To RiderWar93:
It will work differently. I always viewed Reaper indoctrination as psionic to an extent, even if it is explicitly said to be less esoteric than that. I just thought it was interesting to present it from my point of view, especially when considering that this is a crossover with Babylon 5, a hell of an esoteric scifi show. That is also how I believe Asari melding and even their inherent attractiveness works (at least in my fic's universe). The first is technobabbled away in the game's material, while the latter is left as a mystery. Here, they are both manifestations of the Asari natural (touch-) telepathic ability and unconscious/latent empathic ability. Remember that this is not a "wormhole-crossover" where the Federation finds a gateway into the Babylon 5 and Mass Effect universes. On the contrary, this is a unified, living, breathing universe that evolved together and happens to have elements from many scifi franchises. Their history is intertwined, some things will be different about them.

Exactly, I don't intend on making a 'lets burn xeno worlds' story. Things like that may happen, but that is not the point of the story.

In Mass Effect, the spires/monoliths are Reaper tech. There may be a small change to their origin and function, but overall they are the same.

Obrigado! Eu tinha perdido toda a motivação pra escrever durante a pandemia, mas agora ela está voltando.

I would think it does, to an extent. As I explained to RiderWar93 in the reply on top, in Mass Effect, indoctrination doesn't seem to be truly 'esoteric' or psychic. They explain it away as not being so, at least, just like with Asari melding. However, being mixed with the B5 universe, I thought it would make no sense to distance it from the typical telepathic-based abilities seen on other First Ones. Still, it is not entirely psionic so, maybe Humans are susceptible to it in a different if subtler way.

I actually don't like the Goa'uld and the Jaffa that much. Their aesthetics, that is. It is no secret that I inspired (and even outright copied) the aesthetic from other franchises (and fan work on the internet) to build my view of how my world looks. Asgardians are based on MCU Asgard in culture, architecture, weaponry, and ship design (which I imagine as more realized, elaborate versions of MCU Asgardian skiffs). Valinorans are, in-universe, descendants from a religious group that believed Tolkien was a prophet and that they should go out seek the lost world of Arda (which they believe to be Valinor). As such, their culture, language, architecture, and even religious practices are based on representations of Tolkien's work (think Peter Jackson's films), and I imagine their ship design to be a lot like those from the Stellaris mod Elves of Stellaris. Thermidor is basically Star Trek' Risa but with Humans instead. Adannans are inspired on all that is African (just like Wagadouans), but I also gave them the aesthetic of MCU Wakanda. Aquarians' home planet is completely covered by ocean and they live in cities that are a mix of DCEU Atlantis, and Star Wars Gungan and Mon Calamari underwater cities. Cortesians are basically the Naboo, their planet, architecture, clothing, etc is all Naboo (though, in-universe, they are descendants of Brazilian and Portuguese settlers, as well as Italians and Spaniards and their language is derived from Portuguese). The Eldarin from Eldaron are like the Cortesians, but instead of Naboo, they are Alderaan. The Virtuans are based on Tron: Legacy, as is their aesthetic and architecture (if sunnier than that of Tron). The Atlanti's history is based on Stargate's Ancients, their ship design and architecture is more Forerunner from Halo (if with more trees and plant life) and their appearance is like the Isu from Assassin's Creed. It is a melting pot of fandoms lol.

For those who don't go to my profile page too often, I am now posting resources for my story there. For example, you can find a (very crude) drawing of how I imagine the Arc de la Concorde (the seat of the USF Executive branch) and the two houses of the USF Parliament. You will also find maps of the galaxy made my me and Starship/Stations size comparison charts I made to give you an idea. They won't have every ship I will use in the story, but most of them will be displayed. Those charts were made with material from all over the internet (official and fan-made), as well as some repurposed ones (such as a Vorgon ship for Dilgar cruiser and the Valinoran ships being from the Stellaris mod 'Elves of Stellaris'), so I don't claim ownership over any of them. Some were made by me, though, such as the Asgardian ships which are based on MCU Asgardian skiff and the IXS Pioneer. You can also find the Starfleet uniforms they use in the story, as well as battle armor, the flags of the USF and its member-worlds (which I will update until I reach 27), and information on the 27 USF member worlds, all with the planet's picture, their government name, population, capital city, etc. I will keep updating those links as the story goes.

Since this site does not allow me to post external links, the links are in a format that can be posted. Just replace the "{dot}" for an actual dot and go for it.

Thank you so much for reading my story. I never thought anyone would ever want to read something I write.

Chapter 18

"Lines in the Sand"

Horse Head Nebula
314 System
USS Alexander
VIP Quarters 02:

Matriarch Benezia knew it was a risk. Boarding a Human ship was a dangerous idea for many reasons, something that Matriarch Lidanya was keen to remind her. Benezia appreciated her concern and healthy dose of paranoia, after all, if the Humans proved duplicitous and treacherous, this could mean the capture of one of the most prominent figures in Asari society. Not that Benezia would go down without a fight. As an Asari, she was naturally biotic and had centuries of experience in controlling her abilities. Not only that, Benezia herself was a retired commando, as were two of the escorts assigned to her.

This breach of protocol seemed to be needed, however. As Benezia explained to Lidanya, with the Turians being the aggressors in this situation, she believes the most diplomatic course of action would be to put herself under the care of the Humans, showing she trusts them with her safety. Besides, that would give her the opportunity to better analyze this new species.

Benezia could already figure some things out about the Humans by only looking at their ship. It was oddly designed, like nothing Benezia had ever seen. Being Asari, she knew even this seemingly odd design choice is probably not only for aesthetic reasons but had a purpose behind it. Asari vessels certainly looked less functional to the other races, like their designers worried more about aesthetic than practicality. That was further from the truth. The design of Asari ships was an integral part of their functioning. Benezia assumed the same about the Human ships she has seen.

External appearance notwithstanding, it was the interior that caught her attention the most. Comfort was far from an alien concept to Asari. Of all the Citadel races, they are arguably the ones that put the biggest effort into making their ships comfortable. However, from what she had seen during the short tour she was given hours before, this ship was on a whole new level. Wide and well-illuminated corridors, recreational areas, relaxing lounges, an arboretum, even the room she was in. This ship did not look like a warship, and that says a lot of a ship that was easily making holes in the hull of larger Turian ships-of-the-line.

The implications...

Benezia herself was in a comfortable room. They called it the VIP Guest Quarters. It was a wide room with soft couches, desks, a large bed, a big washing room, even a bathtub. It had the amenities of a small apartment in the Presidium Ring.

"What do you think of all of this?" Benezia asked her colleagues in her native Serrice. Two Asari commandos were there to ensure her safety, there were also three members of the diplomatic mission sent by the Council, two Asari and one Salarian. By speaking in a language they all spoke well, instead of the standard High Thessian the Humans already had a translation matrix to, she tried to keep that conversation private as much as possible.

"Very comfortable," the representative from the Citadel Diplomatic Service, Kari Varan, said. "The Humans seem to value comfort to a great deal, not too different from us. Which is somewhat uncanny, considering how similar to us they look."

"Very similar, indeed, more even than the Quarians," one of the commandos, Erina, commented. "Their facial expressions, the way they walk, their body structure... Both females and males are very similar to us and, well..."

Very attractive, Benezia thought. She was not blind. From their body and face structure to their expressions and the way they walked... Humans could well be mistaken to one of the many asaroid aliens so prevalent in pre-spaceflight Thessian science fiction, as they were always designed to be different enough, yet familiar and alluring.

"Though they don't trust us," Cerin Lacir, also from CDS, commented. "They seem to be very diplomatic, very eager to make peace. That is good. As powerful as they seem to be, were are not heading to another Rachni War here."

She turned to the Salarian, Orn Vako. It was expected that the Asari members of the mission would focus on the Humans' psychology, diplomacy, and overall behavior. Now she needed a different perspective.

"They seem very advanced," Vako said. "It was obvious from the battle we witnessed that they are more than capable of fighting the Turians. Their weapons are like nothing we have ever seen. We still can't make sense of their beam weapons and deeper scans of residual radiation caused by their missiles indicated antimatter annihilation."

Everyone in the room gasped.

"As the USS Starkiller dropped from FTL, we scanned the ship, but could not detect any residual mass effect field cooldown," Vako continued. "It is like they didn't use mass effect at all and achieved FTL by completely different means. Additionally, from what we could observe in the short time we have been here, nothing they have seem to work based on element zero."

"Which seems to be confirmed by how their weapons and barriers are completely alien to us," Benezia concluded, to which Vako nodded in confirmation.

"Well, it is quite a new species the Turians have found here," Benezia continued, one of the padd the Humans gave them still on her hands. It was a simple first contact file, an overview of Humanity's history, values, and system of government. She had given them a similar file hours ago.

"The United Systems Federation is the highest governing body of Humanity," she read out loud. "Formed by the federated union of its 27 member-worlds and over one-thousand planetary colonies."

"A federal republic governed through a system of representative democracy with high autonomy at the local level," Cerin said. "If that is how they describe themselves then they at least pretend to be a free and civilized society."

"There are more pressing concerns than the nature of their society," Vako said. "They claim to be a one thousand worlds-strong, half a millennium- old interstellar civilization... Their technology is concerning enough, but more so than that, if this file is to be believed, they are not a species that just learned how to travel the stars and got lucky with their weapon technology. They are an established, probably rather populous stellar-nation. Though it does not say so here, from all the information we have on their biology, history, and size of their territory, I can already estimate a population sized between 75 billion and 130 billion."

"That would make them the sixth most populous species in the galaxy after the Volus or the fifth after the Batarians," Cerin concluded.

"In all of galactic history, there was never such a large nation at the moment of contact," Vako stated. "The Turians were already an established interstellar civilization when we met them but their population was still smaller than that."

"Integrating such a huge species into the galactic system would be a nightmare," Kari concluded. "Their post-contact miracle alone could propel them to become one of the largest galactic economies in less than a century!"

Benezia nodded to that. Every time a new race was discovered, it would experience a post-contact economic miracle. For the decades after contact, sometimes a whole century, everything from this new species would be trendy. Books, vids, folklore, art, food, clothing, etc. Coupled with the upgrading of infrastructure to galactic standards and relatively lower value of labor compared to the rest of the galactic nations, a newly contacted species had the potential to reach high levels of sustained economic growth for decades. All races experienced this, except the Batarians. Their excessively protectionist policies, rigid political system, largely unfree access to information, uneducated population, the prevalence of slavery, and rather isolationist tendencies led to that.

They never had such as big stellar-nation joining, though. Even doing everything wrong, they could still quickly become a powerful player in galactic society.

Local Cluster
Babylon 5

The sun came through the window of Susan Ivanova's room as a new day had arrived.

"Good morning," her computer woke her up. "The time is 0600, Earth Standard. Tuesday, August 3rd, 2528."

Susan yawned as she got up from her bed.

"Personal log shows no outstanding appointments. Shall I download starbase logs for the past six hours?"

"Do it," she ordered then made a weird face and sighed. "Why does my mouth always taste like old carpet in the morning?"

"Unknown, checking medical logs," Susan rolled her eyes. "You have an appointment with your nutritionist, Doctor Mukherji, at 1100 hours."

"Cancel it."

"The appointment was mandated by Starfleet Medical, you are required to attend."

Susan sighed in frustration. She went to her window and breathed the fresh air before reaching for the replicator. As she tapped the console on top of it, she opened her favorites tab and ordered breakfast: an açaí bowl topped with granola and banana slices, a portion of shrimp tempura, and two croissants from her favorite bakery back in Saint Petersburg.

Susan sat at her kitchen table to eat her breakfast. As she tapped her smartband, it came to life, a number of holographic icons appearing in front of her.

She ate her breakfast in silence while browsing through the news, being rather content to know that the new The Last Starmaster film would be finally released in a week.

She put the empty dishes back at the replicator, which disintegrated them back into the station's matter reserves, and went to her bathroom for a shower. She cleaned her mouth and styled her hair on a braid, put on her uniform, and walked out of her home.

"Morning, Lt Commander," Commander Sinclair greeted as she entered the Command & Control.

"Good morning."

"Sleep well?" He asked.

"I have, thank you for asking," she said and walked to her station.

"Ah, Lt Commander," Sinclair called. "Don't forget your appointment with Doctor Mukherji today. I don't want any of my crew running from their periodic check-ups."

Susan sighed but nodded to him.

"Ma'am, we are picking up a distress signal coming from Sector 9."

"Put it on-screen," Susan ordered.

"Requesting assistance," the Brakiri onscreen said. "I repeat, Brakiri Falkosi fighter to anyone out there, requesting assistance!"

"Babylon 5 to Falkosi fighter, what is your situation?" Susan questioned as Commander Sinclair walked to the screen.

"We were escorting a transport. We were hit by raiders. Surprise attack. They are in pursuit, power at 50%!"

"Launch Delta Wing," Sinclair ordered to Susan. "Tell him to home in on his signal."

"They are coming in! Taking evasive action! They are all over the place!"

The transmission was cut off.

"He is gone, sir," Susan said.

Zocalo Trading District:

"Ambassador," Londo heard as a Golian man called and walked to his table.

"Mr. Reno? I was starting to worry if you were going to come!"

The Golian sat down.

"I always keep my end of the bargain. Just had to make sure your people did the same."

"And?" Londo asked with visible eagerness in his voice.

"I just received confirmation that payment in full has been deposited into my account back on Golia," Reno said. He took a wooden box from one of his colleagues standing up and put it on the table in front of Londo. "Here is the merchandise."

Londo released the breath he was holding as he took the box. He went to open it eagerly before stopping himself, looking around discretely, and opening the box.

As he saw its content, Londo gulped.

"Great Maker," he said.

"Nice piece of jewelry, isn't it?" Reno commented.

"This is not a piece of jewelry," Lodo closed the box. "This is not the merchandise. This is the Eye, the oldest symbol of Centauri nobility, the relic most representative of Imperial power, property of the first emperor. It comes from the earlier days of the Republic. Lost over a hundred years ago at the Battle of Nu'Shok."

Reno smiled.

"I'm aware of the history, ambassador. And I'm glad it means something to you."

"It should mean something to you too," Londo said. "After all, that is your history too, your people being a subject of the Centauri Republic."

Reno raised an eyebrow, clearly irritated by Londo's comment, but put back his best diplomatic smile.

"Well, I was never very patriotic, you see. To me, it is just another commission. My job is to find things. Objects, people, you name it."

He stood up.

"Now that I've got my payment, I'll be on my way."

"Payment indeed," Londo commented. "My government paid enough to buy a small planet. But I would very much like to know how you got your hands in this."

"No, you wouldn't," Reno said with a smile and nodded to Londo before walking out with his two colleagues.

As Londo walked to the next rail stop, he wished the Humans had dotted the entire station with their marvelous teleportation booths instead of only a few per sector.

He waited for the next rail on the largely empty stop, only a single Human beside him, when Ambassador G'Kar arrived.

"Ambassador," they greeted each other out of obligation.

They remained silent for a moment.

"I hear there is a famine on your world's southern frontier," Londo broke the silence. "My condolences."

"You should have thought that before you strip-mined our resources."

Londo scoffed.

"Ah... So it is all our fault, huh?"

"Precisely," G'Kar replied matter-of-factly.

"I have noticed that, despite the Humans literally rebuilding your world for you," Londo provoked, "you have continued to exploit its resources to build the mighty Narn machine."

"We have to protect ourselves!"

"By doing to yourselves what you say we did to you?" Londo mocked. "Ah! That is evolution for you!"

"Now, see here-"

"Take the famine as a blessing, Ambassador! A weeding out of the excess population!"

"One more comment like that, Mollari, and you will become part of the excess population!"

"Bah! Threats!"

"Yes, threats!"

As the rail arrived, the Human between them ran into it.

"Now, you can go to hell!" Londo shouted.

"And you can kiss my pouch, you-"

They turned their heads and noticed that the rail's doors shut and the rail got off at high speed.

"Now look what you made me do!" They both shouted to each other before walking out.

Commander Sinclair's Office:

"By the time the searching team got there, there was nothing left," Susan explained as she poured herself a mug of warm coffee.

Sinclair nodded

"Security analysis?"

"Even after we have cut their supply of heavy weapons, the raiders have continued to escalate their attacks," Garibaldi reported.

"We can't let this go on," Sinclair said. "If we can't guarantee safe passage to the station..."

"I known, just three problems," Susan explained. "One, by the time we hear of an attack it is too late to do anything about it. Two, we don't have the ships to respond to any distress call. Fedgov has made it clear that assigning one or more starships to Babylon 5 would be seen as a threat by the other powers, our single fighter wing is the only thing they will allow and we only have that to respond to a call. Our fighters are powerful, but slow at warp compared to a large ship. Three, we can't figure out how the Raiders are getting out so fast."

"Ships that small can't open their own jump points, they must use the jumpgate like anybody else," Garibaldi added. "Getting from the point of the last attack to the nearest gate takes four hours at maximum burn, but they were gone in less than two!

Sinclair sighed.

"Put Delta Wing on standby alert," he commanded. "They should be ready to leave the second we hear of a next attack. Lt Commander, you'll take first tactical watch."

"Will do. Also, I recommend we put together a profile of all the incoming ships for the next weeks, see who is carrying any valuable cargo. Maybe we can find who they are likely to hit next."

"Agreed. See to it?"

Susan nodded.

"That will be tough," Garibaldi said. "Not everyone files a complete manifest. A lot of them just flat out lie, and those under a diplomatic flag are allowed to carry unreported cargo."

"All we can do is try to help them," Sinclair replied. "If they won't cooperate, then they will just have to accept the consequences."

He sighed.

"That is all."

Narn Embassy:

"I'm not sure I understand the question, Mr..."

"Morden," the well-dressed Human in front of him answered.

"Morden, yes. Who did you say authorized this little... chat?"

"Councilor Ha'Rok, First Circle," Morden responded.

"And, does he know what this is about?"

"No," Morden said while sitting down. "But, in order to see someone of your prominence, I had to get a recommendation. As I have past dealings with him, he provided it. "

G'Kar nodded

"But, you still haven't answered my question, Ambassador" Morden explained. "What do you want?"

"Well, what do you mean with what do I want?"

"What do you want," Morden said simply.

"What do I want for supper? what do I want to do this evening-?

"What do you want?"

G'Kar sighed.

"This is pointless. What I want is for you to go away and leave me in peace."

Morden sighed and smiled, standing up.

"As you say," he gave G'Kar a nod and walked to the door.

"You know what, wait!" G'Kar said, stopping Morden on his tracks. For the first time in this meeting, G'Kar's face was not annoyed but grim. "What do I want? You want to know?"

He pauses.

"The Centauri stripped my world. I want justice."

"But what do you want?"

"To suck the marrow from their bones," G'Kar responded. "To grind their skulls to powder."

"What do you want?"

"To tear down their cities, blacken their sky, to sow down their soil with salt! I want their world to become the same dusty ruin that they turned mine into. I want all monuments to their oppression demolished, their own identity as an independent culture lost forever. I want to utterly, completely erase them!"

"And then what?"

G'Kar opened his mouth, ready to utter more words. But none came.

He sighed.

"I don' know," a discreet, pure smile crept into his face, a smile of a man who was surprised with himself. "I have hated the Centauri for so long, made my life's mission to defeat them. Not having to worry about that... What would I want after that... Well, as long as my homeworld's safety is guaranteed, I don't know that it matters."

For a fraction of a second, Morden's face showed disappointment.

"I see," he said, one more time a smile on his face. "Well, thank you very much for your time, Ambassador. Have a good day."

He turned, and walked out, leaving a very confused Ambassador G'Kar.

Horse Head Nebula
314 System
USS Alexander
Main Conference Lounge:

As Matriarch Benezia entered the room, she couldn't stop herself from looking around. It was wide and comfortable, the floor was carpeted and there were decorations such as canvases, vases with plants, small, golden statues of what Benezia figured were Human ships, and even an aquarium with multicolored fish.

At the center, a long, rectangular yet slightly curved table, surrounded by big, comfortable-looking cushioned chairs. At the end of the room, a wide, transparent wall allowed her to see the Destiny Ascension at a distance.

There were five Humans present, three female and two male. Benezia again noted the diversity of phenotype among them. One of the females had glossy, dark-brown skin with brown eyes and wide, helix-shaped black hair. Another had pinkish skin, fiery red hair, green eyes, and brownish dots all over her face. The men looked more similar if one more darker-skinned than the other. At the center, Admiral Hague was sitting. He was a handsome specimen, Benezia had to agree, his shining, gem-like blue eyes piercing through her.

"Matriarch," Hague stood up. "In the name of the United Systems Federation, it is an honor to receive you. I hope that these conversations lead to enduring peace between Humanity and the many species associated with the Citadel Council. Were the accommodations provided of your liking?"

"They were most satisfactory, Admiral. We have been here for less than a day, but it is visible the effort your people has put to keep us comfortable."

Hague nodded to her and gestured for them to sit down, which Benezia and her entourage did.

"Well," he began. "We have already exchanged basic data needed for negotiations to start and communicated our respective governments of these negotiations."

"Indeed," Benezia said. "I have been vested the powers necessary to negotiate a peace treaty with the United Systems Federation. Do you speak for your government?"

Hague nodded.

"It is most unusual to have a military officer act as a diplomat", admiral, at least to my people."

"Starfleet is not a purely military organization," Hague explained. "It is also the main scientific, exploratory, and a diplomatic body of the USF. Most Starfleet officers are trained in the sciences and diplomacy, with combat being only a fraction of what we do. Until relations between the USF and the Citadel Council become better established, Starfleet will act as the main diplomatic liaison between us, after which those attributions will be transferred to the USF Diplomatic Corps."

Benezia nodded. It was unusual. Yes, many among the Asari diplomatic corps had integrated military ranks earlier in life, most of them actually. However, their government still separated the military, exploration, and diplomacy. This structure to Human diplomacy could either mean that the Humans were as much a militarized society as the Turians, with the military structure creeping into most aspects of governance, or the complete opposite, that civilian attitudes have influenced the military so much that it has taken upon itself these many attributions in detriment of actual warfare.

"I am negotiating with you, then," Benezia expressed.

"I have been given full authority by the Parliament of the United Sytems Federation in order to negotiate an armistice between my people and the Turian Hierarchy."

"An armistice?" Benezia asked, confused. "I am confused, admiral. I assumed you were given the authority to make peace."

"I was, but a full peace treaty is a more comprehensive process that must be deliberated by our government with care," he paused. "Are you familiar with the concept of an armistice?"

Benezia replied that she wasn't.

"Well," he continued. "Not counting demands of unconditional or conditional surrender, it is traditional among Humans that an armistice is negotiated first. In simple terms, an armistice is a temporary cease-fire, with a set expiration date. The terms are always different. There could be an exchange of prisoners, for example. Anyway, the armistice allows for both belligerents to consult their governments for directions in future negotiations. It can be extended and the terms changed as long as both parties agree. At the end of it, we decide if whether to commence peace negotiations or restart hostilities."

Hague paused, letting his words settle in.

"If negotiations are chosen," he continued, "the armistice is extended until their completion, after which the signed binding document is sent back to both governments and ratified."

"Well, that seems to be a thorough process," Benezia expressed. "Let's do it your way, then."

"Well, in order to start the negotiations, I must ask if you are well aware of the events that happened here. I would like to hear your side of the facts."

"This conflict has been a terrible misunderstanding, admiral," Cerin finally spoke. "You see, almost two thousand years ago, the Citadel races had been expanding in all directions, activating new mass relays in order to reach new star systems and new clusters. However, it all ended when we found the Rachni. They were an unrelenting, aggressive species. A century-long war with them cost us tens of billions."

Cerin paused.

"After the Rachni were defeated, the Council passed the Prohibition of Unsanctioned Relay Activation Act. It is a universally known law in galactic society and the Turian Hierarchy is largely responsible for enforcing it."

Hague nodded. That was not too different from what they learned from the Turian prisoners.

"Still, we could not have known of the existence of such law," he replied. "The Turians themselves have violated many of our laws when they attacked us."

Benezia frowned slightly at that. Comparing Citadel law to Human law was like comparing the ruling of a ruler over her nation to that of an individual over her household. Still, she decided to go with it.

"You see, admiral, we understand that your people did not know of this prohibition," Benezia explained. "Though proper sanctions were still due in a situation like yours, protocol demanded that Admiral Arterius, the leader of the Turian fleet that found you, should initiate peaceful contact and then proceed to explain to you the illegality of your actions. We have found evidence that the Turian Hierarchy has been misled by Admiral Arterius. Being one of the highest-ranking officers in the Turian military structure, highly decorated for his skills and loyalty, famous and loved by the Turian people, the Hierarchy followed his advice, without knowing that his reports were full of false information."

Hague did not miss on the subtle implications of what Matriarch Benezia was saying here. First, he noticed how she spoke under the assumption that Citadel law took precedence over Human law as if it formed a higher legal body everyone should abide by. Second, he noticed how she seemed eager to exempt the Hierarchy from any real responsibility.

"I would like to see that evidence," he finally said.

"Of course, we will have it sent to you at once," Benezia said, turning to Cerin, who activated her omni-tool in order to retrieve the data the matriarch was asking for.

Hague turned to Lieutenant Ó Briain, gesturing for her to get the data from the Asari. She took her padd and interfaced it with Cerin's omni-tool.

Hague liked the concept of the omni-tool. It was like a cross between a civilian smartband and a tricorder. Specialists in Starfleet were already designing their own concept.

"We will study this evidence after today's negotiations," Hague said.

"Admiral Hague, you said the Turians have violated some of your laws as well," the amphibian-looking alien among the Asari, the Salarian called Orn Vako said. "What laws have they violated."

"Well, many rules of engagement," Hague explained. "Parts of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war, protocols against the bombing of unarmed civilian populations, the establishment of concentration camps, fire squads, and attempted genocide for instance."

"I'm sorry, admiral, but I find that hard to believe," Vako replied. "Of course we feel sorry for the losses you endured due to this shameful incident. However, to claim maltreatment of prisoners of war, to count those few casualties as attempted genocide is-"

"Few casualties?" Hague interrupted Vako, for the first time since she met the man on the USS Alexander's shuttle bay, Benezia saw him express strong emotion.

His bright, cerulean eyes pierced through her Salarian colleague. As fast as his stoic expression had shifted to rage, however, it changed again. Hague looked at the table, his lip twisting up a bit as if he did not know if he should feel disgusted or amused.

"You don't know, do you?" Hague said. "The extent of the mess the Turians made here, you don't know at all."

He sighed.

"Are you thirsty? I assume you drink water for hydration as well," he asked them, to which they said nothing, confused by his sudden question.

He tapped onto the table.

"Computer. A jar of water, very cold."

Benezia's eyes widened. Before her, on top of the table, a transparent glass jar of water materialized in a shower of sparkling lights.

No one dared to talk as Admiral Hague took the jar and served himself one glass of the icy liquid, she could even feel the air around the jar become colder.

Hague drank from the glass, his throat moving as he swallowed the crystalline liquid.

"What-" Vako murmured. "How-"

He was lost for words, it was like even his accelerated thought process couldn't really process what he had just seen.

Hague set the now empty glass back on the table and looked directly into Benezia's eyes.

"Let me show you the extent of the mess the Turians have made," Hague said, ignoring the stunned faces in front of him.

He tapped his padd, a small holographic projection appearing over its screen. He grabbed the projection and waved his hand, the hologram now growing in size and moving to the top of the table.

It displayed a mostly green, clearly garden-class planet.

"This is Shanxi, one of our youngest colonies," Hague explained. "It is located two relays from here."

The projection zoomed in, now showing an oddly shaped space station in the orbit of the planet and three ships of clearly Human design, a mass relay was visible at a distance.

"It was a small frontier colony dedicated to scientific research and exploration," he continued. "Three and a half million people."

Benezia noticed that the mass relay's core started to spin faster. Suddenly, tens of Turian vessels dropped FTL, preparing to engage the planet's defenses.

"The Turians suffered heavy losses," Hague explained. "However, after reinforcements came from the relay, they managed to overwhelm our defenses."

The images changed again. Benezia could now see Turian soldiers fighting the defending Humans between the buildings of some city. She saw as they rounded up prisoners into camps, she saw as the largest dreadnought fired its main weapon on a city, burning it to the ground. Finally, she saw as death squads rounded up what looked to be Humans of all ages and executed them, their bodies exploding into a million small pieces and vanishing.

For the first time since she got there, Benezia sighed.

Her mission had gotten a lot more difficult.

Local Cluster
Babylon 5
Minbari Embassy:

"What is the purpose of your question, Mr... Morden, is it?" Ambassador Delenn asked while tending to her Ean'fost, her luminary altar.

"The question is its own purpose, Ambassador Delenn," Morden answered. "What do you want."

Delenn felt a shiver go down her spine. She breathed deep and changed another crystal's position from her altar.

"I'm informed that you have just seen Ambassador G'Kar," she stated. "Are you asking each of us this question?"

"Perhaps," Morden said with a thoughtful face. "Does that invalidate the question?"

"No, but it makes me wonder-" Delen was interrupted by a slight feeling of qualm. Her forehead started to burn and Delenn put her hand over it, not understanding what she was feeling.

"Is something wrong, Ambassador?"

"No," she replied. "Just a moment of fatigue."

She turned to Morden with her hand still covering her forehead. For the first time since he got there, she looked right at him.

The light around him seemed to dull out. His apparently helpful face was now somber by a gloom of shadow.

"Ambassador?" He asked with fake concern in his voice.

Delenn's eyes widened as she understood.

"Leave me," she said, slowly stepping backward. "Get out! Now!"

Morden looked at her, slight confusion on his face, before giving Delenn a nod and leaving.

Delenn lowered her hand. The silvery triangular mark that had just appeared on her forehead now fading.

"They are here."

Docking Bay 7:

"Ambassador Mollari."

"Lord Kiro," Londo and him shook hands. "I am honored."

"This is Ladira," Kiro showed the lavishly dressed Centauri woman right behind him, "my aunt, and also seer and prophetess of our house."


"My lady," Londo kissed her hand. "You are alright? You seem unwell."

"Yes," she replied, putting a smile on her face. "The trip was quite long."

"It can be quite a strain if you are not used to such voyages," Londo said. "You should rest, I have made all the arrangements."

Lord Kiro stepped closer to Londo.

"You have the Eye?"

"Yes," Londo answered. "It is quite-"

"Ah," Lady Ladira expresed.

"My lady?" Londo asked.

"I see- I see death. I see-"

"You should rest," Lord Kiro said, taking his aunt and turning to Londo.

"Of course, this way," Londo guided them.

As they arrived at the Centauri Embassy, Londo ordered a glass of water from the replicator, giving it to Lady Ladira.

"You're sure you are alright?" Lord Kiro asked.

"I'm fine, Kiro. It was a vision, very powerful."

"My lady," Londo said. "You said death?"

"Yes. Yes, I did," she turned to Londo. "If you will excuse me. I must go to my quarters and rest."

She walked out.

"You will forgive my aunt," Kiro turned to Londo. "She sometimes takes the role of prophetess too seriously."

"Then, you don't believe her vision?

Kiro sighed.

"She's been wrong before," he said. "On my first birthday, she said to me that someday I would be killed by shadows."

He chuckles

"Shadows?" Londo chuckled too.

"Doesn't exactly make sense, does it?"

Londo shook his head.

"Well," Kiro changed subjects. "Where is the Eye."


"I would like to see it," Kiro expressed.

"Well, actually, I was told that-"

"My family has been waiting for over a hundred years for the Eye to be returned," Kiro said. "It is the symbol of our ancestral house, a house of nobility and honor. And now I must play the messenger."

Londo sighed and nodded to him.

"After searching for so long, I would like to spend some time with it before turning it over to the emperor."

Londo smiled.

"Of course," he said while patting Lord Kiro in the shoulder.

He went to his quarters, to the safe behind one of his many paintings. He opened the safe and took a box. Upon returning to the living room, he put the box on the table, gesturing for Kiro to open it.

Lord Kiro breathed deeply as he saw the relic inside the box.

"Yes," Londo said. "What a beauty."

Kiro took the Eye in his hand, handling it as if it was made of glass. He smiled, before looking at Londo and dropping it.

"No one else knows it is here?" He asked.

"No one," Londo answered. "Except the one who brought it here. I think we can rely on his discretion."

"Good," Kiro said, his eyes shining, mesmerized by the object in his hands. "Good. We will, hm, we'll bring it back just as quietly."

Londo nodded.

"It will be better for the government to declare that they found it back home," Lord Kiro explained. "Rather than to admit that we had to buy it from a second-class race."

Londo frowned at what he said.


"Ambassador," Lord Kiro said as he put the Eye back into the box. "You must know that things are... changing back home."

"Well, I hear a few things," Londo replied.

"Every day, our people grow unhappier with our so-called leaders. The emperor has not appeared in public for nearly a year, leaving his prime minister to act for him but, without his leadership, the Centaurum continues to lose credibility."

That was not unknown to Londo. His people were in decline, that was obvious. The Centauri Republic was once the greatest power in known space, however, by the 2300s, this power started to fade. Centuries of war with the Orieni Empire had weakened the Republic. After their last defeat, the Orieni would retreat back to their territory to never be seen again but by then the conquered races had already started to rise up. The emperor's centralized power waned as the noble houses started to hoard their resources instead of sending their fair share to Centauri Prime, building up their own fleets to the detriment of the Royal Navy. Conflicts between the houses became more and more common while the state of the Royal Navy deteriorated and the emperor's power was largely limited to the homeworld.

In a way, that was one of the reasons why the Centauri held so tightly to Narn. Resource-wise, it was one of the richest worlds under Centauri possession. Keeping it had become a matter of honor to the emperor and the Royal Navy and losing it would deal a deathly blow to both their prestige and their finances. After the inevitable loss of Narn came, the collapse of imperial power was inevitable. Londo heard a Human specialist on Centauri history say once: During the last century, the Centauri Republics became less Napoleonic France and more Holy Roman Empire.

With so many resources being drawn to build and maintain the noble houses' own fleets, the Royal Navy is far from the power it once was. The quality of their ships, given how advanced the Centauri are, is well below that what his people should be capable of building. In size, the national Centauri military remains well behind that of Starfleet, the Minbari War Command, and the Narn Liberation Militia. The smallest among the great powers! That is the main reason why his government acts so passive and is so eager to make the Babylon System work. So they can keep their heads in the ground.

If his people just had the will! If the Centauri centralized the power again; if they unified all the scattered fleets all around Centauri space under the banner of the Royal Navy again; if they put real effort into building a war machine that is feared again...!

Dreams of an old man, Londo sighed. Delusions of past glory that will never come back.

"Well," Londo got back from his thoughts, pouring himself a glass of wine. "So that is why they were so desperate to find the Eye, eh? To inspire a revival of imperial power."

"Yes, there is no greater symbol of authority."

Kiro's expression became somber.

"Mollari, the eye belongs to my family. My house. Why should I give it to the emperor?"

Londo sighed. At this moment, he pitied Kiro. He knew the history of House Kiro, of course. The Eye was the property of the first emperor, Tuscano the Great. House Kiro was the last branch of House Tuscano. They have even reigned for a time. But, in the end, Kiro should let those dreams of past glory go away.

He knows he has done the same.

"We must all make our sacrifices," Londo finally said, raising his glass before taking a large gulp from it.

"If I were to return the Eye and claim the throne to myself..." He murmured.

"Lord Kiro, please. I understand your feelings," Londo said. "You could do what you described but, without support, you would be dead within a day of trying."

Kiro sighed in resignation.

"These are no longer the good old days, Lord Kiro," Londo continued.

"Yes. What a pity," Kiro expressed. He breathed deep. "I'll leave this in your care tonight, Ambassador. If I have it in my possession I might do something foolish."

Londo nodded.

"Good night," Kiro said and walked to the door. Before walking out, he turned back to Londo. "Where did it all go wrong, Mollari? Where did we lose it all?"

Londo chuckled

"I don't know," he replied with a smile that just faltered a moment later. His expression was now melancholic. "I don't know."

The day after, Londo walked out of his flat with the box under his arm.

"Ah, Ambassador," He looked back and saw it was some Human he had never seen before.

"I was just on my way to see you," the Human continued. "My name is-"

"I'm sorry but I don't have time to chat right now, I suggest" you make an appointment."

"I did."

"Then, make another one," Londo said as he continued walking.

"Ambassador, I was authorized to speak to you-"

"Yes, yes," Londo said, exasperated. "Look, what do you want?"

The Human chuckled.

"That was what I was going to ask you," he smiled. "What do you want?"

Londo frowned.

"You are a lunatic, go away. Pester someone else," he turned his back and continued walking.

A moment later, he looked back and saw that the Human was still following him, that sickening smile plastered on his face.

"You are a very persistent young man," Londo commented with an annoyed smile.

"I have to be," the Human responded matter-of-factly. "I'm not allowed to leave until you have answered my question. What do you want."

"This is a silly conversation," Londo rolled his eyes.

"Yes, it is. What do you want?"

"To be left alone!" He sped up his walking, leaving the man behind.

"Is that it, is that really all, Ambassador?"

Londo stopped. He looked up, mentally asking all the gods in the Centauri pantheon why, and then sighed and turned back to the man.

"Alright, fine," he said with an annoyed smile. "You really want to know what I want? You really want to know the truth?"

When the man said nothing, that smile still on his face, Londo looked around, noticing that the place they were in was completely empty of people. They were the only ones there.

"I want... I want my people to reclaim their rightful place in the galaxy!" He said passionately. "I want to see the Centauri stretch forth their hand again and command the stars! I- I want a rebirth of glory! A renaissance of power! I want to stop running through my life, like a man late for an appointment, afraid to look back or to look forward! I want us to be what we used to be!"

The man kept looking at him.

"I want..." He paused and chuckled. "I want it all back the way it was that it was! Does it answer your question?"

Londo didn't wait for the man to answer and walked out.

"Yes," Morden said to himself. "Yes, it does."

Command & Control:

"Brakiri transport vessel Kolfi to all ships in Grid Epsilon. This is Brakiri transport vessel Kolfi to all ships in Grid Epsilon. We are under attack, repeat, we are under attack! We are surrounded by raiders! We are moving at maximum speed to the jumpgate, assistance!"

"Stand-by, Kolfi," Sinclair said. "Help is on the way."

He tapped his console.

"Lt Commander, clear to launch Delta Wing."


He looked as the screen showed the Mk II Valkyries flying to the jumpgate. They could have just warped out, but considering that their maximum speed is warp 7, it would be faster to go through hyperspace at full impulse.

"Commander," one of his officers called a few hours later. "We have just received confirmation from Delta Wing. They are closing on the Kolfi's last known position."

"Good," Sinclair said, his expression thoughtful.

"Something wrong, Commander?"

"Up until now, the raiders have been hitting closer to Babylon 5, but this new attack is almost a full sector further away," Sinclair explained. "Call up the cargo manifesto of the Kolfi, lest's see what it is carrying."

"On it," she tapped her consoles. Minutes later, she stood up and walked to Sinclair. "Here, Commander, the information you asked for."

Sinclair took the padd from her hand, frowning as he read it.

"Are you sure this manifest covers everything?" He asked.

"Yes, sir."

"Hydroponic supplies, tools, atmospheric testing materials," he read. "There is nothing here that would bring a high price on the black market. Nothing worth the effort of stealing it."

"Then why the attack?"

Sinclair frowned and tapped his console.

"Babylon Control to Delta Wing. Do you copy, Delta Leader?"

"Confirmed, Babylon Control."

"What is your status," Sinclair requested.

"We just got word that the raiders have broken off the attack, we are leaving repair teams for the Kolfi and flying in pursuit."

"Negative, Delta Leader. Do not pursue," He ordered. "Repeat, do not pursue. Return to base."


"It is a diversion. They want your forces as far from the station as possible. Return to base at once."

"Confirmed, Babylon Control."

Sinclair walked to one of his docking control officers.

"What ships are due to arrive or depart in the next hours?"

"Just a couple of survey ships," the officer reported, "two Asgardian Starlines flights to Xiangbala and Valinor, and one United Terran Starlines flight to Arcturus."

"Nothing," Sinclair said. "What about ships that have already left... in the last hour?"

"Three starliners to Venus, Heian, and Atmos. One cruise line to Thermidor, two liners to Narn, and a Centauri personal liner."

"The last one, registration."

"A Lord Kiro and Lady Ladira," the officer replied. "Departed thirty-two minutes ago."

"That might be it," he looked at the console and turned to another officer. "Divert sensor scans, try to find and contact the Centauri liner in hyperspace. It went through the gate minutes ago, it shouldn't be too far."

"Aye, sir."

"Sir, I am detecting something!"

Sinclair stood up as he saw the holographic projection in front of him.

"So that is how the raiders are getting out so fast."

They could only get a silhouette, the interference of hyperspace being too much for any deeper scan. It was a big ship, the size of a Centauri Primus warcruiser, certainly, it was capable of creating its own jump points. It was closing on the Centauri line, which was too small to see clearly. He saw as the bigger ship seemed to swallow the liner.

Centauri Liner:

This was a disaster.

Lord Kiro's liner had been captured by an unknown vessel. Kiro's guards were killed by PPG fire as five Golians stepped into the small ship.

The Republic had sent ships to escort them, of course, but they were due to meet a few hours later after they left Babylon 5's sector.

"Hello," one of the Golians, certainly their leader said. "I want the eye."

"I don't know what are you talking about," Londo denied.

"Don't lie to me, Ambassador. Cooperate and you will live," the Golian walked in closer to Londo and took the box from his hands.

"You can't do that," Lord Kiro said. "I am in a mission sanctioned by the Centauri government, your government!"

"My government?" He said, clearly enraged. "Golia is my homeworld, your people have profaned its soil by stepping on it."

He looked at Lady Ladira and smiled.

"Well, I was never very patriotic," he said before gesturing to two of his man to restrain Lady Ladira and Londo. "Now, let's not cause any commotion here. I just want the Eye," he looked at Lord Kiro, "and maybe a prisoner for leverage."

"Kiro, no!" Lady Ladira said.

He turned to Londo and Ladira.

"It is your lucky day, both of you. You are going home!" He gestured for one of his men to come. "Ako, take Lord Kiro to a cell. Konar, tie Ambassador Mollari and Lady Ladira to their chairs. Destroy the liner manual communications control and put a distress beacon on it. I want it to continuously broadcast a distress call to divert attention from us."

Moments later, the other Golians walked out with Lord Kiro handcuffed. The Golian leader looked at both remaining Centauri tied to their chairs before walking out, the liner.

"Lady Ladira, are you ok?"

"The shadows," she said. "The shadows are coming for him."

Ladira kept mumbling and Londo felt the transport vibrate as the larger raider vessel dropped it in the middle of hyperspace, shot down its engines, and certainly ran away with the prize of the century.

Serpent Nebula
Private Council Chambers, Presidium:

"This armistice you negotiated," Councilor Tevos said to the holographic projection of Matriarch Benezia in front of her. They didn't use the private chambers often, but since the fiasco at Relay 314, it ha been better to keep things discreet. "What are the terms you agreed for?"

"We agreed on a cessation of hostilities. They will not move their fleets or reinforce their defensive position around Relay 314 during this period but we can't send reinforcements as well. Me, Admiral Victus, and the diplomatic mission have been allowed passage to Shanxi to inspect the damage caused by the Turian invasion, as well as to inspect how the Turian prisoners are being treated."

"They have made prisoners?" Councilor Areatus questioned.

"They did, Councilor," Benezia's hologram flickered as she answered his question. "The Humans have been treating them relatively well, they found a way to easily produce large amounts of dextro-amino foodstuff, so they are well fed. The Humans have also provided them with medical care. Burn wounds, lost limbs, disfiguration, anything related to the conflict."

Tevos nodded. This would show the Humans in a good light to the Citadel races. However, if they could build infrastructure to produce dextro-amino food and had the know-how to medically treat Turians to such an extent, that also meant that the little time they had with the prisoners was enough for them to figure many things about them.

"So the prisoners are being well treated," Tevos said.

"Yes, Councilor. There were some incidents here and there as it is expected, though all bad faith actors seem to have been properly disciplined. Overall, they are being well treated."

"You have been working to get them back, I assume," Areatus expressed.

"I am, ambassador," Benezia answered. "The Humans don't seem particularly eager to keep them either. I was not allowed the see the banner officers yet, and they won't return them until the peace treaty is signed and ratified, but they have agreed to continuously return a set number of prisoners during the negotiations."

Areatus nodded. In any other situation, this would have been unacceptable. However, despite himself not wanting to admit it, the Turians were the aggressors here. The Relay 314 Incident has become a scandal, the largest blow to Turian honor and image in centuries. The Asari and the Salarians had practically forced the Hierarchy to lower its head and let them solve this problem. He was outnumbered.

"How many have been captured?" He questioned.

"Tens of thousands, Councilor," she answered. "The scale of the conflict with the Humans is way beyond what we imagined."

"What do you mean by this, Matriarch?"

"Councilor Tevos," she continued. "After the incident with the USS Starkiller in the 314 System, Admiral Arterius led his fleet to a small Human colony, a garden world named Shanxi. Arterius lost over one hundred ships in order to capture this world, which had a population of just over three million. He deployed troops to occupy the planet, resorting even to the orbital bombardment of the largest cities. I visited the ruins of their once largest settlement myself."

Benezia paused, letting the information sink in, Councilor Tevos's face clearly expressing horror to the thought of bombarding a garden world.

"During the period Shanxi was under Turian control, Admiral Arterius' troops made a... disturbing discovery," she paused. "Some of the prisoners were not organic beings, but individual AIs."

The Councilors gasped.

"The Humans created AI?" Councilor Morban questioned. "That is a danger to all life!"

"They call them Virtuans," Benezia explained. "Psychologically, they seem to differ very little from the Humans and, from what I have seen, they are treated as any other Human in their society."

"That is a problem," Morban expressed. "Their joining into galactic society would require them to deactivate their AIs."

"It seems unlikely they would do so," Tevos stepped in. "If their AI is considered equal to themselves in their society, asking for their deactivation would feel like asking you to eradicate one of your own populated worlds."

"I advise against it," Benezia said, her hologram flickering again. "The topic of the Virtuans has already become a sensitive topic for the Humans, given the acts perpetrated by the Turians."

"Matriarch?" Areatus questioned.

"You see, it seems the Virtuans were not created by the Humans as they are now. They evolved by themselves within their homeworld's computer network from experimental programs created for study. The programs were later abandoned but they kept evolving, following a path very similar to Humanity. In the end, they evolved into digital beings that are almost identical to their organic counterparts in psychology and appearance. They have emotions, they love, they die. They even reproduce sexually."

Benezia paused, letting the information sink in.

"For all purposes, they are virtual Humans. When Humanity found out about them, they were embraced into Human society. Centuries later, they are citizens equal to Humans, living among them in holographic bodies, forming friendships, even romantic relationships."

She paused again.

"When the Turians found out about their existence after most of the surviving Humans in Shanxi had already been put into prisoner camps, the leadership ordered a triage of the prisoners. All Virtuans were to be found and executed. Men, women... and children."

The chamber remained silent. All present not daring to speak.

"The Humans equated it to genocide, one of the biggest crimes in their opinion," Benezia said. In this, Humans did not seem too different from Asari. They too thought genocide to be one of the evilest acts possible.

"This complicates things greatly," Tevos expressed.

"That is not all," Benezia spoke, to the Councilors' surprise. "They have utterly defeated the Turians in every way. From what I could gather from the Humans' own records and those made by the Turians, the initial victory in Shanxi was only due to an enormous numerical advantage. Even so, Shanxi's defenses annihilated a good portion of the Turian forces. On land, the Turians found a peaceful, largely unarmed population, their forces ten times larger than that of the Humans. The Turians managed to pacify the planet but, a week later, reinforcements arrived and defeated the Turians definitively."

"That is impossible," Areatus said. "There were almost one thousand vessels under Arterius' command, he had over one hundred thousand troops and cutting-edge military equipment at his disposal."

"Most of it is gone now," Benezia responded. "The reinforcements counted only over one hundred ships for the first wave and their losses were still smaller than that of the Turians. Counting Admiral Victus' losses along with Admiral Arterius', the Hierarchy has lost over nine-hundred ships to the Humans."

The Councilors gasped in horror. Those are the worse losses the Hierarchy has endured since the Krogan Rebellions! How could the Humans have caused so much destruction?

"Their technology is like nothing I have ever seen, Councilors," Benezia expressed. "They use directed energy weapons completely unknown to us, their missiles weaponize antimatter, their FTL is completely different from ours. During our meeting, I have seen them create matter from nothing!"

"Impossible!" Morban stated. "Matter replication is pure science fiction! The energy requirements, the computational power needed...!"

"Yet, they can do that," Benezia said. "I have seen it. Apparently, their replicators are an integral part of their economy, which brings us to our next issue. From the little data I have about it, their economy is effectively post-scarcity. Energy is the only universal means of exchange to them, and they seem to have an abundance of it."

"If that is true, combined with the overall size you theorized the Systems Federation to have," Tevos expressed, "their integration into the galactic economy could be disastrous to all the other races! They could influence galactic markets in a weaponized manner against anyone!"

"I provided more details on that in the reports I sent to the Council," Benezia said. "Ultimately, they expressed a complete lack of interest in reparations in the form of resources. That can prove tricky to us. Overall they have made demands such as sovereignty over an entire cluster. The so-called Exodus Cluster is still unexplored to us but giving them an entire cluster...!"

"Giving the Humans this entire cluster would also enrage the Batarians," Morban concluded. "They have a dormant primary relay leading to it from their home cluster of Kite's Nest and another one from Petra Nebula. The Batarians have probes inbound to the Exodus Cluster, they invested a lot of credits on their decades-long probe program and on lobbying the Citadel Board of Planetary Settlement for the right to activate those relays and claim parts of the cluster. Giving the Human the entirety of it would lead to certain trouble with the Hegemony."

"I imagine there are more demands as preposterous as this," Areatus spoke.

"Well, they demand that the 313 System, the one directly connected to the 314 System, become a neutral zone between their space and ours. They also demand that all transit and contact through all relays past the 314 be controlled and regulated by them."

"They can't demand that we essentially give them control over an entire chunk of the network!" Areatus spoke. "They are showing themselves to be a very arrogant and paranoid species!"

"They were attacked when trying to make first contact," Tevos replied to her colleague. "Of course they are paranoid."

"Besides," Morban stepped in. "This incident has cost the Hierarchy a thousand ships, while the Humans only lost a fraction of that if the data provided by Matriarch Benezia is to be believed. It is paramount that we appease them somehow."

He turned to Matriarch Benezia's hologram.

"Matriarch, I assume they expect some form of moral reparation from the Turians for their actions."

"Yes, Councilor. One of their main demands, and one that they seem completely unwilling to negotiate on, is that the leadership of the Turian fleet that attacked them be tried for war crimes by an ad hoc military tribunal. Fortunately, after I provided them with evidence that the Hierarchy was given false information by Admiral Arterius and that his actions were ultimately unsanctioned by his government, the Humans accepted that only the highest-ranking officers in the fleet be tried, numbering over two-hundred Turians."

"That is not controversial at all," Tevos said. "After Arterius' actions, a Hierarchy court-martial is just expected.

"Councilor," Benezia said. "The Humans don't want them tried by their own government's judicial system, they don't trust the Hierarchy to be fair."

"That's an outrage-!"

"That is acceptable," Tevos interrupted her Turian colleague. "The Council will organize the judicial proceedings, the Turian banner officers participating in the invasion will be judged by an Asari-Salarian collegiate body of judges-"

"You don't understand, Councilor" Benezia interrupted. "The Humans demand that Arterius and his colleagues be tried by a Human tribunal, under Human law."

Tevos frowned.

"Well, that complicates things."

"The Hierarchy would never agree to that," Morban expressed. "This could be too much for their honor."

"They may have no choice in this," Tevos replied. "Matriarch, what have you learned from the Human judicial system?"

"It seems fair by our standards, if too lax," she answered. "There is no forced labor or death sentence for a fact. They are open to having Citadel observers and even attorneys, but the accusation and the judges must be Human. They will be tried by a number of war crimes and crimes against sentience."

Tevos pondered. This could cause a larger rift between the Turians and the other two Council races. Resentment among their people was already growing as their economy stagnates.

"Send them this counter-proposal," she said. "We will let the trials be made under Human law by Human judges, however, there must be Citadel observers and their judicial proceedings must be broadcast to the entire galaxy. The sentence, however, must be made under Turian law and is to be carried out by the Hierarchy."

Benezia nodded to the Councilors, her hologram disappearing a moment later.

This must end now, Tevos thought. Let the galaxy go back to normal.

Commander Sinclair's Office:

"Commander, you wanted to see us?" Londo asked as he and Ladira walked in.

"Yes, I am glad we managed to find you and bring you to safety."

"Thank you, Commander," Ladira said.

"However, Lord Kiro is still lost. Lady Ladira, the ship that was captured and later dropped was in your name. They were after something of yours, something that I'm sure you were carrying on your ship. I want to know what it was, what it was doing here, and why was it not registered in the cargo manifest."

"It is a very long story, Commander," Ladira said.

"Well," Sinclair smiled. "My time is your time, my lady."

He gestured for them to sit.

Golian Raiders Command Vessel:

"Very convincing performance," Lord Kiro said. "Now, if you don't mind, please tell your captain-"

"Sorry, he is busy" the leading Golian gestured to the other. "Lock him up until we need him!"

Lord Kiro's smile dropped.

"What are you doing? We had an agreement."

"We had, but as you Centauri never stop reminding us: Golians are a treacherous race that is better under Centauri boot, isn't it what you say?"

He sighed with fake concern.

"It is a shame, I like you, Kiro. Thanks to you, now we are big and organized. But, I don't care how much leverage you think the Eye gives you, in no way we are big enough to help you take on the Centauri government and put you on the throne."

"But I helped you," Kiro said. "I gave you the transport times, I promised freedom for Golia after I take the throne-"

"And we are grateful," the Golian said. "This ship is big enough to make its own jumpgate, it cost all the money you gave us. When you induced Mollari to hire Reno to find the Eye, knowing well that he would funnel all the money the Centauri government paid him to our cause, you guaranteed us two, maybe three more of those ships. With the ransom for the Eye and you, we could buy even more, and then we would have enough firepower to organize a localized resistance against Centauri rule in Golia. That made it worth taking the risk. Not your plan."

"If you were already planning on betraying me, why follow through with my plan?" Lord Kiro asked. "You have Reno in your pocket, you could have just saved yourself the risk, taken the Eye, and asked for a ransom."

"Were you not listening to me?" The Golian chuckled. "Your plan was actually quite good until the toppling the Centauri government part. You yourself planned to pass the Eye through Mollari so that the Centauri government would be the ones paying for it, saving you a lot of ducats. We just went along because, why not? Being paid twice, once by you and once by the Centauri government, that was a very interesting prospect."

He made a thoughtful face.

"Thrice, now that the Centauri government will pay us again for the same item. Counting with the ransom for your head, well, that would make a fourth time being paid."

Two other Golians restrained Kiro while the first one grabbed the box, Lord Kiro holding tight to it before the Golian took it out of his hands.

"And what about me?" Kiro asked.

"Well, we are only going to be paid a fourth time for your ransom if the Centauri government has proof that you are alive," the Golian said. "So, look on the bright side, Lord Kiro. You are not going home as the new emperor, but you are going home alive. And once you are back, you are going to keep on paying us in order to guarantee our silence. After all, you have given us so much ammunition to destroy yours and your house's reputation."

He chuckled.

"Gods! With that, we could even say we are being paid a fifth time-"

He was interrupted by the ship's alarms going off

"What in the Gods' name!"

Outside the ship, space itself seemed to shift as a large Lovecraftian mass seemingly made of darkness itself phased into existence.

In a single and precise movement, a purple beam of energy sliced through the raider's ship.

Babylon 5
Centauri Embassy:

"Are you sure you are well enough to travel, my lady?"

"I have responsibilities that I must care to," Ladira replied to Londo. "And what of you, Ambassador?"

"What of me," he contemplated. "It would seem my career is finished, good lady. The Eye is gone. Even if they want to buy it back, the price would be astronomical."

"I'm sorry," Ladira said. "I'll do anything I can help."

"Thank you, but I'm afraid I'm beyond anything, short of a miracle," he sighed, taking her hand. "Good night, Lady Ladira. I'll see to your ship in the morning. I expect I'll be leaving myself a few days later."

Ladira nodded and started walking to her room before stopping in her tracks.

"Ambassador," she said, her face somber. "Be wary of miracles, for angels too can fall."

She walked away, leaving a confused Londo.

Not understanding what she meant, he dropped it and poured himself a glass full of wine. He would try to drink himself to death that night.

When the bottle was already empty, as well his last glass, and Londo felt he was far from intoxicated, he heard his doorbell.

"Whoever it is, go away," he said loudly.

The doorbell sounded again.

He sighed and went to the door.

"Alright, alright," he said to himself. "What is one more annoyance? Enter."

"Good evening, Ambassador," the Human who annoyed him before walked in.

"You? Go away! It is late, I'm in no mood for your games."

"I'm leaving shortly," the man replied, a smile always on his face. "I got what I came for. But, before I go..."

He extended to Londo something covered by a piece of cloth.

"A gift," he continued. "From friends you don't know you have."

Londo's curiosity was triggered. He walked to the man, taking the object from his hands before turning his back to him and putting it on the table. He took the cloth off and found a box, scorch marks all around it. The box was very familiar to Londo and he knew it looked like the one carrying the Eye, but he dared not to assume such a miracle would ever happen to him.

He opened the box and gasped, taken aback by its content.

"The Eye," he smiled. "How?"

He turned back only to find that the man was gone. Londo walked out into the corridor.

"Where did you go, eh?" He shouted. "Let me buy you a drink! Let me buy you a fleet of drinks! How can I ever find you to thank you?"

"We will find you, Ambassador," Londo heard the man's voice, but could not pinpoint where it was coming from.

"We will find you."