Author's Note: Well, here's another chapter and just a little bit late. *looks at watch* Hrmmm... *looks at calendar* Ah crap.

A lot later than I wanted but I just had trouble with this chapter, kept going in different directions. But here it is regardless!


Marcus could hear the four of them talking behind him, the strange whistling chirp/barks of the Turian, the fast-paced croaking squeaks of the Salarians, and the musical breathy notes of Thessian.

'Add in some running water or rain and I could sell recordings of this as some weird rainforest background noise.'

He chuckled to himself and realized he must have got their attention because the talking stopped.

"Sorry, just thought of something, didn't mean to interrupt." He didn't look back to see what they were doing, just adjusted his heading to the planet he was going to and looked down at the readout. About 9700 light-seconds away.

"Just a few more minutes."

Silence stretched before he heard some subdued Turian and then the flat Thessian translation.

"Commander, something occurred to me just now, does your species have levo or dextro amino acids."

He thought for a moment about the two words, levo and dextro. He understood amino acids easily enough but levo and dextro didn't seem to fit anywhere of what he knew.

"..."

"Commander?"

"I haven't the slightest clue Velictus. I know amino acids, that's got something to do with DNA but levo and dextro?"

He shrugged altough Velictus wouldn't be able to see it past his chair.

"No clue. Why do you ask?"

"Our food, we have supplies in the shuttle, food for us four, but I was wondering if we would be able to eat your food since dextro and levo foods don't agree with you if you eat the wrong rations."

Velictus paused for a second, "You do eat don't you?"

"Heh, yeah, we eat. I have some food cartridges you all can try. It's not tasty but it will give an idea if we eat the same things. Is this an issue in your space?"

"The Turians and Quarians have dextro amino acids for our DNA, all other races evolved from levo amino acids. If we eat each other's foods there's a high chance of allergic reaction that can be deadly. There's some substances in our foods that are more-or-less universal but with the chance of some of the proteins being poisonous between the two amino acid chemistry we keep the food separate."

"Huh, well, learn something everyday." He pulled the throttle down to 50% and unbuckled from his chair then bounced through the bridge to the back, pulling out a fist-sized cartridge and tossing it so it slowly tumbled towards Velictus.

"Here, let me know." He sat back down and dialed the throttle back up.

He dialed the throttle back as he go within a few hundred light-seconds of the planet, the gas giant the planet he had picked to land on became visible as he heard Velictus and one of the Salarians talking.

As they got closer to the gas giant he began to make out details, the greyish blue colors swirling around in silent maelstroms. He watched the planet as he edged the control to one side, setting the ship spinning slowly as the smaller moon he would land on became visible.

"I can see why you do this Marcus." He glanced over at Benezia who seemed to be enjoying the view as much as him.

"Well, like I said, there's just too much out in the galaxy to stay in known space. Just think, we land on this moon, eat, sleep, and talk for awhile. Then we'll leave and no other sapient being may land or even see this view again in the history of this star system."

The soft humming drone of the ship hung in the air as they thought about that before it was broken by a abrupt 'ding' from Velictus' Omni-tool.

"Well Commander, it seems your species is levo amino-acid. There are a number of chemicals in this food that would cause….complications for Turians."

Velictus tossed it in Marcus' direction but failed to account for zero-g and it sailed up and bounced off the ceiling. All of them watched it as it spun lazily towards the front of the ship, Marcus looked back to Velictus and laughed.

"Takes some getting used to but you'll get it." Marcus went to say something else before the food cartridge started glowing blue and seemed to fall towards him. The blue glow faded as it floated in front of his face and he grabbed it and looked over at Benezia with a surprised look on his face.

To her credit, Benezia only smirked, "Takes some getting used to." Marcus was about to ask a question when an increasing whine broke the light-hearted atmosphere.

The four of them looked at Marcus as he jammed the throttle back suddenly and was about to do something else when suddenly the planet expanded suddenly in the view and the ship lurched violently. Alarms filled the bridge along a few groans and the sound of metal on metal as the food cartridge bounced around behind all of them.

Marcus cursed to himself as he paged through the menus, checking the integrity of the modules and hull.

"Well, sorry about that everyone. Usually landing on a planet is a much more gentle approach but at least you got to see what happens when the ship gets too far into another, larger, frame of reference."

Odoln closed his Omni-tool after having ran his quick-diagnostics on himself, "Too far into another frame of reference? You mean the gravity well of the planet? Is that an automatic failsafe?"

"Something like that, too close to another frame of reference, gravity from a planet or star usually, forces the computer to drop out once it gets close to being unable to calculate the compression and expansion of spacetime around the ship."

Benezia shook off the rattling feeling she had from the sudden stop, "Does that mean that your ships cannot be used as weapons?" Thoughts of the Krogan rebellions swam in her head.

"What? No, not at all since the ships don't actually move fast. Remember, it's just a bubble of spacetime that's moving. Although I don't know what would happen if we had a way to keep the FSD running through a planet. Since it warps spacetime I'm not even sure anything would happen."

The four of them digested that while Marcus angled the ship away from the planet and re-engaged supercruise. Swinging around and coming around in a much more controlled manner.

"I'll swing around and come in like I should have if I'd have been paying attention. It'll take less time and there'll be less g-forces than having to boost for ten minutes to make the sixty kilometers to the surface."

He heard a subdued trilling 'hmm' sound behind him and then the whistling chirp sounds as Velictus spoke into his translator, "I suppose you would need to worry about that if you don't have inertial dampening on a ship during planet fall. How much force do you encounter in this ship when accelerating?"

Taking a moment to adjust the throttle as the planet filled the view before answering, "Well, in combat in this ship I think I've gotten close to twelve g's boosting around another ship. In a glide on approach to a planet I've nearly blacked out so over 15 g's."

Whatever Velictus or the others were going to say was interrupted as the ship shuddered hard and they felt a measure of gravity re assert itself. They could feel a strong vibration as they all watched intently out the window as the ship seemed to float towards the surface.

From beside him Benezia released her grip on the arm rest and seemed to want to say something before he cut her off.

"You may want to keep holding on Benezia, when we get out of the glide we're going to decelerate normally and I don't really want any of you to slam into the controls."

They all braced themselves as best they could although Uolon had to brace against the back of Velictus' chair.

He watched the altitude drop below 10km and suddenly felt and heard the ship decelerate, the familiar sensation of the chair moulding around him to keep him seated and the tightening of his remlok suit. He heard a bit of scrambling behind him as Uolon did his best to keep from sliding around. Benezia had flashed blue for a moment but seemed in control again now though.

As his speed reduced to a steady 150m/s he throttled down and levelled out, keeping the ship horizontal as he moved towards the surface. It would take a bit longer but he didn't want to do his usual quickest route with the four of them along. His look of concentration as he approached the surface and deployed his landing gear must have seemed serious enough that no one spoke as he worked his ship to the surface and the gentle shudder-thump of the ship landing was felt.

With a decreasing whine they all felt the ship power down. He keyed the controls and the seats all turned towards the back of the bridge.

"Alright, we have .7g's of gravity here, should be enough for us to be comfortable to get some food and rest. Not to mention some q and a for all of us. Also, if any of you feel up to it, you're more than welcome to take the SRV out for a bit of a jaunt. I usually do, keeps me supplied and it's fun to get out and about."

All of them got up and stretched a bit except Benezia who seemed to rise and move to stand near him. He noted idly that he didn't feel the need to move further away from her like he had before.

'Then again I'm on my ship and I'm their only lifeline out here. Is that it?'

He looked around at them, glancing at Benezia for a moment. The memory of her getting tossed around when they were in the neutron plume and his scramble to get her back into her seat and strapped in came to mind.

'No...they're less like aliens and more just like weird looking people. Asari...well, Benezia...I suppose she's alright. No freaky black eyes and mind-stabbing and she's been...well, they've all been good passengers all things considered.''

He motioned towards the doors at the back of the room, "We can go back to your shuttle to get your supplies if you'd like and then get some food. Do a little sight-seeing afterwards if any of you feel up for it."

Voicing their assent, Velictus, Uolon, and Odoln all made their way back toward the cargo area, he looked over at Benezia and she gave him a small smile and followed the others as he followed. He heard the fast-paced speech of the Salarians intermixed with Velictus' speech both, untranslated.

He laughed to himself when Benezia cut into their conversation, "Oh you will be fine for now Velictus, we can all tell you how his food tastes." After that the laughter of the other two and grumbling trilling sounds translated easily enough.


The Spectre sat in the room at the small terminal he had setup, the cursor blinking as it waited for input. His attention was on his Omni-tool, images and words were flashing past as the program he had set was archiving, compressing, and encrypting the data he had acquired so far. As the progress ran towards the end he caught the last pages flash by the screen and he frowned. Hitting the confirmation to transfer the contents to the terminal and then letting his arm down, he sat at there for a few agonizing moments.

He struggled to begin his report and while there was no realistic deadline to it, it greatly annoyed him that he was unable to clear his mind and begin. The images of the last few lines of his compiled data ranckled him. In his eidetic memory the pages flashed by again and again.

The sections on the Human's military strength, economic power, and technology level were basically all guesses. Educated guesses that he had spent a long time formulating considering what he had seen so far but still just...guesses.

He shook off the feeling and started his report.

"This is an initial report on the observed and inferred capabilities of the recently contacted species: Humans.

The limits of this report cannot be stressed enough in that this is a preliminary report based on limited time spent on the ship of the Human Commander Marcus. Title of Commander seems to be based on his ownership of an interstellar ship. Commander Marcus has made it clear that he is not affiliated directly with any Human government.

Absconding from the usual format used for such reports I feel I must preface this with the following:

I will outline what I currently know and followed by what I know I do not know. Based on a single day of travel with the Human Commander Marcus I can confidently say that there has been no other single event in the history of any of the Council races that will change known space as much as the introduction of Humans into Council space. I will not speculate on if this will have a positive or negative effect.

History: Subject to verification upon arrival into Human space, their history in space stretches back approximately 1300 years, Citadel standard. The first few centuries saw the use of generational ships sent out in great numbers and the establishment of their first successful colonies. Following this was the advent and use of a primitive version of one of two of their current FTL engines, Hyperspace, as described below. Contrary to the method of colonization that all Council races have followed upon the discovery of the Relays, Humans expanded outwards in all directions methodically due to no contact with anything Prothean. It is unknown if there was no Prothean presence in the space they have explored or they simply have not discovered any that are in their space. Note:the latter is unlikely due to the presented length of time. Their method of expansion created a sphere of space around their core systems that Commander Marcus had stated is referred to as the "Bubble".

In their most recent history however, their ability to traverse between stars has apparently increased by a few orders of magnitude. In the attached video is the presentation Commander Marcus showed us detailing their history in space. Note, starting at the timestamp 2:82 it is seen that the introduction of their newest iteration of their FTL seemed to allow for an apparent high amount of traffic to areas across the galaxy. This suggests a proclivity for exploration and expansion that while at first was deeply alarming, is less concerning when considering the scope of the galaxy.

Hyperspace: The main method of FTL the Humans use to travel between star systems outclasses all other known methods of FTL with the exception of the Relays. The ship we are travelling on is capable of traversing up to 35 light-years, completing the entire 'jump' in as little as ten seconds. The ship then arrives in the destination system near the largest gravitational body. The ship arrives in the second form of FTL that Humans possess as described below. The tactical advantage of this cannot be overstressed. Ships with a hyperspace-capable engine would be able to arrive in a system within a sphere of space around the largest gravity well in a system, a sphere that our sensors would be hard-pressed to confidently monitor, survey the system in a moment using their sensors, and leave without passing the known constraints of the Relays.

An item that I would like to bring up specifically about the hyperspace travel is that it is subjectively inconsistent. I have attached the recordings and readings collected during the forty jumps so far and they all are entirely consistent. All black and silent beyond the noises of those aboard. All five of us on board however experience a large amount of lights and noise. I have attached a reconstruction of my subjective experience to the data accompanying this report. The possibility of passing the subjective experience via Asari Meld should also be explored.

Research into or the acquisition of this drive or the information on building these drives should be, in my suggestion, the foremost concern when formal contact with the Humans governments can be established. Barring the tactical advantages of this drive, the ability to leave the Relay network would allow for the resolution of some long-standing issues within Council space.

Frame Shift Drive: The second form of FTL the Humans possess, this drive is theoretically within the ability of the Council races to build much sooner than the hyperspace drive. The drive takes the frame of reference of the current ship and moves that as opposed to thrust applied to move the ship itself. As it has been explained, the drive warps space around the ship and then compresses space in front of the ship and expands it behind the ship, essentially pushing the pocket of spacetime to superluminal speeds. When this drive is active there was no movement detected within the space the ship occupied. Acceleration and deceleration went unnoticed. The only times an outside force noticeably interacted with the ship's frame of reference was during a close flyby of a neutron star and approaching too deeply within a planet's gravity well.

The data collected as well as cursory mathematical models outlining this method of FTL have been included in the data attached to this report. While it seems less efficient as a method of travel, an alternative method of FTL would be beneficial to Council space.

Sensors: I have not observed the capabilities of the current ship I am travelling on in respects to sub light sensor range or capabilities. However, alarmingly, the ship has the ability to utilize the Humans understanding of hyperspace to instantly scan an sphere approximately half a light year from the ship in any direction. Furthermore the scan reveals the type, size, and position of the objects in a system. The ability to do so and then process the data in realtime in relation to the ship's position would be immensely useful. Another feature of the ship scanners is an apparent ability to, when close enough to a body (the exact distance determined by mass) the scanners can, within a short period of time, give an approximate composition of the object to the hundredth of a percent.

Relevant data and descriptions included in data attached to this report.

Humans: Given the current sample size of one, I will not be making any comment on the species as a whole. It has been found they are a levo-amino acid base species and a body plan approximate to the majority of races encountered so far.

However, I will note that the casual mention of widespread and extensive genetic engineering may be a point of friction. It is also noteworthy that the aforementioned technology and observations were done on a ship commanded by a civilian. The implications of that are both deeply frightening as well as exciting.

Other Items: I have included this section to cover a few items that are of note. The first is the logistical ability of Commander Marcus' ship. Fuel seems to be of little concern as the ship employs a fuel scoop that collects atomic hydrogen directly from the corona of the stars we have jumped to as of yet. Commander Marcus has stated that he can scoop fuel from any stars of a certain class. What class of stars or the Human star classifications will need to be investigated and included in subsequent reports.

They make use of a basic nutritional slurry that is nutritionally dense and easy to store. They apparently have the ability to print the food slurry into a wide variety of their food dishes. My opinion is that they are a marked improvement on the base slurry. The ability to do so should be investigated as higher quality food can have a morale impact during patrols or long expeditions.

Those two items alone would suggest a very flexible and independent logistics chain and an area which I suggest the Council explore once diplomatic relations have been established.

The technology that is noticeably lacking in the Human technology base is the ability to manipulate Mass Effect fields or gravity in general. There is an apparent complete lack of artificial gravity in their technology base. They have used the aforementioned genetic engineering to deal with the physiological effects of null-g.

Humans seem to be completely ignorant of Element Zero or Mass Effects in any shape or form. Whether from dumb luck or other outside forces, they have not encountered it in any significant way until now. This could be leveraged to gain access to their technology and expertise as Commander Marcus was impressed by Matriarch T'Soni's display of Biotics. Caution should be exercised however as their current technology base could very well receive a large boost in effectiveness immediately while it would take time to decode and integrate their technology into the current Council technology.

Odoln sat back as he re-read the report quickly and encrypted and stored it for transmission once they got within range. Another copy was uploaded to a small probe in the shuttle that would seek out the nearest relay and comm buoy if necessary. A contingency of course, he had been getting less and less worried about Marcus as they travelled. He seemed to more concerned with surprising them than harming them. He was an individual however, they rarely represented their government...governments in the Human's case.

He heard footsteps approaching and reached out and shut the terminal off just as he heard a knock on the door. He got up and hit the button, opening it to reveal Uolon.

"Spectre, Commander Marcus has invited each of us to drive his surface vehicle. I wanted to ask if you would be wanting to do so?"

He glanced back at his terminal and then at his Omni-tool before looking back to Uolon and nodding. The two of them walking up to the bridge.

After a moment a thought popped into Odoln's head, "Uolon, don't you think it's odd that Commander Marcus is allowing us free-reign of his ship?"

"I had thought the same thing and asked about that when he sent me to ask you and do you know what he said?"

Uolon laughed a moment, "He said all the systems were keyed to him and that through his 'mindcom' he knew what was going on with his ship at any moment and then." Uolon stopped and looked Odoln in the eyes.

"Then he invited me to try to get into the ship systems." Odoln could only blink at that, the idea of inviting such a breach into ship systems purposely was crazy.

Odoln frowned as he remembered something from earlier and brought up his Omni-tool and did a quick scan. After the negative beep from his tool his hand dropped and he smirked.

"Computer systems aren't compatible. I saw a signal but the system didn't recognize it. Even if we decoded how the signals were being sent. We'd have to figure out the coding, function, security, possible encryption."

He shook his head and motioned forward and the two of them kept walking.

"A computer system based entirely off a base separate and alien from Prothean computer systems. I forgot how long it has been since any race has had to deal with computers that didn't run some version of Prothean code. Hanar coding is confusing but if you dug down it still makes sense."

As the bridge doors opened and they walked in, Odoln chuckled. "Clever, I wonder how long it would take for the four of us to be able to actually do anything with these systems."

Commander Marcus was standing, leaning against his chair with a cup of something steaming in his hand while watching out the viewport. As the two of them approached they could see a sixed-wheeled vehicle driving around outside.

Marcus motioned at the strange vehicle, "She's been out there for about an hour. Picked it up pretty quick."

The three of them watched as they saw the vehicle drive up the edge of an old crater, gliding up before suddenly rocketing up as the Salarians realized the vehicle had thrusters on the wheels. The vehicle started to drop but then tilted forward and started to roll. Marcus reached down and touched one of the holographic controls and suddenly they were bombarded by laughter.

"Marcus would you believe it has been nearly a century since I have been allowed to drive my own vehicle?"

The vehicle landed and suddenly went tearing off at a small ridge half a kilometer away.

"Oh, I could just override my aides and drive but I'm a Matriarch. I'm not expected to do such things anymore."

The vehicle hit a large rock and did a partial back flip. As it was about to land on the domed canopy where the blue Asari figure could be barely made out, the thrusters fired, flipping it back over and it jetted forward over the rock it had hit before bouncing a few times before settling down and moving forward again.

"I really have to thank you again for letting me do this, I've not had this much fun on official business in decades."

The vehicle reached the top of the ridge, going over a few feet before coming back down and resting on the rear wheels. Marcus made a motion and the viewport zoomed in on the vehicle. The three of them could see the top and back. Small puffs from the thrusters in the wheels looked to be keeping the vehicle balanced like that.

"I am glad I've never lost my sense of wonder about the galaxy." at that, he looked to the other viewports and saw the bright band of stars that made up the galaxy. A nebula could be seen above the galactic plane but it was small.

"Well Benezia, I know how much fun the SRV is and the galaxy can put on a show. It's great for sight-seeing like I said. The canopy gives some great views. If we weren't on a first contact mission, I'd take you to a system I know, there's two neutron stars and a black hole. There's a gas giant far enough away with a moon I love to sit on and watch the stars rise."

Odoln and Uolon looked over at him suddenly and Marcus just smirked at them, reaching down and rifling through the computer files. A small video popped up on the screens and the two of them were treated to the view he had just spoke of.

Apparently Benezia had seen it as well because the SRV tipped backwards, slowly at first but then suddenly a small boost and it was doing a slow back flip back towards the ship.

"It is lovely Marcus though I suppose we'll have to see how the official first contact goes before any of us start planning any trips anywhere."

Odoln looked back out at the SRV, "Well Benezia, in the interim I think we could find some time. After all, we are ahead of schedule."

There was a pause as they watched the SRV make its way back to the ship. Marcus spoke up then, "Well, I did plan for longer just as a rule. If you have ten or twelve days of supplies and this whole trip takes seven days, all the better but if you had packed seven days of supplies...you get the idea."

Odoln nodded, "I understand. You've neve-"

"How long have you been there on the bridge Odoln?" Benezia's voice had taken a more professional edge.

Marcus took a sip and cleared his throat, "Ah, they got up here a few flips ago."

They could almost hear the Matriarch purse her lips, "Well, I do expect them to keep this to themselves."

Marcus took another sip to cover his grin as Uolon and Odoln stuttered out their assurances they would.

"Now Marcus," her voice was light again, "How do I get back on the ship."

"Right! I'll head to the SRV bay and help you through it but for now get the SRV right under the orange squares you see under the ship." Motioning with his cup the three of them made their way off the bridge as Marcus explained the SRV to them.

"First thing you have to know is that it is a lot of fun, if you hit an ice geyser right you can get a good hundred and fifty meters up..."


The lights were dim on the bridge, Marcus had nearly everything idling while he whiled away the time going over what he was going to tell Professor Palin. He knew he'd have to get some privacy to go over everything with the Professor but besides the interface with the base, he'd never actually spoken to him. Rarely did any Commander actually speak to the engineers, they made good use of the base interface and their mindcom to go over what was needed and usually just assigned a group of their technicians to make the modifications according to their specs. Considering that was what you actually got access to once you convinced them to let you use their services.

Leaning his chair back a bit and putting his feet up he took a sip from his still-steaming tea. Hutton Orbital mugs were good for that, always kept your drink hot.

"Now how do I get just his attention so I can go over what I've found. I don't want anyone else involved right away I still might want to just drop all of this and leave…", he muttered to himself.

He heard the soft sound of the door to the bridge opening and nearly spilled his tea, he had been lost in thought and forgot there were others on the ship with him. Wiping off his chin, he looked up to see Benezia walking onto the bridge.

"Benezia, couldn't sleep? Or do your species only sleep for like thirty minutes?" Benezia smirked as she sat down in the chair next to his.

"Our species require about the same as other species in the Council, around seven hours. I just couldn't get to sleep. So much to think about after theses few days. It's all been very exciting."

He just thought for a moment, eyes going a little out of focus as he drank the last of his tea, "Yes, exciting."

She caught the look on his face and wanted to kick herself for her mistake. Before she could apologize however, he regained his composure.

"Don't worry, I'm pretty sure you didn't mean that about my part in the first contact. Honestly I'm pretty excited too, more scared than excited but still, excited! Not only one race but a whole group of you. I've been pretty worried I'd mess something up and have all of you declare a holy war on us or something"

Benezia frowned at that, "Well, I don't think there would be anything to declare a holy war about, there's not much of that sort of fervent religiousness in our space outside of the Hanar and Batarians."

Putting his feet down and leaning forward, "Well, that's good news at least. I'd say it's about the same in our space but it's hard to say for sure. There's so many different groups and places. I don't think anyone ever thought to ask about religion across all of human settlements."

He got up, his mug in hand, "Tea?"

"Yes please, the tea we had with our food was interesting but do you have any others?"

He stopped for a moment and thought, "I've got one other of the natural leaf tea but I can get you a slew of synthesized versions. I'll get you the other actual tea though, seems like a good occasion for it."

Walking to the back station he started getting another mug and getting the tea ready when Benezia continued.

"I'm curious Marcus and understand if you don't have the answer but how many human settlements are there?"

They were both quiet for a bit as Marcus mulled it over as he set the tea to steep.

"I got curious and looked that up a few years ago, the bubble has about nineteen or twenty thousand star systems with a human population in the system. It's not always garden planets and huge, bustling cities but star systems, bases on barren worlds, outposts, all that stuff."

He turned around and leaned back on the console next to where he had the tea sitting, "I found a guy that had sat and looked up the cartographic data on all the systems in the bubble. He said, in all total there was about five and a half trillion humans. So there's a lot of us but there's also a lot of room in the galaxy. Since I talked to him those years ago, there's been some changes, expeditions outside the bubble and all that. Now there's actually a sparse string of settled systems on the way to Colonia. Just smaller bases but still."

The timer beeped and Marcus removed the tea bags, putting them in the recycle shoot and grabbed both mugs and walked over. Handing one to Benezia and sitting down with his.

Benezia just breathed in the scent of hers for a moment, a thoughtful look on her face for a moment before she seemed to decide to just enjoy her tea. The two of them just sat for a while, looking out at the gas giant slowly spinning into view as they enjoyed their tea.

Taking the last sip of her tea she wrapped her hand around the mub with a curious look on her face.

"Marcus, what is this cup made of? It hasn't cooled down at all."

He lifted his, "Hutton Orbital mugs, they're made at a station thats about a fifth of a light year from the point you drop in from hyperspace. Takes hours to make the whole trip in supercruise. Some ships don't plan their fuel and run out. Some have issues and end up scrap. Other times someone takes a large ship like Lucy here to the outpost only to find that they can't dock."

He laughed, "There's a running joke you can get a free ship like Lucy here once you get there. A running joke but sometimes some newbie will get pretty mad about it. But, these mugs are made from the plating on the FSD of some of the ships that don't quite make it. They stay this temperature, not sure why but it's handy if you forget you made tea or coffee and set it down."

He tips his mug to her and winks, "Never have a cold drink again."

Going to drink the last of his tea he smirks and chuckles a bit, "Well, in gravity of course, leave it in zero-g and you'll just end up with a glob of cold liquid floating around."

Benezia laughed quietly at that, "I imagine you only do that once."

Marcus just laughed and nodded at that before asking, "So how did you end up on this diplomatic mission of first contact?"

Straightening a bit at the change in topics, "Well, as you know Shiala let me know about what happened as soon as she could. I could have, well, I'm sure they would have preferred, gone to the Council - our ruling body - and conferred with them but…"

Marcus raised an eyebrow, "But…"

"With what you had gone through I didn't want to wait for them to get through their decision making process only to select me anyway. It would have take too long. I am one of the foremost respected diplomats in Council space. They would have sent me anyway although maybe a bit more prepared."

Marcus stood suddenly and with an exaggerated flourish of his hand bowed deeply at the waist, "Matriarch Benezia, I am honored."

Benezia pulled back a bit, surprised until he straightened up with grin on his face and she laughed.

"I will say Marcus, your irreverence is refreshing. I understand the need for decorum and poise but sometime I would like to just be treated like Benezia instead of 'Honored Matriarch' all the time."

Marcus sat back down, "Well, I have none of the cultural background or decorum. My poise leaves something to be desired too. Glad you got a laugh. Considering how far over my head I feel, a bit of humor is helping things along. You don't have to worry though, you're a passenger on my ship."

His smile faded and he nodded to himself, "I know how to treat passengers on my ship. That is something I know how to do so I figure that's the best way to avoid insulting anyone" His smile returned, "And besides! At least you're not asking me to stop and pick up your favorite food dish from a system seven jumps one way out of our way like some of the more demanding passengers I've had."

He chuckled to himself at that before he noticed Benezia had seemed to have gotten serious again.

"All official duties aside Marcus, that is another reason I rushed to that system. A slaver attack is bad enough for first contact but your…meld…" she paused to gauge his reaction before continuing.

"It was the worse way for that to have happened. An Asari meld is an intimate experience at it's best. The sharing of two minds willingly...that the Asari on that freighter did that do you and then...died during it. There are so few cases of that happening that I know of only two, three now, in my nearly eight hundred years of life. I can't imagine why."

Marcus kept his face controlled through that, looking down into his mug and playing his finger around the rim of it as silence stretched.

Then, in almost a whisper, "I know why she did it...the reason. She had hidden her daughter..." His voice hitched for a moment and his jaw flex as he clenched his teeth and then shook his head a bit.

"Mira..."

"That was the second person screaming I had heard over the radio when I got there. I've heard those desperate cries before in pirate attacks in my space and it never, "he grit his teeth, "never, fails to bring out the worst in me on those that did it.

Silence stretched again as Benezia sat patiently. His eyes looked around at nothing as memories flashed in his head before he caught himself and cleared his throat, setting his tea on his arm rest and sitting back. He didn't look at Benezia as he spoke but kept his eyes on the tea and he traced the handle with his finger.

"That's why she melded with me, she didn't even realize I was an alien. Just that I didn't understand Thessian. After she died, I sort of...broke for a while. Ran through the freighter and found the room her daughter should have been in but it was just a gaping hole in the ship behind the door."

"..."

"Everything was so mixed up in my head, I remembered her and my memories in some strange, jumbled juxtaposition. I don't know how long I sat there."

Coughing a bit and grabbing his mug and taking a sip he sat up again and looked at Benezia again, "So, facing something like that I did what I always try to do in emergency situations. I pushed it out of my mind and focused on what I needed to do. Compartmentalized it. Talking to Shiala and trying to figure out what to do next. You arriving when you did help, too long and I might have just left so thanks for that."

He nodded to himself slowly and his eyes drifted off, looking at the air between them, "But, I do feel like I'm kind of coming apart at the seams but I can't just yet. When I can, I'll do that the same way I've done when I had to spend days keeping it together as I made my way back to the bubble."

Lifting his mug up in a toast and looking at her, "I'll go to a bar and get absolutely smashed!"

He laughed as he brought his arm down and took a drink of tea but he heard the edge of mania in his laugh.

'Still not time to come apart though Marcus, gotta make it back. Introduce these aliens to the powers-that-be and then see if I can drink enough that I need a progenitor cell treatment for a new liver.'

Before Benezia could really react to everything he had just said, something popped in his head about what she had said earlier.

"Wait, eight hundred years?"

Blinking at the sudden shift in tone, "Yes, Asari live an average of a thousand years, our natural lifespan. How long is the human lifespan?"

He thought about that a moment, "Depends on where you live, how much you make and what you do. A miner on an asteroid base in low security space? About seventy years if they've had no genetic stuff done and nothing else gets you first. Living in one of the core worlds and you're fairly well off?"

He shrugged, "Genetic work can put the average person up to a hundred and fifty years but with progenitor cell treatments...pretty much until something else kills you."

Benezia was surprised at that, "You have a medical treatment to indefinitely extend your lifespan?"

"More than that, need a new organ or limb? Progenitor cell treatments will do that too. Along with genetic screening and other stuff, there's not too much that can kill you once you get to the right doctor. The main thing people think of when they hear Progenitor Cells though is immortality. S'why in a lot of places they're illegal or frowned upon, some people don't think we should live forever."

He finished his tea and set the mug aside, "Well, we don't know if it's forever but I know of people that look like they're thirty but they've got four or five centuries under their belt. So, time will tell."

She shook her head as she drank her tea and processed what he had just told her.

"Now, as interesting as that is, I'm curious about that weird blue glowy thing you do. What and how?"

It was her turn to raise and eyebrow, "Well, it's called Biotics, all Asari are biotic to a certain extent since our planet has an abundance of surface deposits of element zero. Other races become biotic through exposure before their born. As to how I do it, element zero produces a field that lowers or raises the mass of anything in the field depending on the electrical charge applied. Our nerves have element zero nodules along them and with training, we learn how to produce certain...effects."

"That sounds….awesome."

She smiled a bit, "Well, it can be but learning how to control it can take a lot of time and discipline. Asari live the longest, I can make it look easy but there's centuries of practice behind what I can do."

She smirked as a memory came to her, "I remember when I was about three hundred years old, my mate at the time was trying to learn how to use lift, a skill to make something float for a while."

"Like {telekinisis}, er, making things move with your mind from distance."

"Yes, similar but lift isn't as controlled, you just make something float a few feet of the ground. But she was having trouble with producing the field and actually projecting it at something. I watched her try for hours one day. She got so frustrated but she finally got it, she lifted the training dummy."

Her smile widened and Marcus leaned in a bit, interested, "Except instead of going back to her neutral stance, she pumped her fist back, excited she finally got it. She accidently pulled the training dummy at her at high speed, slammed her back against the wall. She woke up a day and a half later."

She laughed, "She was livid. Which of course, I found quite amusing."

They both laughed at that, imagining the look on someone's face as they got hit like that.

"Kind of reminds me of my first time trying to land on a landing pad in my sidewinder."

"Oh?"

"Smaller ship, everyone starts out with one when they graduate, anyway, I hadn't heard of docking computers yet aaaaand I may have wanted to show off..."


Uolon stretched and flexed, making sure his suit was fitting properly after his rest. The four hours he had slept he wrote off as being due to excitement of first contact and the list of surprises Commander Marcus had piled on everyone. Satisfied he was situated and checking his Omni-tool quickly, he walked the short distance to the bridge to see if anyone was up yet.

As the door opened, he heard, "-you're cargo or I'll take it from your wreck!"

"Did he know what you were hauling?"

"Not sure he cared, it was still worth something, but so I decide, if he wants some of the cargo, I'll deliver it to him. I don't usually but I was feeling up to it that day. I open the cargo hatch and get ready to jettison a one-ton container of it but just before I do, I boost forward and knock his shields down with my pulse lasers. They drop as I jettison the container. It slams into his canopy with enough force to break it and the container."

They both laugh before he continues, "Turns out, a viper can almost fit an entire ton of crap in it's cockpit."

The both roar with laughter, interrupted by Benezia as she notices Uolon.

"Oh, Uolon, you're up." She looks at the time on her Omni-tool and her eyes widen a bit.

"Oh, Marcus, it seems we've been at this for hours. We really should get some rest."

Marcus just nods and hits a few commands, "I'm ok for a while longer, I'll get some coffee when Odoln and Velictus get up."

He stands up, "Well, I have to say it's been fun swapping stories Benezia but you're right. We've got a few more hours and then we can get going on our way. We can make the final hundred and some jumps in the next twelve hours."

Benezia nodded, said good bye, and made her way past Uolon to her room. Marcus sat back down in his chair and more of the holographic screens popped up on the dash as the lights brightened.

"Commander Marcus, you seem to be doing well today." Uolon said as he made his way to a chair and watched Marcus work.

"Yeah, we don't' really have too much further to go, then it's the part I'm not sure how it will go so I'm trying to enjoy my time now."

"Of course, if your race has not had smooth first contacts before they can be nerve-wracking."

"Yep, and since our actual first contact was...not...good. It's refreshing that you all at least have a sense of humor."

He saw a smirk on Marcus' face, "And get into the same sort of stupid trouble us humans do, that helps."

Uolon just blinked as he tried to figure out what Marcus meant by that while Marcus flipped through screens and menus.

"Well, I'm not too tired, want to continue on the written language stuff?" Uolon nodded and brought up his Omni-tool.


Author's Note: And another one, Next chapter they make it to Palin's and there'll be some fuckery afoot!