Disclaimer: I won nothing from either Mass Effect or Armored Core. Things would be different, if I did.

A/N: I know, I know, it has been a lengthy amount of time since I have updated, and for that… I apologize. I cannot disclose reasons for the delay, but will certainly take some blame for it. I was more lax at times than I should have been. However I can say that is not due in any part to lack of interest for this story, I still have fun writing it and have many plans that would be remiss of me to not bring to fruition. As a small consolation, this chapter is of considerable length, a good deal larger than any before it. A lot happens in this chapter… things I believe you will all find most interesting. So, once again I apologize for the wait and hope you are all still interested, and I will try to keep from such a delay happening again. Additionally, some have suggested I make the codex a separate story so I can update it as I please and quickly apply changes to pre-existing entries as well as add additional ones suggested by readers. I have concluded this to be a better tactic, and so you can expect that to come out as well, as a separate story titled 'Powers of the Galaxy: Codex". It won't come out just yet as I do have some more kinks to work out there, but expect it before the next chapter of POTG comes out. If you have any questions or concerns you want answered, feel free to leave it in a review or PM me. With all that said… I have kept you waiting long enough. So please, enjoy chapter five of 'Powers of the Galaxy'.

"Is it genuine?"

"If the captain who brought us the information thought that it was a farce, he wouldn't have bothered presenting us with it in the first place." Admiral Zaal'Koris vas Qwib Qwib of the Migrant Fleet stated, exasperated by his fellow admiral's continued skepticism.

Han'Gerrel vas Neema scoffed at that, "Excuse me if I'm a little concerned by the fact our fleet would have to meet with a fully armed fleet that made the Turians' own look like a bad joke. We have no reason to believe they really want to help us when no one has ever bothered to before."

"There is a first time for everything," another admiral, Shala'Raan vas Tonbay said. "We shouldn't discount any good intentions they may have, especially not after they saved the Nariya. If these humans had anything against us, they would have let the pirates take our ship. Additionally, they had nothing to gain from saving it, aside for finding a way to speak with us."

Han'Gerrel vas Neema frowned behind his visor, but nodded, understanding such reasoning. "I suppose so. Regardless, I am worried that it could be very dangerous for us, the entirety of the Admiralty Board, meet face to face with a species we know almost nothing about. Who knows what they plan to do?" He pointed out.

"I believe it is worth the risk!" Koris spoke once more, "This is the first time, in a very long time, that we've been given a chance like this! After centuries of the Council refusing us and our requests, we might have finally found allies in these humans!"

Rael'Zorah vas Rayya was only half listening to his two fellow admirals as they continued to argue, busy with his own thoughts regarding the sudden olive branch the newcomers, the species that called themselves "humans" had seemingly extended to them. After hearing of the encounter with the humans from the captain of the Nariya, Koris had immediately called for the admirals to meet, with Raan supporting the meeting. Rael had initially been quite annoyed at being pulled away from his research, Xen even moreso, but the specifics of what needed to be discussed made them agree to meet.

This new species, the humans, wanted an audience with the Migrant Fleet.

Even isolated from most other species of the galaxy and living as nomads amongst the stars, they were nomads with modern communications. The Migrant Fleet had already heard plenty of this new species that had suddenly appeared months ago and about the fierce, if not brief, engagement with the Turian Hierarchy. Rael had heard even more about the confrontation between the Citadel Council and humanity's leader. From what was heard on the news, looked up on the extranet, or read on the reports some Quarians on their pilgrimages had sent, Rael's initial impression of this new species was that they were aggressively militaristic if he believed some of the more outlandish claims. Apparently some of their ships were several kilometers long, and the humans' ships had torn right through the Turians' fleets and had been in position to fire on Palaven before withdrawing following the meeting with the Council. Other bits regarding the technology the humans employed had also caught his attention, smaller bipeds that wrecked more havoc than the massive ships the humans supposedly employed. The humans had a formidable military, and apparently they had no intention of joining with the other Council races despite the offer extended to them, an offer the Quarians would have given much to have. Even so, humanity's rejection was another point of interest and something that Rael was slightly amazed at. He would've claimed that new race was massively xenophobic if it weren't for the fact that they seemed to have close relations with the Volus. From what he heard, the Volus and Humans had joint ownership of a planet that some Quarians had compared to the Citadel, what with how the two different races seemed to get along and interact.

While part of him was still skeptical, he was afraid of the opportunity they'd miss if they didn't at least hear the humans out.

"I agree. This is not an offer we can afford to let pass us by." Rael'Zorah suddenly stated, breaking through the heated argument between his three fellow admirals. Raan nodded to him gratefully while Gerrel's head whipped towards him, eyes wide beneath his face plate.

"Rael?" Gerrel turned a questioning gaze on his long-time friend, having assumed the man would be the most cautious out of all of them and would side with him.

"We're in bad shape, Gerrel. It's no secret." Rael sighed, "While this is risky, it could give us more resources and ships, two things the Council haven't been willing to spare us. At least, not without grossly overcharging us first." Rael explained, though still seeming pensive. "Koris is right. We can't dismiss this potential gain because of our own paranoia."

Koris smiled gratefully, even if it was hidden under his mask, "Surprising as it is, I'm glad you are capable of seeing reason, Rael'Zorah."

Rael glared at the admiral. He and Koris had never gotten along, the man's views on the Morning War and the monsters that had driven them from their home constantly made him want to break his face plate in, but Koris was a capable admiral and organized most of the civilian fleet. He strongly rejected the man's opinions, but there was no doubt that he'd put his life on the line for the Quarian people if required.

"I'm happy you see it that way, Rael. They saved some of our own. We owe it to show them our gratitude at the very least." Raan agreed, "What about you, Xen?"

Admiral Daro'Xen vas Moreh, who had been silent up until now, turned to face Raan. Rael could see Raan shift uncomfortably under the woman's gaze, and Rael barely heard the faint chuckle coming from Xen's modulator before the woman answered.

"Why not?" Xen replied finally. If her flippant answer didn't convey her indifference to the issue at hand, her bored and uncaring tone of voice did. "I care little about what this new species of upstarts did nor do I see how they would affect us, but it couldn't hurt. I'm more interested in seeing the technology these humans utilized that was supposedly strong enough to demolish the Turian Hierocracy's fleet."

Rael sighed, expecting her interests to lie not in a potential alliance but in whatever new technology she could get her hands on. It was an answer completely expected of Daro'Xen. The woman did not have a hand in military affairs like he and Gerrel did, nor did she really pay attention to the civilian concerns that Koris and Raan fretted over. It was that detached pragmatism that the head of the quarians' Research and Development ships was known for. Rael could attest that the woman had a brilliant mind and the achievements she'd made had not only helped them combat the geth, but also made life easier aboard the ships and saved many lives time and again. While her attitude was… unnerving at times, Rael could overlook her quirks and was more than happy to work alongside her and help the woman research in order to make weapons that could effectively combat the Geth, and improve the ones they already had.

Koris took Xen's answer in stride, clapping his hands together as he addressed his fellow admirals, "Very well. It seems we've all come to a decision. Raan, call it."

"As you say, Admiral Koris. All those in favor of meeting with the humans, vote aye."

"Aye." Koris answered immediately.

"Aye." Xen said flatly.

"Aye." Rael made his answer firm, glancing at Gerrel and meeting his friend's eyes behind their face plates. The man's shoulders slumped before he gave a resigned nod.

"Aye." Gerrel said finally.

"Then we are all in agreement." Raan announced, sounding pleased with the results. "The majority rules that the Admiralty Board will meet with this new species, the Humans, to decide what our future with them may or may not be. As the commander of the civilian fleets and as a result, social affairs, Koris will handle the proceedings."

"Gladly." Koris said, sounding confident. "Be prepared when I call for all of you."

Upon that statement, the meeting concluded and the Admiralty Board left the room to attend to their regular duties, aside from Koris who was practically bouncing on his toes from what he perceived as the opportunity of a lifetime.

Rael was also hopeful, but remained skeptical. After all, when something sounded too good to be true, it almost always wasn't…

"It is pleasing that they accepted. It seems that we might not be as isolated as we had assumed." Malzel commented as he, as well as Thermidor, Lloyd, Kyra Landolf, and Cecilia Ziacatch all waited in the meeting room on board the Orbiting Star for the Quarians to arrive in system. Kyra was the leader of the company Aspina, youngest of all the Executives at only twenty five, and Cecilia headed Rosenthal, one of the more influential companies. Both women, along with Lloyd, represented Omer Science Technology as all their companies were affiliated with the corporation. Thermidor and Malzel were obviously ORCA's spokesmen, as it was the corporation that led the others and governed human interests. The Interior Union had left it to the ORCA heads to represent their interests, which is why no executives from the company had shown up.

The Humans were not alone, however, as ten unarmed guards had accompanied them as well, each showing proficient abilities in hand-to-hand combat. Also with them were three high-ranking Volus representatives, due to the fact that if all went well, they would be affected in whatever happened in this meeting as well.

"It's rather interesting that this station, the first place to broker peace with an alien species, will have another similar meeting once again." Cecilia noted with a small smirk.

"Hopefully, with similar results as well." Lloyd added, tapping away on a datapad.

Kyra laughed, "As long as we don't scare them off first! Isn't it a little… overboard to bring the entourage we did?" The woman asked, briefly glancing out of the massive window that was the ceiling of the chamber, numerous classes of AFs prowling about just beyond it.

"Four Executives are present, as well as three high-ranking Volus. We decided we would take no chances, hence the first fleet's presence." Malzel answered.

The first fleet was the largest of Humanity's fleets, possessing many frigate-class, destroyer-class, a handful of interception-class, twenty cruiser-class, and twelve carrier class ships. Two Daunting dreadnaught-class ships also had a position in the fleet, all headed by the Whale itself. Normally, this particular fleet was in Humanity's home system, but would venture from it for special occasions… this happened to be one such occasion.

"Just like the Council," Thermidor spoke, "We will show it's a bad idea to mess with us. Even if the Quarians seem more amiable, I'm not willing to take any chances."

"I… doubt that the Quarian-clan would be foolish… enough to try and pick a fight with your fleet." Din Korlack said, the Volus actually sounding amused at the idea. "They aren't a… militaristic people. Rather, they're more of a… technological race, good with ships and electronics… not guns and heavy weapons."

Kyra looked to Cecilia and Lloyd, the other two Executives merely shrugging. Lloyd however, spoke up, "Mr. Korlack is right. From what I've gathered, the Quarians are remarkable engineers and have made leaps and bounds in electronics, both recreational and warfare. They've even managed to create a species of synthetics."

"The Geth…" Kyra whispered, eyes alight with excitement.

"Indeed. Though given what's happened to them, I can't imagine them feeling too proud about such an achievement." Lloyd said wryly. "Because of that, among other issues, it seems the Council is not fond of the Quarians. As a result, it is logical to assume they keep watch over their… Migrant Fleet, I believe it was called, and watch what it does. The presence of this fleet should keep them from doing anything rash."

A door opened behind the collection of officials, revealing the commander of the Orbiting Star. Seeing he had everyone's attention, the man spoke, "Sirs, we have just detected a mass relay jump. The Migrant Fleet should be arriving shortly."

Thermidor nodded, "Good. Stick to the plan. Send them a transmission detailing how to dock here with an escort ready to bring them here."

"Sir!" The commander snapped a crisp salute, before walking back through the door which closed behind him. The individuals in the room fell silent, all waiting anxiously for the Quarians. It would soon be time to see if they would be allies, or enemies.


Rael couldn't find the words to adequately express his awe as he stared out the viewport of the frigate that would ferry the Admiralty Board to the meeting point. The report had said that the ship the Nariya had encountered was about three-fourths of a kilometer… but these ships were unbelievable. It appeared the rumors of a massive ship appearing at the Citadel was true, as he and the rest of the Quarian people were now seeing it with their own eyes. Each member of the Admiralty Board stared out at humanity's fleet, Xen actually close to pressing her faceplate against the glass as her eyes darted around, trying to take in the technology and everything she'd never seen before.

"Just… who are these Humans?" Han'Gerrel mumbled in shock as he stared at the Whale. The rest of the Admiralty Board was in a similar state, wondering like so many others had how the Humans could possibly build such behemoths. "And they don't use Element Zero for this…?"

"We find Kojima Technology to be far more practical and useful."

The Quarians turned to the man who was apparently in charge of escorting them to where the meeting would take place. One of the first things the Admirals had noted were the similarities between their races in terms of appearance. They seemed to be of the same build and anatomy, save for the suits, the legs and their three fingers to the humans' five. Though, the human in front of them was broader than most Quarians and had a couple inches on them as well. The lines on his face suggested he was an older Human, though seemed quite fit so maybe he was still considered young. There was a patch on his clothes that read 'GA' on it, which was apparently the board the Human served under. Or corporation as the human, Roadie, referred to it.

"Kojima Technology." Xen said, practically purring the name. Her eyes were practically shining behind her visor. "Human, I don't suppose you could tell me a little more…?"

"Ah, I'm actually not the person to ask about that." Roadie said, smiling sheepishly and ignoring the dissatisfied snort that came from Xen at that. "I mean, I know enough without having to look it up, but you'd be better off asking one of our scientists about that. I'm just a soldier, ma'am. I just pilot machines and shoot things."

Rael heard Gerrel chuckle at that, understanding where the Human was coming from as they were both soldiers. At least the Human was polite. Even if the formality was just a courtesy, it was a breath of fresh air to even get that when any previous negotiations had consisted of silent glares and subtle insults. As far as first impressions went, this Roadie Human was doing better than most.

"…Is there something wrong?" Rael asked when he noticed the human glanced at them every so often.

"Ah, sorry. Just admiring your suits is all. You've got more variety than any of us do." Roadie said, gesturing to his own uniform and jabbing a finger at the soldiers standing near the airlocks. "Hope I'm not making you uncomfortable."

"Not at all… these suits are the only things that let us identify each other." Rael explained. "We have to make sure our suits are different, otherwise we wouldn't tell each other apart."

"I see. So they're essentially your faces…" Roadie muttered, sounding sympathetic, surprisingly enough. "You really can't take those off, huh?"

"…No. Not unless we want to run the risk of killing ourselves." Rael answered. "Our immune systems are lacking, as I'm sure you've been informed. When we lost our homeworld, our immune systems couldn't adapt and we had to use these suits. Even the smallest infection could be fatal."

"…That's rough." Roadie said simply, turning to glance out at the viewport.

Rael stared at the human. While calling the Quarians' exile and ultimate shame 'rough' was extremely understating the issue, the man's sympathy seemed genuine. Rael couldn't fault the man for not completely understanding, not when both of their species had yet to truly learn about one another.

Still, it was nice to finally have someone who asked and actually wanted to listen.

There was a hiss and a light tremor shook the ship. At first, Rael thought something bad had happened but Roadie's smile forestalled his panic.

"Don't worry, that was just us hooking up with the docking port of the Orbiting Star." Roadie said. He turned and shouted a few orders to the marines standing near the doors to the airlock, the men and women quickly springing into action and working on a couple consoles near the door. Roadie turned back to face the Admiralty Board. "Well then, ladies and gentlemen of the Admiralty Board… are you ready to start this meeting?"

Rael looked to his fellow admirals, all of whom turned away from the viewport to address the human. Gerrel seemed to have finally lost some of his previous tension and looked far more at ease than he had been since the meeting was first proposed. Xen looked more excited than Rael had ever seen her before, shuffling impatiently as she continued to try and take in everything around her. Koris gave a firm nod, while Raan stepped forward.

"We are ready." Raan told him.

Roadie smiled at her and nodded. The airlock doors opened, and Roadie gestured down the hall.

"Then let's get moving. After you, Admirals."

The Orbiting Star had several briefing rooms scattered throughout it. The station was so massive and expansive that whenever a meeting was called the crew could go to one of the many stations in order to receive orders. The room Thermidor and the other executives were in was one of their larger meeting rooms, and could fit a good sized battalion of soldiers if needed. It was the perfect place to hold a meeting between the leaders of three species.

"…I've received the heads up from Roadie. The Admiralty Board is on their way." Malzel informed Thermidor as he checked his omni-tool. He gazed at his friend solemnly. "Are we prepared?"

"As we'll ever be." Thermidor replied firmly. He glanced at each of the executives sitting alongside him. Cecilia sat rigidly with her hands folded on the table in front of her. Lloyd and Kyra seemed considerably less tense, and were in rapid fire discussion with one of the Volus ambassadors, Kul Shonar if Thermidor remembered right, about something he couldn't quite overhear.

"We've all prepared… adequately for this meeting." Din Korlack said. "Of course, while the Quarians believe this to be a meeting to… discuss a relationship between our species… it is so much more than that… isn't it?"

"If all goes well, it will be." Thermidor replied.

"Yes. Just keep… in mind what we told you." Din advised. "Even showing great generosity… if they are aware of the certain… technology you utilize it may… jeopardize the meeting."

"We have to show them that we can be trusted." Thermidor said. "Which is why we're going to place our cards flat on the table. Everything up front to show them what we intend to do."

"Human idioms…" Din gave an amused chuckle. "But we agree with this. They may have… strong opinions on those issues, but the chance to no longer… be named as the Clanless… will hopefully lead to them accepting some compromise. You… have the Vol-Clan's support in this, Thermidor."

The man nodded to the ambassador. "Thank you."

Thermidor turned to the door when he heard it open. Roadie stepped in, snapping off a salute as he addressed the leaders of Humanity and the Volus ambassadors.

"Executives. Ambassadors." Roadie greeted them.

"At ease." Thermidor told him. Roadie was not only in charge of security for the meeting, but was also representing Global Armaments' interests. The Lynx pilot wasn't technically on the board, but he was there to observe. "Has the Quarian Admiralty Board arrived?"

"They have, sir." Roadie nodded, stepping aside. "Presenting, the Admirals of the Migrant Fleet."

Five suited forms stepped into the room, escorted by two more soldiers from GA. Another quartet of Quarians also followed after them, presumably the Admirals' bodyguards. Thermidor smiled as he stood up from his seat, nodding to the Quarians.

"Welcome." Thermidor greeted. "Thank you all for agreeing to this meeting."

"Thank you for having us." Koris spoke up, nodding his head to the human. "And thank you for the assistance you gave our people against the Batarian pirates."

"Of course. As I believe Ms. Jardefelt said at the time she met the captain of the ship we helped, we can't stand by and watch when the innocent are attacked."

As Koris and the Human leader exchanged pleasantries, Rael took a look around the room. It was vacant aside from the table the humans sat at and the large console in the middle of the room. Rael assumed it was some sort of hologram projector. Other than the Human leaders, there were several other Humans dressed similar to Roadie standing at attention spread around the walls, though their uniforms sported an insignia that read 'ORCA' on it. They were all unarmed, which Rael took as a gesture of trust. Roadie and the two other GA guards were the only ones who appeared to have weapons, and Roadie's was just a sidearm. The Quarian marines with them had been allowed to keep their weapons, and Rael and Gerrel had elected to keep their own sidearms. The Quarian admiral was surprised and grateful for the amount of trust the humans had apparently given them.

"Now then, before we get started allow me to introduce myself." The Human Rael assumed to be their leader spoke up. "I am Maximillian Thermidor, head of ORCA, the corporation that leads Humanity. Other than my associate Malzel here, joining us today is Lloyd Splicer, head of the Algebra Corporation, Kyra Landolf, head of the Aspina Corporation, and Cecilia Ziacatch, head of the Rosenthal Corporation. They're all executives with companies under ORCA and also represent Humanity's interest. Along with them, we also have ambassadors from the Vol Protectorate here with us to represent Volus interests. Din Korlack, Kul Shonar, and Gann Horaknah are these ambassadors.

"Excuse me." Rael said, stepping forward. "We weren't aware that the Volus would be joining us. What purpose do they have for being here?"

"The Earth-Clan and the Vol-Clan have become… quite involved in the recent year, Quarian admiral." Din Korlack said, addressing Rael. "As any agreement that your two races might reach may… affect the Vol-Clan… we felt that our presence… was required. I hope we're not… imposing at all."

Rael's eyes narrowed at the Volus ambassador. While he was happy to note that the Volus had not yet called them 'Clanless', the word their people often used to describe the fleet and its people, it was still odd. Perhaps the Volus wished to negotiate as well? It was unlikely when they refused business in the past, but possible…

"Why weren't we informed?" Rael asked.

"The Volus only asked to be a part of this meeting after they'd learned that we extended an invitation to meet with you, admirals. You were already on your way, and we didn't see it as too much of a problem." The human called Malzel explained. "Perhaps the relationship between Quarians and Volus hasn't been the best, but would it be too much to ask to allow you to look past old grudges and let them join us today?"

"The Vol-Clan would like to… apologize for any disrespect shown to the Migrant Fleet." Din said, surprising the admirals. "Anything that happened between… our two races were for the sake of business, and we shouldn't allow petty conflict… to prevent the formation of a much more… beneficial and rewarding partnership."

"Partnership? So the Volus really are in on this too…?" Rael thought, though before he could question further Koris spoke again.

"We don't mind the Volus being present for this meeting, so long as they show us respect." Koris said, quickly turning to narrow his eyes at Rael. The man would've said something to retort but Raan's hand on his arm made him bite his tongue. It wouldn't do any good to make an issue of it.

"Of course. We'll treat you the same way we would wish to be treated." Thermidor said. "We're not here to fight. We're here to talk. Hopefully, we can come to an agreement and form some sort of alliance."

Rael started a little at that as he felt hope swell in his chest. So the humans AND the Volus were open to negotiations…!

"We hope for the same thing, Captain Thermidor." Koris said, palpable excitement in his voice.

"Ah…? I'm actually not…" Thermidor trailed off when a gesture from Din caught his attention, and leaned down as the Volus spoke quietly to him for a moment. Thermidor nodded and turned back toward the admirals with a smile.

"Is something wrong?" Koris asked.

"No, not at all. Din was just explaining to me why you referred to me as captain even though that's not my rank."

"You are captain of this ship, are you not?" Gerrel asked.

"While I'm aboard, I am the one in charge, yes. From what I understand, the title of captain carries great weight among your people."

"Indeed it does." Koris nodded. "The captain of a ship is the one who looks after the interests of his crew. He is a leader to his people. As you are in charge of this ship and as leader of Humanity, does that not make you a captain?"

"By your definition, I suppose it does." Thermidor smiled wryly, though there wasn't anything mocking about it.

"We actually don't know a lot about the Quarian people." Cecilia said. "We've read the codex and have been told about your people by the Volus and have heard Ms. Jardefelt's impressions of you when she met with your captain, though I'm sure hearing about the culture from the people themselves pales to what any third party can tell us."

"Allow us to go over what we know about you, or what we think we know about you." Malzel said, holding a datapad in front of him. "Please forgive my summarizing of the information. I do not mean to discount anything your people have gone through, I'm just simply telling you what information we've gathered on your people."

"Then let's hear it." Rael said. "I think I speak for my fellow admirals when I say we're curious to know your impressions of us."

"Very well. Now then…" Malzel cleared his throat before scrolling through the datapad. "From the records we've read in the codex, the Quarians are a species known for your skills with technology and synthetic intelligence. You're a dextro-protein based species, though you're similar to Humans in anatomy save for a few physical features and poor immune systems… from what we've read, all this is basic information. Is it accurate?"

"Generally." Koris allowed after seeing the other admirals nod.

"Continuing on then…" Malzel went on. "Your people once lived on a planet called Rannoch located in the Perseus Veil. This is, or used to be, the Quarian homeworld. Approximately three hundred years ago the Quarians created the Geth, a species of rudimentary artificial intelligences, to serve as an efficient source of manual labor. As you were a Council race at the time and had to adhere to the laws banning AI, you developed a neural network in order for the Geth to do more complex tasks without breaking Citadel law. Am I correct so far?"

"So far." Koris said. "It's actually surprising you know so much about our people."

"Not us. All of this is what our Volus allies have told us." Malzel said, gesturing to the ambassadors.

"That might even be more surprising…" Gerrel muttered.

"Don't pretend that we've… never done business before, admiral." Gann said. "We are very mindful of… any client we've ever had, and the Vol-Clan… does know a little about your people. It is good… for business."

"Now, here's where our information might be faulty. The Morning War…" Malzel let his words hang, noticing how the Quarians shuffled a little at the mention of it. "To be honest, we're all a little unclear about how it started. All we know is that the Geth suddenly began displaying signs of sentience. In response, your people ordered a termination of all Geth platforms. What caused such drastic action?"

"Drastic? The Geth revolted and killed our people!" Gerrel shouted.

"Admiral, please!" Raan quickly interjected when Gerrel got angry. Koris and Xen both shot the admiral dirty looks from behind their face plates while Rael barely kept himself from adding to Gerrel's statement. Raan quickly stepped forward. "It is nothing so simple, human captain. The Geth were nothing more than tools and work drones before they began asking questions about themselves. Our ancestors did not mind working with machines, but feared when the Geth showed signs of greater intelligence by asking these questions. If they were attaining sentience, that would've meant that would have made them slaves. Fearing the revolt that would've followed, our ancestors ordered that all Geth platforms be shut down."

"The Quarians attacked first then?" Malzel tried to clarify.

"We had no choice." Rael put in firmly, speaking up before Gerrel could give another heated reply. "If the Geth revolted there would have been war. What our ancestors did was an attempt to prevent such a thing from happening in the first place."

"Why did your ancestors think it would happen in the first place?" Kyra asked suddenly. "Surely not everyone thought that way. You all created the Geth, so why be ashamed of that? Instead of continuing what you had been doing, why not work alongside them to develop further? Why jump to the conclusion that the Geth would automatically revolt. Even if the Geth felt some resentment from how they were used before, it was before they attained senti-"

"Don't describe the Geth as more than they are, human." Xen put in. "The Geth were created to serve us. They have no other purpose than that, and to think otherwise would be ridiculous."

Kyra frowned at how the woman described the synthetics. "But if they were sentient, then-"

"Ms. Landolf." Malzel cut the woman off before she could say more. "It's not our place to judge how the Quarians handled the situation. They created the Geth, so we shouldn't presume to know more about their own creations than they do. Please, save your opinions on the matter for another time."

Kyra crossed her arms in dissatisfaction, clearly having more to say about it.

"Please excuse Ms. Landolf." Malzel said. "The Aspina Corporation has made significant advances in the study of Artificial Intelligence and synthetic technology, and as such she has her own views on the subject and how it should be handled."

"Though nothing like the Geth, we're familiar with similar technology." Kyra smiled. "My crowning achievement is actually-"

"We can discuss that later, Ms. Landolf." Malzel interrupted her, silently urging the woman to remain silent. Lloyd leaned over and whispered in the young woman's ear, and Kyra's eyes widened as she quickly gave an apologetic smile to both Thermidor and Malzel. The leader of ORCA simply returned her smile while Malzel rolled his eyes before readdressing the Quarians. "Again, I apologize for my colleague."

"Not at all. There are a few of us who might have similar opinions to Ms. Landolf." Koris said, adapting quickly to the human social cues by referring to the woman with the prefix the humans had been using rather than her assumed ship rank. "Looking back, our ancestors might not have handled the situation as aptly as they should have-"

"Excuse me, but I was under the impression that we were here to negotiate some kind of exchange. An agreement of sorts to foster further communication between our species." Xen interjected. "While I applaud your race and this Aspina Corporation for their willingness to research AI and synthetic technology, I did not expect to be criticized for how we treated our own creations."

"She's right, Koris. Don't you think it's time we get to the matter at hand?" Rael asked pointedly. "We can discuss the Geth after we finish things here. We should conclude the history lesson. Is there anything else you would like to know, human?"

"A couple things actually, but you're right." Malzel nodded. "They can wait until we address the real issue. We know where the rest of the galaxy stands when it comes to relations with the Quarian people. We don't share their opinions or preconceptions. Regardless of what happened in your people's past and how that has affected the galaxy, we'd rather look towards the future. A future where we can coexist with your species."

"We would be happy to strive towards such." Koris agreed, sounding pleased. "The Quarians have been without true allies for centuries. We would be more than happy to facilitate a cordial relationship with humanity."

"Of course, seeing what humanity already have, what would you ask of us?" Raan asked. "Your ships are numerous and are of greater size than our own, along with being clearly more advanced."

"We're always looking to improve our technology, and we've heard good things about your engineers." Malzel said. "There's much that needs to be researched, and having more able hands on our ships is more than welcome if you're willing to contribute men and women who you believe would be up to the task."

"Seeing your ships… any Quarian would consider it a dream to be assigned to any one of them." Raan said.

"Keep in mind, we're also relatively new to the galactic community. The Volus have helped us immensely in understanding other species and what is around us, and we'd like to cater to the needs of Quarians as well." Malzel said. "In return for peaceful relations and support, you be able to learn our own technology and research it if you wish."

"It would be a wonderful opportunity." Xen said, the eagerness in her tone throwing some of the admirals off guard. They weren't used to her sounding so excited. "The Kojima Technology the human who escorted us here spoke of… I would do anything to get a chance to learn about it. Utilizing it to build the fleets that surround this station… I can't even begin to imagine the advances we could make if I could learn just a little…"

"Of course, we don't mind sharing knowledge of Kojima Tech with you. However, we ask that you keep it to yourselves." Malzel said. He smiled a little. "We wouldn't want the Council to understand the secrets of our success."

"Of course not."

"And what of your ships?" Gerrel asked, also anxious. "Just looking at them… it's enough to confirm that reports we received about your species defeating the Turian fleets was more than just a rumor."

"We try to advocate peace whenever possible, but the Turians fired the first shot and we retaliated in kind." Malzel said. "If you're asking us to loan our ARMS Forts to you, we'd be open to discussion."

Gerrel was practically shaking with anticipation at that. Rael could understand why. If the humans could lend them even a dozen of those ships, the day where they'd be close to taking back the homeworld was closer than any of them could've hoped…!

Rael continued to listen with growing excitement as Koris and the other admirals continued to ask questions and negotiate. He was amazed at how accommodating the humans were being. They were more open than any race they'd ever dealt with before. As long as the Quarian people showed that they were trustworthy, the humans would support them. Malzel and Koris continued to talk, while two other executives, Lloyd and Cecilia, would answer questions the admirals had from time to time. The Volus interjected every so often to help simplify things when the Quarians and humans got confused on a few points, making sure the negotiations between the two species continued to run smoothly.

Seeing as things were going so well, Rael took a chance.

"Excuse me for a moment." Rael announced, stepping past Koris. All eyes focused on him. He nodded to Thermidor, who had been content only listening to the proceedings so far. Humanity's leader inclined his head towards the Quarian, silently urging him to say his piece. Rael cleared his throat and addressed the representatives of humanity. "You've all treated us better than anyone has in a long time. That you're so ready to negotiate peace and willingness to work alongside us gives me hope I haven't felt in a long time. Having said that, and even knowing that asking more would be over stepping our boundaries, I have to at least make a request."

"And what would that be?" Malzel asked.

"Our people have been traveling amongst the stars for far too long. If… if it is at all possible to put in a request to give us a planet to colonize. Give us a place where our people can stay." Rael pleaded. "While we can survive just fine on our ships, if you have resources to spare… I understand that this could take time and there is procedure, but as admiral for my people I can-"

"Mr. Rael, please say no more." Malzel smiled, holding up a hand. "Is that all?"

The Quarian admirals paused at that, eyes widening behind their masks as they processed what the human had just said.

Is that all?

"I… what…?" Rael stuttered, suddenly at a loss for words.

"Is that all?" Malzel asked again, picking up a datapad. "If so, we should have no problems arranging that. We recently began colonizing a few planets discovered in a new system we found and it would be no trouble at all to give a planet to the Quarian people to settle on for the time being. If you wanted, we could afford to give you a second one. Just one might not be able to accommodate all of you."

A bad air filter. Suit punctures. Hallucinations. Some other kind of malfunction. There was just no way that the humans were offering to just GIVE them, not one, but TWO planets!

"Of course, we'd have to do scans to make sure any of the planets recently discovered are capable of supporting Quarian life. Given your immune systems I assume it'd take time to adapt." Malzel went on, seemingly not noticing the Quarians' shock. "Even if they aren't, we can construct Eco-Domes so that you can create suitable environments to live in, and we'll have our ARGIS platforms work on constructing some stations for you to live on as well. At the very least, colonizing one of the moons shouldn't be too-"

"H-Hold on."

Malzel paused when he heard Rael speak in a choked up voice.

"W-Why are you doing this?" Rael asked. Malzel paused and put down his datapad.

"…What do you mean?"

"They are… taken aback by your generosity." Din said, sounding amused. "Try to imagine… after all these years of the Council refusing… to give them planets to colonize, you suddenly… offer them two without complaint. They are… surprised."

"More than just that." Rael said, regaining his calm. "It's more than just that. I don't mean to refuse your goodwill, just offering us so much is… odd. I'm actually suspicious of your true intentions."

"Rael, what are you saying!" Koris hissed, worried that his fellow admiral might ruin everything.

"Please, Koris. It's like Raan said. They have so much already. What could we give them in exchange? There's no way we could pay them back for all of this, so why would they offer so much? And willingly?" Rael accused, facing the humans. "What is it you really want from us?"

The room was silent as Rael stood before the assembled humans and Volus. The silence was broken when a laugh suddenly echoed throughout the room.

"Very good. I'm glad you were able to notice, Rael'Zorah."

Thermidor smiled as he stood from his seat. Malzel sat down, leaning back with a smile as the leader of ORCA finally took the stage. The other executives had their own smiles as they looked to their leader, and listened with anticipation as Thermidor prepared to reveal their true goal.

"You're right, of course. I'm confident in our military, and in our technology. Humanity stands as one of the greatest powers of the galaxy, able to stand on its own without the Citadel or joining its Council, considered to be the center of all galactic life." Thermidor said. "Humanity has the capability to stand on its own. But we'll never reach our full potential alone."

Rael could feel the intensity of the man's gaze even through his face plate, and the way he talked spoke volumes. This man was a leader. A captain to all his people. A person who had led Humanity to great things.

"The reason we offer your people so much, admirals, is because I feel we can understand each other." Thermidor said. "Humanity knows hardship… and we're experts when it comes to knowledge of the brutality that war can bring."

Thermidor took a deep breath, as he remembered to the days back on Earth. He activated his omni-tool and put in a code, activating the hologram projector in the middle of the room. The Quarians' eyes widened as the ruin that was projected in front of them, the images of weapons and combat that on a scale the likes of which they'd never seen. Thermidor spoke loudly and clearly as the images played, recounting humanity's bloody history.

"Humanity used to consist of a collection of governments and ruling factions, and each nation was separate from one another. However, as the years went by Earth experienced a period of rapid population growth, which put a strain on global food and energy supplies. As populations increased, so did the gap between the wealthy and the poor, and so did the unrest within the population at large. Eventually, violence began to erupt and the governments quickly lost control of their populations as their cities were consumed by terrorism and anarchy."

The Quarian admirals listened as Thermidor shared humanity's history with them. They had always feared overpopulation, and there were laws on ships to prevent multiple births so that their resources weren't strained. But to hear how the humans' society had devolved into chaos due to it…

"Eventually, people began turning to Corporations, companies with their own private armies, for protection against the chaos," Thermidor went on. "Eventually, the strongest of the Corporations decided that the various governments of the world were no longer needed, and launched a full-scale war called the National Dismantlement War in order to establish their own system of government. The companies banned together and formed what was called the Pax Economica, which would guarantee food and safety to anyone loyal to the Corporations. However, people living under them were no different than slaves, and tensions continued to increase as the factions began launching attacks on one another."

Thermidor sat down, folding his hands in front of him as he let the information sink in for a moment. He glanced at his associates, who were all watching and listening with solemn expressions. When no one interjected, he continued. As he did so, early diagrams and schematics for the mechanical bipeds the Quarians had heard of were projected by the hologram.

"The Corporations kept power by employing advanced Armored Core technology, though pilots known as Lynx who were able to use NEXTs were the people who really got the job done." Thermidor said. "There was one mercenary from a colony called Anatolia, referred to as Anatolia's Raven, who made enough waves within the warring Corporations for it all to come to a peak. Following a skirmish between the Global Armaments Corporation and their former European subsidiary in which Anatolia's Raven played a key role, it gave the other Corporations an excuse to declare war on each other and start the Lynx War. The Corporations threw their NEXT pilots and armies at each other, which only concluded when the Corporations Rayleonard and Akva Vit were destroyed, since it's arguable that those were the two companies that contributed most to the war. Many lives were claimed in the fighting, and our world was completely ravaged by the war."

Thermidor sighed and gazed at the Quarian admirals.

"While war drove you from your homeworld, war had trapped us on ours. During the Lynx War, weapons called Assault Cells were launched into the atmosphere by the Corporations to keep any enemy from expanding into space and striking from above. Ironically, there were so many that nothing could break past the Assault Cells as they were unmanned platforms that would fire on and destroy anything in their range. After the Lynx War ended, the companies remaining dissolved the Pax Economica, and headed by the Interior Union Corporation, formed what was called The League, which controlled all the world's economy. At the time, NEXT and Kojima Technology was relatively new, and the Corporations weren't able to compensate for the heavy pollution caused by Kojima particles. Save for clean facilities owned by the various Corporations, Earth slowly became uninhabitable. Because of the Assault Cells, we had essentially placed a net around our world that kept us from expanding and with the growing pollution humanity wouldn't have lasted another century."

"How bad was the pollution caused by this Kojima Technology?" Xen asked. "Surely it's not still a problem."

"No. We have no more problems with Kojima Tech now, but before… the pollution and decay constantly ate away at the land." Thermidor said solemnly. "The pollution was so bad that I can guarantee that if one of you were even to get a small puncture in your suits, you'd die in a matter of seconds."

The Quarians shifted uncomfortably at that. Thermidor continued speaking. The images of NEXTs disappeared and images from the time following the conclusion of the Lynx War played through.

"The League tried to solve this by constructing airship colonies to house humanity's population. These flying constructs could house approximately 20 million civilians and flew high enough above ground to stay safe from Earth's pollution, but low enough to stay out of the range of the Assault Cells. This way the Corporations were able to consolidate their remaining resources in order to survive without having to worry about civilians. While there were Corporations that still housed small colonies, most of humanity had migrated above to the Cradles and the surface of Earth became a battlefield, with Corporations fighting over resources and territory. All of this, from the formation of The League and construction of the Cradles to fighting over territory on the surface occurred over a span of five years after the Lynx War ended."

"Hold on. Didn't you say all the remaining Corporations were part of The League?" Gerrel asked. "Why would they continue to fight?"

"The Interior Union, along with Omer Science Technologies, made up a majority of The League's Board of Executives. On paper, the other Corporations were allies of The League only for the sake of maintaining the energy that kept the Cradles afloat. While the Corporations struggled against each other, none of them were willing to forsake humanity. Looking back on it, the Corporations butting heads with each other and ordering attacks on Arms Forts seems almost petty." Thermidor gave a humorless chuckle. "There were a few Corporations that tried to stay independent from The League, though the Line Ark Corporation was the only one that was able to do so for an extended period of time before being dismantled. There was one neutral organization The League formulated known as Collared. Because Lynx were valuable and the Corporations needed them to pilot NEXTs, Collared was created as a neutral zone where Lynx could be trained and then hired by Corporations for money or other rewards. In a way, it established an order within The League, with the strongest companies able to hire more Lynx while the weaker ones remained underfoot. It wasn't the original purpose of Collared, but those in charge made sure it was organized at the very least. Collared HQ became a place where brokers from various Corporations would drop in and try to hire Lynx, while the pilots themselves found it as a place where they could take a small breather from the endless conflict. All Lynx were to be mercenaries without loyalties and would do the jobs they were assigned, though a good majority of Lynx pilots affiliated themselves with certain Corporations and refused to take jobs that would hurt the Corporation they were employed by. The fighting continued for years, with weapons technology advancing by leaps and bounds thanks to new discoveries made in the field of Kojima Tech despite our homeworld's poor state. It was all about who had the most capable Lynx and the most dangerous weapons."

Thermidor shook his head, slamming his fist on the table in front of him.

"But the real issue was Humanity's future. Even if one Corporation toppled the others and came out on top, what would they have to govern? Nothing but bones and scrap scattered across a desolate wasteland. Which is why myself and a few other individuals with similar opinions formed the rebel organization known as ORCA."

"The Corporation that governs humanity now?" Rael asked.

"We hadn't always been recognized as a legitimate Company and were only named such when we finally destroyed the Assault Cells. Before, we were considered little more than terrorists." Thermidor said. "ORCA consisted of members from various Corporations, though remained hidden as they gathered information. We all believed that the only way for humanity to survive, to expand, was to reach out into space. So, I proposed what was known as the Closed Plan."

"I assume this was the plan that was made to deal with the Assault Cells?" Rael asked.

"Correct. The Cradles were only meant to be a temporary solution, but it was in complete contrast with the situation on Earth. There were various facility used to power the Cradles, known as Arteria facilities, though they produced far more pollution than any other machine and facility on the planet, save for the AF Answerer. Even if there'd been earnest efforts to clean up the planet at the time, the Arteria facilities produced far too much pollution for Earth to ever become sustainable for life. The Closed Plan had initially been conceived by the members of the Rayleonard Company, who also felt humanity's only hope was expanding to the stars, and had planned to topple the other Corporations and use their energy and resources to power land based anti-satellite cannons in order to destroy the Assault Cells and head into space. It was why they had played a major part in the start of the Lynx War." Thermidor said. "Sharing their views and seeing the plan as the only option, I salvaged and instigated the Closed Plan. ORCA made strikes on various Arteria facilities, planning to use the energy directed from those facilities to power the anti-satellite batteries and clear the path to space."

"Wait, if the Arteria facilities were what supported the Cradles… wouldn't that mean that…" Raan trailed off, holding a hand over her helmet's mouth piece when she realized what the plan entailed.

Thermidor closed his eyes. "Yes… the Cradles would have fallen and millions would have died. Everyone in ORCA, everyone who agreed to support the plan, fully understood this."

"You were willing to…!" Rael started before Thermidor cut him off.

"Humanity had mere decades left if things continued the way they had!" Thermidor said fiercely. "I was… we were willing to put up with the fact that we'd have the blood of all those people on our hands if it meant humanity's survival. Choosing between that and total extinction, which would your people had chosen, admirals?"

The Quarian admirals were silent at that. Their ancestors' choice to abandon Rannoch had been similar to the Humans' decision. Whether to stay and fight and be annihilated by the Geth or escape to the stars and hopefully find a way to take back their home one day?

They too had chosen survival.

"So we moved forward with the plan." Thermidor went on. "It took a lot of planning and I deceived many. I'd even taken up a fake name and identity within the Interior Union in order to fool The League and acquire the information needed to make ORCA's plan a success. Many of my allies played key roles, though there was one that…"

Thermidor trailed off for a moment when he realized he was getting a little off track with the story. It was time he wrapped things up.

"Eventually, it all came to a head when myself and a close friend stormed the main Arteria facility known as the Cranium in our NEXTs. The League had pulled out all the stops in order to keep us from taking the facility, as had we had acquired it we would have access to the entire Arteria system and could've chosen where to direct the energy that was powering the Cradles. ORCA would have used the energy to power the anti-satellite batteries and destroy the Assault Cells."

"…But I take it from the way you're describing things it didn't happen that way?" Rael asked.

Thermidor smiled. "Thankfully, no. In the midst of the fighting, I received a message from Malzel, who at the time I had assumed to have had perished at one of ORCA's bases that had been compromised. Apparently, one of the Assault Cells had fired on one of the Cradles, killing all the civilians inside and destroying an Arms Fort when it crash landed."

"But you said the Cradles were placed far enough away from the Assault Cells that-"

"We thought so too, and it still remains a mystery as to how Cradle 08 got within range of the Assault Cells or how their range suddenly increased, but something good did come out of the tragedy." Thermidor said. "The Corporations decided to listen to us, coming to understand that we couldn't remain ignorant and allow the world to continue to stagnate until we were all killed. A compromise was reached, an agreement that would destroy the Assault Cells without harming the Cradles and the rest… well, the rest is history. We expanded into space and continued to advance, only becoming aware just how big space was once discovering the Mass Relays."

Thermidor sighed and gazed at the Quarians, giving them an open smile.

"While it didn't end the way I thought it would, actually concluding better than I hoped, I couldn't have made it as far as I did alone. During the fighting I befriended an exceptional pilot who helped me get to the endpoint, and if there's one thing I learned from him it's that we're only at our best if we have allies we can count on. Which brings me back to my original point before we got lost in history."

Thermidor extended his arms, gesturing to his human associates, the Volus, and finally the Quarians.

"Humanity has a plan, admirals. We intend to form our own coalition of species, forming what we call the Alliance, a body separate from the Council that does things our own way, where all species who join with us are treated equally! We were all hoping that the Quarian people would be willing to join this alliance!"

It was just one shock after another with these Humans. Saving the Nariya first, then treating them with actual courtesy, offering peace, then offering two planets, and now they reveal that they wanted the Quarians to be a part of an Alliance not unlike the Council, but separate from it? It was almost too much for the admirals to take in. They could scarcely believe that they'd heard right.

"The Alliance…" Rael murmured. "You… you're serious?"

"Completely." Thermidor replied.

"And you'd let the Quarian people join you? You'd offer us an embassy, a say in what goes on…" Raan asked shakily.

"Your people would be entitled to an office, yes. We'd still be sensitive to Quarian culture and your established government, leaving matters concerning your people to be dealt with by you unless it affects us. You would have representatives for the Alliance Board of Executives to speak on behalf of the Quarian people."

"And this Board of Executives would be the Alliance version of the Council?" Rael asked.

"We'd have more than just one person speak for our races, but I suppose it would be comparable." Thermidor said. "However, I don't intend the Alliance to be anything like the Council. The species part of it would all stand on equal ground, striving together to reach further heights."

"You say it like more than one species… have the Volus already agreed to join this Alliance?" Gerrel asked.

"We are prepared to." Din Korlack said. "However, only if the… Quarian people decide to join first."

"Why would our decision to join this Alliance or not affect what the Volus do?" Rael asked.

"Because this is… a commitment, admiral. If the Vol-Clan join… with the Humans we would… separate from the Council to join the Alliance."


"However, no matter how capable humanity has… shown itself to be, it is not viable to join an alliance that only… has one other species in it." Din explained. "The Vol-Clan, in order to fully invest in this, must see that… others are willing to join with us. We believe that the Quarians would make… wonderful allies should you choose to join the formation of the Alliance."

"The Volus have done a lot for the Council and the races affiliated with them. They've helped establish the very economy of the Citadel itself. Odd that they aren't treated the same way as the three other ruling Council races." Thermidor said. "Which is why we offered them equal standing here with us."

"We'd still… do business with the Council when we can, but we… are no longer content with being a subservient race after so long. The Humans have… shown us that their offer of equality was genuine… and that by joining with them, the Vol-Clan can become greater… and stronger than we ever dreamed." Din Korlack said. He and the other Volus gazed at the assembled Quarians. "Of course, that is if… and only if… we have allies who would join the Humans with us. With everything the humans have… given us and are offering you… it would truly be a shame if you refused."

"Not that we're pressuring you to side with us. This is not a threat or anything of the sort. It is an offer. A choice for you to make." Thermidor said. "What say you, Quarian admirals? Are you at all interested in joining us?"

"…If we join you… we'd get those planets? We'd be able to study the technology you employ? Have access to your ships?" Koris asked.

"Yes. But only you can promise us your support in return." Thermidor said.

Koris turned towards his fellow admirals, eyes wide and hopeful behind his visor. All admirals gave him quick nods. Koris turned back to face the humans and Volus, speaking excitedly.

"Honestly, with all you're offering and the sheer magnitude of what you're proposing I don't see any reason to possibly refuse! Captain Thermidor, you and your people have given our people an ally. You've given us hope we've not felt since our ancestors were forced to abandon the home world." Koris said. "Together with humans and Volus, we'd be more than happy to play a part in this Alliance."

"Wonderful!" Thermidor gave a genuine smile before his expression quickly sobered. "However, before we rush into this, there's something the Quarian people should be aware of."

The five admirals all paused at the human leader's solemn words. They all shifted slightly, discomforted by the sudden change in mood. Thermidor leaned over and whispered something to the Aspina Executive that the Quarians couldn't quite overhear. Whatever he'd said, it caused the woman to smile and get up from her seat, dashing over to one of the doors and exiting the room. Thermidor turned back towards the Quarians.

"During our meeting with the Council, they'd wrongfully assumed we had the intentions to join them." Thermidor explained. "Before I made it clear where Humanity stood, they'd ordered us to decommission our entire fleet because our ships were beyond 'regulation size'." Thermidor used air quotes to enunciate his point and express how ridiculous the demand had been. He steepled his fingers and gazed at the Quarian admirals. "Humanity intends to keep moving forward, and will not give up anything we have gained. Those allied with us, we will protect them with every ounce of our power. However, in order for this Alliance to succeed we need to trust each other. It's why I've offered you so much, allowed so many liberties, and told you everything this Alliance entails."

"You've been straightforward with us." Koris agreed. "Is there something else we should be aware of?"

"Yes… by agreeing to join with us, you'd have to embrace, or at the very least tolerate, the technology humanity employs." Thermidor said.

"While the capabilities and destructive power of you ships is… daunting, these NEXTs machines even more so, I can't imagine it being a pro-"

"I wasn't referring to our ships or NEXTs, admirals. I believe your concerns would lie elsewhere." Thermidor said. "I know your feelings on AI and synthetic technology and how it's affected the Quarian people…"

Thermidor's words immediately put the Quarian people on edge. What was he saying…?

"However, we've gained too much from that field to give up anything it's produced." Thermidor went on as the doors Kyra had exited through opened up again. The woman stepped back inside, beckoning to someone following behind her with a smile on her face.

The Quarians' eyes all widened behind their helmet visors when they saw the figure that followed after the small woman.

The uniform it wore was not unlike anything the ORCA or GA soldiers were wearing, but its appearance was what set them off. Silver metal shining under the light along with lines of circuitry that stood out even from a distance. The mechanical limbs and synthetic glow of its eyes, even if its likeness was a mimicry of its creators, gave away what it truly was, what the humans had presented before them.

A synthetic lifeform.

"Presenting Aspina's proudest achievement and best Lynx pilot!" Kyra announced happily as she presented the synthetic.

"Greetings, Quarian admirals." The synthetic spoke. "I am CUBE, Lynx employed by the Aspina Corporation, designated pilot for the NEXT Fragile. I am pleased to-"

Rael and Gerrel's guns were out of their holsters and trained on the synthetic before it had even finished giving its name. The Quarian marines mimicked their admirals, guns pointing towards the robot in less than a second since its appearance. They ignored the GA pilots as they pointed their guns at the marines and the admirals ignored Roadie as the Lynx aimed his gun at Gerrel's head. The Humans and Volus all stood up in a panic, with Malzel letting out a sharp curse as Thermidor shouted for everyone to stand down. Gerrel flinched and lowered his weapon when Roadie pointed his gun at him, with the marines holding their positions but not firing when the two GA soldiers had their weapons pointed at them. The unarmed guards bordering the room moved forward, and Rael's finger tensed on the trigger of his gun, aiming at the synthetic's head.

He would've shot the blasted thing too if it weren't for one alarmed cry that was heard over the frenzy.

"What are you doing?!"

Rael's eyes widened when Kyra stood in front of the synthetic arms spread out in an attempt to shield the machine. It was a futile gesture, with the synthetic standing almost a foot above the short woman, but the action itself made Rael pause.

"Put those guns away!" Kyra screamed, eyes wide and pleading. "Don't shoot him!"

Rael's gun faltered, and all movement in the room ceased for a moment. There was tense silence as the Quarians stared at the machine behind Kyra, those with guns keeping a firm grip on them as they watched it.

They were shocked when the synthetic suddenly bowed its head and seemed to sigh, speaking in a dry, resigned tone.

"Perhaps I should not have come."

Rael started, caught somewhere between outrage and shock. "Wha-?!"

"Admirals, please stand down. Tell your men to do so as well." Thermidor asked in a low tone.

"Marines!" Koris barked, recovering more quickly than the other admirals. "Contain yourselves!"

The marines hurriedly holstered their weapons again and felt relief when the GA soldiers stepped away from them, but Rael and Gerrel held onto their guns.

"What… what is that?" Rael asked, practically shaking.

"…It is what it is. A synthetic intelligence we created. Or rather, what the Aspina Corporation created. What Kyra and her associates made after the Lynx War ended." Thermidor said, clearly tense. "We felt it was your right to know. This is the technology we use. If we're to trust each other and before you make the decision to join this alliance, you need to know…"

"This is…!" Rael started before the synthetic's voice stopped him.

"Ms. Landolf."

The Quarians all turned towards the synthetic, CUBE, and watched as the machine placed its hands on the woman's shoulders and moved her so she was standing behind it, exposing its back to the ones who had pointed guns at it.

"CUBE, are you okay?" Kyra asked worriedly, even though no shot had been fired.

"I'm fine." CUBE said, the natural tone and emotional inflection shocking the admirals. "Just don't stand in front of me next time aliens point guns in my direction. This body can withstand a couple of rounds. You cannot."

Having said its piece, CUBE turned and advanced toward the admirals. Rael almost brought his gun up but Koris stepped in front of him, shooting him a furious look and silently ordering him to stand down. Rael would've responded to this by shoving the man aside and unloading his entire clip into the approaching machine, but again he found himself shocked into stillness when the machine spoke again.

"I apologize for startling you, admirals. We all underestimated how severe your reaction to a synthetic platform would be, it seems." CUBE said. "Let me assure you I have no ill intentions towards you or your people. I am a loyal pilot to both my company and my creator. I was asked here by both Thermidor and Malzel to answer any concerns you have concerning synthetic technology employed by humanity. If you have any questions, ask away."

The Quarians could do not but stare at the machine as it spoke to them. They were too shocked by its words, its movements and what it was.

However, one admiral didn't have any problems with it.


"Xen!" Rael hissed.

"Be quiet, Rael." Xen snapped back, stepping forward so she was within arm's reach of the machine. "You. Machine… what was it you called yourself?"

"My name is CUBE. Or at least, that's the title designated to me by Ms. Landolf. It is a unique name, if anything." CUBE replied.

"It has a name, it's mobile, tone suggests that it's capable of mimicking emotions and responses displayed by organics and is capable of extensive speech and input." Xen said, her tone suggesting that she was in awe. "This machine is a marvel…! To think humans were capable of this as well…!"

"Excuse me, but CUBE isn't mimicking anyone." Kyra stepped in, standing next to the machine. "He developed his personality on his own and any mannerisms displayed are habits he acquired on his own. Every response is natural. He speaks on his own."

"He?" Rael sputtered, catching the way the human was referring to the machine.

"I am considered to be male by my creator and those around me." CUBE answered.

"Using possessives as well… it's more than just a collection of data." Xen observed. "This synthetic, this AI… it's sentient?"

"I am aware of myself. I am me. I make my own choices. I feel, I think, I am." CUBE answered, sounding almost amused. "I am sentient, Quarian admiral."

"This is…" Koris began before Rael finally decided he'd heard enough.

"Unbelievable!" Rael shouted, pointing to CUBE. "You ask us to join you and you show us this… this thing?!"

"CUBE played an integral role in the fight that led to the Assault Cells getting destroyed. He's someone I consider both an exemplary NEXT pilot and a good friend." Thermidor said. "Keep in mind, he is not like a Geth. He achieved sentience during the conflict on Earth. Not only that, but there is one other individual I'd like you to meet. And this time, keep your guns down please."

Thermidor activated his omni-tool again, and a small figure appeared in the center of the projector. It was a holographic image of a human, though her movement and Thermidor's words gave the idea that she was more than she appeared. This was confirmed when the small image suddenly bowed to the admirals, smiling at them.

"Quarian admirals, it is a pleasure. I am ISIS, Artificial Intelligence of ORCA stationed on the Arms Fort Whale. I am capable of answering any questions you might have regarding AI and synthetic advances humanity has made." ISIS turned to face CUBE. "Not that I'm suggesting CUBE can't either. It is good to see you again."

"Likewise." CUBE replied, inclining his head slightly in the direction of the AI.

"Synthetics and AI. You humans are full of surprises." Xen said, giving an amused chuckle.

"Human… what did you intend to accomplish by showing us these two…?" Gerrel asked.

"I wanted to show you what humanity has accomplished. I've exposed every bit of technology we have to you as well as explained our history." Thermidor said. "This was all an attempt to show that you can trust us, that we will be honest with your people. Perhaps it wasn't the best way to break the information to you… but given your experiences with synthetic technology, I couldn't think of a "right" time. Now, that everything has been said, now that all has been revealed… what do you say, admirals?"

"What do we say?!" Rael said incredulously. "Do you know the risks AI and synthetics pose?"

"CUBE nor ISIS are of any harm to you. They've proven their loyalty time and again to us, and we hope our word is enough to convince you."

"Are there… others?" Raan asked. "Do you have more like them?"

"CUBE is the only mobile synthetic we have. The number of AI we have can be counted on one hand, and even then none of them are as advanced as CUBE or ISIS." Thermidor said.

"So you work together with these AI?" Koris asked. "When they showed sentience, you didn't fear what might happen?"

"We monitored their growth. CUBE was the first, and I personally oversaw his development." Kyra said. "With positive influence, he grew into what he is. CUBE shared his experiences with ISIS during her creation, and she had her foundation. The intention was for them to eventually make their own choices and to think for themselves. We had no worries they would bring harm to us unless instigated. We did not give them cause to."

"I've only done what is required of me. I am a soldier who completes the mission he's given. It is how I developed and became what I am. I've never had any cause to rebel against my creators when they've shown no hostility. I don't see the logic in going against those who created me." CUBE said. He glance back towards Kyra. "I deem my superiors to be good people, ones I willingly work for. I'd only confront them if they gave me cause to do so."

"The same goes for me." ISIS said. "Aboard the ship, I take care of the crewman and pilots within. We all work together to keep things running. I would never wish to harm my creators. They've helped make me who I am. CUBE and I have friends who we'd never betray. Please understand, Quarian admirals, though we may be synthetics and we are similar to the Geth in creation, we have no wish to harm you, our creators, or anyone else and hope you'd be willing to work together."

"This is… I don't even…!" Rael sputtered, finally throwing his hands up and turning towards the doors.

"Rael!" Raan called out to him, but the Quarian ignored her, stepping past the soldiers and through the doors. Raan quickly followed after him, with Gerrel accompanying her.

"Well, this is troublesome." Xen noted while Koris turned to face the humans.

"Thermidor, please excuse my colleague. As you're aware, feelings regarding AI and synthetic are strong, and they reacted badly. Please, give us some time to talk things over and we'll have our answer, I promise." Koris pleaded.

"Of course." Thermidor gave an apologetic smile. "I suppose this is a bit much to take in all at once. We'll suspend this meeting for an hour or two while you discuss matters with your fellow admirals. Longer if need be. Let us know when you've come to a decision."

"We will." Koris said, nodding gratefully to the human. That said, he turned and stormed the way the other three admirals had gone to, with Xen following after giving one lasting lingering look towards CUBE and ISIS.

"…That went well." Lloyd quipped as the admirals departed. He smiled up at Thermidor who let out a sigh. "Better than I thought anyway. Anyone else? Thoughts?"

"I told you… to expect something like this." Din said.

"Such a fuss… they almost shot you!" Kyra said, still fretting over CUBE and checking him over. The synthetic rolled his eyes and she worried over him. "If anyone has a right to be angry…"

"This was not unexpected, Ms. Landolf. Thermidor told me to expect as much." CUBE said, glancing up at ORCA's leader. "Is there anything else you'd like me to do?"

"…Best leave for now. I just meant to introduce you in order to show off the technology." Thermidor said. "Sorry for the trouble, CUBE."

"…Then if you'll excuse me." CUBE abruptly turned and exited the way he came.

"I'll check on him later." Kyra muttered as she returned to her seat.

"I guess I should get going too then?" ISIS asked.

"Yes. We'll call for you if we need anything else." Thermidor said.

"Right then. By your leave, Max." ISIS smiled, snapping a salute before her form shimmered and disappeared.

"…She's using nicknames now?" Thermidor wondered idly.

"Oh no… the Quarians were right! The revolt has started!" Lloyd said, swaying dramatically. "When the AI lose respect for their superiors all is lost! We must…!"

"Lloyd." Malzel cut in.

"Yes?" Lloyd drawled, smiling at Thermidor's right hand man.

"Shut up."

"…Right then." Lloyd sighed, leaning back in his seat. "What now?"

"Now… we wait." Din said.

"For the Quarians' decision." Thermidor said, folding his hands together.

He could only hope things turned out the way he wanted them to.

"This is outrageous!"

Rael paced furiously in the room, appalled at what the Humans had asked of them. What they endorsed. What they allowed to roam free…!

"A synthetic. Seems like the ancestors weren't the only ones to make that particular achievement." Xen said dryly, sounding both amused at the revelation and a little miffed that it wasn't their people's achievement alone.

"That's all you have to say?! That thing was practically a Geth!" Rael shouted.

"No, Rael, it was more than that. It wasn't a drone or a collection of programs. That synthetic was an individual. It understood and was fully aware of itself." Koris said, sounding like he couldn't believe it himself. "True sentience."

"The very thing our ancestors feared." Raan stated, tone melancholy.

As a child, she'd heard the stories of the ancestors. She'd practically memorized her people's history in hopes that she could do better as an admiral. She was well aware of what the ancestors had feared, and the question that instigated the Morning War.

Does this unit have a soul…?

Raan felt a deep sadness well up inside her. While she understood Koris' viewpoint on the Geth, she had never truly agreed with the man. But after seeing the synthetic, CUBE… and then what had happened.

"What are you doing?! Put those guns away! Don't shoot him!"

The Human had frantically defended the synthetic. She'd put herself in front of it the moment Rael and Gerrel had drawn their guns.

The simple action, along with the synthetic's words made her ask herself very uncomfortable, foreboding questions. What if… what if the ancestors hadn't been afraid of that first question? What if they had answered? What if…

What if…?

"Would we be like the Humans?" Raan asked herself.

Would they still have been forced to travel among the stars as exiles, ashamed of their mistake? Or would they have been heralded as great pioneers as a race that had given birth to an entire species if they had continued to enhance the technology instead of trying to erase it? Would they have advanced to further heights alongside their Geth creations as two races working side by side? Would they have been put down by the other races if they tried? Would war still have erupted?

Raan found herself both frustrated and sad that she couldn't know for sure.

"Doesn't this prove that our ancestors' initial fears were baseless?" Koris asked. Raan could hear the vindication in his tone, no matter how hard he tried to mask it. In spite of his attitude, Raan couldn't help but see his point now. "If we had done what the Humans had done and petitioned for peace and worked alongside the Geth, who knows what could have been accomplished!"

"I'm sure you're more than ready to agree with a fellow sympathizer, Koris." Xen said derisively. "However, one synthetic is hardly enough to validate your theories. Based on what they said, this CUBE synthetic is the one sentient AI they have. Even assuming they have more, it's clear that their synthetic technology differs from our own, and is far less numerous. Do not try to compare the human's toy to the tools that were meant to serve us."

"Don't try to deny what is before you, Xen." Koris said, unwilling to back down. "What we saw wasn't a tool. What we saw was what the Geth might have become if our ancestors had allowed them to…"

"So should we start naming our engines and give our plasma torches pet names then?" Xen asked, voice dripping with disdain. "The Humans may have different ideas, but treating tools as anything but is simply-"

"The Geth are not our tools! Not anymore! Get that through your head!" Koris shouted at the scientist.

"So what, are you saying we forgive everything the Geth have done to us? That we abandon our home world?" Rael asked angrily.

"Of course not!" Koris refuted. "I'm just saying that-"

"The Geth attacked and drove us from our home world! They killed millions of us!" Gerrel said in support of Rael.

"Only because our actions instigated them to do so!"


So shocked by the sudden outburst that the other admirals found themselves at a loss for words. Raan was astounded that she had even done so in the first place, but relieved that she had stopped the fighting and gotten their attention in the first place. She held a hand to her chest, taking a deep breath before speaking, voice sounding shaky through her modulator.

"Admirals… again, we're forgetting the real issue. Even taking into account the… surprising revelation of the technology the Humans use, we must make a decision." Raan looked to each of her fellow admirals. "Do we join with them alongside the Volus?"

"I'm surprised you'd even consider it!" Rael exclaimed. "If the humans are allied with synthetics, we obviously refuse them!"

"You can't be serious!" Koris shouted incredulously. He jabbed a finger angrily at the man. "You would deny our people a home after centuries of hardship because of your own hatred and prejudice?!"

"We only have one home, Koris, and I haven't forgotten about it!" Rael snapped. "We'll return one day. I've already promised this to my daughter! We cannot-"

"Give up this opportunity!" Koris shouted over the outraged Rael. "How can you be so blind!? Don't you see what is being offered?! What you're ready to give up?!"

"Get cozy with the synthetics if you want, Koris, but don't think the rest of our people will accept it." Rael, matching Koris shout for shout. "We're better off-!"

"Better off? Better off?! Look at us! Look what has become of our people!" Koris yelled. "Forced to abandon our home world because of our mistake, rejected by the council, our people seen as thieves and vagrants by every species in every galaxy, dozens dying from infections and suit punctures or from accidents on our ships, some which are barely holding together as it is…!"

"Koris, you-"

"NO! I will not let this opportunity slip through our fingers. For the first time in centuries we have people offering to be our allies. Offering to give us a home. To help us! Can't you see? Of course not! So fixated on your hatred for the synthetics that our ancestors attacked, ones we have no cause to quarrel with, that you're willing to forsake our people!"

"No cause for…?! You can't be serious!" Rael hissed. "How much of a sympathizer are you…?!"

"Think of me what you will, Rael. Call me a sympathizer. Or perhaps a suit-wetter? Say that in front of me instead of mocking me behind my back. I honestly don't care how you think of me. You're so stubborn, so blinded by your hate that you'd turn away an alliance, a future for our race… all because you can't accept the fact that maybe WE MADE A MISTAKE!"


"Are you children done bickering, yet?"

More alarming than Raan shouting was that Xen was actually the voice of reason. Both Koris and Rael tensed, suited fingers clenched together and set at odds with one another as if they expected the argument to escalate from exchanging words to exchanging blows. Either man would have probably welcomed it at that point. Xen languidly pushed herself away from the wall and paced the room. The sound of her taking a deep breath echoed through the room before she addressed her admirals.

"While I don't exactly share Koris' opinion on the matter and I believe his reasoning is flawed, among other things…" Xen began. "I agree this isn't an offer to pass up."

"Xen…!" Rael gasped, admonished.

"Say what you will, Rael. Look at all this technology. So much advanced mechanics. Machines I've never seen before. Kojima Technology, NEXTs, these ARMS forts…" Xen gave a sensual sigh as she imagined studying them. "Much as it irks me to say it, they've made far more leaps and bounds in their technology than we have. One can only wonder how they accomplished this much while they were apparently at war and trapped on their own planet for some time."

"But Xen, what the Geth did…! Synthetics are…!"

"Save your hate speech for someone who is willing to listen. I am not willing to indulge you." Xen said disdainfully. "You know my opinion on the Geth and synthetics in general. I know you'd be more than willing to destroy our greatest creations, but not me. There's so much to learn, so much use we can get out of them… look at the big picture."

"So you'd agree to ally with the humans and Volus? To join this Alliance?" Raan asked, wanting a clear answer from the woman.

"Well, having a world to colonize and access to their technology… both great boons for our people. I'd be more than willing to side with them." Xen said, and even with her mask covering her face the others admirals could hear the smile in her voice. "To be honest, I care not what you choose to do. In the end it won't change my plans."

"And what exactly are those plans?" Rael asked warily.

"Oh… hypothetically speaking, if we were to turn away from this alliance, it would mean my renouncement of my seat on the Admiralty Board in order to pursue greater interests." Xen said flippantly, shocking the other admirals with her bold statement.

"Greater interests…! Xen, what do you…?" Raan began before the other woman elaborated.

"I'm saying that I'd depart on another pilgrimage. Negotiate with one of these captains or Corporation Leaders and join their crew. Study. Bring back something to the fleet. Or not." Xen said. She let out another longing sigh. "Honestly, I don't know if I would be able to leave if I were to just…"

"Enough of that." Rael interrupted crossly. "What about the advancements we've made in our cyber warfare? Xen, your contributions alone have already put us so far ahead of our original expectations and if we keep it up and salvage more data-"

"That project is dead to me now." Xen stated, again throwing Rael for a loop. "Why would I go back to fishing for scraps when I have an entire treasure trove before me? You've already heard my thoughts and my decision, Rael. It's all about what you want to do."

Raan bit back the comments and remarks she would have made in response to Xen's opinion, frustrated that the woman seemed to treat this issue like it wasn't her problem. She endured, since it wouldn't do for anyone to get worked up any more than they already were. Instead, she turned to Gerrel who had remained silent even as Xen made her shocking comments and as Koris and his best friend argued.

"Han'Gerrel. We've yet to hear your thoughts." Raan said. "Please, speak your mind."

"Hmph. It's obvious where he stands." Koris scoffed. "He's as blind as Rael. The two have always-"

"Koris!" Raan said sharply, silencing the man. Koris withdrew his stance and Raan nodded to Gerrel. "Admiral… your thoughts?"

Gerrel remained silent as the room's atmosphere remained tense. Xen leaned back against the wall while Raan waited patiently for Gerrel to say something. Rael and Koris stared at the man, both anxiously anticipating what the man would say. If they could see past the face plate, or if Gerrel could remove it without killing himself, the other admirals would have been able to bear witness to a war of emotions fighting in his expression. Anger at the Geth, determination to get back their home, happiness that the humans and Volus had offered something so grand, sadness that he might have to refuse, fury that the humans utilized synthetic technology instead of destroying it…

Finally, the man's shoulders slumped as he heaved a tired sigh.

"…I say we join with the humans and Volus."

"Gerrel!" Rael gasped, feeling shocked and betrayed that the man he considered a brother didn't stand together with him on the matter.

The other admirals had various reactions. Koris' eyes widened behind his visor, shocked that Gerrel seemed to have voted in favor of the alliance when his hatred for synthetics was a near match with Rael's. Xen let out a small chuckle while Raan nodded, smiling behind her visor.

"Please… explain why you think so." Raan said.

"…Because I can tolerate the monsters they keep if we can destroy the monsters that took our home from us." Gerrel said. "And in spite of my own feelings on their technology, to give us a home… treat us as equals… even if what their telling is only a half-truth, we need allies."

"Gerrel, you can't be serious!" Rael said, still coming to grips with what the man was saying.

"I am, Rael. You've had your head buried in research for so long you've forgotten a little about what it's like for our people fighting out there." Gerrel said solemnly. "Whenever we encounter Geth, there's always casualties. Someone always gets left behind. What I wouldn't give for one extra gun, a few more hands, a couple more rescue ships… bigger guns to blow up those metal bastards when they just won't stay down."

Gerrel approached his friend, gripping Rael's shoulder with one hand as he gazed into the man's faceplate.

"We're nowhere close to getting our home back, even with the viruses and cyber weapons you and Xen have been making. But these ships, the technology they utilize…" Gerrel let out a laugh that was filled with excitement, amazement, and hope. "If they could loan us even half a dozen of these ARMS Forts, retaking Rannoch doesn't seem like just a dream. It's a possibility. It could be reality. To know that the humans and the Volus, this technology, would be behind us… supporting us…"


"…I know. I know how you feel about synthetics and what they've done. I also know how much it stinks to agree with Koris," Gerrel said humorously, ignoring the grunt that came from the aforementioned sympathizer before he got serious again. "But we need allies if we go to war. We need a place for those who can't fight to stay if we go to war. No matter how much we want to put those tin cans in the ground, we have to think of our people first, Rael. You know it, and I know it. We all do. We have to make the right choice. The smart choice. One that gives us a future."

Rael shoulders shook as the man seemed to struggle with himself. Slowly, Raan approached him and placed her hand softly on his other shoulder.

"Don't let your hate doom our people. These humans have given us the chance we've been waiting centuries for, Rael." Raan said imploringly, pleading with the man to understand. "We will have friends to support, and they will support us in turn. Our people will have a home. It may not be our true home, but it will give us a place to stay. To rest and recover. There will be a time for action, I'm sure. There will be a time where we will be able to see Rannoch's mountains and shores. To feel the soil and sand without our suits. Please, don't make us give up this opportunity. We're finally being offered a place to stay, with allies who will welcome us. We must do what's best for our people. That's our duty as admirals, to secure a future for our people."

"…I know." Rael said quietly.

"…I believe we've all said our piece." Raan said as she and Gerrel stepped away from Rael who remained in place, still and silent. "I call a vote. All who vote in favor of joining with the humans and Volus to form the Alliance say aye."

"Aye!" Koris said immediately.

"Aye." Xen said simply.

"Aye." Gerrel stated firmly.

"Aye." Raan gave her vote. She glanced towards the man who had yet to cast his vote. "Rael…?"

All the admirals turned to stare at the man who kept his silence. The silence stretched on for several moments until finally…

"…Aye." Rael said quietly.

"…Then it's decided!" Raan said, a warm feeling spreading throughout her chest as they all came to a unanimous decision. "We'll join together with the humans and the Volus in this alliance!"

Xen gave a nod of approval while Gerrel quietly spoke some words to Rael which seemed to help the man recover a little. Koris seemed the most excited, practically bouncing on his heels as he gestured the other admirals towards the door.

"Well then, let's not keep our allies waiting any longer." Koris said. "Let's let them know of our decision."

"…They've been gone for a while." Cecilia commented idly as they continued to wait.

"I suppose we underestimated how strong their feelings for synthetic and AI technology were." Malzel said thoughtfully before turning to Thermidor, who sat in his seat patiently as they all waited for the Quarian Admiralty Board to return. "Perhaps it would have been better to withhold certain information-"

"We'll have none of that kind of thinking, Malzel. If we're to truly becoming allies, we have to be honest. Any half-truth or white lie would have jeopardized this alliance even more." Thermidor said solemnly. "I don't want to believe that this single issue will outweigh the Quarians' desire for allies and a home."

"It's… hard to say… how things will turn out." Din said. "While I'm inclined to agree… with Malzel in thinking that it might've been best to… withhold certain facts… I do think it is better this way. You've extended quite… a bit of trust towards the Quarians. Whatever answer they… give will be their final one."

"I'm aware." Thermidor said.

"…No matter what happens, even if… this alliance doesn't come to be, the Vol-clan… hopes that the Earth-clan would still be open… to future partnerships?" Din asked.

"Of course." Thermidor smiled. "Your people were our first allies, Mr. Korlack. Don't expect us to turn on you so quickly."

"That is… a relief to hear." Din said, sounding happy. His sentiment was echoed by the other two Volus ambassadors.

The human executives and the Volus ambassadors turned towards the doors when they heard them open again. Roadie stepped inside with the Admiralty Board following after him. The look on Roadie's face made Thermidor surge with hope and excitement, and the smile the older Lynx pilot gave him was easily returned.

Had they come to a favorable resolution…?

"Have you come to a decision, admirals?" Malzel asked, voice not betraying the anticipation he and others in the room felt.

The five Quarians all nodded to one another, Koris stepping forward to deliver their decision.

"The Quarian people accept your proposal to join the Humans and Volus in this Alliance. Despite the fact you employ certain aspects of technology we may disagree with, what you propose is far too great to refuse on just that. I cannot express the gratitude we feel that you will help bring the Quarians back to what we once were." Koris announced, the Humans and Volus all smiling at the news. "We will be the allies you can count on from this day forth. For all you've offered and will give to us… it is how we will begin paying you back for giving our people a future."

Thermidor smiled broadly as he pressed a button under the desk, causing the section in front of him to collapse as he got up and stepped down and walked in order to stand in front of the admirals. Din Korlack hurried to get out of his seat and quickly took a stance next to Thermidor. The leader of humanity smiled and knelt down to shake hands with the Volus ambassador before standing back up and extending his hand toward Rael. The Quarian admiral stared for a moment before taking the man's hand and giving a firm shake.

"Volus ambassadors, Quarian Admirals, Executives representing the interests of humanity and ORCA…" Thermidor smiled as he addressed everyone in the room. "I hereby announce the establishment of the Alliance, the unification of the Volus, Quarian, and Human races in government separate from all others. For as long as we remain united, I believe we'll prosper and continue to greater heights than any of us dreamed. Let us work together so all our races may achieve a bright future… together."

With that out of the way, the new Alliance quickly went into discussion about the finer details of their union and address urgent matters that needed to be taken care of. It was a new chapter not just for humanity, but for the Volus and Quarians as well. It was time to look towards the future, one that would be a full of growth, of ambition…

…And of war.

A/N: And that, my readers, is that. For those of you still interested after the wait, I sincerely thank you. It is the reviews that get me writing after all, where I draw my motivation. So please review, and I will do my best to keep a wait like this from occurring again. For any new readers, I thank you as well for your interest, and please review. Flames will be ignored, and for those of you who think something is flawed as far as factys go, please research first. I have noticed some reviews that state false facts, that I have already researched to ensure there are no holes in my story. I do find plot holes so irritating, and I'm sure many of you agree. With that little rant out of the way, what did you all think of the chapter? The Alliance has begun, with the Humans, Volus, and Quarians. The stage is set… and so, Mass Effect 1 will finally begin. The prologue has ended, and with that the main attraction will now commence. Look out for chapter six. I hope you will all stay to see what will come of it… and how different everything will be with this Humanity at the reins.

This is Kirbboy, over and out.