Cecillia exited her private elevator into her apartment complex's main lounge. The lounge of the Astroria was as secure as any place could be on the Citadel, or the entire galaxy for that matter. Not surprising considering many of its occupants were some of the most influential beings in the galaxy. C-Sec officers dotted the area, with guards posted on each side of the elevator and entrances. Cameras, sensors, and alarms were laced into the very structure of the building, invisible to the eye but certainly there, always watchful. The open space was adorned with wealth and prestige; no expense was spared in design, art, or architecture.

Cecillia spotted her secretary near the reception desk. Kaila looked displeased, which was quite a contrast to her usual cheery self. Her frown deepened further as she read from her Omni-tool.

"Is everything alright?" Cecillia asked as she approached.

Kaila looked up, and like night and day, her face immediately brightened. "Good morning Councilor! Sleep well I hope?"

"Well enough," Cecillia replied. Out of all the people Cecillia had ever had under her wing, Kaila was perhaps the most dependable. Just 300 years of age, she was quite young for the position she occupied. But what she lacked for in experience she more than made up for in competence. She had first met the coming-of-age Matron briefly on Thessia six years ago, a politically ferocious time when the Armali Council was trying to determine who would be named the next Asari Councilor. Kaila was at first hired by Cecillia's people to help organize for the debates and political messaging, and very quickly climbed her way up to higher bounds of responsibility. Bold, ambitious, and very intelligent, Kaila knew how to take in large amounts of resources and organize them efficiently. Cecillia was so impressed with her organizational skills that when she became the unlikely Asari Councilor, Kaila's name was at the top of her list for her new administration.

Well that was one reason she kept Kaila around. Another reason, one she would never admit to anyone, hardly even to herself, was that the cheery, free-spirited, highly-social woman in a lot of ways reminded her of her sister, Talia. She was definitely a good acquaintance to keep around. "Have the arrangements been made?" Cecillia asked.

Kaila glanced back at her Omni-tool and scowled. "Afraid not Councilor. The Embassy staff won't let me get through to the Turian Councilor. Here, take a look." She held out her Omni-tool so that the Councilor could see. Cecillia read the message. 'We are sorry, but Councilor Kravux has a busy schedule and cannot meet with any officials today. Regrettably, we ask that you contact our official Embassy services so that a proper schedule can be summarized that can accommodate the Councilor's…'

Cecillia stopped reading midway through. The Turians were stiffing her, and she didn't like it. "Kaila, contact the Councilor's direct line. I'd rather not deal with the official embassy channels. Goddess knows that they'll keep us waiting for centuries."

Kaila shook her head. "I already tried that. No response. They wouldn't even allow me to book a shuttle to the embassy. I don't know why, but it seems that recently the Turian Embassy has been oddly reclusive and uncooperative."

It was true, for the past few weeks the Turian Councilor had been uncharacteristically absent from much of the daily Council duties, missing important meetings, debriefings, and summits. Lately, Kravux only showed his face when absolutely necessary, and never lingered for too long. It was quite a contrast for the aging Turian, who normally rather enjoyed mingling with anyone who would be willing to give him an ear. But as of late, the Councilor was nowhere to be seen.

And I think I might have an idea as to why. Cecillia thought, remembering the high-priority message.

400,000 soldiers have been pulled from peacekeeping duties. Hierarchy Command has recalled 35% of all Reserves back into active service. 6.3 million soldiers have been put on stand-by status. Dry-docks have been ordered to increase ship production by as much as 30 to 35 percent.

The Hierarchy may be preparing for an invasion.

Kaila knew Cecillia well enough to tell when she was in serious contemplation. "Councilor, what are you thinking?"

Something big is happening and I'll be damned if some embassy bureaucrat will stand in my way. "Kaila, you said the Embassy won't allow shuttles to enter?"

Kaila nodded.

"Very well, then we'll just have to walk there. The embassies are close by. Let's go." She headed toward the exit.

Kaila briefly raised a brow before following after her. "What? Walk there? You mean on foot?"

"That's how one typically walks, yes." Cecillia glanced over to Kaila, who still looked perplexed. After a few moments of silence, she said, "Did I say something to cause discomfort?"

"No Councilor, of course not. It's just that normally you don't like walking through—"

"I know," Cecillia almost snapped. Kaila fell silent, and Cecillia instantly regretted lashing out at her most trusted secretary. Her voice softened. "I mean yes, you are right. But some urgent matters have come up that cannot wait." I had a bad night. That does not give me the right to lay out my frustration on those undeserving.

Kaila took everything in stride. "I understand Councilor." Her infectious smile returned as they walked in companionable silence. The two were now 'outside', and began to make their way across the bridge to the other side of the lake.

The Presidium was, as always, pristinely beautiful. The artificial sky, now just beginning to enter its day cycle, brightened the surrounding area, displaying the stunning natural landscape that had been so carefully maintained and cultivated over the centuries. Fields of lush, green grass adorned much of the surface area, all dotted with various different forms of trees and plant life from the major homeworlds. The great dividing lake, which wrapped around the entirety of the 10 kilometer ring, was, as always, supremely clear, purified and monitored to the extreme to prevent any cross species bacteria from contaminating the simulated ecosystem. Throughout the lake various synchronized nozzle jets shot water as high as 10 meters into the air, close enough to be just audibly heard but far enough to blend seamlessly into the background noise. The wind too was simulated, offering a gentle, pleasant breeze that had been acutely calculated to provide maximum comfort for the Presidium's inhabitants. It was, quite simply, nurtured perfection.

Cecillia had grown weary of the view long ago. While her colleagues, Kravux in particular, enjoyed walking to the Council Chambers, she almost always took a skycab to her office. After a while, she began to actively avoid the parks whenever possible, an act that many had seen as yet another odd quirk of the very detached new Councilor. She knew some had even come to believe that she was simply immune to the magnificent beauty of life; that at her core was a heart of cold-stone. In truth, although Cecillia was never one to bask in scenery, she could still appreciate the wonderful, near mystical beauty of the natural world. It's just...the Presidium parks always seemed off-putting to her. Like all of this incredible effort was made in an attempt to hide something. 'An irrationally cynical assessment', Councilor Kravux would have her believe. She remembered one conversation very clearly.

"Honestly Tevos, you really should visit the Presidium parks more often," Kravux had once told her. "I find it helps clear my mind, makes it easier to bear this cursed position. You can join me in my strolls if you like."

"Councilor Kravux, I sorely hope this is not a scandalous attempt to seduce me," she responded in jest.

Low pockets of air escaped Kravux's chest; a genuine chuckle. "I don't think my bondmate would be too thrilled about that." His tone became more serious. "It's just, sometimes you seem so…reclusive."

"I am myself," she said perhaps a little too quickly. "Others may need to engross themselves in nature to drown out their problems, but I do not."

"How cynical."

She shrugged. "Besides, none of it is real; it's all artificial, designed to deceive the mind."

Kravux smiled. "And quite befitting of a place where every action is hidden behind deceit and shadows, wouldn't you agree?"

Cecillia almost smiled at the recollection. Say what you will about the old Turian bastard, Kravux knew how to find hidden truths amidst a void of lies. After a while longer of walking Kaila finally broke the silence.

"I hope these urgent matters you speak of won't interfere with the Dilinaga Society party tomorrow, I just finished purchasing your outfit and accessories."

Cecillia stopped mid-stride. "Kaila, I am not attending the gathering tomorrow."

Now Kaila's cheery disposition became one of horror. Cecillia should have suspected such a response; these types of things were important to Kaila. "But Councilor, you have to go. The Dilinaga event only comes once every six years, and this will be the first during your Council-ship. Everyone is expecting you."

"Kaila, you've been by my side long enough to know that these things do not interest me. I didn't become a Councilor so that I could be glorified like a celebrity."

At this, Kaila chuckled.

Cecillia raised a brow. "What?"

"I'm sorry to tell you Councilor, but being glorified comes with the job. No matter how much you hate having fun."

"I don't hate having fun," Cecillia said almost defensively.

At this Kaila chuckled some more.

Cecillia internally sighed. She knew the young Matron was right; she couldn't keep avoiding the public forever.

"Think of it as political messaging," Kaila encouraged further. "The Dilinaga party is an event that is meant to be seen. It will give you an opportunity to display your power and prestige." The two continued walking. They were now hallway to the Embassy. "Besides," she added in afterthought, "Matriarch Lidanya will be attending."

Cecillia caught Kaila's eyes. "And why is this relevant?"

Kaila snorted. "Please Councilor, only half the Citadel knows that the Commander has it in for you. I'm surprised she hasn't made an advance on you."

"She did send me a message earlier," Cecillia confirmed. "She wanted to socialize at the event."

Kaila's spirits lit up. "Councilor, this is great news! The Councilor and the Commander; it's the perfect ma—"

"I turned her down."

Kaila brought her hand to the bridge of her nose, sighing. "Somehow I'm not surprised. Councilor, as your Secretary…as your friend, I'm pleading you, give the Commander a chance. At the very least attend the event, if nothing else but to maintain your political image."

"Kaila—"

"I'm serious Councilor. You haven't bonded with anyone since you became Councilor, and probably much longer before that. Excuse me for saying, but you only have two, maybe three centuries left, and I don't want to see you live through them alone." Kaila put a hand on Cecillia's shoulder, a bold gesture, since she knew how much Cecillia didn't like physical contact. "Trust me Councilor, I've seen old Matriarchs live their last days alone. I don't want that to happen to you."

Cecillia stared at Kaila for a long moment, and for a brief instance a surge of emotion swept through her as the concerned Asari revived long dead memories of her sister. To her credit, and practiced skill, she maintained her stony façade. She recovered her composure quickly, nodding very deliberately. "If you have already prepared so thoroughly, then I suppose I really don't have much of a choice."

Kaila's face once again lit up.

"Now come," the Councilor beckoned her, "we're almost there."

The two began to approach the Embassy's privileged side entrance in confortable silence once more. Kaila was near jubilant in her gait. Cecillia knew the devious Matron was hatching plots in her mind, trying to find some way to match her and the Commander together. They finally arrived at the entrance to find three well-armed Turian guards standing at post. For now the Councilor had to ignore her secretary's sinister schemes; there were more important matters at hand.


Cecillia stopped just short of the guards. If they were surprised by her sudden arrival, they didn't show it. One of the guards, the one standing front and center, was easily one of the largest Turians she had ever seen. At first glance, the Turian could have been mistaken for a Krogan. All were adorned in standard blue and black C-Sec armor. The two guards in back shuffled themselves nervously, shifting their weight from side to side, obviously rookies. The massive guard in front however was pompously erect; a seasoned veteran. He stepped forward to meet the two Asari.

"Councilor Tevos, it is an honor to have you here," the guard said, obviously expecting them. "My name is Varn Sarctus, I'm the First Officer of the Embassy's West Wing division." The Turian officer placed his hand over his chest and bowed, a standard Asari greeting.

Cecillia didn't return the gesture. Instead, she said, "I am here to see Councilor Kravux. Take me to him."

"I am sorry Councilor," Varn replied too quickly. "But that is not possible at the moment. Councilor Kravux is currently in a meeting with high-level officials from Palaven, and cannot be disturbed. With apologies, the Councilor has a very busy schedule to attend to and cannot partake in unexpected visits. If you like, we can arrange for a meeting in the future that can acco—"

"No," she said forcefully, interrupting Varn's prepared response. "It is urgent that I speak with Kravux now. It cannot wait." Kravux is a very social creature, especially for a Turian. He would never turn down a guest like this. Least of which myself.

The Turians are hiding something significant.

Cecillia determined at that moment that she would not leave until she had an answer as to why the Turians were secretly mobilizing their fleets. "Officer Varn, take me to him."

"As I said, that simply is not possible at the moment. Please, if you will instead—"

"Step aside officer," Cecillia demanded. She wasn't going to allow some C-Sec underling jostle her around.

For the first time the giant Turian visibly faltered. "Councilor, I can't do that. I have orders."

"As Councilor I am ordering you now. Step aside." Cecillia made it clear she wasn't going to back down.

Officer Varn, perhaps unconsciously, shifted his weight away from the Councilor. Suddenly, the massive Turian didn't seem so massive. Perhaps he thought that refusing her entry would be a simple matter, just say a few polite words and send her on her way. He was mistaken. "I—I can't do that Councilor. I'm sorry."

"The Councilor gave you an order Officer," Kaila said, inserting herself into the conversation for the first time. "It is your duty to follow it."

Appeal to Turian honor, very smart, Cecillia thought.

Varn now looked visibly shaken. He glanced back to the other two guards, perhaps for reassurance, but they looked equally unsure. After a long pause, he said, "I'm sorry, but I can't—"

Cecillia sighed in frustration. "I don't have time for this. Kaila, wait outside. I'll return after I've spoken to Kravux." She sidestepped the large Turian and made her way toward the entrance.

"Wait, you can't do that!" Varn grabbed Cecillia's shoulder as she attempted to walk past.

It was a mistake.

If there was one thing that was commonly known about Cecillia in the political realm, it was that she did not like to be touched. This Turian obviously didn't get the memo. Before anyone knew what had happened, Cecillia was aglow with a corona of biotic energy. She met the officer's gaze with a ferocious glare, and the Turian released his grip instantly, mouth agape. The other two Turians straightened and stepped forward, but didn't dare attempt to intercept her. She was a Councilor after all.

"I'm going to meet Councilor Kravux," she said conclusively. "You and your guards will not attempt to impede my path." She released her corona. "And do not touch me again." It was as much a command as it was a threat.

She turned from the stunned Turian officer and walked toward the entrance. The two rookie guards glanced at each other in confusion and then parted quickly, allowing the Councilor to pass. Just as the Embassy door closed she heard Officer Varn begin to murmur over his comms.

It had been a long while since Cecillia had visited the Turian Enbassy, but she still remembered her way around the building. The layout of the Embassy, much like all Turian architecture, was incredibly organized and ordered, to the point of being a bit unnerving. Every centimeter of the structure, every room, office, and corridor, was designed to use the most efficient amount of space possible. Plain and unassuming, nothing stood out or commanded attention. Everything that was there served a specific purpose, simply one part of a greater whole. She continued down the corridor, passing a few Turian staff. They paid her no mind, oblivious to her identity.

There was practically no artwork or fauna to brighten up the place, as the Turians believed that that would be an unnecessary waste of state resources. Cecillia took a right and entered one of the main lounges, which was currently filled with Turian staff workers, all moving with a brisk, professional purpose. They did not waste valuable time with idle conversations, as was typical in an Asari establishment. 'Wasting time' would be considered selfish and a betrayal to one's duty, and actively frowned upon.

In truth, the entire building was a microcosm of Turian society.

Cecillia headed for the elevator that would lead her to Kravux's office, but before she reached it another Turian in armor approached. This Turian was different from the three she had encountered earlier. Unlike the massively tall, cocky officer and his two inexperienced cohorts, this one walked with an air of confidence and purpose. He stopped short of her at Hierarchy parade precision. "Councilor Tevos, First Lieutenant Corinthus," he said while bringing his right hand to his chest, a Turian salute. "Councilor Kravux has received word of your arrival. I am ordered to escort you to him." The Lieutenant spoke simple and direct. Cecillia liked that.

"The Councilor is not in his office. If you will instead follow me," he continued, leading her away from the elevator. Cecillia nodded and followed.

As they walked through more corridors and offices, she examined the Turian more closely. Unlike standard C-Sec armor, he was dressed in a very advanced, onyx black armor that Cecillia recognized instantly. Why is a Blackwatch soldier on the Citadel?

The Turian Blackwatch was made up of the most exceptional Special Ops soldiers in the Hierarchy, and were typically only deployed on missions that threatened the safety of Palaven itself. Almost everything about them was classified, but it was generally assumed that they had the highest success rate of any Turian unit in history. They almost never operated out of Turian space except in the most dire of situations.

Walking behind him she could not see his face, but she remembered it clearly. The Lieutenant had light blue markings across his carapace, which was obstructed by many battle wounds; some old, others more recent. He had definitely seen a lot of combat, despite seeming relatively young. One scar above his left eye in particular stuck out. Not because it was the largest, but because it was very recent; she could still see the damaged tissue under the cut brow-plate.

"I'm curious," Cecillia spoke. "It's quite unusual to see a Blackwatch soldier outside of Turian space, and on the Citadel no less. Has the Hierarchy been in need of your unit recently?"

"All Blackwatch activities are classified, I'm afraid." He turned left, down another corridor. "This way."

"Of course, I understand. All governments must maintain their secrets," she responded, examining the Turian's body language. "The galaxy can be very dangerous after all."

"Indeed."

"Yes, indeed. This is why exceptional soldiers like yourself are necessary to fight those dangers," Cecillia continued. "We Asari have our Justicars and Commandos. The Salarians have their famed STG agents. Even the Hanar have their Drell assassins. Sometimes those dangers are internal, and seek to harm us from within. Sometimes they're external threats, like pirates and slavers." They began ascending a flight of stairs. "And sometimes we must even face dangers near frontier worlds along unexplored space…"

"…Like the Newrian Veil," she finished.

This elicited a subtle twitch from the soldier's mandibles. To his credit he hid his reaction well, but Cecillia was very practiced in picking out even the most minute nuances in the body language of other species. This Lieutenant had recently been at the heart of whatever the Hierarchy was currently engaged in. And from the looks of his scuffed armor and wounds, there was plenty of fighting involved. But with who?

The two finally arrived at a large door; it was the only entrance in the corridor. Corinthus input a code in the keypad, and the door swooshed open to reveal a large conference room, currently occupied by at least a dozen Turians, all of whom now had their eyes trained on her.

Whatever they had been discussing previously ended with her arrival as a prolonged silence filled the air. All present were very high ranking within the Hierarchy; military generals and politicians among them. Some gave her curious stares, some seemed indifferent, and even others looked hostile. They all sat around a large oblong holo-table, which was currently displaying star charts that she did not recognize. Councilor Kravux, seated by the table's center, addressed the room. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid this conference must be cut short. A full debriefing will resume later. You are dismissed." And with that, the Turians got up and filed out of the room, no one saying a word. After all had exited the door shut, leaving Cecillia and Kravux in the room alone.

Kravux was still seated. He pushed a button on the table removing the hologram, then gestured Cecillia to the seat across from him. As she took it, Kravux said, "I must say, this is quite the unexpected visit."

"Councilor, it's been too long. I half-expected you've gone on an unannounced retirement."

Kravux's mandibles clicked in amusement. "Councilor Tevos, I had no idea you missed me so dearly. Or did you simply come here to confirm your suspicions and celebrate? Either way, that is no excuse for you to threaten one of my guards and pummel your way into my office."

Cecillia didn't smile; she met the councilor's gaze, face as serious as stone.

Kravux sighed. "Why are you here Tevos?"

"I have questions that need answers."

"Such as?" Kravux queried.

"The Hierarchy has been acting very erratic for some time. Care to explain why?"

"I don't know what you—"

"Why has the Hierarchy increased fleet production by 30%?" Cecillia demanded.

"Councilor, you know as well as I do that Palaven has been urging to increase Council operational capacity for some time now," Kravux responded, not bothering to deny the fact. "As our races expand outward we need more ships to patrol our regions of space. We are merely thinking ahead."

"Really?" she responded unbelieving. "Does this expansion include recalling a third of all reserves back into active service?"

"Councilor, we—"

"And preparing to mobilize over 6 million soldiers along a very specific region of space? Tell me, Councilor, just what exactly became the fate of the Dreadnaught Bostra?"

Kravux mandibles twitched in surprise. "How do you know—"

Cecillia put a hand up, stopping Kravux in his tracks. "Councilor, you once told me that deception is pointless when your opponent already knows you're lying."

Kravux stared back but said nothing.

Cecillia continued. "I don't need to tell you how the Matriarchs will react to this development. We may not boast a large standing army like your people, but we have more than enough power to hurt the Hierarchy if we so wish."

Kravux nodded in understanding. It wasn't a personal threat, such things would be petty on the scale of galactic politics, but a statement of simple truth. The Asari had the strongest economy in the galaxy, and were more than willing to yield it to coerce others into acting along their own accord. An economic sanction or high tariffs on Turian goods would be devastating to the Hierarchy, and Kravux knew it.

"Kravux, why is the Hierarchy preparing for invasion-level readiness? What did your people encounter along the Newrian Veil?

Kravux was silent for a moment, before finally nodding reluctantly. "Very well Tevos. We knew we couldn't keep this a secret forever. I had been instructed to delay this revelation for as long as possible, but it seems our time has run out." He sighed, and then straightened himself professionally.

"Roughly two galactic standard months ago, one of our patrol groups discovered five unidentified ships attempting to activate Relay 314, an unopened Relay on the edge of the Newrian Veil. Believing it was slavers or pirates attempting to find alternate routes through Citadel space, the Commander sent his task force into the outer system to secure the Relay."

"The ships, what we believe were two cargo vessels and three frigate-sized combat ships, did not respond to the patrol's hails nor cease their actions. So the Commander ordered for their destruction. They managed to eradicate all but one escaping ship whilst only taking minor damage." Kravux sighed. "What at first seemed like a victory though very soon turned sour. Upon searching the wreckage the Commander discovered that the unidentified ships did not belong to slavers or pirates, but instead to an as of yet un-encountered alien species."

"Kravux," Cecillia said, not bother to hide her astonishment. "Are you telling me a Hierarchy patrol group fired upon a new species in a First Contact situation?"

"Unfortunately yes, though I'd like to point out that the Commander was acting in full accordance to Citadel law. Blindly opening Relays is both dangerous and irresponsible."

"This is different Kravux!" Cecillia said heatedly. "It's not like they could have known of these laws."

"As I said before," Kravux replied in defense, "the Commander was under the impression that this was a matter of piracy, not a First contact scenario. Regardless, what is done is done. Now we must deal with the consequences."

"And what are those consequences? As dire as this situation may be, I hardly believe it justifies the military buildup."

"Unfortunately, Tevos, the situation quickly spiraled out of control. About one galactic standard day after the incident, the aliens sent in a rapid reactionary force that wiped out the entire patrol flotilla. And I'm sure you know my people well enough to guess what our response to the attack would be."

Of course she did. The Turians never believed in minor skirmishes. When they engaged an opponent, they did so with every bit of force that they could muster. Overwhelming firepower had been part of the Turian doctrine since their days of primitive tribal wars. There was no half-way for Turian society. They were either at peace or at total war.

Kravux carried on. "What occurred over the course of the next few weeks were minor engagements between small strike forces in unexplored regions of space. Technologically, the alien ships in most ways seemed inferior to ours. We had assumed as much, since we had not encountered this species before, which suggested they were newcomers to the galactic stage. But they did have some surprising innovations that we had never faced before. We encountered no ships larger than frigate-size. Even still, they showed a surprising degree of naval warfare talent."

Cecillia shook her head while grasping the bridge of her nose. "Kravux, for over a month the Hierarchy has engaged these aliens in combat without informing us? Did your people not even seek to open negotiations with these people?" Frustration was beginning to rise in her voice. The last thing Cecillia wanted was for yet another First Contact to lead to open warfare. The Rachni had almost obliterated the Council, and were only stopped by the uplifted Krogan. Then the Krogan turned and launched a devastating uprising, killing billions before they were subdued. And then there was the Yahg, an incredibly violent species that massacred the Council's diplomatic team 32 years ago. Fortunately, those brutish beasts were a pre-space flight species. She couldn't say the same for these new aliens, whoever they were.

"These aliens had demonstrated an ability to fight Hierarchy forces and a willingness to do so. We thought it prudent to secure the region first, before we negotiate peace talks. We don't exactly want military vessels encroaching on our territory, do we?"

"You should have attempted to negotiate first," Cecillia said, unconvinced of that line of logic. "What developed next?"

"Eventually, we were able to track their ships to a single world," Kravux explained. "The planet boasted a moderately sized colony of several millions of their people. We sent in the 22nd Flotilla to engage and pacify the world. The planet was lightly defended, at least by our standards, which was expected assuming the species' newcomer status. The aliens, though small in force, were surprisingly efficient in naval and ground combat. After a few short but incredibly ferocious engagements, we were able to seize control of the world. We had thought this represented the bulk of the enemy strength. We were wrong."

Kravux looked dejected. Cecillia got the feeling that she was decisively not going to like what she was about to hear. "Kravux, what happened next?"

"The aliens launched a massive counter-offensive, catching our Flotilla off guard and evicting them from the planet. They had everything from small fighter crafts to fully sized Dreadnaughts. The General in charge of the occupation was forced to surrender."

"Dreadnaughts? These aliens have Dreadnaught and you have yet to inform of us? Kravux, this is a serious development. If they are capable of repelling Turian forces and have Dreadnaughts at their disposal, then this represents a very serious threat to the entire Council, not just to the Hierarchy."

"I know that Tevos. Believe me, I have been no fan of how my government has conducted this whole disaster. In fact I have been spending day and night leading the charge to put together a negotiation team to end this whole debacle."

Cecillia believed him. Kravux was something of an anomaly for a Turian. He was social and free-spirited whereas most were stiff and rigid. He was willing to compromise, or rather; seek common ground, whereas most of his kind remained steadfast to their values to the point of death. He was no stranger to criticizing his own government when he felt the need, or willing to take unorthodox plans against commonly accepted doctrine. He was also one of the very few Turians who wanted to adopt the Asari concept of disobeying illegal or heinous orders. Hell, the old Turian even liked to dance!

And he did seem very tired; he had obviously not gotten much sleep.

Kravux sighed once again. "Palaven Command was very arrogant in their assessment I'm afraid. They expected a young, very weak race that would be easy to subdue. The plan was to take control of their nearest world and then force them to negotiations on our terms. There were even discussions of attempts to assimilate the humans into Hierarchy society as a new client race, something that I am staunchly opposed too I might add."

"Humans?"

"Ah, yes. That is what they call themselves apparently. Anyway, the last thing Palaven Command expected was for the aliens to fight back and win a major victory. And now the Generals are embarrassed and angry. They want revenge."

It was becoming increasingly difficult for Cecillia to hide her frustration. "Kravux, I don't care what your generals want. This is a matter that threatens my own people, and I won't let a few misguided fools put them in danger just because they have wounded prides."

"Then perhaps we can help each other," Kravux said. "Tevos, we don't know the full extent of this new species' capabilities, but our researchers believe that they're still a young race, and thus have a much smaller reach and naval strength. If this turns into a full inter-planetary war, I have no doubt we will emerge victorious in the end. But these aliens are rather decent warriors, and have shown fierce resistance to our incursions. A war would be bloody, and ultimately pointless; and all over a misunderstanding that spiraled out of control. We need to stop this."

"And what would you have me to do? You are the Councilor to your people, not I."

"True," Kravux concurred. "But believe it or not you have more sway with my own government than I do. At the end of the day I am a Turian, and follow orders. But you don't answer to the Hierarchy. You can coerce them into taking a more sensible approach."

"Through economic persuasion?"

Kravux nodded reluctantly. "If the Armali Council has to threaten economic reprimand to get our generals to listen, then so be it. Our people are still largely divided on the issue, so it wouldn't take much to sway the decision in our favor. Just, please Tevos, if your people must go down this road to get some of Palaven's impetuous leaders to listen, do it quietly. If this goes public then I'm afraid no amount of sanctions would overcome Turian pride."

Cecillia was silent for a moment, and then nodded. "I'll see what I can do. Kravux, I want a full report of everything the Hierarchy knows about these aliens sent to my office."

"Consider it done."

She stood up. "And one more thing before I take my leave. Exactly who are these people?"

Kravux did the Turian equivalent of a smile, which threw Cecillia off guard. He pressed a few buttons on the table again, and a holographic image popped up, displaying a bipedal figure. He chuckled. "I assume from the expression on your face that they don't look like what you had expected?"

"They're…Goddess." She began to walk around the holo, examining the figure closely. The similarities between these aliens and her own species were almost disturbing, especially in the face. But instead of scalp crests, these aliens, or at least this one, had strands of fur sprouting from the top of its head. Instead of mammary glands, it had a very broad and flat chest. And its ear canals stuck out on the sides of its head, like fleshy cones! But the eye placement, nose, mouth, body shape, number of fingers…Cecillia had seen plenty of strange life forms in her days, but seeing much of her own kind in so alien a creature; it was uncanny. Finally she said, "when you claimed they were good warriors, I had honestly expected large beasts, like the Krogan. But nothing like this."

"Yes, the similarities are quite startling, don't you agree. Of course, blood samples confirm that they indeed have no relations to the Asari race whatsoever. In fact they are not even natively biotic, though they are capable of it."

"What else can you tell me about them," she beckoned.

"They're a bi-gendered, mammalian race. They have a very robust physiology. Physically, they seem to be on par with Turians, but more agile, though not as lean as Asari. They're fast, but not as fast as Salarians. We believe they are stronger than a typical Asari but not as flexible. Overall, they're a very well rounded species. In terms of intelligence, well, we simply don't know yet."

Cecillia nodded. "Okay, I'll see what I can do on my end. With luck, we can resolve this issue without further blood-shed, though I expect Palaven will need to swallow some of its pride before this is over."

"Indeed," Kravux agreed.

Just before Cecillia turned to leave, she said, "and Kravux, thank you for your honesty." She then exited the room without another word. Once in the corridor she activated her Omni-tool.

"Councilor, is everything okay?"

"Yes Kaila. Prepare a shuttle inbound for my office. There are some things we need to discuss." Tonight Cecillia had a lot of work to do.


AN: So yeah, I'm not dead. I apologize for those waiting for updates for this and my other stories. I just don't have as much free time as I used to.

As always, please review and thanks for reading!