Chapter Six

"Ummmph!!!"

John Sheridan didn't bother to excuse himself as he darted towards the men's room. He was quite certain that, after the last session of toilet hugging, his stomach would be empty by now.

Evidently, he was mistaken.

The experience of parting with his meal the same way it came in was as undignified as always, though only half as bad as the same experience floating around in 0G. Especially the clean-up part.

A few minutes later he managed to walk, or rather crawl, back to the bio-bed.

"So, professor, what went wrong?" He asked, somehow managing to mask his discomfort over the issue with a pained expression "I thought this was supposed to be a routine procedure."

The Denobulan geneticist responded in a bored manner, as if lecturing a particularly knowledge-resistant student. "It is a routine procedure, and quite frankly, there's no reason I can think of for your reaction."

The "procedure" was the common term for genetic augmentation. Although John was far too old for the full treat, certain "improvements" were still possible, and in the process of being implemented.

"However, you're not the only person to have this problem. In fact, each and every Alliance Human seems to have a form of a rejection to the augmentation process. We think this may have something to do with the fact that your branch of Humanity has produced telepaths, while the Imperial one didn't."

That much was true; telepathy didn't exist among the Imperial Humans, at least not the way it did in the Alliance. There were Imperial Humans with various levels of ESP, from basic empathy to a select few cases with abilities that dwarfed a Psi-Cop – but on the average, measurable ESP manifested itself in about one Human per billion. In other words, among the Imperials ESP was nothing more then a fluke, be it pure chance or simple statistics, something that just happened from time to time. Nothing on the scale in which telepathy was prevalent among the Alliance Humans.

Whatever phenomenon was responsible for this, Empire's best scientists were working around the clock on an explanation. Which led to another, somewhat worrying issue – day by day, the number of doctors around Sheridan and others decreased, and the number of professors increased. Geneticists, all of them, were working either on his tissue samples or those from another of the three dozen or so other Alliance Humans from the first "batch" as they called it.

The Denobulan continued. "Well, we're done for now. With my brilliant self working on your case it's no surprise that your condition is now as it should be. You won't be vomiting as much as you did, and should get over this particular issue within the next two days. In about a week from now you should feel the first improvements. Your eyesight and hearing will improve, along with your remaining senses. Just as your reflexes, hand-eye coordination, strength, IQ and memory will. You will also regenerate faster and be more resistant to most forms of diseases. Plus you'll get an extra two decades to your lifespan. Report to the gym for a tailored work-out program tomorrow to help you adjust. And I still wish to see you every 12 hours for a checkup for the next two weeks. Now, off with you."

With that the Denobulan turned and left, apparently to take care of the next case, that of Jeffrey Sinclair.

The alien was as arrogant as he was efficient. When the ordeal had first begun, Sheridan was seriously contemplating blowing his brains out, and had had to be restrained to keep him from biting his tongue off or clawing his eyes out – among other things. He hadn't been able to keep his food down for more then ten minutes, more often then not he was vomiting and pissing blood, and just about every cell of his body seemed intent on burning, itching and generally hurting in a myriad of other ways all at once. He had lost thirty pounds, about half of his hair, and from the way his gums felt he was probably due for some quality time in a dentist's chair

One agonizing week later however, life seemed worth living again, and he'd been assured he'd fully recover in a month or so.

"Thanks for saving my hide, professor."

The Denobulan didn't respond, seemingly too immersed in his work to notice.

Sheridan straightened the jacket of his uniform for the last time, looking at his reflection in the large mirror in front of him. He looked like shit. His face was gaunt, his hair was mostly missing, and come to think of it, he felt like shit too. Well, not as much as a few days before, but hopefully in a few days he'd be better.

So here he was, in his quarters aboard the Starbase, admiring himself in his new uniform. He hadn't had the opportunity to try it on before. After he'd accepted the Imperial "offer" of "joining" their ranks, which in clear text meant being pressed into service while being allowed to keep his rank and command, he went for the "procedure" and got hospitalized shortly after, before the resident tailor managed to do his work.

He briefly wondered about the quality of the fabric. Whatever the material was, it felt very nice and smooth, way better then the itchy stuff that EarthForce issued. And the rank insignia were made of solid gold – clearly no cheap stuff here. Black boots, black pants, black turtleneck undershirt, an equally black belt with the buckle sporting the Imperial Fleet symbol, and finally a crimson duty jacket completed the look.

The whole outfit was elegant, even a little bit intimidating – probably the whole point of it.

The alarm beeped, reminding him that in ten minutes he was supposed to talk to his new boss.

By the time he reached the office of admiral Travis Mayweather, others were already assembled - head of attached GROPOS, Major Ari Ben Zayn, Captain Lochley, her first officer, a commander Ellis Pierce, plus fighter squadron leaders from both battle cruisers.

From the Imperial side, other then the admiral himself, his female aide, another Fleet officer in form of an Andorian, a commodore no less, a vampirish-looking alien, a Reman if he recalled correctly, sporting a Special Operations Command uniform and the distinctions of a major, and two Betazoids, judging by their eyes, from Section 31if he read their distinctions right.

"Ah, captain Sheridan, good to see you among the living again," greeted Mayweather. "We're here for a preliminary discussion of our strategy regarding the Alliance Sector. So, let's get on with it."

"Captain Sheridan, for the third, and the last time, Doctor Franklin is withholding vital information about the Minbari, and thus being questioned by Section 31. They will do their best not to damage him permanently, since he might yet be of use. Once the questioning is over, Doctor Franklin will be returned to you – and not a second before. This issue is hereby concluded. And I strongly suggest you do not seek to test my patience any further, since you are in no position to do so, and you are rapidly depleting what good will we have been willing... "

Sheridan inwardly sighed. Two day ago Doctor Stephen Franklin had been hauled away by Section 31 for "questioning". And that was the last time he was seen or heard from. Yet there was nothing that could be done about the issue, and Sheridan persisted on the issue more as a matter of principle then personal convictions, as he didn't exactly agreed with Franklin's refusal to share his knowledge of Minbari biology. Yet, Franklin was still a citizen of the Earth Alliance, still his subordinate and thus, still his responsibility. And that responsibility had been dragged away from him, and the Imperials only bothered to inform him about the issue post factum.

And so, as much as he disliked the idea, he mentally tagged the matter as a "lost cause" and went on to the next subject.

"I understand, sir, and will not bother you again. Is there any news yet from the scouting fleet?"

"Well it's only been two weeks since they left," Mayweather answered, his tone changing instantly to a more peaceful and conversational one. "Counting one week for the hyper-transit, about five days at warp to Sol plus the same thing back, assuming they bring representatives of your government, we won't hear from them for about another week and a half."

"Well I'm sure the Alliance will appreciate your actions and intentions for what they are," Elizabeth Lochley added from her position at her ex-husband's side.

Sheridan blanched at the double meaning of his ex-wife's statement. She was always a little bit too straightforward for her own sake.

But she had a point there – EarthForce vessels and personnel had been de facto pressed into Imperial service. Not that in a reversed situation the Alliance would have acted any differently. And true, they were treated as equals, but even as equals they were still only subordinates, with no effective say in their own affairs.

The Empire hadn't bothered to consult any of EarthForce senior officers when they decided to un-thaw the colonists that were supposed to join the Ark colony, and then to integrate them into their society. Technically, those colonists would be far better off in Imperial space, but still...

They did ask a few times for technical advice on minor issues when they began refitting the former EarthForce vessels with their technology – but they did not bother to ask about permission.

They also didn't give a shit about the rules that separated the normal population from the telepaths, and simply turned the teeps loose. Given the choice, the bulk of the teeps in question had happily ditched their Omega badges and migrated to Betazed. The three senior PsiCorps members who used to be in charge of the group, made the mistake of protesting against such blatant disregard of Alliance laws, and were yet to be heard from again. Not that Sheridan was all too fond of the PsiCorps, but still, he didn't like the pattern…

The Empire had also taken their hyperspace technology, and was on its' way to a better understanding of it then anyone else in the Known Space. They were already learning to navigate without the beacon network, even if the process still required detailed maps of normal space. But should they continue to advance at the current pace... Even now they had technologies not even the dreaded Minbari could hope to match.

The whole situation was delicate to the extreme – the Empire was under no legal obligation to help the Alliance, and the way things were it also held all the cards. So it was their good will alone – or more actually, their will to expand into the Alliance Sector, that motivated them to even bother.

And another unsettling observation he and the others had made was that each time the Imperials spoke about the Alliance Earth, they spoke in terms of a province, not an equal partner. About incorporation, and not alliance. There was an extremely worrying pattern to the whole thing.

Mayweather simply smirked, and then responded in kind. "Though we'll cross that bridge once we get to it. I'm sure that with a proper grip on reality, your people will know what's good for them. Even if we might know better about what's good for you."

"And just what is this supposed to mean? You always said we would be treated as equals." Elizabeth was barely containing her outrage.

"And you will be, your citizens that is. As for your government..." Mayweather produced a most unpleasant smile. "I'm sure some of them will be in possession of a properly functioning self-preservation instinct, and will cooperate. Which in turn should be in your Alliance's best interest. In fact, us taking over might be the very best thing that happened to your people ever since sliced bread, considering the whole mess you people brought yourselves into." Sarcasm was dipping from Mayweather's every word.

"Well we manage our own affairs quite well, and I resent your implication," Sheridan spat.

"Then the whole Minbari War thing is just a... silly rumor...?"

All former EarthForce officers present remained silent at that.

"Tell me, Captain Sheridan, why do you think that General Lefcourt chose captain Jankowski for that mission? That's bordering terminal stupidity on the general's part. After all, per your own words, Jankowski was a "loose cannon", ill suited for such a delicate assignment. So, why him?" Mayweather's smirk turned into something... contemptuous. And amused. As if there was something only he knew.

Sheridan fumed initially at the insult to his former superior, but managed to calm down and respond. "I've been asking myself the same question. Hell, I think everyone in EarthForce has."

"And...?"

"I've got no idea. Everybody knew he didn't handle first contact situations very well, so yes, he shouldn't have been chosen for that one."

"Well, think about it Captain. Your former superior sends someone who's pretty much guaranteed to screw up. So why? Why him? Unless of course..."

"Are you suggesting that he was supposed to screw up? But that's absurd!"

"From your current perspective, yes. And I do emphasize the "current" part. But back then, before the war started, your people had a somewhat different view. However, you don't need to take my word for it. Here's our new resident head expert on Earth Alliance Internal Scheming and Machinations." He tried not to sound too amused. "Alice?" Mayweather turned to the woman standing in front of the large window.

This time Sheridan somehow managed not to wince at the "woman" standing left to him – another most unusual thing to get used to. And not a small one either...

Sheridan sighed inwardly. The first time he'd seen "her", he'd thought she was another one of those who make their careers with their... "good looks", most probably the admiral's personal plaything. The fact that "she" was in fact an android and the station's resident AI had come as a rude awakening.

Apparently a little over a decade ago the Imperials had stumbled upon a planetary civilization made up entirely of very advanced androids. Initially the androids seemed quite peaceful and eager to offer their technology and various services to the Empire. Realizing the value of the offer, the Empress accepted and ordered the planet secured. Shortly after that, for reasons unknown the androids turned on the Imperial personnel, attempting to take over the ships defending the planet. Early on they were somewhat successful, securing several ships and neutralizing Imperial personnel planet-side, but they had failed to prevent a distress call from being sent out.

When Imperial reinforcements arrived the tables were turned. Over the next few days the Terrans defeated the android-controlled ships and completely subdued all resistance. Their only failure was, that despite orders to the contrary, the bulk of the planetary industrial infrastructure had been destroyed in the process, as on quite a few occasions the Imperials went a little bit... overenthusiastic with tactical fire support in the form of orbital bombardment.

Executing the admiral in charge of the operation for incompetence didn't change the fact that the Empire was now forced to start its android development programme almost from scratch. However, what little could be salvaged from the debacle had helped immensely, pushing the Imperial research into robotics at the very least decades, if not centuries, ahead.

Robots, mainly simple automatons, were pretty much everywhere – not sophisticated enough to develop self-awareness, and built on purpose so, they did everything from cleaning the streets, mining and resource processing to starship assembly in almost completely automated shipyards. And though the positronic matrix technology still eluded the Empire's grasp, they had managed to greatly improve their current cutting edge multitronic computers.

As some engineer had once explained to Sheridan, multitronic computers were as superior to the duotronic ones as the duotronics were to conventional optronic systems – a form of which the Earth Alliance used. A similar pattern marked the difference between phasers and lasers, as phasers were to lasers what a laser cannon was to a common flashlight. Or what a warp drive was to an ion engine.

While the first multitronic computer, the M-5, was the size of a large desk and sported a very rudimentary AI, the latest M-7 type was about the size of a human brain. Bulh of previous generation M-6 computers were serving as mainframes in Starbases and other sufficiently large and important facilities, though some of them ended up on permanent assignment to S31 facilities and installations.

In order to avoid a possible AI revolt, the Empress had decided to grant them equal rights from the beginning, and so each and every of the fully sentient AIs was assigned an android body of their own choosing. 'Her', as with all the AIs, were patterned after the mind of the Empress, which had been used as a template.

Though they were free to choose any line of work they pleased, most of them worked with tasks they were best suited for, managing vast amounts of information. This meant either crunching numbers for R&D, or micro-managing Starbases and shipyards, where they took care of all the tiresome stuff, like making sure that every subsystem got on time it's share of care by one of the countless thousands of maintenance drones, all of which had to be kept in working condition and supplied with all the required spare parts. This went both for the facilities and for the drones themselves.

It was the same thing was with the almost fully automated shipyards, with only a few people per dry-dock, the bulk of the work was done by drones - and every assembly drone was expected to install the right piece of hardware at the right time, in the right place.

While many people were highly skeptical in the beginning, the skyrocketing efficiency curves had proven the usefulness of the concept, greatly reducing the extent of required manpower, and allowing the Empire to focus on a multitude of projects that under other circumstances simply wouldn't have been possible due to personnel shortages.

The only thing that prevented mass creation of AIs was their price tag. The M-7 multitronic computer matrix alone costed a not-so-small fortune, and android bodies, indistinguishable from human originals, weren't cheap either. Plus the sentient AI itself wasn't just a piece of software that could be copied at will; the process of creating one was slow and difficult, so that as of now there was only about a hundred of them in existence, each "set" worth about as much as a brand new heavy cruiser.

Oblivious to Sheridan's inner musings, Alice responded: "I'm sure you can recognize the person on the projection..." - Though he didn't see her do anything, a holographic projection shimmered into existence, and Sheridan reasoned she must have had used her connection to the Starbase mainframe to control the projector.

A middle-aged man was seated comfortably on a cozy leather sofa, with what looked to be a glass of whisky in one hand, a cigar in the other, and spoke as if discussing the weather forecast.

"Ah yes, the first contact affair."

Sheridan did in fact recognize the person; it was none other then William Edgars of Edgars Industries. He had totally forgotten about the corporate mogul being shipped along.

"You see, about a year or so before the actual outbreak of the war, EarthForce had found itself in a most... precarious situation. It had been over ten years, twelve actually, since the end of the Dilgar War. The Earth Alliance took advantage of it's leading role in the war, and the resulting good will of surrounding worlds, to expand it's sphere of influence. In both political and territorial terms that is. Trade deals and mutual defense treaties were brokered with the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. Most of the races had been forthcoming to Earth's advances, though a few were hostile. Others, like the Minbari, were a mystery. But the main point was that the momentum of Earth's expansion had come to a natural end. We'd expanded as far as we safely and effectively could, without either expanding, or overtaxing the fleet and risking our far-flung colonies and outposts. The League was an ally, the Centauri friendly, the Narns not an issue. With no credible threats around, there was simply no justification for the current level of military spending. The Senate was pushing for budget cuts, with various Senators all having wonderful ideas on what to do with the saved money. A lot of that was to go into infrastructural development on our new holdings, so the megacorporations outside of the military-industrial complex were all for it."

"And as you can guess, the ones in the military-industrial complex didn't like it. Not a bit. They did manage to stall the process for a while of course, with all the money and connections they had, but with the end of our territorial expansion their time had run out. While we were expanding, we naturally had to secure our new-found possessions, but without that... The Senate was about to reform EarthForce, shifting its focus from a war-fighting to a peace-keeping one. Both the Army and the Fleet were to be significantly reduced, in terms of personnel and capacity. Well, gutted would be a better term - enough to secure our borders and installations, and just in case something smelly hitting the fan, holding an "adequate" reserve of unspecified size, but nothing more."

"The Fleet," Edgers continued, "would see it's dreadnaught component "adjusted" and "optimized" - several squadrons of the newest ships would be kept in service, as command vessels and visible deterrents, but the rest would be mothballed, with the oldest units scrapped. The Hyperion-class heavy cruisers were to become the predominant type in service. It was argued, and I must admit rightly so, that dreadnaughts were too slow and too expensive for the mundane tasks of patrolling our borders and keeping the trade routes safe, and sending them against Raiders was an overly expensive overkill. So we'd keep the best and newest units in service, station them around Earth and some of out key systems and installations, and retire the rest – about two-thirds of them. But you must see that the heavy cruisers came from a competing corporation, so the one that made the dreadnaughts was facing some very bleak times. You could say this is what you get when you get stingy with money and don't donate campaign funds to all the key players." Edgars chuckled at his small joke.

"They did come up with the Nova-X subtype, the one with the rotating section, but there was no way the Senate would fund a fleet-wide replacement. They got enough for a few prototypes, but that would be it for a very long while.

The cuts were all across the board. And this meant per fiscal year billions less would be spent on weapons, servicing, upgrades, spare parts, fuel, food and so on".

"And of course, on medical supplies – or am I mistaken, Mr. Edgars?" A voice in the background asked.

"No, no, you are entirely correct. But you see, my corporation could always sell on the civilian market; I don't deny it. EarthForce was a good, steady customer, and we made good money back then. But whereas I could shift to civilian or even foreign markets, the arms industry could not. They couldn't offer tanks or dreadnaughts to civilians, and they couldn't export them either. A lot of very influential people were very, very unhappy over it. No government contracts meant no easy money for the politicians accustomed to them, and the next elections were only a year away. And then there was the General Staff to consider – the military never likes having it's toys taken away. So when you add two and two..."

"I think I'm beginning to see where this is heading..." - the voice from before stated.

"Well I'm sure you do..." - Mr. Edgars seemed to enjoy the cigar - "... so you see, when you add all those unhappy people together, what you get is Captain Jankowski. They knew the guy had a few loose screws, but they didn't care. After all, we just wasted the Dilgar – something the League could never hope to do, and that the Centauri didn't even dare to try. We were the meanest guy around, one nobody dared to cross. So since we handled the Dilgar, we thought we could naturally handle the Minbari."

"Weren't your people even a bit concerned about messing with an unknown factor?"

"Some were, but clearly not enough. They thought that the Minbari were pretty much like the Centauri, a declining power, and that their self-imposed isolation was a result of that decline, a sign of weakness. That they simply lacked the will and the capacity for any sort of significant involvement into affairs outside of their borders. A mix of Centauri and Yolu mindset, if you please. What we didn't expect was that the Minbari simply didn't give a shit about what was going on out there, as long as they weren't bothered with it."

"So why Jankowski, what was he supposed to do?"

"In short, bring news of a 'new, significant and credible threat to the security of the Alliance,' or something like that. I don't know all the details, but apparently it was that our people would not object to a small "incident". Something to show the Minbari that Earth is best not messed with. And on our part, require an "alert stature", along with a "careful reconsideration of our defense policies".

"In other words, even if the good old days of war-time levels of military spending would not return, the "threat" the Minbari posed, as in this light was the situation to be presented to the public, would keep the money flowing. And get some extra funds for R&D. So the generals would keep more of their old toys, get some new ones and be happy. The executives would get their contracts, and they and the shareholders would be happy. The politicians involved would get enough money to carry the next elections, stay in power and be happy as well. A win-win situation for everybody."

"Only that it didn't work out as expected."

"Well, who could have thought that the very head of the Minbari government would see fit to grace some obscure border outpost with his presence..." - Edgars snorted.

The projection froze at that.

"So, dear captains... Any comments on that?" Mayweather's amused satisfaction was impossible to conceal. "As you see, your own people engineered the conflict. Pity they miscalculated so badly..."

"I can hardly believe this... this... this in an outrage. That man is..." Sheridan was visibly pissed.

"He's selling you out. Or rather, selling himself to us. Observe..." Mayweather nodded at the android woman, who in turn produced another recording.

"So Mister Edgars, what exactly brings you here?" Edgars' cigar wasn't lit yet, so this had to be early in the conversation.

"I wish to make a deal with you, as simple as that," Edgers replied.

"You mean "us" as in the Empire, or "us" as in the Section 31 ?"

"Isn't that the same?"

"I can well imagine the sort of advantage our "friendship" would give you. But what can you offer us in return, mister Edgars?"

"Myself of course."

"Please, elaborate. And do not attempt to deceive us – my Betazoid colleague here could teach your PsiCops a few tricks, so rest assured nothing short of absolute honesty will do. "

"Well then, I don't like being scanned, but as they say: When in Rome…, if you pardon the pun... I offer you my knowledge of Alliance's inner workings, experience in back-room deals and access to the highest ranks of power. My company is among the biggest megacorporations on Mars, and one of EarthForce's key suppliers. I have connections among the key power brokers back home – the military, the Senate, the media - you name it. I know a lot of dirty secrets, and I also have my own senator-" He didn't finish as the male voice from before interrupted him.

"Your "own" senator?"

"Yes, I bought senator Claxby's re-election. Several other senators are also deeply in my debt. You see, technically, the Alliance is a democracy. But the truth is that we, the megacorporations, call the shots. All the shots – discretely of course, behind the curtains. Have been doing so for decades. People are allowed to vote because this lets them think their voice matters and keeps them from questioning the status quo."

"But it doesn't, I take it?"

"Of course not. Do you know how much a successful senatorial campaign costs? You needn't even bother without at least 80 million credits. A hundred would be better, and I spent 120 on my man. Only we can supply this sort of money – discretely of course, via our various subsidiaries."

"And your "free and independent" media just happen to simply ignore this? Whatever happened to investigative journalism?" The voice asked. Edgers smiled at the question.

"We are the media – who do you think owns them? All the big and important ones at least. The ones that tell the dumb masses what to think, what to buy, and whom to vote for. This is part of what I have to offer you. Once you go public, I'll make sure you get good press on ISN and a number of smaller agencies. I'll also help you establish yourselves on Mars; I pull a lot of strings there. You will also be able to use my connections with EarthForce and EarthDome, to help make things go... smoothly."

"Assuming we're interested, what would you expect in return? And why this sudden... shift of loyalty? Your people could see this as treason, so you're playing a dangerous game here, Mister Edgars. So, what's in it for you?"

"Captain Dzierzynski, I didn't become a billionaire by being stupid. Nor by letting golden opportunities pass me by. My company deals mainly in pharmaceuticals, and I have seen first hand the stuff you people have here. And I don't mean just the pharmaceuticals, but pretty much everything. In my professional opinion, whoever does not come to some sort of an agreement with you, will be out of business within a year from your arrival. I simply wish to throw my lot in with the future rulers."

"The future rulers?"

"Come on, don't insult my intellect. You wanted the truth, so let's have it. You're not going to help us against the Minbari out of brotherly love for your fellow men. No matter how exactly you pull it off, you're going to end up dominating the Earth Alliance, and the entire sector afterwards. You and I both know that. And both you and I know that nobody back home can stand up to you – not even the Minbari. I do happen to realize the implications of your warp technology, and the inevitable confrontation between you and them can end in only one way. Heck, you could probably warp straight to their homeworld and blast it to kingdom come before any of them could even blink. I've studied every bit of available information on you conduct regarding other governments. You're an empire in every sense of the word. This, aside of outright conquest, means expansion, domination, and incorporation – your history allows no other conclusion."

Edgars paused to light the cigar. "But don't take me for a selfish turncoat. I am a patriot, though a rather pragmatic one. Under the circumstances we've found ourselves in, I truly do believe that joining up with you is in the best interest of the Alliance; quite possibly the only way to survive the current madness. So with this logical conclusion, I simply wish to bow down to the inevitable, and help pave the way to a better future. For all of us."

"Hmm, you seem to be telling the truth. You have presented your reasons, but what of your price?"

"I think you'll find it quite reasonable. I would expect the following: First shot at some of you medical achievements, including, but not limited to, cloning of body parts, genetic augmentation, cellular regeneration, diagnostic equipment and a few others. Depending on bright ideas of EarthDome, we can make it a "joint-venture" type of an arrangement, or a favorable patent / license deal. I also wish exclusive rights to import and market whatever products you will not see fit to release the technologies for. Furthermore, I'd like a number of your people, knowledgeable in the relevant fields of expertise, to work for me as technical advisors. Rest assured their services will be well rewarded. We can hammer out the details later, but this pretty much sums it up."

"Well mister Edgars, you have made quite an offer. We'll forward it up the ladder."

With this, the projection was terminated.

Sheridan was, needless to say, speechless. Also at that moment he made a silent vow to have Mr. Egdars suffer a tragic "accident" should the corporate mogul ever set foot on his ship.

Judging by his ex-wife's expression, she'd probably just phasorise the old fart. Which didn't stop her from speaking out. "Admiral, judging by the first recording, did you made a deal with him?"

Mayweather simply smiled. "Well of course we did. The man is a gold mine of information. And knowledge is power, as you know. But enough of this. I assume both of you have taken time to properly familiarize yourselves with the modifications of you vessels. They are expected to become operational within the next twelve weeks. Any questions?"