Captain Siria Sh'shrohress leaned back in her chair on the bridge of the Galaxy-class starship, the Resolute. Years of hard work, years of climbing the ranks, three years of commanding a rundown Constitution-class that was so old that there was a very good chance that Captain Kirk had been considered for its first captain, and she finally had what she had been aiming for. Command of one of Starfleet's top of the line ships. And the first thing they had told her to do was to go off on a two-year-long deep space mission.

She could be forgiven for forgetting that large portions of the Galaxy-class were meant for exploration, the Dominion War had had that effect. Three years of brutal conflict, one where she had been forcing that old Constitution-class into battles that it had no right in taking part in, was enough to make you temporarily forget that the main purpose of Starfleet was exploration and diplomacy. Serving as the armed forces of the Federation was more something done in the time of emergencies. Only it seemed that the Federation had been going through a great deal of those in the past few years. Enough that peacetime felt a little alien to Siria.

It wasn't that she didn't appreciate not having to fight for her life, quite the opposite. But going from a battle every week or two to no contact with any established settlements or outposts for years? It was a jump that, in Siria's private opinion, was too big. A classic case of culture shock. And that was without bringing good old fashioned cabin fever into the equation. Being this far out from Federation space, and having seen nothing of true interest in the past few months, and the crew was getting rather antsy. She would've been joining them if setting a good example wasn't part of her job description.

Currently, they were at Warp 6, the Galaxy-class's standard cruising speed, heading from their most recently charted star system to the next one on the docket. The thing about space was that it was big. And no matter how many times you told that to someone, it just didn't quite sink in. At the lowest estimate, there were 100 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone, and with countless more planets orbiting those stars, possibly over a trillion in total. And even when you only spent a week doing surveys and collecting ore and plant samples, the latter being if the planet supported life, you were barely even chipping away at a massive iceberg of work. The list of systems they were expected to survey stretched on, and compared to the galaxy as a whole, it was barely a blip. There was a strong chance that even thousands upon thousands of years from now, Starfleet would still have barely scratched the surface about surveying the galaxy.

"Captain, we are on time to arrive at our destination," a stern, calculated voice said. "Dropping out of Warp in ten minutes, fifty-two seconds." Siria's eyes swiveled to look at Kedol, her science officer. Kedol was a Vulcan. Because of course he was. Vulcans could have a monopoly on science officer positions if they wanted to. Still, she kept her mouth over matters like this. That was one thing she had learned from her time in Starfleet, and thankfully one she had learned early on at her time at the academy. Most non-Andorian member species were a bit more sensitive than the average member of her kind, and opening her mouth too much could very easily lead to her getting in trouble. And not the kind of trouble that could be solved by punching her way out of it.

She sighed inwardly. Kedol was the only member of the crew that didn't seem to be going mad with boredom. The holodeck had a backlog three months long, with crewmembers fighting to get in with any slots available after. Away team mission volunteers were also sprouting up all over the place, even though there was no need to have half of the ship's engineers down on an M class planet. She hoped Kedol wouldn't mind sitting this one out then. As rigid as Vulcans could be when it came to controlling their emotions, they understood morale well enough if they were serving in Starfleet.

She leaned back in her chair. They would transfer from the second shift to third shift in a few hours, then she could head back to the sweet embrace of her bed while the night shift took over. The last planet had yielded the first bit of interesting results, in that there had been a hearty deposit of Dilithium. That had demanded hours of heavy study, followed up by her writing countless reports back to the Federation about the nature of the colony, complete with her being dragged into a painfully long mediation about which member species should have colonization rights to the planet. After all of that, she was an unhealthy level of exhausted and bored, and a good night's sleep was in order.

The seconds ticked by after Kedol's announcement and Siria shifted into an auto-pilot like mode that she had perfected through her years of service. Take in reports, issue orders, but not put in more than what was needed. The more she thought about it, the more she thought that a promotion to Commodore sounded quite appealing right now. At the very least, that would mean behind a desk and not running around in the great beyond for who knew how long. A frown crossed her face. Then again, that would mean giving up the captain's chair. Something that would wound her deeply. She was being overly hasty. Two years wasn't that long in the grand scheme of things, she would tough it out and then make her decisions.

"Coming out of warp, captain," her navigator, a human by the name of Vi Byrn announced. "Scanning area now. All planets accounted for, and-" Vi broke off. Her eyes widened as she read the feed in front of her. "Captain, identified vessels in this system! Hund-no, thousands!"

Siria's attitude did a 180. While before she had been struggling to stay awake, all of that was washed away in a millisecond. Adrenaline coursed through her veins, her antenna stiffened, and her jaw clenched. "On screen!" Her order was followed at once. Sure enough, a truly massive armada was present in the system, one that was larger than any armada that had ever been assembled by any species that Siria was aware of. Their sizes ranged from many tiny shuttles to giant behemoths of ships that resembled giant spheres where the rest of the angular ship almost seemed to be an afterthought. And they had just jumped into a system with these ships when the nearest reinforcements were several days away.

"All hands, yellow alert!" she ordered. The bridge, which had been slowly sinking into a sleepy doldrum all day, burst to life. Alarms began to blare as backs stiffened and hands flew across control panels. Within a matter of seconds, the shields of the Resolute had been raised, but Siaria privately wondered if it would do much good. With that many hulls, it wouldn't matter if they were all out of date shuttle crafts, they would be able to tear apart the Resolute with sheer numbers. "Mr. Kedol, prepare the first-contact package. Make it very clear to that armada that we have no quarrel with them, that we are representatives of Starfleet and the Federation on a peaceful expedition."

Kedol took half a second to react. If any other officer had reacted that way, she would've assumed they were taking the whole situation unreasonably well. But from Kedol, it was surprising. Unless Siaria was mistaken, he looked a little pale. Understandable, but still shocking to see from the normally stoic Vulcan. Apparently even they had their limits, and the only way this situation could've been more stressful was if they had dropped out of warp right in front of a Borg cube.

With a hundred and fifty different member species, friendly to semi-friendly ties with dozens of other species, and doing their best to play nice with Klingons, Romulans, Ferengi, and Cardasians, the Federation had become quite good at establishing contact with new races. The first contact package was the brainchild of hundreds of different diplomats, xenobiologists, linguists, and countless other specialists who worked directly from Federation HQ, and was considered important enough for semi-annual reviews and updates. As well as to make sure the announcement made before countless petabytes of non-classified data, translated into every known language, was made by the current Federation president. It was about to have its mettle tested.

Her tactical officer, a fellow Andorian named Aken Th'orhollek, was watching as his entire control panel was lighting up. "Captain, what looks like a patrol unit is breaking off from the main fleet, heading in our direction. Light to medium ships, nothing we couldn't take in a one on one fight, but there's around a dozen of them. What's more, it's hard to get a read with these designs, they don't match anything we've ever seen before, but it looks like several of their heavier ships in the main fleet are aiming their weapons in our direction."

"Are their weapons charging?" Siaria asked. She wanted so badly to bark out the words "red alert." But she held her tongue. If this armada was hostile, the best they could hope for in this situation was to warp out of the system and scramble back to Federation territory as fast as they could. A fight would come down to her seeing how many kills the Resolute could claim before it was destroyed. Enough good Federation personnel had died fighting the Dominion, she wasn't about to sacrifice more of them.

"It's hard to say, ma'am," Aken replied. "I'm not seeing any energy signatures that are typical with phasers, disruptors, or even polaron beam weapons, but that doesn't account for torpedos or anything we're not familiar with. There is something odd with their engines though, every single ship is giving off an energy signature from that point of origin." His eyes narrowed as he refocused on his controls. "It doesn't make any sense, the scanners can't make hide nor tail of it. It's utterly alien."

There wasn't a single thing about that report that Siaria liked. Unknown ships, unknown capabilities, and Siaria didn't even have the basic information needed to find out if they were on the wrong end of a crosshair. "Prepare an emergency warp jump," she said, steeling herself. "But do not execute until I give the order or they open fire on us, whichever comes first."

The viewscreen had been activated and she could see the patrol fleet stopping in front of the Resolute, some below, some above, but all of them facing her front. They weren't grouping up, that was a sign of being prepared for a fight. Still, no one had fired a shot yet. Seconds ticked by. First contact protocol was to deliver the first contact package and then give the recipients time to properly look through it. Mainly due in part to the fact that it connected the aliens to the Federation's universal translator.

Then, mercifully, a chime broke the silence. "Incoming transmission from the lead patrol ship," her communications officer said. Siaria could feel the tension on the bridge decrease, but only by a tiny amount. The aliens wanted to talk, it was progress.

"On screen." There was a nod and a press of a button. The viewscreen flickered to life, showing a view of a surprisingly rundown looking bridge. The lighting was low, and the hull had visible patches that Siaria associated with second or even third-hand starships. Several workstations were visible, but what was most noticeable was the filled chair that the screen was focusing on, most likely the commander.

The aliens were humanoid, but Siaria could not deter much more than that. All of them were wearing full-body suits made out of what appeared to be cloth. She couldn't even see their faces clearly, all of their heads were covered with one-way visors that were various shades of purple, featureless except for the pair of silver eyes that were vaguely visible in each one. They didn't appear to be for combat, and Siaria had a hunch that whatever function those suits provided, the aliens would die if they were taken off. It wasn't the most bizarre case of a species needing specialized equipment to survive. Not when one considered the Breen and Tholians. Perhaps the aliens needed a very specific level of air pressure?

The commander spoke with a noticeably male voice. "Unidentified vessel. You have entered the security perimeter of the Migrant Fleet. You claim to be-" he paused for a second, activating a strange device on his wrist. Holograms enveloped most of his arm, a display popping up for him to read off of. Through all the tension, Siaria felt a ping of curiosity. She wondered how that device compared to a tricorder. "A representative of a United Federation of Planets. You also claim that you bear us no ill will. Is this true?"

Siaria nodded as she rose to her fleet. "Indeed. I'm Captain Siria Sh'shrohress of the species Andorian, one of over a hundred and fifty members of the United Federation of Planets. We are a diplomatic and peaceful power, we only fight to defend ourselves and our allies. The Federation means you no harm and extends the hand of friendship to you. There is much that we can learn from each other."

The alien paused. Unless Siria was mistaken, his head was leaning back. She had a feeling that he had not been expecting this kind of greeting. Potentially, this could be a good sign. If he was given no reason to start a fight when he had been expecting a hostile outsider, talks could stabilize quite quickly. "I...I am still looking over the information that was sent to me," he said, touching the strange device on his arm again. This is all rather overwhelming."

"By all means, take a few minutes to read a bit further if you need to," Siria said. She couldn't blame him. The first contact package was designed so that a team of alien specialists could spend a week looking it over and still have plenty leftover. It contained nearly everything that anyone could ever want to know about the Federation. This alien wasn't even managing to scratch the surface here.

"All of this is quite fascinating," the alien said as he continued to read. "In more ways than one. I must admit, I am not used to seeing mixed races on a bridge, outside of independent vessels. The Council operates a joint defensive fleet, but even then they are crewed and commanded by the species that the vessel belongs to. This is unprecedented."

"I'm sorry, the Council?" For the first time since they had entered this system, Siria's concern and caution were overridden by curiosity.

"The dominant galactic power, a joint collective of nearly a dozen so races. We...my people used to be a member of the Council, but circumstances have led to us becoming independent." The alien sounded as if he was trying to suppress the bitterness in his voice. He was doing a very poor job of it. That was very interesting and spoke to potential fallout between these aliens and the Council. She did not press the issue, however. Being nosy at this early stage would be detrimental. "My apologies, I never introduced my species. We are the Quarian people. I am Captain Cel'Jenn vas Shupan"

Siaria nodded, already attempting to dissect the naming structure of Quarians despite only having a sample size of one. "A pleasure Captain. Before we continue, it might be for the best if you send us star charts depicting where the boundaries to your territory begin and end. Starfleet heavily focuses on exploration, but we had no intention of trespassing. I would prefer if we did not violate your sovereignty a second time."

There was an awkward pause, during which many of the Quarians on their bridge glanced awkwardly at their captain. "That will not be an issue," Cel'Jenn replied, his voice rather stiff. "The Quarian people hold no territory, outside of the Migrant Fleet. The 50,000 vessels that make it up are our homes, baring radical changes in the near future. Our homeworld is lost to us. We move throughout the galaxy, searching for supplies and new ships to add to the fleet. We also search for a new home." His fists clenched. "For the last 300 years, we have failed to find one."

Cel'Jenn wasn't even trying to hide his bitterness in his voice anymore. In fact, it had evolved into barely restrained fury. Normally Siaria would expect such actions to draw shock, considering a captain was supposed to set an example, but the Quarians she could see were looking at Cel'Jenn in sympathy. At least Siaria assumed it was sympathy, the full-body suits made reading the Quarians quite difficult.

Siaria weighed her options. Unless she was mistaken, she was treading upon very sensitive issues regarding the Quarian people. And yet, if she played her cards just right, she could solidify relationships with them and create a mutually beneficial relationship. But she would have to take calculated risks. "May I ask what the total population of the Quarian species is?"

Cel'Jenn blinked visibly through his helmet. "Seventeen-million. Unlikely to change anytime soon. We have limited space and as a result, strict reproduction laws."

Siaria's jaw almost dropped. Seventeen-million? The entire species? That sort of population figure was supposed to be reserved for a developing colony, not the collective representation of an entire race. "If I may, I would suggest that you apply for asylum within the Federation." As horrifying as the small number of Quarians was, it meant that accommodating them would be positively trivial. "We have a large number of planets that have yet to be colonized, and we are currently exploring uncharted space for more colonizable worlds. A single one could potentially house your entire species with ease."

Developing infrastructure to support 50,000 ships, a number that Siaria was having a hard time wrapping her head around, would be another issue. But Siaria had made an educated guess. Cel'Jenn's ship looked rather patchwork, and the captain had mentioned gathering ships to add to the Migrant Fleet's numbers. She doubted that they would be able to acquire top of the line ships, so logically they would prioritize quantity over quality. Many ships would not serve much purpose outside of providing homes to more Quarians, and if they were able to settle a planet, would not be needed anymore. If anything, it would likely be converted into a planetside shelter. Siaria hoped that was the case.

Cel'Jenn looked at her in surprise. Wherever he had expected this first contact to go, it wasn't here. "Your offer is appreciated," he said with uncertainty. "But I'm not certain that your Federation will be able to provide a planet that is able to accommodate us. You see, my people have very weak immune systems. Our home planet had very few viruses and pathogenic microbes on it, and evolution saw no need to grant us with robust immune systems. Being confined to sterile ship environments for three centuries has only exacerbated the issue."

He gestured to himself. "These suits we wear are the only things preventing us from dying a hundred-thousand different death every second. If you were to remove my helmet and cough on my face, the results would be fatal. So unless you have a planet that would be able to properly accommodate us, your offer would not be able to cure my species of its plight. Not that I want to appear ungrateful." There was sincerity in his voice, he almost sounded upset that offer hadn't panned out better. "But the only ways in which our predicament could be solved would be a planet with a thriving ecosystem but no pathogens or viruses, a miracle cure, or enough military forces to force the Geth off of Rannoch."

Starfleet medical technology was exceptional, but building up a worthwhile immune system from next to nothing? That was most likely beyond them. Depending on how weak Quarian immune systems were, it was possible that even the weakened versions of viruses used in vaccines could be fatal. And a disease-free planet was not a planet that the Federation had. While there were certainly planets where getting sick was a rarity, that was more due to easy access to medical technology and how immunities had been built up over generations. Luxuries that the Quarians didn't have.

Tabling the offer she had made, even if it hadn't worked, ideally the Quarians would remember that the offer had been made in good faith, she pounced on what Cel'Jenn had just said. "The Geth? Did they force you off of your homeworld? Should we be concerned about an attack by them? Are they aggressive?"

Cel'Jenn shook his head. "Are they aggressive? Yes, but I doubt you will have to worry about an attack. The Geth haven't left the Perseus Veil in centuries. Ancestors know what the little Bosh'tets are doing back there." The translator hadn't picked up that word. Siaria had a good feeling she had just learned a new cuss word. "It's the only thing that they've done ever since they developed sapience."

Siaria cocked her head. Cel'Jenn's wording was puzzling. He noticed. "The Geth aren't organics. They're synthetics that my people developed for general labor use. A.I. was and still is outlawed by Council law, but we got around it by making each Geth program too simplistic to be truly intelligent." There was a weary sigh. "But all of the Geth were connected on a single network. They stockpiled their intelligence and worked off of each other. They became smarter, sapient. They rebelled, slaughtered most of us, forced us to abandon everything except our ships." He leaned his head back. "And to top it all, we were removed from the Council for breaking the law on artificial intelligence. They were not interested in legal loopholes."

Siaria paused, not answering. The Federation's relationship with A.I. was a rather complicated one. The M-5 massacre and the tyranny of Landru were just a few examples of the Federation's bad run-ins with A.I.. However, despite this, the Soong android Data had been permitted to become a Starfleet officer and had eventually been officially granted the rights and freedoms of independent life. She made a mental note not to bring up the Soong androids if possible, the atrocities committed by Lore might sour relationships prematurely if the Quarians knew that his brother was still accepted by them.

One thing was for certain though, if there was a hostile race holding Rannoch, there was only so much the Federation could do. Much of the Federation and Starfleet's war willingness had been burned up fighting the Dominion, and an invasion against intelligent machines was simply not politically possible. Perhaps the Geth could be reached through diplomacy, 300 years was more than enough time to change a species, but that would take time. "I am sorry to hear the plight of your species and I apologize that we cannot lift your burden. The Federation, however, would still be interested in easing it however we can."

There was another pause before Cel'Jenn spoke. "I thank you. I will keep this in mind." He sounded very slow and uncertain as he spoke. There was more to this than he was letting on. "At the moment, all I ask is that you point us in the direction of any planets or asteroid fields where we would be able to mine Element Zero. Our stockpile could use replenishing."

Kedol raised his eyebrow. "Element Zero? As in an element that possesses an atomic number of zero? Would such a thing merely be nothing?"

Cel'Jenn turned to face Kedol. "No, it's a material that is created when stars enter a supernova state. It's a rare material that," he trailed off. "Oh Keelha, you don't know what it is. We couldn't detect any Mass Effect signatures on your vessel, but we thought it was simple interference. Do you mean to tell me that this Federation of yours has achieved faster than light travel without Element Zero? Without the Mass Relays?" Cel'Jenn was nothing short of shocked as he leaned forward in his chair. Siaria, on the other hand, was baffled.

"Yes," she said hesitantly. "We utilize the Warp drive. It generates a subspace bubble around the ship to distort the spacetime continuum in a way that enables us to travel faster than light without suffering from time dilation." She was confused, but once again curious. What did the Quarians use for FTL travel if they didn't use Warp?

A very strange noise came out of Cel'Jenn's mouth. "That theory was workable? Amazing. No one in the Council bothered to test it properly when we had Mass Effect and the Relays. We simply propel our ships faster than the speed of light."

Kedol interjected before Cel'Jenn could get another word out. Siaria supposed she really should've seen this coming when the subject turned to technical matters. "While simply having a ship that is capable of moving faster than light is theoretically possible, may I ask how you do so without the effects of time dilation making such an act impractical?" Kedol's eyes had a plain interest behind them. On most species, that look was a sign of a casual desire to ask a few questions. Over the years, Siaria had learned that this was the Vulcan equivalent of jumping up and down while squealing with joy.

"Elements Zero has a unique property in that it can change the mass of objects, either increasing or decreasing it," Cel'Jenn said, clearly taken aback by Kedol's interest in the mechanics of the topic. He should've been warned how Vulcans could get on this kind of topic, but there hadn't been an opening for her. "The number of applications we've utilized this for is beyond counting, but first and foremost is faster than light. A ship is not affected by time dilation if it has a mass of literally zero. And Mass Relays are giant structures that utilize the same concept to propel a ship hundreds or even thousands of light-years instantaneously."

Kedol's eyes widened. Not by much, it was the tiniest of shifts that you would need to be actively looking for in order to notice, but his eyes did widen. "Quite interesting," he said.

"I would be happy to send you more information on the matter, provided you are willing to do the same in regards to your Warp engine," Cel'Jenn said. Siaria nodded. This was one of the few things that the first contact package didn't cover. Outside of marking when certain species had developed Warp capabilities anyway. It had been assumed that whoever received the package would have developed Warp capabilities of their own. Anything else would've been a violation of the Prime Directive.

"I also think we should trade information on where the boundaries for Federation and Council space are. We'll also include borders for non-Federation powers, we've encountered quite a few in our time," Siaria offered. She could feel the first wave of diplomacy winding down. It was only to be expected, neither of them were experts of diplomacy and they had both ingested a large amount of information in a short time. Now was time to break off and prepare for the next, more in-depth, step.

"We appreciate the gesture," Cal'Jenn said. "You'll have to excuse me, however. The Admiralty Board is demanding an update on the current situation. I have a good deal to tell them."

"And I need to report back to Starfleet Command. I expect they'll be sending over a diplomatic team as fast as they can." She was already wondering how short her report would be at a minimum. After all, she was going to have to strike a balance between ensuring that the Federation had as much information as possible and ensuring that they received it sometime this week.

"Until then, the Migrant Fleet is scheduled to spend quite a few rotations in this system, we discovered quite a few ore deposits that we'll be taking advantage of," Cal'Jenn said. "Please, feel free to contact us if you have any more questions." His voice became stern for a moment. "However, I must ask that your ship remain stationary until I can receive confirmation from the Admiralty Board that you are not to be considered a threat. I apologize, but they are the authority on this subject."

That stirred something in Siaria. The instinct that she had developed in the Dominion War, of when to order a red alert and photon torpedos, growled in her gut. She suppressed it. Cal'Jenn was merely going up his chain of command, the same way she was about to. The Migrant Fleet was the entirety of the Quarian population, so it made sense that he was being cautious. She would've done the same if an unknown ship had appeared out of nowhere over Earth. Still. She didn't care for it. "I'll keep that in mind," she said cooly. "We're preparing to send the second data package now." As she spoke, she gestured to her communications officer, who began to make it so.

"As are we. Until next time Captain," Cal'Jenn said. With that, the viewscreen shifted back to the image of the patrol fleet.

Siaria looked at the chair to her left. Her second in command had been busy doing everything a good second in command should be doing, giving her instructions greater detail and handling the more minute details on running a bridge, but now she needed more direct input. "Number one, your thoughts?" Command Hannah Shepard met her gaze.

"Hard to say, Captain," she replied. "They seem sincere. And such a large fleet with so many non-combatants in it would be too much of a resource strain to be of any other use. They're a bit jumpy though. Understandable given their circumstances, there's a good chance they prioritize survival above everything else. But we still don't know a lot about them, including how aggressive they can be when they feel threatened. They were happy when we offered them an olive branch, but what if they don't take it kindly when there's a planet they want access to for resources and we don't permit it?"

A guilty look flitted across Shepard's face. "I don't mean to be cruel, these people seem like they've had a cruel lot in life. But cruel lives can produce people who are more than willing to be cruel to survive. We don't know if that applies to the Quarians. My advice, Captain? Advise Starfleet to be cautious. To move ships into nearby systems, not aggressively, but so that if it comes to a fight, we can mobilize more quickly."

Siaria nodded. "I agree." She got to her feet. "When the package from the Quarian ship comes through, I'll take it in my ready room. You have the bridge number one. Contact me the exact second there's a development." Shepard nodded as Siaria turned and exited the bridge. She couldn't help but sourly feel that a mostly positive and cordial first contact had taken on a tinge of hostility towards the end. Hostility out of a place of reasonable caution, but hostility nonetheless.

She quickly made her way to her ready room, just in time for a loud chime to announce the arrival of the promised data. She picked up the datapad that was lying on her desk, which was now displaying dozens of new files. Opening the first one, she was presented with a map of the Milky Way Galaxy, one filled with markers that she didn't recognize. She was surprised to see that the Council mostly resided in the Alpha Quadrant, stretching upward to the point where some of it poked into the Gamma Quadrant. Those weren't the only markers though, large portions of the far eastern Beta and Delta Quadrants were labeled as the "Attican Traverse" while the far north of the Delta and Gamma Quadrants were labeled "Terminus Systems."

As she accessed the data more deeply, a more complete picture was presented to her. While the Council and species related to it seemed to have spread out all over the galaxy, they had done so in a limited way. Tiny blue blips on the map were marked "Mass Relay" with yellow lines connecting them. All major settlements were clustered around these markers, with population density dropping off radically the farther away one moved from them. This meant that while the Council and species related to them were all over the place, they were not a galaxy-spanning empire, but more an archipelago scattered throughout the quadrants. These Mass Relays were apparently the key to such a civilization. It almost seemed wondrous to Siaria if it was true. Instantaneous travel over thousands of light-years. She had no idea how they had achieved it.

Still, this could prove to be complicated. She had no idea how the Romulans and Klingons would react to this traverse that was to their east, how the Cardassians would react to the Council to their west, or how far north the Council had to go before they hit Dominion territory. This was without taking the Delta Quadrant into consideration, the home of the Borg. Most of Starfleet's information on that remote quadrant was the reports they had started receiving from Voyager, having recently reestablished contact with the long lost Intrepid-class. Nothing there painted a good picture. Maybe these Terminus Systems were pockets of safe havens. She wasn't sure.

All she knew was that politics in an already complicated galaxy had become even more tangled and twisted. She only hoped that the Quarians and the Council would be reliable allies and not more foes that they would have to juggle. It would be nice to make some new friends after the long and bloody Dominion War. Siaria could only hope.

XXXXX

Author's Note: I had fun writing this one, it put me in a nostalgic Star Trek mood. I know Voyager isn't the most well liked (and the more I read about it the more I learn people who don't like it have a lot of good reasons. They were going to make Janeway a lesbian but chickened out? Oh come on!) but it was the first Trek I watched consistently, so I have a soft spot for it (then again I feel the same way about Enterprise, and I just permanently ostracized myself right there. In my defense I only caught the later seasons). There's no getting around that I like TNG and DS9 more though. I decided that a Mass Effect first contact that ends with war AND with best friends forever have both been done to death, by me included, so I decided to take a middle route. One that's mostly cordial, but a bit of tension leaks in towards the end. The Quarians don't have much left, so it makes sense that they'd be viciously protective of every last scrap they've managed to cling onto, even when someone is being outwardly friendly. Losing a single ship is a massive blow to them.

I would like to thank my Patrons, SuperFeatherYoshi, xXNanamiXx, RaptorusMaximus, Davis Swinney, Mackenzie Buckle, Ryan Van Schaack, ChaosSpartan575, and LordofNaught for their amazing support.