, there was the fact that, though the Hegemony had the poorest economy among the greater nations of the galaxy, it was still its seventh-largest economy, with the fourth-largest population after the Salarian Union. Khar'shan was a backwater, poor, dusty, dystopian nightmare of a world if you were anyone but a member of the tiny upper class, but it was still the most populous individual planet in the galaxy. Losing the Batarians could be disastrous to the Citadel Alliance, especially because this would certainly push them into the welcoming arms of the greatest threat to the Council.

The Terminus Systems was an area of space as big and as populous as Council Space, every bit as hostile to the Citadel system as it could be imagined. The only thing that has kept it from swarming the Citadel races was the fact that, though unified in its hatred from Council interference, at the end of the day the Terminus Systems was a collection of thousands of small, disorganized, and mostly weaker splinter factions, rogue colonies, criminal cartels, and hostiles races. Among those polities, Omega was by far the most powerful, and yet it could not compare to even the Elcor in economic and industrial capacity.

But if the Hegemony joined them...

Tevos didn't want to think about it. It was better to keep the Batarians close and reasonably satisfied, problematic or not.

She flickered her eyes at the screen on her desk as her secretary sent the file from Director Addys. Her eyes widened as the headline became visible.

First contact disaster.

Turian forces engage peaceful, uncontacted species against all Citadel regulations

She looks back at Councilor Morban before pressing a button on her desk.

"Call Director Addys," she ordered. "Now!"

Babylon 5
Zocalo Shopping District:

"And you don't know of anyone who has one?" G'Kar begged the seller. "I will pay any price."

The Hurr seller simply denied having the product, to which G'Kar sighed in frustration.

"Ah, G'Kar!" He heard the very irritating voice of Londo Mollari calling him. "Doing a little shopping, are you?"

Londo shook his head disapprovingly.

"Is that permitted during the holy days of G'Quan?" He caught a flower from the stand in front of them and smelled its scent, making an overtly joyful face.

"It is no concern of yours, Mollari."

" see... I heard about the mishap involving your transport. Being attacked and destroyed by raiders... Shocking. Truly shocking," Londo expressed in false sympathy. "If there is anything that I can do to be of assistance, you will let me know, yes?"

G'Kar paused

"No."

Londo simply left while giggling with joy. A moment later, Na'Toth appeared.

"Well?"

"There is no one who can have a G'Quan Eth delivered in time for the ceremony," she said. "However... according to import records, there is one being in this station who has the flower."

"Well, who is it?"

"Ambassador Mollari," she whispered.

"What!?"

G'Kar looked back at the street as Londo mockingly waved his fingers to G'Kar from a distance.

G'Kar made a disgusted face and growled in frustration.

"Why does the universe hate me?"

Citadel News Headquarters, Presidium
Editing Director Office:

Arina couldn't believe it.

Actually, she sure enough could!

Of course, that would happen!

She knew Meera. They were friends. Yes, Meera was more of an office rat than a journalist these days but Arina still wanted to believe she would not do that, that she would recognize the bomb she had in her hands.

"Sorry, Arina. But that is a bomb you have in your hands! I can't publish something like this without thinking about the consequences."

"They said no," she concluded. "What? We need to ask their permission to spread information, now?"

"I had to," Meera sighed. "If we published something like this, something so... antagonistic and humiliating to the Council and the Turian Hierarchy, we would lose all access to the highest echelons of power in the galaxy. They would put red tape on top of red tape for us. No more interviews or televised insights with high-ranking officials, no more invitations to their press briefings. They would dry us out of existence! We would lose our position as Citadel's most important news network! Our investors would be furious!"

Arina scoffed.

"I can't believe you are saying that," she stated. "I went along with that yarn-shit of yours when you redacted my article on the Ardene Scandal. But this is too much! This is too big! People are dying-!"

She stopped to take a deep breath.

"Meera," Arina continued. "I'm sorry but, if this is what C-News has become... You will either publish that story or I'm resigning, and my crew as well."

"Is that an ultimatum?"

Meera looked at the silent Arina standing in front of her desk, her unrelenting expression saying everything.

She sighed.

"Though somewhat of a liability sometimes, you are one of the best," Meera complimented Arina. "But I can't do anything for you. The board would destroy me if I let that article see the light of the day. You have until the end of the day to get your things. But all vids, files, and data you have been working on will be- be acquired by the outlet to do what it sees fit, you don't own them. Don't try making a scene or I'll have security escort you out. Goodbye, Arina."

Arina stood there wide-eyed as Meera turned back to her computer screen. She turned around and left the office, stunned.

Her eyes jumped to the omni-tool around her wrist when she tapped it and it came to life. She opened a text message application.

Do it.

She pressed send.

Citadel Tower, Presidium:

Councilor Tevos' face contorted in rage when she saw the vid.

It was posted by an independent media outlet she was well aware of, though she would never admit that out loud. Though it had been a thorn on the Council's side for a time now, the outlet didn't have a particularly big viewership.

Unfortunately, the vid went viral on the Extranet in a matter of hours was now being broadcast even on mainstream media channels.

"Could you present yourself for us?" The reporter, one Arina S'Lenn, the same from the C-New article she vetoed, asked the uncannily Asari-looking alien.

He, as Tevos assumed the alien was male, was sitting on a chair in the middle of what looked like a ship's bridge. The alien was bipedal, proportioned in a similar manner to an Asari, yet less curvy and more robust, with a patch of dark brown fur on his head instead of tendrils like an Asari would have. Uncanny, yes. But certainly the attractive.

He was wearing a glossy, black jacket uniform with a red stripe just above the chest separating the brown-colored upper part from the rest. On his chest, to the left side, a silver-colored and round, arrowhead-shaped insignia, with a five-pointed shape in the middle, stood proudly attached.

"Well," the alien started. "I'm Capitan John Sheridan, a member of Starfleet, our defensive, exploratory, and scientific branch. My species, we call ourselves Humans our government, is called the United System Federation. We are peaceful explorers. We found the mass relays just a decade ago and have been exploring ever since, activating dormant relays and colonizing new worlds. We found the Turians after activating the last relay and were received by a three-hundred-strong fleet and a barrage of cannon fire. We tried peaceful contact but were completely ignored. They destroyed one of our ships and heavily damaged ours."

Recklessly activating dormant mass relays is dumb and dangerous, Tevos thought. However, these Humans are an uninitiated race that knows nothing of the galactic body of laws. They should be received we diplomacy and orientation, not gunfire.

Breaking the law or not, these Humans were the victims here, at least that is what the galaxy would perceive them to be.

"We have a small colony close to where we were attacked, lightly defended. I fear that it may have been attacked."

She is going to have Director Addys' head for this.

"My fear is all-out war. We are not a warmongering people, but we are not weak, nor will we lay down and die for the Turians. I don't fear the annihilation of my people. I fear all the death both sides would suffer if this becomes a true war between galactic powers."

She was supposed to kill that story!

After reading the unpublished C-News article sent to her, she and Morban had tied the dots. The article had a wealth of information on what the Turians did and, added to the STG reports on Turian fleet and troop movements that Morban had provided her this morning, it gave them a rather good understanding of the situation.

Tevos and Morban decided to send a small fleet with diplomatic personnel to the cluster in question. Having the Destiny Ascension and over twenty other ships from the Citadel Flee leaving through the has certainly caught the attention of the populace, even though was not an unusual sight. The Citadel Fleet would routinely have patroling assignments in the neighboring clusters, it was one of its functions after all. But sending the flagship was always going to certainly raise some eyebrows. Tevos convinced her Salarian colleague that the presence of the powerful dreadnought would help convey to the Turians the urgency of the matter and dissuade them from disobeying the Council's orders.

The mission carried with it a direct Council-issued order for the Turian fleet to cease any hostilities with the Humans.

The plan was to catch the Turians on the act, privately berate the Hierarchy and its councilor, and solve this mess without drawing the attention of the galaxy. The Turians had been increasing military spending and new technology development over the last years, and that worried the other two Council races. In theory, none of the three was powerful enough to engage the other two, but the Turians seemed to be planning on changing that.

It was not like her own government and, for instance, Morban's were not constantly trying to slowly undermine the other. After all, the Asari Navy was eager to acquire some Turian military hardware such as their newly developed military-grade sensor array. If their plan to privately confront Areatus had worked, they could have extracted some concessions from the Hierarchy and called it a day.

Failure was an understatement.

"Can you see the problem the Hierarchy has brought us, the diplomatic catastrophe?" Tevos berated Areatus. "The Terminus Systems are growing bolder by the day and you simply decide to divert hundreds of military assets from our borders without any explanation. The colonization boom in the Crescent Nebula has been one of the drivers of galactic growth for the last years and this... this adventure of yours can drive down confidence to the point of complete market collapse."

"That is not to say the loss of potential economic gains in this new cluster," Morban added. "This new species will be very suspicious of us, slowing down their integration into the galactic economy by maybe decades. Worst-case scenario, this new species completely refuses to associate with us and is pushed into the open arms of the Terminus Systems, effectively flanking Council Space. With this new species being so close to Batarian space, that could be the final push for them to do the same, especially now that the Hierarchy has been cracking down harder on their activities outside of Hegemony territory. They are already bad enough as an associated race, we can't give them a reason to join our enemies."

"The Batarians already have an oversized presence in the criminal underworld and the Terminus Systems without actually being part of the latter," Tevos said. "If they find a reason to join, they will be by far the largest and most powerful individual government among them. They could be the ones to finally unify the Terminus Systems against us."

Tevos sighed.

"This is a political disaster," she continued. "The media is covering it as if it were the story of the millennium. There are already protests happening in the Wards and the public wants someone's head in a platter. It could be General Arterius', Primarch Fedorian's, or even yours, Areatus. They don't care."

"Please! A group of unknown aliens accusing the Hierarchy of such despicable acts without any evidence is less than a credible source-"

Areatus was interrupted as the transmission changed. Now it showed a recording of the Human ship as it dropped out of relay transit to find itself surrounded by hundreds of Turian warships that suddenly fired unprovoked.

The battle that ensued was unusual, to say the least.

The small Human vessel took a beating but managed to take out a number of Turian vessels before accelerating to FTL and fleeing the system.

"It sure looks like the Turians weren't very diplomatic there," Tevos comments.

Areatus just stood there, speechless.

"You didn't know, did you?" Councilor Morban concluded, Areatus just standing there silent. "Your government didn't fill you in the details, did it?."

"Actually," Areatus spoke. "I don't think even my government was- was properly informed of the situation."

"You mean..." Councilor Tevos probed, already having an idea of what he meant.

"Admiral Arterius did indeed send reports to Primarch Fedorian stating that he had found an unknown species," Councilor Areatus paused. "I was sent a copy of those reports. According to them, this was a hostile race unwilling to talk that attacked without provocation and destroyed dozens of our ships. It said nothing of a three hundred-strong Turian battle fleet attacking a single, smaller alien vessel without provocation. He reported that he engaged this hostile species over their homeworld and asked for more ships and troops in order to fully pacify them."

"And even having supposedly found such a hostile and dangerous species," Councilor Morban concluded. "The Hierarchy just assumed it could take care of the situation and decided to keep it quiet instead of alerting the rest of the galaxy."

"We would report to the Council after pacifying and-"

"Conquering," Tevos interrupted him.

"And establishing a... temporary protectorate over them, yes," Areatus stated.

"At which point you thought the Council would not have the will to intervene and would settle for the status quo," Tevos said. "The Hierarchy would end up with another client race and everything it has to offer."

"That is not the pressing issue," Areatus changed the subject. "The pressing issue is that if all of this is not just my government keeping me in the dark over this... If they were actually sent the same reports as I was... Spirits! What if the fleet is ordered to end hostilities and Arterius simply refuses to obey? What if they follow him?"

"Well, that is why we chose to send the Destiny Ascension, of all ships. He won't dare to fire at the flagship of the Citadel Fleet," Tevos explained. "Matriarch Benezia is leading a small mission to open diplomatic relations with the Humans and stop this mess the Hierarchy has created."

"Now that what is happening has been revealed to the galaxy, this could irrevocably tarnish the reputation of the Hierarchy," Morban said.

"That is what we had feared," Tevos replied. "The news outlets are heavily criticizing the Hierarchy's behavior. Now that the news has spread, we can't simply ask them to contain it. Many corporations and even some of the biggest financial institutions are already expressing that they could start a boycott.

"But if we can prove or at least make the public believe that Admiral Arterius and his fleet went rogue," Morban added, "and that Palaven was misled through false information into believing that they had found a hostile species and that taking action against them was necessary, then we could shift blame from the Hierarchy's leadership to someone else and prevent the political backlash."

Tevos nodded, then turned to her Turian colleague.

"You heard him, Areatus. If you can gather any evidence that would exempt the Hierarchy of the blame, better to show it now."

Horse Head Nebula
Shanxi

The forest was a verdant endless of trees and bushed. Rocky formations were scattered all around, with small hills and mountains untouched by civilization. The over three million Humans who lived in Shanxi had not colonized this far into this continent yet. It was a recently colonized world, after all. Just slightly smaller than Earth.

The only vestige of civilization was a small, isolated village about five kilometers south. It was now deserted, though, as its few denizens had either been captured by the Turians, died by the invaders' talons, or fled somewhere unknown.

"There!" Admiral Desolas Arterius pointed, ordering the pilot of the Hierax-class shuttle they were in to land on the wide glade by a range of hills.

Desolas had left the camp before the Humans came, heading to the dense forest South of his position.

He knew that the four centurions accompanying him were probably thinking among themselves, questioning what was the content of that large crate and what was the reason for this... venture of his.

Even Desolas was questioning it himself, yet he could feel it in the back of his thoughts, whispering to him promises of power and glory.

It was calling him.

Desolas could hear it.

Beside him, two tall figures obscured by their purple robes stood completely immobile.

Thousands of years ago, legend says that titans reached from the heavens and strode across Palaven, bringing with them a sacred relic. In order to worship those deities and reach to them, his people built Temple Palaven around the relic. The Order of the Valluvian Priests was the secretive organization responsible for tending for it, wearing these characteristic purple robes in order to hide their hallowed faces from the common folk.

After the discovery of alien life among the stars, his people abandoned these beliefs and sealed the temple, its devout priests choosing to be with their holy relic. The Valluvian Priests went extinct, and with them, history became legend.

That is, until that archeological dig years ago.

Desolas could see his necklace shining with dim light as if reacting to the presence of the relic in the crate.

Just like it was years ago at that Prothean archeological site.

Just like when he found the first monolith.

Desolas remembered what happened to those Turians who touched the artifact there. How they were mutated into... something.

Something stronger.

Superior.

Something he wished for his people.

These meta-Turians would kneel down and revered the monolith, making Desolas recall the stories of the devout priests of legend in Temple Palaven.

For that is what they had become.

His new Valluvian Priests.

Desolas had the monolith secured and transported to his ship just after. The priests, they followed him. Certainly, they had seen his resolve.

For he was their chosen.

Now they were here, being called to something, just like Desolas was.

He turned his head back, the large crate too heavy for his centurions to carry. Desolas could see the light slipping through the gaps.

At that moment, the fact that the Humans were retaking the planet was secondary to him. Finding it was his primary goal.

The priests took the crate like it weighed nothing, carrying it out of the shuttle.

With the shuttle parked by the foot of a mount, Desolas and his centurions found the small entrance to a rocky cave.

"One of you, stay here protecting the entrance," he ordered. "We are going in."

Desolas group him, the priest carrying the crate that now emitted faint ribbons of light from in between the gaps. He ordered and one of the centurions sent two drones flying ahead, scouting the perimeter for their safety.

The cave seemed small from the outside, but it ran deep into the rock, with galleries that bifurcated into different paths. They could hear a small subterranean stream ahead washing ahead.

They were close.

He could feel it!

Suddenly, one of his drones was shot down by a flash of red light. Desolas' men went alert as a Human male jumped from one of the tunnels, shooting down the other drone and running to the eastern entrance.

They followed him, one of Desolas' men being shot on the shoulder during the chase with a beam of red light that burned through his armor before the Human was finally shot down.

Two of his men closed on the body. He was clearly civilian, the small pistol still tightly held in his hand.

"He could have kept himself hidden from us and lived," one of his two last centurions said to himself. "Yet he chose to die a warrior."

"He was trying to divert our attention from something," Desolas concluded and turned back to the centurions. "You two, go back and scout the other tunnels."

"Sir..." one of them spoke, his eyes staring distrust to the obscure figures beside the admiral.

"That is an order, Centurion."

Desolas turned back and walked down the tunnel with his priests following in his stead.

Guided by that instinct on the back of his mind, he followed it until he found what he sought in a gallery, deep inside the cave.

The monolith was similar to the one he had found years ago, the one that was now being carried by the priests on that crate. It was of a metallic, grey-ish white in color, bright with light and humming with power.

His omni-tool beeped.

"Admiral," one of his centurions spoke as Desolas answered the call. "We found what the shooter was protecting. There are over fifty Humans crammed here, civilians, no way to escape. We have them."

Desolas looked at the monolith as the priests opened the crest and carefully deposited its brother beside it.

He smiled.

Babylon 5
Commander Sinclair's Office:

"Ambassador Mollari," Sinclair said. "I am sure that this statue of yours that was stolen-"

"My statue of Inaros, Commander. It was stolen from my quarters!"

"Inaros?"

"Goddess of luck, patron of gamblers. It has a very high special value to me, Commander."

"I am sorry, Ambassador, but I don't understand why would you come to me with this instead of seeking Starfleet Security. They are the ones responsible for law enforcement in the station."

"That is because I know exactly who it was!" Londo stated. "G'Kar! He paid a- eh, a comfort girl to seduce me and smuggle it out of my quarters!"

Sinclair was not surprised at all. Londo was known for hiring sex workers, it seemed too common to all male Centauri. That was one of the things that shocked Sinclair when he took command of the station.

Prostitution was not actually illegal in Human space, it was simply not very common. Since no one would be desperate enough to feel to need to sell their bodies for financial gain, none would see any value in doing it. There are still people who sell or buy sex just for the kink of it, of course, but that is unusual. In Babylon 5, however, prostitution is highly regulated so, as long as Londo hired a registered and law-abiding sex worker instead of one of the illegal ones, it would be rather easy to find her for interrogation.

"Ambassador, if I remember correctly, weren't you in possession of a plant Ambassador G'Kar deeply desired."

"Yes, the G'Quan Eth, yes. Difficult to grow, expensive to transport, very expensive to own."

"And so very important to Ambassador G'Kar during the holy days of G'Quan."

"Yes!" He laughed, then his expression turned serious. "Are you blaming me for his- his misdemeanor, Commander?"

"Far from it, Ambassador," Sinclair explained then sighed. "Look, I can't force you to do this but in the name of interstellar goodwill, not to mention some peace and quiet on this station, I'm asking you-"

"You know I would do anything for you, my good friend Commander Sinclair. But not this!"

"You don't have to give him the G'Quan Eth as a gift, he has agreed to pay a rather steep price for it, a price that you already stipulated to him."

"But I changed my mind, I'm entitled to that, eh?" He scoffed. "This isn't about money, Commander, or spiritual beliefs. G'Kar is only worried about losing face!"

Londo paused with a disgusted expression.

"The Narns," he continued. "They are a barbaric people, not like you and me. They are all pagans, still worshiping their sun. No, I would rather burn the plant than give it to him."

"Would you at least consider it?"

"No."

"Londo, why do you even want it anyway?"

"Ah, Commander. Ever since my people left their beautiful planet, G'Quan Eth plants have been hard to find," he reminisced. "Mine, which is being cared for in a safe place, I've been saving for a special occasion. You see, when you drop the seeds into a propper mix of alcohol..." he laughed with joy. "Whole new universes open up. It is a shame that Narns waste it, burning it as incense. It would see better use with me."

A light-bulb lit on Sinclair's head as Londo explained that to him, he tapped his padd before looking back at Londo

"Londo, you shouldn't keep flaunting it, provoking him in his moment of need-"

Londo's face contorted with rage as G'Kar entered through the door.

"Ah, Ambassador G'Kar, finally!" Sinclair expressed. "You will return Ambassador Mollari's statue."

"Commander, I must really protest. Do you accuse me-?"

"G'Kar, you'll return the statue!"

"But-" G'Kar started but soon shut his mouth.

"And that is all I ask," Londo commented, his amusement clear. "That, and his head on a platter."

"Ambassador Mollari," Jeffrey called. "I just ran a quick check on the G'Quan Eth after you shared with me on its effects. I discovered that it has a chemical composition which makes it a controlled botanical substance."

Londo's amused smile fell from his face.

"Unless previously approved by the USF Board of Recreational Drug Registration, which it was not, that plant is illegal to import into a Human station," Jeffrey continued. "Except for legitimate medical or religious purposes."

Londo scoffed.

"Ridiculous! It is no more harmful than a bottle of your whiskey."

"File a protest if you wish, but you'll have to turn the plant over to me," Sinclair smiled. "You'll be fully compensated."

"Alright, Commander. You may have the G'Quan Eth," Londo said as he stood up and walked to the door.

"Thank you, Ambassador."

"Bah!" he turned to G'Kar. "I have already gotten my enjoyment anyway."

As Londo walked out of the office, Sinclair turned back at G'Kar.

"Ambassador G'Kar. When you have returned Ambassador Mollari's statue, I will turn the G'Quan Eth to you, and you will compensate Londo for it, full price."

"Why should I turn the statue over, assuming that I knew where it was, when it is already too late for the ceremony," G'Kar expressed in frustration. "Mollari knows that, that is why he gave in so easily."

"This ritual, it is supposed to be performed in the sunlight that has touched the G'Quan Mountain, on a particular day at a particular time, right?"

"Yes."

"But, as your people went to space, it wasn't always possible to be at the foot of that mountain and pray at that sunlight."

"Yes, yes," G'Kar replied. "But if we can't be there we must still make our prayers at the same moment as those on our planet."

"Which you forgot to take into account is that sunlight also travels through space," Sinclair smiled. "Think about it. This station is 12.2 light-years from Narn. That is just a little over 10 of your light-years. The sunlight that touched G'Quan Mountain ten of your years ago will reach this station in twelve hours. It's been a long journey, but it is still the same sunlight. Good enough for you to conduct your ceremony, wouldn't you agree?"

"Yes... Yes! It might be!" G'Kar's eyes lit with excitement. He stood up to walk to the door, then looked back at Sinclair. "Commander, you are a far more spiritual man than I gave you credit for."

Sinclair laughed.

"I'm sure careful search will turn it up. I will see to it immediately, Commander, thank you."

He bowed and left.

Sinclair sighed.

Peace, at last.

Horse Head Nebula
314 System
Turian dreadnought Argent Wing:

As the Argent Wing dropped out of FTL and the rest of his fleet started popping by the relay, Admiral Adrien Victus admired the power of it.

Five hundred marvels of Turian ingenuity moved in formation in direction to the next relay in the system, a thousand more just a few hours behind him.

The Hierarchy's ascension to a position on the Council was well-deserved recognition for the service done by the Turian people, recognition paid in their blood, their courage, and their selfless sacrifice.

As military-minded as his people were, they preferred peace just like everyone else. The Pax Turiana was something Adrien felt proud of, and he knew many among his people did as well. Despite some border disputes, small skirmishes, and isolated engagements, this had been the longest period of overall continued peace in galactic history!

That is what concerned Victus.

He was commanding the largest force ever mobilized by the Turian Hierarchy since the end of the Krogan Rebellions. Such a force was never seen during the over a millennium of Pax Turiana. The number of military assets gathered here and now could only mean that the Hierarchy considers this new species a high-level threat to galactic peace.

Was it the first sign of the end of this peaceful era?

He had read Admiral Arterius' reports, of course. It detailed how he found an unknown species activating dormant relays, how he tried to initiate first contact and dissuade them from activating new relays, and how he was received with brutal hostility.

He wasn't one to publicly express doubt about one of the most decorated admirals in the Hierarchy Navy, but he knew Desolas. He knew how arrogant, nationalistic, and overall aggressive he could be.

And with each time they would meet again, it was like Admiral Arterius had become more and more ardent in his beliefs, if still as charming as ever when talking to the masses.

Desolas did indeed have a talent for politics. Worst yet, he had the ambition to pursue a career in politics.

Again, it seemed oddly convenient that Desolas would find a new, hostile race, so he could convince Primarch Fedorian to give him all the resources and all the discretion he needed to pacify this new species without the Council interfering, an endeavor that, if successful, would bring him more influence and possibly a primarchy all to himself.

But Adrien would not be the one to question it publicly.

He would follow his orders. Meet Admiral Arterius at the alien's planet and assist on its occupation.

"Have you managed to contact the Spirits of Retribution?" He asked, to which his communications officer responded negatively. "What about the other command vessels in Admiral Arterius' fleet?"

"Admiral!" One of his officers called. "Our sensors are picking that the outer relay has activated, we have ships coming through."

"Show me," the display showed as a number of oddly shaped ships came through the relay. Their design was similar enough to match that of the ships that appeared on Arterius report.

"Thirty-seven ships, sir. Varying between 160 and 680 meters long. No visible weapons."

"That was expected," Victus commented. "Admiral Arterius' reports did highlight that the aliens use weapon systems completely unknown to us."

Victus paused. He didn't like any of that. The Hierarchy was throwing them into an unknown scenario that could end disastrously for all of them.

Still.

He knew his orders, and the enemies were outnumbered almost fourteen-to-one.

"They are an obstacle between us and the relay," he said. "Order the fleet to engage."

Regent-class starship USS Alexander:

Admiral William Hague's mission was simple.

To lead a task force of over thirty ships beyond the Volga Relay, one of the points from which the Turians could have come in their way to Shanxi; drop a subspace transceiver to allow easy communication with the wider fleet in Shanxi and Starfleet Command on Earth; and prevent any hostiles from taking the relay.

Luckily, these Turians' technology has been proven to be largely inferior to Human tech in most areas, even if their soldiers themselves are extremely well-trained and lethal, so Human ships had an advantage even against overall larger numbers.

Yet, he didn't think he would have to engage them so soon

Shanxi was still a battle zone, but with orbital superiority achieved by Starfleet, it was only a matter of time before they either killed or captured every invading soldier on the planet. Most people made prisoner by the invaders were already rescued and were being tended for, though a large number has died at the hands of the Turians.

But of all of them, Virtuans were the ones who were treated the worst. The Turians had been engaging in outright genocide when Starfleet got there, with every man, woman, and child being executed by firing squad. Most enemy bases have already been captured and the Turians were too busy fighting to care for rounding the few Virtuans still under their power, but over two thousand had already been lost when the executions ended.

They lost more people to this conflict than any war fought by Humanity in the last two hundred years. It had to end now!

"Have they detected us yet?" He asked his chief science officer.

"It seems so, sir. They are powering weapons and increasing acceleration rates, it's a direct intercept course."

"Has the relay cooled down already?"

"No, sir, but it is dropping fast. We will be able to reactivate our structural integrity fields and raise shields in a few minutes."

"Good," Hague said. "Red alert! Our priority is to protect the relay at all costs. Raise shields and deploy armor as soon as the dark energy field cools down. Tell the fleet that we shall not let them pass."

Argent Wing:

Adrien Victus looked at the holoscreen in front of him as his fleet fired the first barrage of mass accelerators from their main cannons. He ordered fighter wings to be dispatched and saw as the countless fighters moved on the Human formation

"Sir, the Human ships," one of his sensors officers reported. "Something happened, it is like they were suddenly covered by armor that appeared from thin air!"

"Show me"

The screen showed as the enemy ships' hull glowed blue before pieces of armor seemed to materialize around them.

His first barrage hit its target but what appeared to be bubble-shaped kinetic barriers stopped it from causing any visible damage.

The fighter wing was now closing in when bright red beams of energy started killing the individual fighters off with precision only seen with GARDIAN lasers. A spread of red and blue glowing orbs of undulating light was fired by the enemy ships. These apparent missiles exploded all around the fighter wing's tight formation, the light of their explosion obfuscating the screens and finally fading out to show huge gaps on the wing formation, as huge numbers of fighters just disappeared

"They are killing our fighters like bugs," Victus' second-in-command stated. "What was that?"

"It seems like those torpedoes are antimatter-based, sir."

That surprised Victus. The use of antimatter was not unusual to him, of course. It was used to increase the power output of their thrusters and achieve higher sublight acceleration and speed. They had huge solar arrays where this extremely expensive material was produced, yet, due to its high cost, only military-grade vessels would have antimatter-injection thrusters. Despite all of that, no one would ever think of using antimatter for such expendable weapons as ship-borne missiles. It was just too expensive.

"Order the fleet to fire the main cannons, consecutive barrages," Victus ordered. "They are clearly refraining from moving away from the relay, that can be used to our advantage. First and Fifth Strike Groups, flank the enemy forces. I want them to taste fire from all sides."

One hundred ships each, the strike groups, as well as his own remaining fleet, would barrage the Humans with fire, forcing them to break formation.

USS Alexander:

"They are trying to surround our position," one of Hague's tactical officers reported.

"Order Escort Detachment Alpha and Delta to target the enemy squadrons."

He saw as two squadrons of Saber- and Sao Paulo-class starships moved at the enemy strike groups, evading their main cannon fire and torpedoes while shrugging off their lasers. The ships fired pulse phaser cannons at the enemy vessels, ignoring their barriers and digging holes on their armor.

"Sir, relay beta is activating!"

Hague looked wide-eyed as twenty-seven ships dropped of FTL beside the mass relay opposite to the one he was guarding.

The first word that came to Hague's mind when he saw them was elegant. The ships had an alien shape that made no sense to him, though he was sure it did to those who built it. In a way, it evoked the same feeling on Hague that the Minbari Sharlin had evoked a decade before. The feeling that this was an old, elegant race, one that was either too advanced to worry about what the other races think is practical or either too proud to see that their design is flawed to the teeth.

They were clearly of a different design than the Turian vessels. Where the latter had straight lines, square angles, and a fast, raptor-like frame, these new ships had an organic-like feel, with smooth curves, purple-ish metallic coloration, and this weird oval hole in the middle that Hague could not imagine what function it served for. Turian ships had layers of plates that gave their ships a feathered appearance, these ones were more baleen-like. In a way, so similar to Minbari ships.

Hague's attention went back to the battle. The strike groups trying to flank them from the sides were crumbling under pulse phaser fire. The cruisers were now engaging their remnants while evading their main cannons.

The Alexander shook as a barrage of those nasty distortion torpedoes detonated onto its shields.

The rest of the enemy fleet was closing in, widening its formation to reduce the effectiveness of the exploding torpedos.

Three enemy cruisers managed to score a hit on an Akira-class vessel before a spread of disruptor torpedoes ripped the ship apart.

"Sir, there is another ship coming in! At warp!"

"Show me," Hague looked at the viewscreen as a Bellerophon-class starship warp into the system.

"It is the Starkiller, sir!" His comms officer reported. "They are hailing us."

"Onscreen."

Hague's eyes widened as he saw Captain John Sheridan surrounded by his bridge crew on the viewscreen.

"John... I thought you were dead."

"Close enough," Sheridan replied. "We took such a hell of a beating from the Turians that we had to flee to the next system, it took days to repair everything. When we detected your fleet in this system, I knew we should come. It took two hours to arrive and long-range and in-warp comms are still faulty. But we are here now, we have more pressing matters, though."

"We are in the middle of a battle here, John," he replied as the ship shook as a barrage of disruptor torpedoes exploded onto its shields.

"I know, but I need you to trust me on this. Thank God, they got here in time. We can prevent a carnage here, sir," Sheridan stated. "Those new ships that just came through the relay and are closing on us, they are Asari ships, they come from the Citadel. It is like their Babylon 5. I'm sure they are here to order the Turians to stand down."

"Is that what you've been doing all this time? Making friends while we fight?" Hague questioned with a shadow of a smile on his face, he couldn't contain his happiness from seeing his old protegé alive and well.

"That too. I need you to trust me and take my bet on this, sir," he pleaded. "Order the fleet to stand by. If the Asari hail you, answer the hail. If the Turians retreat, let them go. Let's stop this madness for once."

"Ok, I'm gonna take your bet, John. But if they try anything funny..."

Destiny Ascension:

As the Destiny Ascension dropped out of relay transit along with the over twenty Kelandion-type cruisers and Pterion-type frigates that were escorting the most powerful dreadnought in the galaxy, Matriarch Benezia stood on the bridge in horror.

She saw as the displays showed Turian ships being ripped apart and exploding all around with impunity. A sight no one in the galaxy had ever imagined seeing.

She looked at Matriarch Lidanya, sitting on the command chair at the center of the bridge. She too was horrified. Benezia could see it.

"Report," Lidanya ordered to one of her huntresses

"I am detecting twenty-six unknown ships, which resemble the general configuration of the USS Starkiller provided by Councilor Tevos, and three-hundred and eighty Turian vessels, one of which is a dreadnought."

"It is the Argent Wing, Admiral Victus ship," Benezia said. "He is the commanding officer of the Turian reinforcements. Only Admiral Desolas Arterius himself outranks him in this cluster."

Lidanya nodded

"A vessel has just dropped out of FTL," her sensors officer reported. "It matches the USS Starkiller and direction indicates it came from the same angle as the closest system."

"That is where Arina S'Lenn reported she had found them," Benezia said, turning to Lidanya. "Matriarch, there are less than thirty Human ships against a fully armed, hundreds-strong Hierarchy fleet and the Turians are still struggling to fight them."

"It seems the Humans are not the poor victims in need of help that we were led to believe."

Benezia had seen the vids of the USS Starkiller as it fought against Admiral Arterius' fleet fleeing the system. Half the galaxy had seen it. Arina S'Lenn's documentary and her unpublished written article attached to it had gone viral. It was a scandal.

Yet, even if most people believed that the unprovoked Turian aggression did indeed happen, it seemed evident to everybody that the vids of the battle had been manipulated. After all, a small, frigate-sized vessel destroying a dozen Turian warships armed to the teeth while surrounded seemed a little too much. Certainly, these newcomers were just trying to not seem pathetic in the eyes of this new, larger galactic community they had found.

But if she and the rest of the galaxy's assumptions were wrong...

"It explains why the Turians would mobilize such a great force, why they would try to keep it from reaching the Council," she said. "They find an unknown species' vessel, assume they are weak primitives, fire on them, and when the small ship fires back, they realize it is much more powerful than they had assumed."

"They manage to damage the ship and but it escapes from the system," Lidanya concluded. "They must have realized that, if these new aliens had one ship so powerful, then they could have more of them. So they gathered a larger fleet to subdue this new species with overwhelming force."

"And they are still failing miserably," Benezia frowned, looking at the battle in front of them, thinking of the implications this would bring to the galaxy.

"Hail Admiral Victus," she finally said. "Order him to stand down. Run the translation algorithm we received and hail the Human fleet as well and the USS Starkiller. It is time we stop this madness."

Moments later, the view was changed to show Admiral Victus in his ship's command & control center.

"Admiral Adrien Victus, I am Matriarch Lidanya, commanding officer of the Destiny Ascension," Lidanya spoke solemnly.

"Matriarch," Adrien replied. "What would the flagship of the Citadel Fleet be doing so far from the Serpent Nebula."

"I'm here on the direct orders of the Citadel Council, Admiral. I'm bringing a diplomatic mission to negotiate an armistice between the Turian Hierarchy and the Humans. You are ordered to stand down and refrain from more hostilities with the latter."

"The Council has no authority to simply order around a Turian fleet," Adrien retorted. "This authority belongs to the Hierarchy alone."

"Think, Admiral," Lidanya said. "Haven't you noticed how Admiral Arterius' reports seem off?

Adrien sighed.

"Admiral Victus," Matriarch Banezia stepped in. "There is evidence that suggests that this whole conflict was predicated on a lie, a lie told by Admiral Arterius for reasons unknown to us."

Adrien expression displayed astonishment, then anger, and finally resignation.

"We can stop this now before more lives are lost because of a lie."

"We are in the middle of battle, Matriarch. We can't simply stop firing and turn our backs to a hostile fleet."

"That is why this conversation is being broadcast to the Humans, to let them know our intentions upfront."

As she said that, she could see the Human vessels disengaging and turning back to the relay. Seeing this, Adrien sighed and ordered his fleet to retreat to relay beta before cutting the transmission.

"Successful, it seems," Benezia said, looking as the Human fleet gathered around the relay.

Her eyes widened as she saw many of their vessels glow blue before pieces of their armors disappeared in chunks, leaving behind a light-grey or marble-white hull dotted with an obscene amount of windows. Now that she looked at their ships, some of them looked elegant even, like something an Asari would design. She turned at Lidanya, who looked at her with the same awed expression.

"Hail the Humans," Lidanya finally found words. "Let's end this."

Horse Head Nebula
Shanxi

Descending columns of light appeared on the glade as three Starfleet officers materialized into existence beside the Turian shuttle.

Jack Harper drew his phaser rifle and probed the area, before lowering it and taking his tricorder in his hand, scanning the surroundings for life signs, though he found none.

But he already knew that before beaming down.

This Turian shuttlecraft parked there, however, was out of place. That is what they came to investigate.

"Weird," Eva Coré said. "Why would they park a ship here of all places? There is no trace of civilization in a radius of, like, three hundred kilometers!"

"Not actually," Jack said. "There was a small village about five kilometers from here, but it is deserted now."

"Jack," Ben Hislop called. "The engines are still warm, this can't have been here for more than a day."

"If so, where are the Turians?"

"I'm detecting something," Eva said. "Look! There is a faint radiation reading coming..."

She looked around, before finding the entrance to a cave between the trees and looking back at her tricorder.

"There!" She said.

They raised their rifles and entered the cave, their armor's lantern illuminating the path ahead. They walked through the labyrinth of tunnels, following the tricorder's directions for long while.

"Damnit," Ben whispered. "We lost beaming signal."

"Here," Eva showed him three nail-sized metallic pins, one of which he took. "Those are new personal emergency beaming beacons. They are pattern enhancers that could beam you from the depths of Earth's core, for all I know!"

Jack laughed.

"Don't put them now!" She whispered. "They will automatically beam you to base."

Ben nodded.

They kept walking for a while before seeing a faint glow coming from the tunnel ahead. They walked in the narrow passage.

"What the fuck!" Ben said, pointing his rifle at the five robed figures ahead.

They were in an underground gallery. At the center, stood two glowing, silvery spires. The five robed figures were kneeling to the objects, seemingly oblivious to their presence until Ben's swearing.

The figures stood up, showing themselves to be tall and robust. Their figures were not visible, as they were completely covered by their robes.

One of the five figures, however, was visibly shorter.

He took his hood off, showing the face of a male Turian.

"I was not expecting this but, in the end, your presence is fortuitous," the Turian spoke. "You will integrate my new, better army."

Jack and his crew showed confusion.

"You are surrounded," the Turian said. "The others are there, walking around as if in an eternal slumber, just waiting for the right stimulus."

He walked back to the monolith, raising his hand, but not touching it. Ben and Eva raised their phaser rifles, but Jack signaled them to lower them. He wanted to hear what the Turian had to say.

"You know, I didn't expect this to happen. They were different from my meta-Turians," the Turian continued. "I did not mean for other than my own species to be allowed to ascend, but when the priests started throwing them onto the monolith..." he laughed. "It was one more a testament to the superiority of the Turian people. With Turians, the monolith evolves us further, but they... they did not seem to retain any semblance of intelligence whatsoever. Yet, since they still answered to my Valluvian priests, who in turn answer to me, I thought they would make the perfect soldier caste in my new world, so I let the priests take all of them," he paused and laughed. "They would be most useful."

"What are you talking about!?" Eva questioned.

Desolas looked directly at her.

"Of Humans," he matter-of-factly. "The ones that were hiding here. When I ordered my fleet to attack this world, I only wanted to subjugate you, but now that I know the potential resource your species can be..."

"You-," Ben whispered. "You are the leader of the invading forces!?"

Suddenly, he charged against Desolas, drawing his rifle and shooting. The Turian was caught by surprise, as he believed the Humans were aware that they were surrounded and outnumbered. Quickly jumping from to the side to escape Ben's rifle fire, he did not manage to evade as one of them hit him on the top of his shoulder, making him growl in pain as Eva stunned and handcuffed him on the spot.

Having finally moved after being immobile since they arrived, two of the robed figures tried to grab Ben. Jack, however, managed to shoot them down before noticing that one of the creature's robes had shifted and now a lifeless grey skin had become visible.

"They..." he whispered as he pulls the deceased priest's robe to reveal a large Turian with dead-like grey skin. Parts of the flesh were ripped apart, revealing beneath it a glowing blue web of circuitry-like tissue. "They are Turians... or, at least, they were. They are bigger, stronger... It is like they are more evolved, fully evolved!"

"And those cybernetic implants," Ben said. "What are those things?"

"Ben!" Jack heard as Eva called, turning to see one of the creatures that he shot had stood up, grabbing Ben with seeming ease, and throwing the man into the artifact. As he made contact with the object, arcs of energy flew from the artifact as Ben screamed in pain. Jack shot the creature again, this time aiming for the head, and rushed to help his friend, grabbing him by the waist and feeling like a powerful charge of electricity rushed through his body.

He screamed, and both Ben and Jack dropped to the floor.

Jack felt himself lose consciousness...

Until he woke up, shooting up from the floor.

"Eva," Jack groaned, looking ahead to see her with Desolas handcuffed.

"Jack, you're awake!" She called.

Jack turned back at Ben. He was not breathing, his combage had puffed out. His skin was starting to rip and the faint blue glow of the same cybernetic implants he saw earlier was becoming visible.

Ben was being turned into one of those things!

Jack looked at the narrow entrance to the gallery they were in. Blocking it, there were the two barricade shields they had brought with them, certainly deployed by Eva while he was unconscious.

But they were not what Jack was looking at.

No.

Behind the barricades, throwing themselves savagely at them were tens of those things, those husks. Those ones, however, had a clearly more humanoid shape. Differently from the robed Turians husks they had killed, these ones seemed more primal, more degenerated.

Jack remembered what the Turian had said. Jack's eyes widened as he grabbed Desolas and smashed him to the face.

"They are coming for the monoliths," the Turian laughed. "They are coming!"

Eva ripped a piece of cloth from one of the Turian husks' robes and made a ball with it, shoving it into Desolas' mouth to shut him up.

Jack, however, grabbed his rifle from the floor and pointed it at Desolas' head.

"Jack, don't! He is the one who led the invasion, the one who attacked us. He needs to be judged for his crimes."

Jack looked at the filthy xeno in front of him. A single shot to the head and the bastard's life would be over forever.

"Besides, your rifle is not working anymore."

He looked at Eva's face and sighed, lowering his weapon. He finally noticed the black scorch on one of the spires.

"I tried to destroy the monoliths," she explained. "But it- it reacted somehow, projected an energy arc of some sort. It fried my rifle out! The ones you and Ben were carrying were also damaged beyond repair when you touched it. Those barricades were the only idea I had to gain us some time."

"Those things," Jack said, then pointed to Desola. "He said they were dumb and brainless but answered to his priests."

"And now that the priests are dead, their only instinct seems to be to protect these spires."

She took the handcuffed Turian and handed him to Jack.

"Which I tried to destroy," she continued. "And his name is Admiral Desolas Arterius. Jack, remember that. Tell Starfleet who he is so he can pay for his crimes."

"What-?" Jack looked at the spires and saw them.

He saw twelve fist-sized objects distributed around the two spires, with a red light blinking on the top.

He looked at the tricorder on her hand and turned to his module belt on his waist.

Eva had taken the six photon grenades he had with him while he was unconscious, as well as her own six grenades, and placed them in a circle around the two artifacts.

His eyes widened. The grenades were usually used for ground combat, but they could be turned into a bomb controlled by a tricorder as well. The grenade was designed to be a versatile weapon, so it had twenty yield settings. At the lowest, it would overload the nervous systems of enemies near the detonation point and stun them, at the highest, it would result in a wide area of destruction.

Twelve of them firing at the highest setting at the same time and place...

"Eva-"

"The shields will not hold forever, Jack, especially not without a sustainable power source. There are too many of them and our rifles are no use," she explained sadly. "And they are all converging here to the monolith, so we can take them all down at the same time."

"No, don't."

"Do you want those things out there where they can harm people?" She interrupted him. "Jack, look at them! They are fucking cyber-zombies! We have no other way to take them and the spires down.!"

"I'll do it, you go."

"I knew you would say that, Jack. Unfortunately, Ben's was destroyed and we have only two of these," she smiled, then slapped Jack and Desolas shoulder.

Jack looked in horror at the emergency beacon attached to his shoulder, his vision offuscated by the familiar, shimmering lights of being beamed away.

Eva saw as her friend and the genocidal maniac beside him beamed to safety.

She looked back at her tricorder, making sure she had connected it to the grenades properly, armed them, and set them at the highest setting.

Eva sighed.

She looked back at the entrance. The shields won't hold up for long, but she couldn't have one fail while the other remained up, allowing only some of those husks to enter the gallery.

No, she wanted all of them at once.

She took her tricorder and pressed some buttons.

As the shields lowered and the husks poured into the gallery, she started the times.

Eva felt the weight as a sea of bodies crushed her bones, the hands and teeth tearing the flesh out of her face, and, finally, a crushing deafening sound.

For anyone who witnessed it from outside, they would have been able to see as the small mountain imploded onto itself with the loud sound of thunder.