Vyoudr Nebula

Apav III

229 Cycles Post Exile (245 T-Years)

Feda'Gazu vas Imazado stood on a high outcropping, staring up at the rather diffuse purple sky, filled with shifting cloud cover with the single natural satellite of this planet looming in front of a curtain of stars. It was amazing to think that it was technically mid-day based on the position of the sun and yet to his eyes it barely qualified as twilight. He sighed into his environ suit helmet. It was another forlorn hope. The planet had a suitable atmosphere, but conditions beyond that were hardly what any sentient would call ideal.

He clenched his fist and stared at the damning readings of the holo Omni-tool surrounding his left forearm; -120 Otos temperature, 1.4 surface gravities, 1.34 Quarian atmospheres. There was no way Captain Ysin'Mal would be happy with this find. Apav III had initially attracted his attention because of the single moon that orbited it and long range spectrography had indicated the presence of oxygen. Now it was a wasted trip in every sense of the word.

Curse the Universe! Curse the blasted Geth! And Curse the bloody idiots who thought building them was a good idea!

The crunch of gravel underfoot broke him out of his brooding anger. The elaborate green and grey patterned environsuit of his second in command and pilot, Hilo'Jaa vas Imazado approached him.

"Captain, scans have found some deposits of platinum in that mountain range..."

"Worth sending a mining ship from the flotilla?" Feda interrupted sourly.

"It's a single vein; I estimate it'll yield about fifty thousand units with about three months of exploitation."

"That's at least something I can show for our journey, security for any mining ship will need to be quite high though, we're on the crossroads between the Terminus and Citadel space here. Speaking of which, how's the Flotilla's newest Marine doing?"

Hilo suppressed a snicker. "Let's just say he's...enthusiastic."

"Kelaah, can't he give it a rest," Feda sighed and wondered what had possessed Captain Ysin to assign a Marine fresh off basic training to his scout ship. His crew was more than experienced enough to handle any situation that could possibly present itself and while another gun was eminently welcome in any encounter with the numerous dangers of the Galaxy, Feda was sure that the enthusiastic rookie had been foisted on him just get him out of Ysin's midst.

The twelve rotation journey from the Mass Relay to the Apav system had thoroughly irritated the seven strong crew of the Cyniad, for the newest member of their crew was trying to be extremely...professional and disciplined. Those were the only words Feda could ascribe to it.

Kal'Reegar vas Imazado would wake up an hour before the rest of the ship's sleep cycle. He would do his daily physical training as if he had never left Basic, his combat rated environ suit made an infernal racket throughout the small scout ship's decks, enough to wake everyone who was on a sleep rotation. He would never part with his rifle; it was always in its compact form on his back. He had constantly pestered Feda for the crew to practice anti-boarding drills every day. There was also the occasion when he had taken to following Feda around like a bodyguard, and when he had been ordered to desist, he had simply turned his attentions to the various airlocks of the ship and began to fashion all a manner of rather ingenious traps for any potential hostile boarder to run into; from cobbled together devices that would explode with reactor plasma, to even electrifying the decking. Then when that was done, he had taken to walk random patrols throughout the ship.

Never mind the fact that they would certainly have ample warning of any pirate ship that attempted to attack them and would be able to arm themselves from the ship armoury in time to fend them off.

The truth was there wasn't much for a Marine to do on the Cyniad. So when they had finally landed upon Apav III, Kal immediately taken the opportunity to set up some targets and practice his gunnery while the rest of the crew did their jobs in the survey.

"Where is he now?"

"He's with Anwa in the mountain range. She requested an extra pair of arms to lug some ore samples into the hovercraft."

"Well, at least he can do some of the heavy lifting. How much is she going to be bringing back?"

"As much as the hovercraft can carry."

"Ah, so she's got another project dreamed up," Feda laughed. Anwa was the Cyniad's Chief Machinist and primarily responsible for keeping the thing spaceworthy, it was a recently retired twenty year old Batarian scout ship and was very temperamental. Only the skill and engineering instincts of a Quarian could keep the ship running. To that end, Anwa was always tinkering with creative engineering ideas and efficiency increases that would keep the ship ticking well past its retirement date.

Feda felt his omni-tool automatically switch itself on and appear around his arm. He reflexively lifted it up to see why...but knew immediately that something had gone wrong, somewhere. Only emergency signals and broadcasts to his suit could cause it to behave like this.

"This is Anwa!" The urgency in the Machinist's voice and the fact that she was out breath sent shivers up his back. "We've got...a problem...up here."

Fada tapped on the omnitool. "Feda here, what's happening?"

"Kal'Reegar...he's trapped."

"Trapped?"

"There's no time to go into details, Captain, except that we were in a cave trying to get direct access to the platinum vein...there was some native creature that ambushed us...we had to shoot an explosive round off to kill it..."

"And it caused the tunnel to collapse?"

"Yes, Captain...we need to get him out...sir, Kal stayed behind to buy me time to get out..."

"Are you still in contact with him?"

"According to his hardsuit computer he's unconscious but still alive."

"Get the hovercraft back to our position, as fast as you can."

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The first thing that penetrated his awareness was the pain that seemingly spiked itself through his brain. He groaned and fought through it to surface into consciousness. And promptly wished he hadn't. Just beyond the transparent material of the faceplate of his suit was what appeared to be a solid wall of rock, which glowed dimly in the illumination from his helmet.

He also could now feel that the pain was coming from his left leg. He dared to move his head slightly to the left, and in his peripheral vision only saw yet more rock, but it allowed him to see the jagged edge of another large rock that had landed just to his left, and had stopped him from being crushed like a tava fruit under a cook's mallet.

His body was near perfectly wedged in a hollow that had been formed. Near perfectly, because his left leg was trapped under another boulder.

Kal had to forcefully focus his mind onto other things, like mentally revising the startup procedures for a fusion torch drive or the steps to fieldstrip his accelerator rifle, anything to keep his mind away from the sheer numbing terror that was threatening to overwhelm him at being buried alive.

"Kal!"

He would've jumped into air from fright if he hadn't been in this position, as it was, he felt as if someone had just plugged a fusion core into his heart.

"Bosh!" He cussed. "Not so loud, Captain!"

"Sorry," Feda apologized, "it's about time you awoke. Don't move a muscle...we're trying to get to you now."

"Sir, trust me, that's one thing I'm not inclined to do." He had considered for a moment to try to move his arms together to access his omni-tool, but immediately stopped. More than likely his shipmates had already remotely accessed it and his hardsuit computer, and knew more about the specifics of his predicament than he did. Kal abruptly went back to his mental exercises to stave off his terror.

Feda's voice intruded into his helmet again. "So we saw the data that Anwa had of that monster you'd taken out...very impressive, Kal."

"Thank you, sir. Though it landed me in this position," he replied bitterly.

"None of that, Marine," Feda remonstrated. "If it wasn't for you, that beast would've been snacking on Anwa at this moment. I know how she gets when she's working, a Geth Armature could be wreaking havoc in her engine room, and she'd be oblivious. Your alertness saved her life."

Kal tried to cling to that fact like someone stranded in an ocean clutching a life preserver, it helped a little, but eventually he was forced to go back reciting military theory in his head. All the while berating himself for using an accelerated explosive charge in the close confines of the cave tunnels. It was something he had done on instinct and without thought in the heat of the battle against the creature.

It had been almost like the baby cousin of a Thresher Maw, except with interlinked black scales and more of a snapping mouth more suited to a mammal. It had been damage resistant enough that even incendiary rounds from his assault rifle wouldn't bring it down quickly enough, not before it got a bite into either Anwa or himself. He had aimed the AEC directly at the head of the creature, again instinctively going for a shot that had been drilled into him from day one as a Marine. The only problem was that the creature's head had been near the ceiling of the tunnel. Kal had had only a moment to admire the sight of the head exploding in a flash of splattered gore before the ominous rumbling reached him.

He knew he had to move. His mind had been screaming at his body to move. It felt like an eternity had passed before he was sprinting at the best speed he could manage, but it hadn't been enough. The last view he had of Anwa, was as she sprinted around a curve in the tunnel, before a falling rock had hammered onto his head.

He must've gotten a concussion from that because he struggled to remember anything after that.

'Just as well, who wants to remember getting buried under a mountain of rock,' he through morosely. "Captain, how long have you been trying to dig me out?"

"Six time sets, its slow going...we're lasering through as fast as we dare, considering we have to worry about triggering another cave in."

"Understood, Captain," Kal sighed. "What is my condition?"

"Anwa has been monitoring your vitals through your hardsuit. We had to trigger a release of your suit's antibiotics supply and it automatically clamped down around the breached area on your leg."

Kal knew instantly that his chances for survival had just taken a significant beating. Quarian physiology, even when they had had a world to call home, was not one that took kindly to being exposed to alien environments. Now with his entire race living in the sterile conditions aboard the starships of the Flotilla for over two hundred cycles, their immune systems were hardly worth the name.

The Captain didn't need to mention the hardsuit only had a limited supply of antibiotics. "How long do I have?"

Feda declared with resolve. "We'll have you out well before then, Kal."

Kal didn't know what to say in reply except, "Yes, Captain."

"So...did you enjoy Czarna's latest performance?"

Kal blinked at the sudden change in topic and guessed that Feda just wanted to help keep his mind busy. "Uh, I'm afraid I've never been one to listen to the storytellers, sir."

"Kelaah...a Quarian who doesn't like stories?"

"Yes, sir, I prefer dancing. My father was rather put out with me when I kept falling asleep during his family story sessions."

Feda laughed. "In that case, tell me then, who do you prefer? Pacic or Inucel?"

Kal instantly declared with no forethought needed. "Pacic, her technique is from the soul, even when she performs classics that have been done a million times before, it still seems like it's fresh and new. Inucel, while technically perfect, dazzling and flashy, she doesn't have the same impact."

That of course, set off a debate with the other Quarians working to dig him out chiming in. Finally, two time sets later, he could begin hearing the movement of rock, and the occasional deep hum of a mounted laser drill. Hope entered into his heart.

'Perhaps I'm going to get out of this mess after all,' he thought.

"Kal! We're gonna have to leave you for a while...we just detected a ship entering orbit."

Kal felt the earth under his body ripple from a sudden impact.

"Those bosh'tet! It's a Batarian frigate, they're attacking the Cyniad with orbital strikes. Thankfully they missed."

"Understood, sir. Go."

"We'll be back, Kal'Reegar, don't die on me. That's an order from your Captain."

"Yes, sir." He railed and cursed his helplessness. His shipmates were now in a battle to save their own freedom from what was probably a Batarian slaver group that had probably picked up on their latent light lagged image and had taken to following the Cyniad's light wake. Quarians were rather favoured targets of slaver rings, since their proficiency for repairing things and near legendary technical skill made attractive prospects for re-sale in the lawless Terminus Systems. Kal sincerely wished the Admirals would just park the entire Flotilla in the Terminus and just blast apart the Geth damned criminal havens and be done with it.

His only consolation was that the slavers would most certainly not want to kill them all, and the attack on the Cyniad had been made with the assumption that only a skeleton crew was on board. Of course, these slavers seemed to be lousy marksmen, or they were using old targeting gear, which was what had saved the Cyniad.

Gorlat, the secondary pilot would have the ship's barriers up and it would be in the air fighting back against the frigate, which was also capable of endo-atmospheric flight. If he could harass and damage the slaver frigate enough then there would be no ground battle at all. The rest of the crew would by now be in the hovercraft and speeding along and remaining mobile, waiting for the outcome of the aerial battle.

Time seemed to crawl by. He also cursed the fact that he couldn't listen in on Cyniad's general frequency, not with all the rock and mountain above and around him. He had no idea if they were winning or losing. The only way he would know was when his shipmates returned to the tunnel, where their proximity allowed communication.

The terror threatened to return again. If the Cyniad was forced to withdraw, doing a mid-flight pick up of the hovercraft, and retreating to the relative safety of faster than light velocity. Then his survival chances were effectively zero, unless the Batarians had spotted the activity at the mouth of the cave and came to investigate.

'Death or slavery? Which would be better?' he thought cynically. 'As a slave, I have a slim chance of escape...the Cyniad wouldn't give up trying to locate me, but it's a big Galaxy and the four-eyed freaks don't make it easy for their slaves to leave.'

Kal'Reegar vas Imazado resolved then and there to fight to the death, he still had his pistol on his hip after all.

His resolve was premature and unneeded as it turned out, as white light blossomed over his form, and in the blink of an eye, he was gone.

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He had always heard stories of Quarians and other species experiencing the phenomenon known as 'lost time', a process by which the mind purposefully forgot traumatic and painful events to protect itself. That it would happen to him had never crossed his mind in the slightest. He had after all gone through the most toughest military training that the Quarian Migrant Fleet had to offer; training that not only included the physical skills of war, but also to endure the mental trials that such a life could throw at you.

Nothing could prepare him for the sheer feeling of panic and fear he was now feeling. It had been bad enough when he had been trapped and buried under rock, but to go from that in one moment; to...this...in seemingly another moment was too much.

Kal'Reegar felt his heart in his throat as he vaulted off a yielding yet comfortable grey bed and took in his new environment with alarm, and his own state of dress. His envirosuit was gone, in its place was a wholly unfamiliar suit that now clung to him, it was a shimmering black, but didn't encompass his entire body, his hands, feet and head was exposed to the slightly chilly air. He groaned and resigned himself to perhaps a week of sickness from this open air exposure, assuming there wasn't anything harmful in the new environment that would kill him before that.

He also now took in his new surroundings and felt his heart rate lower somewhat. It was a large and spacious room, with solid silvery metallic walls and floors, which had unfamiliar organic curves as decor. But the real reason for his relaxation was the sight of a viewport on one side, beyond which was a twinkling starfield.

'I'm on a ship,' he thought with relief. 'At least I'm no longer trapped under a mountain...'

But it was also clear that he had not been rescued by the Cyniad or any of its crew. He also dismissed the idea that this was the Batarian slaver frigate; there was no way such a small ship would have this much space inside it to waste. He was clearly in some sort of sparse quarters; there was the bed and a square table with strange patterns woven into its structure in the middle of room.

He approached it slowly and noticed something odd was resting on it. It was a black finely smoothed and polished ovoid crystal of sorts, slightly smaller than his hand. His curiosity was pulling at him to pick it up and look at it closely, but he firmly reminded himself that he was in the custody of an unknown party at the moment and that it would not be wise to pick up strange things. He considered that perhaps he was on an Asari Dreadnought or large Cruiser...but as he listened carefully to the din around him he dismissed that thought...the life support system of the ship, the artificial gravity, the resonance of engines...it was totally unfamiliar and alien. Kal'Reegar didn't consider himself to be a particularly good machinist, but he was still Quarian and had been taught the inner workings of ships and machines since he was old enough to pick up a tool.

He carefully scanned the room's walls with his eyes. There was a door on one side, but he dismissed the idea of trying to open it...there was no control panel, holographic or physical, or any kind of leverage to try and pry it open. The door was near seamless against the wall, and only a thin dark line at its edges allowed him to see that there was a door at all. In his experience, rooms of this size only existed on Dreadnoughts of the various Council species, and they would never be this frivolously wasted; only housing a single person.

Kal just about jumped three feet into the air when he was saw that he was suddenly not alone. He had seen it first out of the corner of his eye. There was now a...Quarian? standing in the room with him, on the other side of table. This Quarian was dressed similarly, in that odd black suit, and his head, hands and feet were also completely exposed to the open air.

"Hey! Where did you come from?" Kal exclaimed, falling instinctively in a defensive posture.

The Quarian merely smiled in an enigmatic manner and held out a hand, to show that he was holding another of the odd black crystals in his hand. He then gestured to the crystal that Kal had neglected to pick up, then to his mouth, and then tapped his head.

Kal frowned. 'The guy wants me to pick up the crystal. Why?' The strange Quarian again tapped his mouth but this time a string of strange, incomprehensible sounds was spoken. The language was like none Kal had ever heard. 'The crystal is a translation device? Why would he need one if he's Quarian?'

The Quarian now huffed oddly, put his hand on his hips and pointed at the crystal. Kal gave his paranoia a rest as obviously whoever this was, had had ample opportunity to kill him in the time they had taken to dig him out from the mountain.

The Quarian smiled, as he saw that Kal was picking up the crystal.

"Finally, now we can...garble...-t-au-k." Kal had been so startled that the words suddenly made sense that he had dropped the crystal. He quickly picked it up with embarrassment. "Now we can talk."

"Okay, what's going on? How did you get in here? Who are you? How did I get here?"

"Before I answer your questions, please, realize that I am only appearing to you this way to put you at ease and that I am not a member of your species. My name is Daniel Jackson and I'm a Contact specialist for my people."

Kal blinked at hearing that. "You're...not Quarian."

"If Quarian is the name you call yourselves by, then no. You are also not a prisoner; in fact, consider yourself an honoured guest aboard the Explorer Starship CSS da Gama."

"Oh," it was the only intelligent thing that Kal could say through his astonishment.

"It's a ship sent by my race to scout for any space-faring civilization out in the greater galaxy, especially those that use the Mass Relays."

"Your race being? And what is the purpose behind your scouting?" Kal'Reegar felt his fear ratchet back up slightly. First Contact with a new Race in the known Galaxy had proven to always be a time of tumultuous change, and usually not for the better.

"We call ourselves Terrans," the latter word went untranslated for some reason. "And we're scouting only because we wish to learn more about the Galaxy that is our home, and all the life that dwells in it. We wish to learn all there is to learn and make the future a better place for our descendants and friends."

"Terrans," Kal tried the alien word thoughtfully. "Okay, so if this is a form you've assumed to make me comfortable, how does your species really look? And how can you assume different forms?"

"Oh, I can't really change my shape, not exactly; you see I'm not in the room with you." The Terran in the shape of a Quarian stepped forward, waved his arm and it went through the table...the arm rippled like water and distorted before settling back to normalcy. "This is just a holographic representation of me." Kal just stood in silent astonishment again. It was certainly the most realistic hologram he'd ever seen. No transparency, no distortion, nothing. "And this is how I really look."

The hologram image rippled over its entire body, and settled into a more distinctly alien shape. The Terran was bipedal, with two arms that ended in hands that had five fingers. The face had two eyes, a pointed noise, mouth; it was quite similar to an Asari in those respects. But differences were clear; styled fur grew on the Terran's head, instead of tentacles, and the skin was off-white, or a light brown, it was also clearly a he, whereas the Asari were monogendered. The clothes the Terran wore were a black, white and grey suit top, with black densely woven trousers and gleaming shoes.

"I apologize for not being with you in the room personally. It's just more convenient and safer for either party or ideally both, to appear in holographic form during a First Contact."

Kal nodded in understanding. That was really handy and smart, if the Contact went badly, the Terrans could simply vanish and there would nothing the other guy could do about it. "Oh, what's the deal with this...suit?"

"Your own suit is being repaired, and will be returned to you shortly. What you are currently wearing is serving as a temporary substitute and the room you are in has been sterilized to the nanoscale. It's as clean as anything can be made. Healing you proved quite a challenge with your strange physiology and poor immune system."

Now that he was reminded of it, Kal couldn't believe that he had forgotten about his injury. He reflexively stared down and regarded the limb that seemed to have not a single indication that it had been injured at all; no scarring, no lingering soreness.

"Well, you guys got it wrong, if you thought this would substitute for my evironsuit," Kal muttered. "For one thing, my head is uncovered..."

"Try and put your hands together," Daniel interrupted with a smile.

Kal looked at the Terran strangely and complied, or tried to...the moment his right hand almost touched his left, a field of green energy blossomed into the visual spectrum, that perfectly surrounded his hands. He tried to touch his own face, and again, an energy barrier seemed to perfectly surround his exposed areas.

Kal was flabbergasted; it couldn't be a kinetic barrier, as that would've also stopped air as well. Yet it was clearly some form of perfectly moulded energy field that let air through, yet was protecting him in some manner and it was constantly active. The constant power requirement of that was huge, yet this suit did it with no problem.

"It's what we call a Smart Shield," Daniel explained. "It's a shield that is selectively permeable that lets in what we wish, and keeps out what we don't. At the moment it's filtering anything that might be a threat to you...just in case our sterilization of this room missed something. In fact, with that suit you could walk into any environment and not have a single problem."

Kal absorbed the idea of that and wondered if the Terran was exaggerating. Such a shield was way beyond even Asari science. "Then why the effort with the room?"

"Nothing's perfect, better safe than sorry," Daniel sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "We wouldn't want our species' first meeting to be soured by your death, when it could've easily been avoided." The Terran suddenly turned his head to look off to the side, as if he was paying attention to something else and his face twisted into a frustrated expression. "I'm afraid we need your help."

A holographic screen appeared in mid-air next to the Terran and showed a high resolution sensor image of Apav III. Two blinking dots appeared, one on the upper hemisphere on the largest continent, and another on a large island chain in the lower hemisphere. "What you're seeing is the positions of your ship and the other who attacked you."

"So the Cyniad survived," Kal sighed in relief. "What happened? Did you manage to see the battle?"

"Yours actually came out on top with some pretty impressive piloting, forced the other to do a barely controlled crash landing. However, the Cyniad has lost shields and suffered major inertial compensator damage, forcing a landing as well."

"Bosh, that's not easy to repair in the field."

"I suppose not, but there is a further problem." The image zoomed in steadily to focus on the Batarian position. Given the resolution quality the da Gama was probably in orbit of Apav III. It showed in amazing detail the stubby, long rectangular form of the frigate, crashed into a barren island. He could even see the humanoid forms roaming about the craft in a hurry, they all seemed to be moving back and forth from the crashed ship to a...

"Those bosh'tet! They're going launch a ground attack." The Batarians were busy packing supplies into what was clearly an armoured hover craft that had survived their crash. The thing was also armed with a large mass accelerator cannon that would easily lay waste to the crew of the Cyniad from long range.

"Their ship is beyond repair, yours isn't but they know that Cyniad had to make an emergency landing as well. Is there a reason why they suddenly attacked you? Is this their territory?"

"This is a completely unclaimed system by any power. They attacked only for the profit and status it would bring them to capture and sell us either in the Terminus Systems or the Batarian Hegemony."

Kal noticed that the Terran's posture had become rigid, and his strange blue eyes glittered intently with some foreign emotion that he had no context for. "Slaves?"

"Yes, my people are famed throughout known space as master technicians, computer experts and engineers. This makes any Quarian somewhat of a profitable commodity to slavers," Kal explained bitterly. He saw the Terran's eyes narrow and his lips thin.

Daniel looked off to the side again and nodded. The top-down image of the Batarians zoomed out until they were only as small as tiny dots and the skewed shape of the island they had crashed on was in focus.

"I can't believe I've forgotten this, but what is your name?"

"Kal'Reegar vas Imazado," he answered after a brief pause. "Reegar is just fine though."

"Reegar," Daniel nodded. "Pleased to meet you. If you'll indulge my curiosity, what's the 'vas Imazado' for?"

"Oh, that's my home ship."

"Home ship?"

"Oh, yeah, guess you wouldn't know, being new to the greater galaxy," Kal stopped himself. "Sorry, but before I answer, I just have to know...are you going to be doing something about the Batarians?"

"We're sending in an Infiltrator to data mine any of their computers that might be intact, once she's retrieved, which should be in thirty standard minutes...well, your friends on the Cyniad will have nothing to worry about. I assure you."

"Orbital strikes?" Kal asked hopefully.

"For the slaver ship, yes, but nothing so crude for slavers themselves, we don't want to damage the planet too much. But anyway, let's talk about the Quarian people and the galaxy they live in."

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Bridge

CSS da Gama

17th December 2140

General Samantha O'Neill stared at the holographic screen in front of her, carefully reading through the Contact report Daniel had filed. It made for much better reading than the Intelligence gleaned from the Batarian frigate, which had left a bitter taste in her mouth. "Lieutenant Commander."

The AI was at her side at once with an expectant expression on his face. He had calculated that this was coming. "Captain."

"Your opinion?"

"It's horrific and a pity," Cook sighed with sadness on his face. "The Quarians could not come to terms with their creations: the Geth, and that it would lead to such slaughter; billions dead, exiled from their homeworld and space, condemned to a nomadic existence on salvaged and second hand starships. Their immune systems being what they are, they couldn't even easily just settle on a new colony world. This blasted Citadel Council didn't lift a finger to help."

"Punishing them was seen as more important, rather than addressing the problem," Sam shook her head. "But to go this extreme, two hundred and sixty T-years..."

"The Council probably wants them to wander the stars as a permanent, travelling example of what will happen when their member species disobey the common law."

"I wonder why this Council has laws against AI?"

"Fear," Cook replied simply. "You've been fortunate that you've had so many examples of my kind gone wrong to learn from, Captain. The Quarians didn't and I'm sure the Asari didn't either, perhaps they also had an unpleasant experience in their own history with AIs that led them to create that law."

"Reegar's not exactly a history buff about other species, that could easily be the case," Sam agreed, her eyes looked beyond to the slowly moving view of the planet around which her ship orbited. She stood from her seat and walked over to the gigantic viewscreen, holding her hands behind her back. "What about the Batarians?"

Cook joined her near the screen to contemplate the view. "Deeply disturbing, but then again slavery was an integral part of Goa'uld culture too. The Batarians just have a caste system added to that."

"And the Council lets them maintain an Embassy on the Citadel," Sam said incredulously. "Yet they kick the Quarians out on the curb."

"Reegar doesn't know exactly why, it could be that there is some economic benefit that makes the Council ignore the Batarians, or the fact that they are small fry in comparison to the Asari, Turians and Salarians; if you are to judge by the political map of the galaxy."

"I really hoped I wouldn't have had to employ da Gama's weapons until much, much later. Are we one hundred percent sure that this is just a rogue slaver gang?"

"My analysis of their databanks is accurate," Cook stated flatly. "Unless, the slavers are in the habit of carrying around falsified data, star charts, courses, and orders from their bosses in the Terminus."

"Weps," she turned to the relatively young Weapons Officer Francis Ortiz at his station. "Give me a firing solution for surgical RKKVs on the Batarian frigate. Then a Demat program for the Batarians, but only them, and leave the hovercraft alone."

"Aye, Captain." The swarthy skinned Hispanic merely twirled his hands through the holographs in front of him, manipulating them, but doing ninety percent of the work with his mind. "Solution plotted, our orbit will bring us in optimal firing position in thirty seconds."

Sam nodded and waited silently, counting down in her own mind and keeping mental eyes on the ships position within its cyberspace.

"Fire."

Three shaped nickel-iron slugs three meters long and thirty centimetres wide was autoloaded into the barrels of one of da Gama's Mass Driver turrets as they orientated into position. They were instantly accelerated by gravitic and element zero coils at a fraction of the speed they were truly capable of. It was essentially now a man-made asteroid that was on its way to impact with a predetermined area – the island. The slugs almost immediately began atmospheric re-entry. They were surrounded in an ablative shell that would protect the slug from the friction, ensuring that no mass would be burnt off prematurely and thereby reduce its net impact energy. Gravity had already begun to immediately exert its pull, further increasing that speed.

Most Terran crews called them Rods from God. This was due to the awesome sight RKKVs gave observers on the ground. The friction of the atmosphere against the slug caused a streaking line of fire to trace itself across the sky until it finally impacted against its target at a perfectly calculated hypersonic speed. The Batarian frigate had no barriers up and its structural integrity was non-existent, what armour it had was by necessity not that thick or dense, it was designed more for speed, agility and hard-fast strikes.

The Kinetic Kill Vehicle split itself open an instant before impact almost like a flower blossoming and tore into the frigate. For a moment it was literally cut in half, near vaporizing an entire section of the ship...then the slug hit the earth beneath and the kinetic energy blasted that mass in the only direction it could go, upwards. Another instant later the remaining two slugs blasted into the remaining fore and aft sections.

Three columns of dirt and dust towered into the air mingled with the occasional burst of flame of the plasma liberated from the destroyed fusion reactor. The nine Batarians who had had to remain behind because there was not enough room in the armoured hovercraft were killed instantly, and there had been no warning of the incoming KKVs due to the damage already incurred from the crash and battle with the Quarians.

The seven Batarians in the armoured hovercraft was by this time almost two hundred kilometres away from the island and while they would've seen the streaks of flame crossing the sky, they were all ensconced within the hovercraft and too far away to see the demise of their partners in crime. Its sensors only had general range of fifty kilometres in every direction. Whilst they could've radioed back to their partners, none of them thought of doing so, as all that was on their minds was killing every Quarian so they could take the Cyniad and escape off the planet.

It was the last thought they had in this life as exotic energy swept down from the da Gama's transporter array. They were dematerialized in an instant and their energy was dissipated and diffused across a thousand kilometres of the orbital space around Apav III.

The hovercraft Virtual Intelligence was as close to confused as such a program with limited logic and reasoning could be. The only thing it could do was fall back on default programming, which was to power down the craft and keep it hovering over the ocean. It was even further confused when white light engulfed the entire craft and then it was no longer a meter above the ocean, but instead within a large artificial environment, surrounded by odd tubular craft. It faithfully recorded the event and view, before it felt its own firewalls under attack from an outside source. Its sophistication was such that it could barely slow down the intrusion...before the darkness of cybernetic oblivion claimed it.

"Target has been destroyed, Captain. The hovercraft is in our Launch Bay and powered down."

"Good work, Lieutenant." Sam praised and turned back to the view of the planet.

"I'm sure the Supreme Commander, not to mention the Assembly will back what you've done here, Captain," Cook stated.

"Is it so much to ask to have a First Contact that doesn't involve bloodshed in one form or another?" she asked bitterly. Cook didn't answer, as the question was clearly not addressed to him, but rather towards the Universe, or perhaps she was talking to that mysterious, omniscient entity his creators called God.

Sam shook her head with resignation but squared her shoulders and headed towards her station. She linked herself with cyberspace and sent her thoughts directly to Daniel.

'Sam?'

'You can tell Reegar, the Batarians are no longer an issue.'

'Ah good, he's been getting quite antsy about that.'

'Ask him if he would consent to be an envoy of sorts from us, you can join him in holographic form. Tell him we'll also throw in the Batarian hovercraft as a good faith gift, and if his Captain agrees...we'll refit and repair the Cyniad to spec as well when it's spaceworthy enough to come into orbit.'

'Okay...hmm, he agrees, and is pretty impressed that the da Gama has the ability to do that.'

'You've shown him how the ship looks, haven't you?'

'Yes, I have. In the Council fleets and the Quarians, a ship the size of da Gama would only be capable of limited repairs to its small craft and hardly capable of refitting something the size of a scout frigate.'

'Okay, we'll begin as soon as Reegar indicates he's ready. It'll be interesting to see how his shipmates react to his sudden appearance.'

'Yes, it will.'

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Apav III

17th December 2140

Kal'Reegar, now back in his good as new envirosuit, blinked his eyes as the brief white haze that had overtook his vision faded, and found himself no longer aboard the guest quarters on the CSS da Gama, but instead the familiar vistas of Apav III. He knelt on the ground and picked up a handful of dirt, letting it fall through his fingers. His next astonished experiment was pulling back on his fingers until he felt pain.

"Ouch! Bosh!"

"Is there a reason why you are trying to hurt yourself?" Daniel asked, his face twitching with amusement.

"Just checking if this is real," Kal admitted to the Terran, who had appeared without a sound next to him. "You told me what would happen...but..."

Daniel laughed. "Yes, you are on the surface, this is most definitely not an illusion."

Kal reached out with his hand and waved it through Daniel's form, and as expected it rippled with holographic distortion. "Incredible! You guys are projecting this all the way from high orbit! How do you do that?"

"It's...complicated," the Terran understated.

"As complicated as turning me into pure energy, then reconstituting me a few thousand clicks away, and getting it right?"

Daniel shook his head. "No, that is another stratosphere of difficulty."

Kal looked around. "So where are we?"

"The Cyniad is about a click in that direction." He pointed, "behind that hill."

"Ah, stupid me," Kal groaned and switched on his omnitool, tapping on the holographic device. It confirmed what Daniel had said and he was sure he just gave the crew of the Cyniad a wakeup call with is hardsuit's radar emission. And now that they were looking they would also pick up the eezo emissions from said suit. "I just pushed on the entry chime."

Daniel said wryly, "Good, now they'll at least not shoot you."

Kal enabled his radio and tuned it to appropriate frequency and encryption. "This is Kal'Reegar to anyone on the Cyniad. Anyone home?"

They didn't have to wait long for an incredulous reply. "Kal!"

"Yes, it's me, Captain."

There was a long pause and finally Captain Feda'Gazu ordered, "Verify."

Kal was impressed with the Captain's well founded suspicion. It looked like his example and the recent attack had made an impression. "We sail among distant stars, whirlpools of gas and dust, winds of light and energy, the currents of the ether everywhere. We will find a place we can call home one day."

"Keelah, it really is you. How did you get out?"

"Captain that is something that would be best explained face to face. I will tell you that we have a First Contact Alpha One circumstance."

Again there was astonished silence over the radio. Kal didn't blame the Captain; he had essentially just dumped a huge responsibility and problem on him. FC Alpha One referred to contact with a completely new and previously unknown alien power.

"You've been in contact with them then? They're the ones who rescued you?"

"Confirmed. A representative of theirs is with me, in a way."

"Understood, get over here as soon as you can."

The radio link severed.

"I will depart now and let you speak to your superior," Daniel stated. "You remember how to use the Com stone?"

Kal lifted the smoothly polished transparent crystalline device and nodded. It still baffled him how this thing could be a radio; he didn't see anything in it remotely related to a circuit or electric pathway.

"When you are ready, signal and I will appear in proximity to the stone." Daniel's holographic image promptly faded away into nothingness.

Kal began a smooth jog towards the distant Cyniad. Whatever happened between his Captain and the da Gama's Captain, and from what he had seen on that fantastic ship; he was certain that the Quarian people would feel the repercussions of this meeting for centuries.

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