"Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Fri Jun 09, 2017 9:41 pm

Robert and Julia were on the bridge when notification came of a ship locking onto their drive. "Put them on, Lieutenant," Robert said to Jupap, the Alakin ops officer manning that station.

The holo-viewscreen activated and showed orbital space ahead. A vortex of green energy formed ahead of them. The vessel that came out was of Federation design, a large saucer with a drive section, nacelles slung below said section, and a triangular pod section above the saucer. Unlike the Galaxy-class ships this vessel, clearly of similar design, was compact, with few empty spaces within the dimensions of the ship.

Ensign al-Rashad spoke up at the Sensors/Science station. "The vessel is a Starfleet Nebula-class starship. Identification code reads her as Starship Lexington."

"We are being hailed."

Robert nodded. "Put them on."

Initially the screen was taken up by a man of African complexion. "This is Captain Gilaad Ben Zoma, commanding the Federation Starship Lexington." Robert thought there was a hint of Hebrew in the incoming captain's accent.

"Captain Robert Dale, Alliance Starship Aurora," Robert answered. "We were informed a Federation ship would be jumping in. I'm a little surprised myself. The front is just a few parsecs away and I've never heard of Federation ships coming this far into the liberated systems."

Ben Zoma nodded. "President Jaresh-Inyo personally authorized this mission on behalf of Starfleet Medical. We're carrying an expert to provide a technical solution to the need for medical personnel here." Ben Zoma nodded to someone off-screen.

The man who stepped into the field beside Ben Zoma was a Caucasian man, with a balding head and the look of a middle-aged man. He had the gold of engineering and operations on the shoulders of his Starfleet uniform and, peculiarly, no rank insignia pips. "This is Doctor Lewis Zimmerman. I am the Director of Holographic Imaging and Programming for Starfleet's Jupiter Station. With the permission of Starfleet Medical and your Alliance's Health and Medical Review Office, I'm here to install hardware for emergency medical holograms in the field hospitals. Now, I'll need your best technical personnel to report to my command."

Robert and Julia exchanged looks. "I wasn't made aware of this, Doctor…"

"I'm sure you'll find the order was transmitted this morning, after I finished speaking with Health Secretary Keneerk," Zimmerman said, interrupting Robert with maximum bluntness. "In the meantime, Captain, I am on a tight schedule and can't be delayed."

Julia was already looking at the log of command-level messages at her station. She highlighted one and read it. Robert knew what it likely said even before she turned to him and breathed a sigh. "It's here," she said. "Right from Admiral Maran."

"Right." Robert nodded. "Well, I'll have my Engineering and Operations staff put together a team to join you."

"Excellent. I expect to see them when I beam down in an hour. Zimmerman out."

The look on Ben Zoma's face was almost apologetic after Zimmerman stepped out of the viewer's range. "I'll have my people inform you when Doctor Zimmerman and his current team transport down. Which of your hospitals could use the help first?"

"Field Hospital Charlie," Julia said. "They have the highest patient load."

"Relay the coordinates and I'll send down additional supplies as well," Ben Zoma said. "I'm going to keep my ship at Yellow Alert for the duration of our time here."

"I don't blame you," Robert said. "We're at our highest non-combat alert as well. And I doubt Nazi warships will be picky about targets if they show up."

"I didn't think so. Lexington out." Ben Zoma's face disappeared from the screen.

Robert sat in his chair and keyed the intercom. "Jarod, Scotty, you've got an hour to put together a technical team to beam down and work with some Federation muckety-muck."

"I'll put together some people and beam down with them," Jarod volunteered.

"Aye, I'll have Tom set it up."

"Don't forget, everyone goes down with sidearms and field action uniforms," Julia said. "We're close enough to the front that I don't want anyone taking any chances."

Jarod answered, "I'll pass it on."

When the connection cut Robert gave Julia a bemused look. "And you wonder why they call you a mother hen. Are you going to be this way to your crew when you become a captain?"

That won him a playful glare.

Night was falling outside of Field Hospital Charlie. Only a thin sliver of light remained on the western horizon, obscured toward the southwest by a distant chain of mountains. Within the Hospital lights came on, bright white in their quality, while the ongoing work of tending to the sick and injured continued.

It was Leo's turn to be on watch in the Intensive Care ward. These were the worst cases, where starvation, malnutrition, and injury from accident and abuse and neglect had brought the occupants to the brink of death.

Leo found himself, after his first rounds, standing in the section for the fourteen year old girl who had been transferred the prior day. Her vitals were weak. He looked over the readout from the biobed and noted all of the failing organs, the damaged flesh and injuries, and felt a chill go down his spine at the thought of what she had suffered at the hands of other Human beings.

He stepped past the drapes and sat down in the chair beside the bed. "I don't know what your name is," he murmured. "But I want you to know… I'll do whatever I can so that you can live. So you can… get better from this, and have the future you deserve." Leo blinked back a tear as his mind wandered yet again, focusing on the future that had died in the Aurora medbay's OR.

There was, of course, no reaction. The girl was comatose.

There was movement that disturbed the cream-colored drapes. Leo looked up to see the interloper. Doctor Franklin was now standing where he'd been standing before. "Hey," said the older physician.

"Hey," Leo answered.

"I thought you'd be here," Franklin said. He looked to the girl and a clear, deep sadness came to his eyes. "We received a positive genetic match for the patient."

"Oh?" Leo felt his stomach churn. It was clear the news wasn't good.

"Four matches." Franklin shook his head. "All from the remains unearthed in the Retzoff mass grave."

"Matches already?", Leo asked. "Then they must have been at the top of the grave."

"They were. I checked the reports… the sample numbers matched with the newest remains. Probably some of those executed before your troops could secure the camp." Franklin shook his head. "It's… hard to imagine that we, as a species, can leave our homeworld, settle countless planets in the galaxy… and still treat one another like this."

"We're dealing with the most evil Human ideology to ever exist," said Leo. He swallowed. "Seeing things like this… I honestly hope I never have any of those SS men in my medbay."

"Because you don't want to treat them?"

"Because I'm afraid I wouldn't." Leo sighed. "I'm afraid I would break every oath and promise I've made as a physician."

"Right." Franklin nodded. "And we don't want to become anything like them."

"Any luck finding her name?", Leo asked.

Franklin shook his head. "Nothing yet. Judging by the reports she was one of the few survivors from the barracks they assigned her too. And the SS records were corrupted by a data virus."

"Intentional." Leo sighed.

"You know…" Franklin began. "I've had my share of cases that went bad. People who might have lived who didn't. Sometimes it was just chance, sometimes they did something they shouldn't have…" The images of an entire section of Babylon-5 filled with dead Markab came to him. "...but my greatest failure was a child patient I had during my first year on B5. He was from a species that was just making contact with the galaxy. He had a… condition that was killing him that I could heal with a surgical operation." The details were clearly vague, and Leo understood that he would have said it in just about as many words to maintain confidential details.

Leo noticed the old pain on Franklin's face. "What happened?" he asked gently.

"Well, his people had a cultural taboo against the cutting of the body," Franklin answered. "They were willing to let him die because they believed that if I cut open the body, he would lose his soul."

"And they kept you from saving him?" Leo asked.

Franklin shook his head. And Leo immediately understood what happened. A clear sympathy appeared in his expression. "You did what you thought was right," Leo said. But he knew that wouldn't be enough.

"I violated the Code of Ethics," Franklin answered. "And for nothing."

"It seems they violated something more when they murdered their own son."

Franklin didn't put much energy into his nod of acknowledgement. "To their minds he wasn't their son anymore. Just a soulless husk that thought it was alive."

"Still…" Leo shook his head.

They remained silent for several seconds. Once it was clear that neither had anything to say on the conversation material, Leo asked, "I figured you would be moving on by now. I know you're here to inspect things for Earthdome, but that should only be a day or two of your time, right?"

"True. And I'm due on Harris Station next week for a conference with all of the various medical organizations to go over the distribution of medical supplies. However, Earthdome wants me to stay until Dr. Zimmerman gets his holographic system ready." Franklin made a wistful shake of his head. "It seems some people at Earthdome are interested in Starfleet's emergency medical hologram technology."

"I've heard those things have terrible bedside manners."

"Just one of the many things I'll have to evaluate." Franklin checked his watch. "I've got a meeting to go to with the Field Hospitals' Administration. I'll see you for lunch tomorrow?"

Leo nodded. "Yeah. Have a good evening." He sat and waited some time after Franklin walked away. He finally stood up and moved on, ready to begin another set of rounds.

Dreams are tricky things. Typically, people start forgetting them as they wake up, which could be an advantage when you're dealing with nightmares.

But for Leo, the nightmares that came that night refused to fade away once he was awake. He was back in the Intensive Care ward with that nameless fourteen year old survivor from the camp. Her vitals had started dropping and everything he did, no matter how medically sound, no matter how much it should have worked, failed.

And then, as the monitors let off the loud tone warning of a stopped heart, her eyes snapped open and looked at him with anger. "You let me die," the girl said, in an indeterminate accent. "Just as you let Joshua Marik die."

That part of the nightmare stuck with Leo the strongest. He stepped out of his shower and looked to his fogged up mirror. A hand wiped away the film of moisture and revealed his reflection. His brown eyes betrayed how tired he felt. Remnant water from the shower slowly dripped its way down his skin, little reflective dots on the dark surface.

He stared at his reflection as the nightmare again ran its course through his mind and his heart. Slowly, quietly, his hand moved toward the toothbrush. Only after gripping it did he re-focus his mind on the immediate needs of his hygiene. He had morning rounds in one of the normal care wards coming; he would need breakfast before going down.

Breakfast, and a good cup of coffee.

Andre Faqin was also sitting down to a nice breakfast, better than some of his fellow citizens were eating.

It was partway through this meal that he heard the tone and went to his basement. The comm device was flashing. His heart was hammering as he hit the accept key.

The face that appeared was Standartenführer Fassbinder. "Ah, Faqin," he said. "As you have served the Reich well, I wanted to give you proper warning. I suggest you not arrive at work today. Remain in your basement."

Faqin immediately knew what that meant. "So you are coming?"

"The attack will commence soon, yes. And I would hate for you to be trapped in it."

"Thank you, Herr Standartenführer."

When Leo arrived at Transporter Station 2, medical kit in hand and his white doctor's lab coat over his black-with-blue-trim uniform, he was met by Jarod, Tom, and Lucy. "Good morning," he said to them. "Coming down too?"

"We're heading back to Field Hospital Charlie today," Jarod answered for them. "Zimmerman's going to be at Alpha today setting up there, but he wants us to finish installing all of the holo-emitters in the wards of Charlie."

"All of the wards?" asked Leo. "Even the Intensive and Critical ones?"

"I'm going to be the one in Critical, so yeah," Lucy said, arms crossed. Leo noted that the three were in their field action uniforms, not standard duty uniforms, and with pulse pistols in holsters on their hips. Lucy additionally carried the hilt to a lakesh on the other hip.

"And who authorized him to do this? We can't have technical personnel stomping around all day among our most vulnerable patients."

"Apparently he's got every big medical bigwig you can find signing off on him doing this." Jarod shook his head. "I'll handle Intensive Care, though, so you don't need to worry about that."

Leo sighed. At least Jarod, who knew something of medicine given his multiple talents, would know how to accommodate the needs of the Intensive Care ward. "Alright. I can see you don't have a choice in this." Leo went up to the transporter pad. "Let's get to work," he said, with little enthusiasm.

The day was getting past the equivalent of noon locally - roughly two hours ahead of noon for the Aurora crew's clock - when Leo reported to the transfer ward. Doctors Chakwas and T'Perro were already at work, going over the patient files and giving them final checkups before the orderlies moved them on toward the transporter station. Leo activated the medical omnitool and pulled the hand scanner out of his pocket. He started work on his first patient, a man in his thirties, and quickly verified the patient was ready for transfer to a dedicated facility elsewhere. With a nod an orderly started pushing the man's stretcher bed away.

"How much longer are you going to be here, Doctor Gillam?", Chakwas asked.

"Until the Aurora is called away, I imagine," Leo replied. "Maybe in a few days at the pace we're going. You?"

"I'm on my way back to Grodni 3 with this load," she answered. "The Systems Alliance has recalled me to testify before Parliament on the conditions here. And I have preparations to make for my new posting."

"So you're going to be the senior attending physician for the trip back on the Lumwe."

"It'll keep me busy. It's a two week trip back to Alliance space, after all."

"Right." Leo scanned his next patient, a twenty year old male. He noted, with concern, signs of organ failure. An extra look verified that the case had yet to be serious. This put Leo in the position of making a judgment on whether to keep the man here, in the hopes of further stabilizing him, or sending him on to the ship for transfer to the full facilities at the Grodni 3 Medical Complex. After a quick check on the patient's vitals, Leo made his decision and flagged the patient for special care on the Lumwe.

For a moment he was struck by how just that little decision could yet make a huge difference. If he was wrong, he increased the man's risk of dying while in transit. The Lumwe was a state of the art Alliance hospital ship, true, but hospital ships could carry only so much medical gear or staff. It was the difference between a point five percent chance of death and a one percent chance - still low, low enough to be considered safe, but double his chance of dying compared to the Field Hospital with its greater number of medical support staff (not counting Zimmerman's impending holographic doctors).

On the other hand, if he kept the man needlessly and the planet was subjected to an attack…

"It is going to be interesting, being posted to a vessel again," Chakwas said, taking Leo out of his thoughts. He looked over at the older woman as she examined a sixteen year old boy. Another orderly was already bringing up Leo's next patient, a twenty-five year old female.

"Oh? What kind?"

"A new frigate," Chakwas replied. "It's from a joint project with the Turians. The Normandy."

"From what I've heard, your frigates are just as spartan as our attack ships," Leo noted.

"Yes, but it will still come with the best medical gear we can equip it with." Chakwas smiled. "And the crew is going to be rather small. Just a few dozen people. I won't have much of a staff, maybe a nurse and an orderly, but I'll get to know the crew more easily."

That drew a nod of agreement from Leo as he finished the last scan on his current patient, the twenty-something woman. Her paled skin had a brown tint to it, and her features made Leo think she was Latin American mestizo, or perhaps straight up Native American. Healed internal injuries, lingering malnutrition… and something Leo hadn't expected to see. "Doctor Chakwas, what do you make of this?" WIth a tap on his omnitool Leo projected the data over to hers.

Chakwas looked down at the amber hard-light surrounding her left forearm, a contrast to the blue used for the Alliance's new omnitools, and examined the readings he sent. Her expression changed to one of shock. "How was that missed…?"

The girl looked up and asked something. It wasn't in English, but Leo's translator device kicked in and gave him the proper translation: "What is it?"

"You're pregnant," Leo answered.

His patient's eyes widened in shock.

"It looks like she's about six to eight weeks along," Chakwas confirmed. "That would put the time of conception somewhere between three to five weeks before the camp was liberated."

It was clear that the woman had no idea of her condition. She stared off into space with a resigned look. As if the universe, or multiverse, was out to hurt her personally.

Leo had a sick, terrible feeling in his stomach. For form's sake, he asked a question he was sure had an unhappy answer. "Do you know where the father is? Do you want us to find him?"

The answer was a single word that confirmed Leo's suspicions. "No."

Leo looked back to Chakwas. "With her physical condition, pregnancy is dangerous."

"I know. But I can't justify leaving her here." Chakwas walked over and took the girl's hand. "I'll see to it that her condition is noted and I will assume control of her treatment. She'll be fine, Doctor Gillam."

Leo could see Chakwas was convinced. He nodded. "Okay." He cleared the patient for transfer to the Lumwe and went on to the next. "I wonder how we missed that?"

"The first medical teams examining the Retzoff survivors were exhausted by the time I got here two weeks ago," Chakwas pointed out. "I'll have to look on her chart, but I suspect we'll find that one of the younger physicians was responsible. He or she was exhausted, sleep-deprived…"

"It's easy to make a mistake then," Leo agreed. "Especially with emotions as they'd be, seeing that camp for the first time. And maybe, if it was one of the non-Human doctors, they might have not recognized the earliest stage of Human pregnancy."

"Also possible." Chakwas was already at work on her next patient. "Practicing medicine inevitably leads to moments that can leave a physician emotionally compromised. Practicing medicine in this situation, seeing these people…" Chakwas shook her head. A grim look crossed her face, drawn and tired as it looked. "I can't help but wonder what went through the minds of the camp's medical staff. We know they had one. How could a doctor taught to heal accept such widespread abuse?"

"No one is ever the villain in their own eyes," Leo said. He was already scanning the next patient. This one, a male of somewhere between sixteen and twenty, had a thousand yard stare and an expression that bordered on catatonia. Leo touched the young man's shoulder and said, "You're doing just fine. And you're never coming back to this place." Once an orderly moved the patient on, Leo continued to speak to Chakwas. "As far as those SS doctors are concerned, their obligation to medicine begins and ends with what the SS and its leaders says it is."

"Those men aren't real doctors," Chakwas hissed.

"We know that, but they think they are." Leo shook his head. "There's the scary thing about this kind of thing, about Nazism and all of the other systems like theirs. They twist and corrupt everything, every institution, every occupation, to accept their cruelty. Doctors aren't immune to it. Nobody is. It's why we have to win this war."

They finished their current pair of patients. While the ward wasn't empty, it was clear they had reduced the population of the ward by a significant amount.

"I'd better get my bags," Chakwas said. She extended a hand toward Leo. "Take care, Doctor Gillam. I look forward to seeing you again sometime."

"Good luck on your new posting, Doctor Chakwas," Leo answered.

Jarod, Lucy, and Tom Barnes gathered in the Standard Care Ward for the test. "I hope this is worth all of the time and work we put into it," Barnes muttered.

"Hold on, it's Zimmerman." Jarod keyed his omnitool. Zimmerman appeared on the screen it was projecting, clearly back on the Lexington. "Doctor?"

"I've completed the testing at the other sites," said Zimmerman. "How is your progress?"

"I was just about to turn it on," Jarod said.

"Then, by all means, do so."

Hiding his slight irritation at Zimmerman's ego, Jarod looked up. "Computer, activate Emergency Medical Hologram program."

A holographic figure formed from nothingness, clad in a Starfleet uniform with medical blue on the shoulders. Jarod was not the least bit surprised to see that the figure was the striking image of Zimmerman himself. "Please state the nature of the medical emergency," the hologram stated.

"This is a hardware test," Lucy said.

"Ah. Of course." Much to the surprise of the others there was a hint of impatience and irritation at this fact in the hologram's voice. "And how, precisely, did you intend to test me?"

"Let's start with a standard medical scan," Zimmerman said.

"Okay, start with me," said Lucy.

The EMH picked up a Starfleet medical tricorder from a nearby rack. He pulled the scanner piece from the end of it and ran it over Lucy, from head to stomach, while looking at the display. "No medical issues detected. All organs functioning properly. Body mass is well into acceptable levels. Congratulations, young lady, you are the picture of health. Although I am noticing an above-normal level of stress indicators."

"I've been in a hospital full of concentration camp survivors for two days," Lucy replied. A frown crossed her face.

"Ah. And there are some peculiarities in your body's bio-electric levels. I recommend you get a full workup to identify the cause of the issue."

"Let's see one more scan," Zimmerman said. "And allow the EMH to select his subject."


The EMH nodded to Zimmerman and Jarod and looked between him and Barnes. The latter crossed his arms and frowned when the EMH turned his tricorder toward him.

"Well. Hrm. I'm reading glucose levels above recommended levels, and quite a few chemicals in your digestive system… what precisely have you been imbibing?"

"Soda," Barnes answered. He held up his canteen. "Pop."

The EMH scanned the canteen. An expression of disgust came to his face. "Sir, I must recommend you get rid of that substance immediately. Remove it from your diet."

"Leo's been on me for years to cut back on soda, and it didn't work for him either," Barnes retorted. "So why don't you go frak…" He stopped at seeing Jarod's intent look. "Right, a test."

"Well, if you want to go on poisoning yourself, that's fine by me."

Lucy shook her head. "Okay, this thing is way too acerbic. Are we really going to inflict its personality on these people? They've suffered enough."

"I may make some tweaks to the personality algorithms," Zimmerman conceded.

"What about the ethics programming, Doctor?" Jarod was looking at the screen with concern. "This thing had no problems blurting out medical information about Lieutenant Lucero and Lieutenant Barnes. That's not ethical in medicine."

Zimmerman fidgeted. "Yes, well, that may be an artifact of the testing mode. He has to demonstrate his knowledge and ability as a medical doctor, and that means speaking about what he is examining."

Sounds like a pretty damned bad bug if you ask me," Barnes grumbled. "I wouldn't want to be treated by this thing."

"I'll have you know that I am composed from the medical knowledge of Starfleet's finest doctors," the EMH protested. "My ability to make accurate medical judgements is unequaled."

"And that might be the only thing you're good for, you frakking…"

"Okay, the test is done," Jarod said, interrupting them. "Computer, disengage EMH."

The holographic counterpart of Zimmerman faded away into thin air.

"I'll get to work on final coding updates," Zimmerman said. "I should have them for you before the Lexington departs tomorrow."

"Thank you. Jarod out."

"Well, at least we're done with that," Barnes sighed. "I just want to get back to my real job."

"You said it," Lucy sighed.

There was something in her voice that told Jarod she was being the most affected by what they were dealing with. With her abilities, Jarod wasn't surprised. She could sense the misery and fear and loss from the camp survivors directly. He wondered, briefly, if she felt such things like they actually belonged to her in the first place?

"Well, we'd better finish up down here," said Jarod. "Let's run some more equipment tests before we call it a day."

Robert was finishing up daily paperwork in his office when he got the call. Admiral Drelini appeared. The Dorei woman, one of the Alliance's best field admirals and commander of the 9th Fleet, went right to business. "The Reich has launched a counter-offensive adjacent to your current sector. They appear to be attempting to retake the Pleiades Cluster and their major colonies on Alpina and New Westphalia."

Robert nodded. It explained some of his nervousness lately, the feeling of something being about to happen, which was common enough when you were on the front of a war. "Do you need anything from the Aurora?"

"We need to make sure all civilian vessels are gone from the area of New Brittany. Issue an immediate Level One evacuation order. All non-combat ships are to jump to safety elsewhere, regardless of previously-planned destination. As soon as this operation is complete I want you to withdraw the Aurora to rendezvous with the Epaminondas Battle Group at Delta Korva. We'll need every available combat ship for the counter-attack."

"We'll get on that immediately, Admiral. Dale out." Robert immediately hit the intercom key on his desk. "Bridge, we just received an evacuation order from Command. I want all medical personnel and patients evacuated from the Field Hospitals immediately. Bring all transporters online and have Koenig launch to assist the evacuation. Launch our runabouts too if you must."

"Acknowledged, Captain," Jupap replied.

Robert got up from his seat and went out to the bridge. "Go to Code Yellow and standby for shields," he ordered, and the officers present went to work on it. Julia, Angel, and Cat were the only senior officers on the bridge given all of the officers sent down to New Brittany or off-duty. Julia moved over to her chair while Robert assumed his. "Put the fighters on standby."

"Is it bad?" asked Julia.

"The Nazis are striking toward Pleiades," Robert replied. "Drelini wants an evacuation of non-combat personnel from New Brittany."

"Incoming signal from the Lexington," said Jupap.

"Put Ben Zoma on."

The Starfleet captain appeared on the screen. "We've heard of your evacuation order, Captain," Ben Zoma stated. "I've ordered my transporter crews to assist. We'll take on as many patients and medical staff as we can."

"Thank you, Captain." Robert nodded. "Your help is apprec-".

Before he could finish, Caterina spoke up. "Captain, I've got warp signatures on long range sensors," she said. "They're consistent with anti-matter pulse drives."

Robert turned away from Ben Zoma's image to face Cat. Julia did the same. "What's their course, Lieutenant?"

Cat was already making that determination. And the answer was easy to guess given the look on her face. "They're on their way here. They'll be in range in about forty minutes."

"They must be racing in at maximum warp to get here that fast," Julia observed.

Robert was already turning back to Ben Zoma. "Did you get that, Captain?"

"Yes," he answered. "We have already commenced the evacuation."

"We're doing the same. I want to get you and the hospital ships out of here before the enemy enters range."

"Have your science officers keep a close eye on their short-range sensors," Julia added. "They might have sent cloaked attack ships ahead of their main force."

"We're already running regular sensor sweeps. I will keep you informed if we find anything."

Robert returned to his seat. By the time he did so Ben Zoma's image was gone from the holo-viewscreen. "We'll need to do the same. Jupap, set the jump drive for…" He considered his options for a moment. "...Charing Station, C502. We'll start jumping hospital ships out if we need to."

"Doing so now."

"The evacuation?" he asked Julia.

She nodded back after checking her station. "Already underway."

That was it for the moment. All they could do was watch and wait.

The short timetable being given for the evacuation had made one thing abundantly clear: they were not going to get everyone out.

Leo hated that thought. If the planet fell to the enemy, the hospital patients would go right back to the inhumane conditions the Nazis had kept them in, if they weren't murdered out of hand. But they just didn't have the time to get everyone out. Especially Critical and Intensive Care patients, who were in delicate, even fragile, conditions that defied the use of transporters or shuttle flights. They were left with no choice at the moment but to focus on getting the more-stable patients to safety.

The chaos in the Standard Care Ward was barely contained as patients were secured to their beds and rolled out. A babble of frightened and uncertain voices threatened to overwhelm the necessary verbal communication between doctors and orderlies that kept the evacuation going. Leo finished securing straps to keep a middle-aged woman secure on her bed even as she weakly resisted. "No," she pleaded. "Please."

"This is for your own safety," Leo assured her. "They'll come off as soon as you're on a ship."

"No… I don't want to be tied down," continued the protest.

"I promise you, it's just to keep you from falling off, they will come off once you're safely on a ship." Leo could say no more as an orderly, a Tellarite volunteer, came along and began pushing the bed away. He moved on to his next patient.

"How is it going?" Leo looked to his left. Franklin was now standing beside him.

"I think we can clear the Standard Ward," Leo answered. "Where's Doctor Jankowski?"

"He's already on the Halwell. I'm going up to the Renari with the next evacuation load."

Leo frowned. "Who's staying behind to watch the patients we can't get out?"

"T'Perro and Crusher have volunteered." Franklin had a guilty look on his face. The unspoken fact is that he would have done the same if he could, but he was undoubtedly operating under orders from Earthdome to vacate the front if he was at risk of death or capture. "With a small staff."

"I'll stay too," Leo said.

"Are you sure about that? Two doctors will be…"

"...not nearly enough, and you know that," Leo pointed out. He nodded to an orderly to move his next patient onward.

And Franklin did know it. Just as Leo knew that this was dangerous, one of the most dangerous decisions he'd ever made. There were only so many friendly troops on the planet, there was no telling how many enemy troops would be landing, and no telling when, or if, the Alliance could return in force. His own survival was much more likely if he agreed to evacuate.

But that was something Leo simply couldn't do. Even thinking about it brought that poor fourteen year old in Intensive Care back to his mind. She, and many others, would live or die based on his decisions in the coming hour.

"Okay," Franklin said. "I'll inform the others."

"He's going to what?!"

Leo's decision, relayed by Jarod, made Robert want to beam down and knock sense into his friend. "He does know there's no telling when we can get back to get him out, right?"

"He knows," Jarod replied.

"Don't tell me you're all staying with him," Julia sighed.

"Of course not. You need us up there. We're preparing to beam back up as soon as the last evac shuttle launches."

Once the channel cut Robert shook his head. "He's being stubborn," he grumbled.

Julia replied with a nod. "I know. And at the same time, he's doing something he is convinced is right."


"Cat, status on those Nazi ships coming in?"

"Eighteen minutes out," Cat answered. I've been analyzing the warp signatures' power source. It's not good news."

"How many ships?"

"Somewhere between eight to ten." She looked at him with clear worry on her face. "And one of them is a dreadnought."

"If that's true, we'll need the Epaminondas and her battle group to retake the planet," Julia said.

"Assuming that's where Relini wants us."

"I'm staying too."

Jarod and Barnes looked at Lucy as she said those words. Neither sighed or reacted negatively to her announcement. Both understood it. "Keep an eye on Leo's back then?" Jarod asked.

"Of course," she said. "I'll keep an eye on him. If we can get out on our own, we will. If not…"

"We'll be back for you," insisted Barnes.

"Only five minutes until those Nazi ships make orbit." Jarod's hand movements brought the blue light of his omnitool to life. He tapped the hard-light key for his comms. "Jarod to Aurora, two to beam up. Lieutenant Lucero is staying."

"Understood, Commander. Transport is imminent."

Lucy nodded and swallowed. She had the feeling she needed to be here, to help Leo and the others survive, but that didn't mean she was eager to be stuck on a planet full of Nazis. If Meridina had beamed down, she would feel a whole lot better about this…

This won't be the first time you've been in a fight without her, Lucy reminded herself. You can do this. You did this on Gamma Piratus, and you're even better now.

That was the thought she kept in her head even as Jarod and Barnes were pulled away by twin columns of light.

The minutes continued on. One by one the various civilian ships in orbit - cargo ships and hospital ships - made the jump to warp. Some of the planetary elite fled in interstellar-capable yachts, clearly hoping to escape the fighting and any Nazi revenge should the planet fall back to their hands.

Jarod stepped onto the bridge. "Tom's already on his way to the Koenig," he said, making a beeline for Ops. Jupap immediately relinquished the post and went to his backup post along the starboard side of the bridge at Communications. Nick Locarno had already reported to the helm, meaning the entire bridge crew was now gathered.

"Where's Lucy?" Julia asked.

"She decided to stay with Leo and watch his back," Jarod answered. "So did Nasri."

"I hope General Chaganam has his troops ready to protect that hospital," Robert murmured.

Julia looked over at a data screen. "It looks like he's got the Turians' 8th Regiment and a division of Dorei troops in the area. A regiment of the Free Worlds Legionnaires is going to hold New Rennes. A hundred or so freelance mercenaries." A slight smirk crossed Julia's face. "I wonder if Massani is down there."

Before Robert could ask who she was talking about, Cat spoke up. "Enemy ships coming out of warp."

As she spoke, the holographic tactical map by Julia lit up. The planet dominated the picture while eight angry red markers now blipped into existence. Robert frowned. The enemy had come out of warp in a position to try and pin them against New Brittany. Whomever it was, they didn't want the Aurora and the other ships to escape.

"Not just any Reich ships," Julia murmured, now looking at the holo-viewscreen. Robert did the same thing and frowned, recognizing the familiar dark coloring adorning the Reich warships instead of the customary gunmetal gray.

"The SS," he said. As he did so, his mind went back over two months to 452TD and the Nazi trap during the failed raid operation. SS ships showed up at the end to try and trap us too. He felt a sudden suspicion that the timing of that attack had not been a matter of luck.

"The dreadnought's IFF code is reading as the Baldur von Schirach," Jarod said. "It was one of the ships heavily damaged at the Battle of New Pommern three months ago."

Before Robert could inquire further, a voice came from the bridge speakers. "This is Captain Gilaad Ben Zoma of the Federation Starship Lexington to Reich warships. As the Federation is militarily neutral in this conflict and my ship is here for medical and humanitarian operations only, I must formerly request that you…"

The Nazis, unsurprisingly, didn't even let the Starfleet captain finish his pro forma request. Robert suspected even Ben Zoma knew they wouldn't, but went through the motions to leave no doubt in the Federation as to what occurred.

The Schirach fired its bow super-disruptor assembly into the Nebula-class ship's shields. The large green energy beams slammed savagely into the blue energy shields protecting the Federation starship. The Lexington's shields bore the blast without failing. "Their shields are down to thirty-two percent," Jarod said.

"Link us with Ben Zoma. We're going for the weak spot in their formation." Robert looked to Julia. "Combat launch the Koenig."

Julia nodded. She knew how he thought, that he hadn't wanted to risk the Koenig being crippled if he could avoid it, but the situation would require the extra firepower to make sure they all got out. "Koenig is combat launching," she confirmed. Although no one could see it directly, everyone could image the sight of the attack ship forcefully decoupling itself from the airlock and flying backward from its protective dock in the back of the primary hull. "The other ships are signaling readiness to follow our lead."

Robert was already looking over his tactical display. The Aurora and Lexington were joined by a Dorei starbird, two Colonial Confederation destroyers, and a wing of Turian frigates supporting their ground troops. "Hold the Colonial and Turian ships back to protect the remaining civilians as best as they can. I want that starbird with us to blow away that Nazi cruiser." He identified a Nazi ship anchoring the enemy formation over the North Pole of New Brittany. "Let's go!"

Even by this point shots were being exchanged with the Nazi ships. The fire grew furiously as the Aurora and her ad hoc formation plunged toward the enemy. The enemy superdreadnought fired again, this time skimming the shields of the Aurora near one of her nacelles. Indeed, it quickly became obvious that the bulk of enemy fire wasn't at the helpless civilian ships or their lighter protectors, it was at the Aurora. We're the target, Robert realized. They're after us. Maybe this whole operation is after us.

At Angel's command, azure and amber energy lashed out at their foes, joined by the furious amber energy pulses coming from the Koenig's pulse phaser cannons. The enemy cruiser ahead took the hits on the shields and kept firing back. The Lexington joined in on the attack with her phasers and a barrage of photon torpedoes. The Dorei starbird beside them fired purple-hued plasma cannons into the enemy light cruiser adjacent to their main target, causing red shields to flare while silver-white solar torpedoes from the Alliance-affiliated ships smashed against both targets.

The range grew close, and Robert was afraid the enemy cruiser might very well ram them to stop them, but as they approached the last kilometer Angel's fire found its mark. Thick pulses of sapphire energy from the Aurora's pulse plasma cannon battery hammered down the shields of the enemy Sedan-class cruiser and began blasting into the armored hull. As a spread of solar torpedoes threatened to break the enemy ship in half, the phasers and photon torpedoes on the Lexington found their targets in the enemy ship's drive section. The SS cruiser was reduced to flaming debris as the Aurora and the other ships flew past.

They didn't get away unscathed. Missiles from the other enemy ships converged on one of the Colonial Confederation destroyers until its shields nearly disappeared. A thick emerald beam from a second enemy heavy cruiser moving up behind them speared the rear engine section and blew the destroyer apart. "Missiles inbound on the Serene Care," Jarod said. "She's trying to evade but…"

Robert could only watch in horror as missile after missile found the hospital ship, carrying thousands of sick and wounded patients and medical staff with her crew. Her shields took the hits with bursts of blue light. But with more shots incoming there was no way they could get to warp before taking a deadly blow. One missile hit finally found hull, blowing debris from the rear of the ship. Another missile came in, looking very much like a kill shot…

....and struck the Turian frigate that threw itself in front of the beleaguered hospital ship. The mass effect shields, backed by deflector shielding, absorbed the first missile and then another.

But they couldn't absorb the super-disruptor blast from the enemy superdreadnought. The thick emerald beam speared the Turian ship and blew it apart. The same beam grazed the hospital ship, sending more flame and debris from its wounded hull.

"Serene Calm reports that their warp systems are damaged, they're not sure they can make it to warp."

"We're on it," Zack's voice said. The Koenig swept in above the hospital ship. A ribbon of blue light emerged from the ventral hull of the attack vessel and gripped the bow of the Serene Calm. "We've got them in tow. IU jump in three, two, one…"

The Koenig created a swirling green vortex of light in front of it and pulled the larger Serene Calm into the vortex as more fire converged on their location. They were gone mere seconds before another disruptor shot struck the vortex wall with enough energy to violently collapse the jump point.

One by one, the remaining friendly ships jumped to warp speed. The Aurora and Lexington waited until they were all gone before they did the same. "Any sign of pursuit?" Julia asked.

Caterina took a moment to respond. "No. I'm not reading them going to warp. It looks like they know they can't catch us."

"They could catch the hospital ships," Jarod pointed out. He turned in his chair and looked at Robert and Julia with a furrowed brow. "But not us."

"And we're the ones they're after," Robert said. "452TD, now this… That has to be the reason."

"We'll report this to Maran." Julia couldn't keep the worry off her face for another reason. "And hopefully, we'll be going back soon to get Leo, Nasri, and Lucy back."

"Hopefully," Robert agreed.

On the bridge of the von Schirach, Fassbinder watched with irritation as the Aurora successfully escaped into warp.

"The enemy ships are out of range." The report was from one of the bridge officers.

"Did the enemy abandon their ground troops?" asked Oberführer Wolfgang Schiller, the dreadnought's commander.

"Ja. I am reading troop concentrations around New Rennes and Renardville. The enemy is generating a theater shield covering both sites."

"They will not endure our firepower for long. Prepare for orbital bombardment."

Fassbinder felt a wave of irritation at that. Schiller was being impatient. He spoke up immediately. "Herr Oberführer, with all respect, our orders are to preserve the planet."

"Why? The Bretons aren't Aryans anyway." Schiller's expression showed his frustration. "We need our troops for other worlds."

"Our orders came directly from Oberst-Gruppenführer Kranefuss. The planet must be taken intact. The Reich needs its food supplies untouched."

Schiller's face briefly twisted into anger before he restored control of himself. "I do not recall asking for your 'advice', Standartenführer. I do not need you to tell me how to run my ship!"

Fassbinder bristled at having his place questioned. But he could not afford a fight with Schiller. "My apologies, Oberführer, I overstepped my bounds."

Mollified, Schiller returned his gaze back to the screen. "If not for the illustrious Oberst-Gruppenführer, I would already be bombing this wretched planet to rubble. But I am aware of them and will follow them. Comms, inform Gruppenführer Fischer that we are ready to deploy his troops."


Fassbinder waited for another moment before saying, with great care, "With your permission, Oberführer, I will leave to join our landing forces."

"Very well. Make sure I am kept informed."


"You are dismissed."

With that permission, Fassbinder left the bridge to find transport down to the planet.
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Sat Jun 10, 2017 3:25 am

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Sat Jun 10, 2017 4:44 pm

Between his education and interaction with other people, Leo had become familiar with various sayings. "Crossing the Rubicon", "Past the point of no return", and such. The idea of taking an action that cannot be reversed and committing yourself until the very end.

He knew that was what he had done when he decided to stay on New Brittany regardless of the danger. And it gave him a feeling of peace now that the point of no return had been passed.

If anything undermined that, it was that his staying meant Nasri and Lucy had as well, and if anything happened to them he would have played a part in that.

But there was no time for that now. Right now the Field Hospital had to be set up to receive wounded in addition to its remaining patients. The Critical and Intensive cases that couldn't be evacuated still needed their usual care. In short, he was going to be busy busy busy, and that kept Leo's mind occupied.

Currently he was overseeing the Critical Care Ward, doing rounds. "Doctor Gillam." T'Perro approached him from the door. "Doctor Crusher asked me to find you and see if you know the access codes to the supply locker."

Leo shook his head. "I was a visiting physician only and they never told me. They didn't tell you?"

"I'm afraid not," the Asari answered. The translation programs rendered her voice into an accent that sounded like refined English. "Jankowski was supposed to relay the codes to Crusher before leaving."

"But he didn't." Leo activated his omnitool and used it to connect to Lucy. "Gillam to Lucero."

"Lucero here."

"How busy are you?"

"Doctor Crusher asked me to double-check the security systems for the hospital. In case we get attacked."

"There was a mix-up and nobody provided the access codes for the secure storage room. We've got vital medicines and equipment in there we're going to need access to."

"Great. Well, I can try to hack it. These new engineering omnitools have direct accessing abilities even our best multidevices never enjoyed."

"If you have to break the door down, go ahead. But please don't do anything to damage what's inside."

"Understood. I'll let you know when I'm done. Lucero out."

"Thank you, Doctor Gillam," T'Perro said.

"You're welcome. Although Lucy's the one who will deserve the thanks." Leo signed off on his current patient's status and left the sleeping man to continue resting. "How are the preparations going?"

"The military doctors will handle the triage cases for their soldiers. The Standard Care Ward should be ready to receive new patients soon."

"Let me know when they start coming in."

"Of course." With nothing else to say, T'Perro walked away.

Fassbinder was cleared to transport down several hours after the first landings. Gruppenführer Hermann Fischer, head of the 34th SS Panzer Army, had made his invasion HQ the town hall of a rural village called Grinouville-sur-Crissons. Fassbinder entered this HQ and brought up his arm in a salute and a bellowed "Heil Sauckel".

"Heil Sauckel," echoed Fischer, before he turned back to the holographic display of the area. Grinouville-sur-Crissons was along the Crissons itself, a small river flowing down to the sea near New Rennes. They were still in the upper reaches of said river. The ten landed divisions of SS troops, a mix of infantry, power-armored Panzergrenadiers, and armored fighting vehicles, had already secured their foothold in a fifty mile radius around the original landing point, about four miles from Grinouville-sur-Crissons. Fassbinder looked with approval upon the tactical plots showing that the enemy was in retreat.

"Standartenführer, welcome," said Fischer. "Oberst-Gruppenführer Kranefuss will be pleased with the speed at which we are securing our hold on this world. We have identified enemy forces of several origins. Alliance alien troops, those of the Turians, and those with the large walking tanks they call 'BattleMechs'."

"Are they enough to hold us from the city?"

"It may be a difficult fight, but we have the force to punch through," Fischer assured him. "Is there anything in particular that Oberst-Gruppenführer Kranefuss wanted from your presence?"

"I must get to one of their field hospitals," Fassbinder explained. "There are subjects of interest to the SS-Reichführer that I must recover."

Fischer seemed to consider that. "Which hospital? We have identified four on the planet. Possibly five."

"The one near New Rennes."

"There are two in the vicinity of New Rennes." Fischer indicated the map. One of his subordinates helpfully highlighted the structures.

Fassbinder remained quiet as he thought about it. Not just thought, but felt. He could feel a cool thrum within him that clarified his vision. It granted him an insight he would have otherwise not felt.

And it confirmed what he suspected.

Fassbinder indicated one of the hospitals that, coincidentally, was located beside what had been the Retzoff KZ on New Brittany. "There," he said. "That is where my subjects will be. It fits their mentality to be tending to the untermensch and insubordinate that are kept in the camps."

"I will dispatch a division to force their way through," Fischer said. "But no more. I cannot afford to let my troops be cut off from each other without further support, Standartenführer "

"Very well. And while your troops prepare the way for my detachment, I will arrange for an agent to provide further intelligence," Fassbinder offered. "I will need a secure communication station."

With the help of one of Fischer's junior officers, an Untersturmführer, Fassbinder was directed to a comm set that could send and receive transmissions from SS operative comm units. Once Fassbinder had control he was quickly able to send the signal out.

Several minutes passed, during which Fassbinder was becoming irritated, before Andre Faqin's face appeared. "Yes, Standartenführer?"

"Where have you been?" Fassbinder demanded. The last thing he needed was for Faqin to have compromised anything.

"I was away from the house when I received your signal. My landlord required assistance." Faqin smirked. "He wanted to burn his Alliance credits for fear that he would be discovered with them when the SS reclaimed the city."

Fassbinder's irritation declined slightly. "And did he?"

"Yes. But I recorded it with the set you provided."

"Good, agent. But I have another task for you. I would like you to return to work."

Faqin showed his confusion. "Sir? Are you sure? I would not want to be seen as a collaborator…"

"Do not worry. I will ensure your true loyalties are honored," Fassbinder assured him. "But I need an agent inside the hospital to confirm who is present and where they typically are."

"Very well, Standartenführer. I will contact you when I can."

"Good. I will speak to you later, agent. Fassbinder out."

While around him the staff of Gruppenführer Fischer continued their work of organizing and overseeing the attack, Fassbinder was left with nothing to do. Nothing but waiting.

Waiting… and preparing, which he started by taking out another Reichpfenning coin.

The mess hall felt empty given the activity it had shown when Leo arrived. A few orderlies and a couple of the nurses getting late lunches were the only people in evidence.

The real surprise came when Leo stepped up to the food line and found something he hadn't expected. A steaming large pot was filled with a familiar substance for him: sausage stew.

"Ah, Doctor Gillam." Hargert stepped up on the other side of the food bar. He put on an even fresher pot of the same stew. "I was hoping to see you. You must keep your strength up."

"Hargert, what are you doing here?" Leo asked.

"Keeping the staff well fed, of course," Hargert said. "Albert will be attending things on the ship until they return for us."

"But… if they don't…"

"Then I will probably be killed by the SS." Hargert shrugged. "So be it. 'Nie weider', Leonard. It means more to me than not becoming a Nazi myself. It means I, and Germans like me, will never again allow these evil men to scare us away from doing the right thing. You and your colleagues and patients need good food, and I am here to provide it."

Leo could only nod in reply. "Thanks, Hargert."

"Now, stew alone does not a meal make," Hargert said. "I have some roast beef sandwiches for you as well, and more strudel baking."

Considering what Leo expected soon, he asked, "Have you been given any stores for our Turian friends? They can't eat our food."

"No, they cannot. But dextro-based foods can still be cooked, and I have found a number of effective recipes for Turian foodstuffs that your patients will, I think, enjoy," Hargert said. "Now please excuse me, I must check on the chicken soup for the little ones."

Hargert left Leo to gather his food. He looked to the tables and found an empty spot, one of many, that he claimed to begin eating.

A short time later he was joined by T'Perro. The Asari doctor looked over the stew thoughtfully before trying it. "This is quite good," she said after a second spoonful. "The cook is your ship's cook, isn't he?"

"He is," Leo said after gulping down a bite of roast beef sandwich. "And he is very good at his job."

"A good meal is important in these occupations." For a moment T'Perro looked around the hall. "Doctor Crusher and I have considered seeing about hiring on more local help. Perhaps even physicians."

"Good luck with that. The locals know what will happen if the Nazis retake the planet and they're identified as working for us." Leo sighed. "It feels like the calm before the storm around here."

"It is."

"So, why did you volunteer to stay behind?" Leo asked.

"Why did you? From what I know, if captured by the enemy you will be shot out of hand simply due to your ethnic background."

"And you'll be shot for being an alien," Leo pointed out. "So it seems we're both screwed if our soldiers don't hold them off."

"Indeed. Peculiar that Doctor Crusher is the only one they would likely not kill out of hand." T'Perro swirled her spoon around in a bowl of stew. "If you must know, I am here to get a taste of field medicine. It may be relevant to an enterprise I am committed to."


"You have heard of the Andromeda Initiative?"

Leo had to think about it for several seconds before nodding. "Yeah. Some woman from M4P2 Earth, I forget her name, was interviewed about it by one of the Alliance news networks."

"Doctor Jien Garson. A charismatic, bright woman. She is funding a large expedition that intends to colonize the Andromeda Galaxy with sleeper arks."

Leo blinked. "Wow, that's… ambitious."

"It is." T'Perro took another bite before continuing. "I have joined the Initiative with a Human colleague of mine. We're due to leave by the end of the decade."

"So… you're just going to leave the galaxy behind," Leo said. "Like that? Just head off to an unknown galaxy."

"Yes. I expect it will be quite interesting. And certainly final. Over six centuries in cryo-sleep to get there. Most of my contemporaries will be in the matriarch stage by the time we arrive." T'Perro grinned thinly at that. "I suppose it is something to walk away from everything you've ever known in life to embark on a bold new future in the unknown."

Leo returned the grin. "I know something about that actually. Although what I did wasn't quite as final as taking a centuries-long cryo-sleep trip to another galaxy."

"A good point."

"So this is getting you experience for the kind of field medicine you might have to practice in the colonies your Initiative will be forming."

"Yes." T'Perro nodded. "And I am evaluating multiversal sources of medical technology to see if we should include them before we leave. Your cortical stimulators, for instance, and some of your medications. Certainly some of the gene treatments may come in use. And the Initiative will probably be buying replicators before we leave."

"I would imagine so."

Leo took another bite after saying so. Other questions formed in his mind concerning this sort of operation, the kind of intensive planning it required, as he chewed and swallowed.

Before he could ask, an Asari nurse appeared at the mess hall doorway. "We have casualties coming in!" she shouted. "The first medevac shuttles are three minutes out."

T'Perro reacted by quickly downing what was left of a roast beef sandwich while Leo got as big a spoonful of the sausage stew as he could. "A pity", she said after gulping. "I hope our host will keep the stew warm."

"Knowing Hargert, he'll have it ready for us when we get back," Leo said. He took one last spoonful, so rushed he only filled half the spoon, and gulped it down. With a final drink of his coffee, he went off to join T'Perro and the nurses and orderlies rushing from the room.

The staff had barely gotten their Triage Ward ready in time before the medevac shuttles started arriving. Turians and Humans alike came through the doors as both medics and patients, the former declaring the injuries and status of the latter for the benefit of the physicians.

Leo's first case was a male Turian soldier with blackened and charred personal armor. "Vitals are low but stable. Wound consistent with a disruptor shot." Leo saw the nurse was a Bolian. "Get the dextro supplies and provide standard disruptor wound care for Turian physiology. He should be fine."

"Yes, Doctor."

The next case was another male Turian. Leo scanned him while a male Turian medic looked on with concern. Leo could see why. "Direct disruptor wound, energy penetration of the armor and shielding, internal damage extensive but treatable. Send him on to Doctor T'Perro for stabilizing until we can operate."

"Yes Doctor," answered the medic.

The roar of another arriving shuttle told Leo this was just beginning. He returned his attention to the next stretcher. Turian female, soldier, missing left leg and left arm and torso perforated with shrapnel and plasma burns. This was a borderline call, but her vital readings - still strong - decided it for Leo. He had her sent on to the nurses for wound care and assignment to Critical Care. A quick glance up told him that Doctor Crusher was still tending to another of the patients he had cleared for further care. They'd already worked through the first batch.

All but one, it turned out, as another stretcher came in bearing a Turian male who looked like he'd been put through a blender. Blue blood coated what was left of his personal armor and several remaining wounds. Leo could see the Turian was alive and, more importantly, in excruciating pain. The mandibles of the Turian's mouth were halfway open and a low moan was coming from his throat. His eyes were focused, with great pain, on one of the medics and then on Leo.

For a moment Leo felt immense frustration. The military had insisted they would handle first stage triage to lessen the strain on the Field Hospitals. Now it was Leo who had to make that painful decision, the decision no doctor ever wanted to make but could be forced into during a critical resource situation: the decision that a patient had to be left to die. But it was clear that heroic efforts would be needed to save this soldier, efforts that would take away from the treatment of several more casualties that would likely be saved.

Leo glanced at the medic, who was looking intently at the patient. "You know each other?" he asked.

There was a catch in the throat of the medic before he answered, "Yes." There was a shade of guilt in the reddish-brown eyes of the Turian medic that told Leo everything he needed to know about why this case was brought to him. He knew this was a waste, but whatever the soldier was to him, the medic hadn't been able to accept the judgement of the Turian military doctor at their mobile hospital.

Leo sighed. With a touch of his omnitool he updated the soldier's record with a literal mark of death that would tell the triage nurses to leave him alone, that he was too far gone.

A part of Leo protested this. That part screamed I can save this man! But the rest of him knew the price of that, the lives that would be lost because he was too busy saving one.

The intensity of the soldier's agony-filled eyes bored into Leo. Almost as if he knew Leo's choice, as if asking him You fought for Joshua Marik, why not for me? Leo forced that thought out and reached over to the nearby medicine tray. A bundle of hyposprays were ready with their contents marked. He found the one with dextro-compatible morphine and picked it up. Leo pressed the device to an intact section of the Turian's carapace-covered flesh, right on the part of the neck where the Turian equivalent of the carotid artery was located, and gave him a dose that no living patient would ever be given outside of extremely special circumstances.

Within seconds the intense look in the Turian soldier's eyes went away. The moan stopped. A contented little sigh of relief was the soldier's last sound before his eyes, now free of pain and, with it, much coherent thought, closed quietly.

"Put your friend in the far corner," Leo instructed the medic. "He's not in pain anymore. That's the best I can do."

"Yes, Doctor," was the medic's response. There was gratitude in it. "Thank you for that, and I apologize. I acted inappropriately."

For a moment Leo nearly spoke to give emotional support to the grieving alien. But he knew Turians took a strong view of duty, and shirking it for personal reasons was shameful in their culture. Trying to comfort could too easily backfire. So he said nothing more to the medic.

Leo might have taken the time to further consider the harsh necessities of battlefield medicine, and indeed he knew he would later, as he always did when these situations were over. But right now he had more patients coming in, with the roar of VTOL engines telling him that the Inner Sphere wounded were now coming in as well.

"No rest for the weary," Leo murmured.

Fortunately for Leo and his two remaining compatriots, reinforcements came during the evening. Field Hospital Bravo was deemed too vulnerable to enemy attack and had been evacuated completely, with all patients and medical personnel pulled back to Charlie. Four doctors came from Bravo: a Turian physician, a physician from the Free Worlds League, an Alakin, and another Alliance Human like Leo, Dr. Ocasio. With their arrival, Leo was able to get out of the Triage Ward after eight grueling hours of dealing with incoming casualties and another two hours in the OR. It was nearly midnight by his internal clock.

Nevertheless Hargert came through for him, waking up from a nap to get fresh stew and freshly-baked garlic baguettes that sated Leo's growling stomach. A cup of rich black coffee helped jolt him to wakefulness.

"Are you sure about that?" Crusher eyed his coffee. "You're due for sleep soon."

Leo shook his head. "No, actually, I told Doctor Ocasio I'd cover his overnight watch in the Critical and Intensive Wards. The man's been up the better part of thirty-six hours and needs his sleep."

"So do you, Doctor," Crusher reminded him pointedly. She took a bite of a pasta dish Hargert had prepared for the dinner meal. Stress was increasing lines on her face.

"We all do, frankly." Leo sighed. "Do you know the part I always hate?"

"The part of what?"

"Triage." Leo frowned. "I hate having to put the 'no' mark on patients because they're too wounded to be stabilized quickly. I hate having to leave them to die."

"Every doctor in this job feels that way," Crusher said. "I've always asked myself if I could have saved those patients with just a little time. In the end, though, it's an unavoidable part of our work. And we have to live with the choices we made."


"As for the overnight watch, how about we split it? I'll take from 2400 to 0400, you come on at 0400?"

Leo almost said no. Crusher was clearly exhausted as well. It was when he looked into her tired face, and the concerned look there, that he knew she would never accept "no" for an answer. He sighed and nodded. "Sure."

When the time came, Leo arrived at the doctors' station between the Intensive and Critical Care Wards at 0356 with a mug of black coffee and a breakfast ham and cheese omelette fresh from Hargert's kitchen. He found Doctor Crusher making final notations on a digital reader. "Someone did us all a favor and replicated a couple of nice double-sized beds for the quiet room," he told her.

"I'll take it," she said.

"Any cases come up?"

"The fourteen year old Jane Doe in Intensive showed an increase in her white blood cell count," Crusher revealed. "I would almost think she had a systemic infection, but I've found no signs of one in the scan."

"She may have an autoimmune condition, then." Leo accepted the reader and looked over it. "We can't know anything for sure until she comes out of that coma."

"No sign of any neurological change." Crusher stood. "But for now, one of those beds sounds just about right."

"I'll see you in the morning," Leo said, watching her leave.

His routine went off regularly. He looked over Crusher's notes for the last four hours, as well as Ocasio's notes from the previous shift, while finishing his breakfast. By 0430 he was making his rounds in both wards, dealing with patients who were asleep, or at least mostly so.

Due to the planet's rotation period the sun was already well into the sky by 0545, when Leo sat back down to log his findings for the last round and catch a cup of coffee. He was partly through it when Lucy stepped into the door looking refreshed. "Good morning," Leo said to her.

"Good morning," Lucy replied. "Did you actually sleep? Or did I go to the trouble of getting those beds for nothing?"

Leo smiled at her. "No. I made use of one. And I'll have it again later today, I hope."

"Good." Lucy slipped into a chair and started nibbling on what looked like a breakfast burrito. When she swallowed she said, "So, I've triple-checked all of your gear, all of your equipment, and I put an override into that storage vault so you and the others can get in there whenever you need. The system will recognize your retinas and your DNA to let you in."

"Great news." Leo folded his hands together. "What about the holographics? We could use the extra hands."

"Are you sure?" Lucy frowned. "That thing's got atrocious bedside manners. I don't know if I'd have him treat camp survivors or wounded soldiers."

"Maybe not," Leo agreed, "but we need more hands. It has the medical skill and knowledge to treat Standard patients at least."

There was no arguing with that logic. Lucy drew in a sigh. "We were pretty much done. Zimmerman just had some final coding he wanted to do relating to the system's personality, to make it less acerbic and, frankly, give it more respect for confidential patient information. During testing the program had no problem blurting out medical information."

"I guess confidentiality and testing the program's competence didn't go together," Leo mumbled. He didn't like the thought of the program just blurting out information that might be best kept private. His mind wandered to the girl that he and Chakwas had found the other day to be pregnant, and the thought of how the EMH might have handled that delicate situation if it had been programmed the way it was.. "Is there an easy way to program the system to follow confidentiality ethics?"

"Jarod might have managed it, but Zimmerman's coding is… it's really complex, and I honestly don't want to fiddle with a single line of it."

"Right. So, any suggestions?"

Lucy started thinking on the problem. "I could alter the access permissions, I guess. Give you command authority that would let you give the EMH orders. Then you can just tell him not to divulge information loudly or whatever other tweaks he needs. He'll probably still be acerbic though, and he may even resent the commands."

"That's fine, I'd rather he resent me than spew out to strangers that some poor girl they brought in is pregnant. Or was." Leo glanced at his monitors. Everything was running smoothly. "How long until this is done?"

"How many of the doctors do you want to give this access to?"

"All of them."

Lucy's omnitool came to life. Using the two handed-controls - joint keypads generated, one on her forearm by the tool proper and the other a series of keys generated under her left hand. She started tapping away while a holo-secreen showed lines of code. After several seconds she nodded. "Okay. Try it out. I've given you all permissions to turn the EMH emitters on and off, and to issue binding commands."

"Computer, activate the Emergency Medical Hologram in my office," Leo requested.

The EMH shimmed into view. "Please state the nature of the medical emergency."

"Too many to count," Leo muttered. He cleared his throat. "From this point on, you are to exercise discretion when discussing the medical information of a patient to ensure patient confidentiality. There isn't a lot of privacy in the wards, so outside of time-critical information necessary to a patient's health and life, I want medical conditions and issues relayed to the physicians on-staff by electronic notification, not verbal remark."

The EMH actually looked annoyed at that. "You're aware that my testing protocols are only temporary, yes?"

"I am. But your creator isn't here to shut them down right." Leo smiled softly. "And because of how sophisticated your program is, we don't want to risk problems trying to do any modifications ourselves, including removing those protocols. This is the best fix we have."

The way Leo had put it mollified the EMH. "I see your point. Very well. Command input logged and implemented."

"Go ahead and make the rounds in Critical Care," Leo continued. "I'm going to talk to…"

There was a tone from Leo's omnitool. "T'Perro to Gillam."

Leo tapped the blinking blue light to accept the transmission. "Gillam here."

"Can you meet me in pharmaceutical storage? We may have a major problem."

Leo and Lucy found T'Perro with Doctor Amelia Lang, a middle-aged woman with graying chestnut hair and dusky brown skin from the Regulan Free States in the Free Worlds League, and Doctor Niria Gaterius, an older Turian physician. They were standing in the middle of the storage room for the hospital's many medications.

Immediately Leo could tell there was a problem. One area was very low, dangerously so, on stock. "What's wrong?" he asked. "What's missing?"

"Not so much missing as used up," Lang noted. Her English was touched by an accent that made her sound as if she were from British India. Her Anglo-Indian descent was easily noticed after a few moments of observation, with a hint of African ancestry in her cheekbones. "We are nearly out of dextro-compatible medications."

Which explained the sour look on Galerius' face. Leo swallowed and shook his head. Without those medications, treating Turian patients would be impossible. "We'll need to replicate more of what we can," he said.

"The replicator can't manufacture everything," Galerius pointed out. "It seems that the Humans from F1S1 messed up our evac from Bravo. They were supposed to clear out the pharmacy and reserve storage of all remaining medications. They did not do so."

"The 2nd Legionnaires did all they could," Lang protested, sensing the rebuke in the Turian's words.

"Which is why our medical supplies got left…"

"We can't afford to fuss like this," Leo insisted. He looked to Galerius. "Doctor, can we ask the 8th Regiment for their stores?"

"They're running low already," Galerius insisted. "Hospital Delta never carried more than a few emergency dextro-compatible supplies. And Able is already under shelling. We need what's left at Bravo."

"Which the Nazis took last night?" asked Lucy.

"Unfortunately, yes," Lang said. "So getting to those supplies will be impossible."

Lucy was already letting some ideas run through her head. "Maybe not entirely impossible. I can rig up a short-term stealth or cloaking device to a shuttle and fly it in. Give me enough backup and I can get in and out before the Nazis know what hit them."

"That sounds far too dangerous," Leo protested.

"It is dangerous." Lucy nodded in agreement. "But if we don't, some Turians are going to die, right?"

"We'll run out of some of our most important treatments before the day is over," Galerius revealed. "Every Turian in the Intensive Ward will be dead by tomorrow if we don't get re-supplied."

"Then we don't have much choice," Lucy pointed out. "Let me speak to the general in charge."

"The human general from the League, Chaganam, could help," Galerius said. "General Lukasian might even be able to get you a Platoon in support. I can connect you to him."

Lucy nodded. "Make the call."

"Good luck, Lucy," Leo said to her. "Make sure you come back." He turned his head to the others. "I'll head over to the pharmaceutical replicators and make whatever dextro-compatible medications I can to tide us over."

"I'll inform Crusher and Gureep," said Lang, just before she walked out.

Andre Faqin was welcomed with no questioning when he stepped into the main entrance of the Field Hospital. He wasn't the only one, as the more hopeful, or those genuinely supportive of the medical efforts, were also heading back to work as janitors, orderlies, food staff, and other support jobs for the off-world medical personnel. Faqin shook his head and allowed himself a partial thought at these fools, who had earned themselves an execution as soon as the SS retook New Rennes.

It wasn't that he was particularly loyal to the Reich. Nobody could accuse Faqin of being loyal to anyone but himself. But he knew full well how powerful the Reich, especially the SS, were, and even now he found the idea that they would lose the war laughable. It simply wasn't possible. As far as he was concerned, the Reich was intentionally letting the enemy win to uncover secret dissidents in the far colonies so that they could destroy them all when the inevitable counterattack swept through. And isn't that what was happening even now?

The New Breton man accepted his work ID at the main security station from one of those grotesque aliens, a purple-complexioned female with blue face markings and little tentacles in a crest instead of actual hair. You should have stayed in your home universe, he thought. Fassbinder's troops would kill her without a moment's hesitation.

But now was not the time for that thinking. He had to get to work, sweeping and mopping, and confirm who was still here for his employer.

Fools. Poor fools, he thought. You should have all stayed out of this universe.

As Faqin stepped around a corner he nearly ran into a young woman in an Alliance uniform, her light brown complexion enough to tell him she would be another of Fassbinder's victims soon enough. He frowned and started to speak when she turned to face him and he stopped. He forced thoughts from his head at seeing the bewildered look on her, the intensity in her blue eyes, and for a moment he felt like she was in his head.

"You'll be needed in the machine shop," she said to him, more than a little irritation in her voice. "And you might want to watch where you're going for now on."

Faqin nodded and said nothing. His mind raced with recognition, though. This was one of them, one of the images Fassbinder had shown him. A member of the Aurora crew. He would have to get a message out, definitely.

But first, he had to continue his round of the hospital. Fassbinder would not be happy if he didn't provide an accurate accounting of them all.

Lucy remained deep in thought on what she was planning while she walked on from her run-in with the local sweeper. She'd cobbled together a rough emissions cloaker from some of the communications hardware, but it wouldn't have the cloaking capability she had hoped for. There weren't parts for that. So we won't be invisible, just hard to detect on sensors. Well, we can work with that.

Her omnitool activated. A Turian man in field uniform armor appeared on the screen generated by the device. "Lieutenant Lucero?" he inquired.

"Yes," she answered.

"Doctor Galerius informed me of your problem. I can get you a team that can slip behind enemy lines and hit the Bravo hospital. But your window of opportunity is very short and you need to meet them immediately."

"Have them land on the hospital roof." Lucy started moving that way. "And I'll need a few minutes to get the dampening generator hooked into the shuttle's system."

"You'll have them."

While working her way up the stairs leading to the VTOL landing pad roof - currently unoccupied - Lucy felt her heart begin to beat faster. At first she thought it was simple anticipation of the mission, and the dangerous insertion behind enemy lines. But as she thought about it, or rather as she came into tune with that energy that resonated within her, Lucy realized it was something more. Something was going on.

Something about that local man. The way he'd moved. The flicker of recognition that had gone through his features and the sense that he was wary in a way that didn't fit with a normal situation.

Lucy tapped her omnitool's comm key and said, "Lucero to Gillam."

After a few moments Leo responded. "Gillam here."

"There's something wrong, Leo," she said. "I can feel it."

"Can you be more specific?"

"There's a man working as a janitor. Brown hair, light complexion, stocky but not overweight. I ran into him earlier and it felt like he was up to something. I mean, as if there's something going on with him."

"I see. I'll alert building security and ask them about this."

"Just be careful until I get back."

"The same to you, Lucy. Gillam out."

By this point Lucy was hearing the high-pitched roar of a mass effect propulsion engine. She looked up in time to see a small assault shuttle fly in and come to a stop on the landing pad. It didn't look like she thought it should, lacking the sharp angles and look of Turian ships.

The explanation came when it opened, and a female figure with purple skin and reddish facial markings stepped down. The Asari was carrying a mass effect rifle affixed to her back and a pistol on her hip. Brilliant blue-gray eyes focused on her. "Fallina," she said. "I'm Fallina Leysi, of the Armali Watch. General Lukasian already briefed us."

"I'll need a few minutes to get this dampener fixed to your systems," Lucy said, holding up the device. "And then we'll be ready to go."

"Right." Leysi showed her in. The cargo area had another six Asari, all armed and looking ready for a fight. "Ever fight with Asari commandos?" she asked.


"Well, just remember, if we run into trouble, stay back and let us deal with it." Fallina smirked. "These crazy humans never know what hits them when they run into biotics."

Lucy smirked at that. "They never see me coming either. I'm trained in the Gersallian art of swevyra." She got on her knees in the rear, at the engine access panel showing on her omnitool display. "Between your biotics and my power, I would almost feel sorry for the SS assholes we run into. But first things first. I need to get this installed."

"We'll lift off as soon as you're ready."

Faqin's first round was in the Standard Care Ward. The majority of the patients were wounded soldiers who were too busy resting or exchanging stories to notice him. He ran his sweeper up one aisle and down the next while trying to maintain the alertness he needed.

He was disappointed by the first white coat he saw. The woman was clearly not one of those he was on the lookout for. She looked over Faqin with momentary curiosity before getting to work on her patients. He paid her no further heed and continued on.

With the other physicians busy or resting, Doctor Crusher was the only one Leo could get in touch with before he got to the small security office for the Hospital. "Are you certain about this?" Crusher asked over the comm from her current position in triage. "Lieutenant Lucero is under pressure like the rest of us. She could have a case of anxiety that is causing paranoia."

"Not Lucy," he answered. "If she says there's a problem, she means it. I'm about to check with the security staff about this guy to see who he is. If it's nothing, it's nothing, but if this guy is up to no good we need to be ready."

There was only a moment of silence on the line before Crusher responded. "Let me know how it goes. I'll be expecting you in Triage. Crusher out."

Leo lowered his forearm and continued on his way.

The Field Hospital's security staff had been provided by the military. It was mostly made up of mercenaries, in truth, private contractors hired from a myriad number of sources who by their presence freed up military personnel for other duties. It was easy duty for them given the patients were either walking skeletons or wounded soldiers, with little chance of a merc getting caught up with an unwanted situation of having to restrain someone.

Even the chief of security was one such mercenary. Roger Taylor was a former FedStars Marine, of African-American background like Leo. He kept his head bald. "Can you describe this fellow?" he asked Leo after an initial explanation.

"Brown hair, Caucasian, supposedly stocky."

"Hrm." Taylor brought up his forearm and tapped a key on a multidevice. Leo found it interesting that he hadn't updated to omnitools yet. "Looking at the records, we've got a couple of locals that fit that description. Do you know what he does?"

"Janitor duties, I think."

"Hrm." Taylor went over the list. "Looks like I've got a match. Andre Faqin is the name given." Taylor looked to Leo. "Is there a problem with the man?"

"Lieutenant Lucero reported he was acting suspiciously earlier."

"Suspicious in what way?"

"She didn't explain. But I trust her judgement."

Taylor considered that. "He's a local," the man finally said. "No telling how many locals might have been in bed with the damned Nazis. Probably how some of these poor bastards survived for centuries." Taylor tapped a key on his multidevice and began typing on the resulting hard-light keyboard it projected in front of him, allowing him to use both hands to type with a speed Leo associated with professional secretaries. "I'm putting out an alert to my people to keep a discreet eye on the man. I can't afford the manpower to shadow him completely, you understand. Not without stronger evidence."

"I understand," Leo said. "And I appreciate…"

His omnitool lit up around his left forearm. The voice that spoke was Crusher. "Doctor Gillam, you're needed in the ICW right away."

Leo could waste no time. He knew precisely what that meant. "Sorry," he said to Taylor, an apology for having to cut their meeting short.

"No need, Doctor," the older man said as Leo rushed from the door.

Leo arrived in the Intensive Care Ward and met with Doctor Crusher and Nasri, who were already at the adolescent/early-teen Jane Doe. He walked up and asked, "What's wrong?"

"Steady drop in blood pressure began two minutes ago," Crusher answered. "Scans show her heart is failing. Brain activity is unchanged."

Leo nodded and moved to the other side of the bed. "Our earlier scans showed organ damage at the cellular level." He checked the latest scan results. "We may not have a choice," he said to Crusher. "We might have to replace her heart."

"I agree." Crusher was frowning. "But with all of her other organ problems, her heart may not be the only one she needs replacing. And our raw biomatter stock for the replicators is already running low. This may be a triage situation."

Leo shook his head. "That's not for certain. And I'm not leaving a child to die because she might be unsaveable." He looked over at Nasri. "Get an OR prepped. Tell Dr. Ocasio what to expect."

"Right away, Doctor."

Leo looked to Crusher next. He was trying not to be aggressive, but the challenge he was laying at her doorstep was clear. He was making a call to save the Jane Doe even if it meant defying triage procedure. And it would be up to Crusher to object and seek to overrule him.

Crusher nodded to him. Her hand revealed a hypospray, which she used on the patient. "I'm giving her a stabilizer, it may help."

"Thank you."

There was nothing more to say. The two physicians went back to work trying to save their patient.

Faqin was starting to lose patience. And what's more, he was starting to become paranoid. He couldn't help but feel like everyone was starting to watch him.

This meant he had to be even more careful. Not so much because he believed he had been compromised, but because fear and paranoia could cause him to make sloppy mistakes.

Still, it was better to make sure of things. He needed to confirm if any of the other Aurora personnel were here. The most likely candidate for that was the doctor he had seen before. He thought he remembered the name. Now he just had to have a way to ask about it.

He took his chance at seeing an orderly, another Human. "Have you seen Doctor Gillam?" he asked. His English was atrocious and he was relying on French, suitably translated by whatever means others had. "He had asked me to do extra mopping in the Child Ward, and I need to see if it was covered."

"I'm not sure where he is, but you should probably see to that mopping," the woman answered. "Some of the little tykes are still sick, you see. Poor things can have trouble keeping down food, even half-starving as they are."

"Poor things, yes." Excited, Faqin stepped away. He kept sweeping until he had an opening to slip into a closet. He pulled out his communicator from his belt and opened the line. "There are at least two still here, Standartenführer," he informed Fassbinder.

"Good. Be prepared. I will not take long."

With that the call ended. Faqin's job had been done. It was time to leave. He opened the door to the closet to walk out.

He never saw the blow that sent him into quiet blackness.

The OR was ready when Leo and Crusher arrived with their stricken patient. Doctor Ocasio met them at the door in OR scrubs. The Hispanic gentleman, with dark bronze complexion and silvery hair still flecked with black strands, helped them move the patient to a surgical bed. "The replicator is building the new heart now," he informed the other two doctors. He said nothing about the issue of triage, much to Leo's gratitude.

"Blood pressure is still falling."

"Get changed."

Leo and Crusher left the entryway and went to the nearby station to switch into operating suits. Ocasio pulled the bed with their patient into the actual operating theater. The protective energy field that helped keep the inside sterile yielded to him and the stretcher in question.

"We don't have a lot of time for this," Crusher said while pulling on the surgical bodysuit. Its pale blue color matched the general coloring of the OR theater and area. "She's a borderline case."

"I know." Leo pulled on his own. "I can manage this with Ocasio and Nasri, if you're worried about the rest of the facility."

"If this is going to be done, I'm going to be there," Crusher insisted. "I want that girl to live as much as you do. But I also want to know that you can make the call if you have to."

Leo met her eyes and said nothing for several seconds, time he spent finishing the securing of his bodysuit. Once it was done, and he was covered head-to-toe in the pale blue material, he finally nodded. "I understand that. And if I have to, I'll make the call."

Crusher nodded, showing her satisfaction. "Let's go, then. We have a lot to do in order to stabilize her."

The Asari combat shuttle penetrated enemy lines in the company of Turian fighters and a supporting wing of Dorei aerospace fighters. The sector was one at the line where the Turian defenses met those of the Free Worlds League's troops, giving Lucy a view of the ten-to-thirty-meter tall BattleMechs stomping along the front, exchanging fire with SS armored vehicles. Tanks from the League rumbled along their taller cousins to provide further fire support.

"We're landing in two minutes," Fallina informed her commandos. The battlesuit-clad Asari all commenced a final check on their firearms. One, a particularly tall Asari, was carrying what Lucy figured to be a full fire assault rifle, and was loaded down with tactical webbing full of specialized containers to carry medical vials securely. Another had a sniper rifle, and the others had smaller weapons, presumably submachine guns and pistols. Fallina had a gun fixed to the small of her back, where Commander Shepard had often carried her shotgun.

Lucy patted at her right hip, where her lakesh was clipped to her field action uniform belt beside the holster carrying her pulse pistol. She drew in a breath and focused. The tension cleared from her mind slowly and allowed her senses to focus, through her power, at the site they were coming in toward.

Even before the side of the shuttle opened up to allow them to jump out, Lucy knew what they were going to find. Bravo had been two-thirds the size of Charlie, but the Field Hospital had still been a sizable prefab structure with multiple entrances. The shuttle had landed them in one of the emergency entrances, for troops being brought in for treatment. "T'Sana, T'Lira, on point," Fallina ordered as the commando team exited the shuttle. Lucy stepped out beside Fallina. "Karina, find your spot."

"Take me up," the Asari with the sniper rifle ordered the pilot. The shuttle pulled away, leaving the rest of the team at the entrance.

The two lead Asari, one holding up a pistol and the other already generating a biotic field around herself, entered the door first. The rest of the team followed. Lucy looked around. There wasn't much in the way of damage to the site. But the emptiness was unsettling. It made her think of zombie movies or other post-apocalyptic films, where the structures of everyday life were made sinister by the lack of life within them.

"No sign of life in the building," the Asari named T'Sana said. She had her omnitool up and active. "It looks abandoned."

"Let's hope they haven't broken into the medicine vault." Lucy nodded to Fallina. "Lead the way."

Fallina made a hand movement and they began to walk through the corridors of the building. They were nearing one of the ward entrances when the stench hit them for the first time. Lucy almost gagged and wished she'd never learned just what it was she was smelling. "Someone must have been left behind," she said to Fallina.

"And the enemy executed them." A hard look crossed the Asari commando leader's face. "Savages."

The stench felt like it was getting more powerful as they drew nearer to their final destination. The door to the secure pharmacy vault was not very different from the other doors. And it certainly wasn't built to resist things like a bank vault's door was. Lucy figured the biotics could blow the door off easily. She probably could force it open with her own abilities.

But at the same time, anything violent might cause damage on the other side of the door. So instead of that choice, Lucy stepped up to it and brought her omnitool online. "This won't take long," she assured the Asari. "I just need a few minutes…"
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Sun Jun 11, 2017 2:11 am

I'd love to see more of the EMH tbh. He will save them all! :D

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Sun Jun 11, 2017 4:54 pm

The operating room was not a place for idle talk. Even though modern medical science had eliminated the need for cutting into a body and all of the delicate work that required, manipulating the inside of any body - whatever the species - was delicate work and would always be so. One wrong move, just one, could cause severe or fatal damage to the patient.

Leo was grateful to feel the cool sponge pressed to his brow to clear off the sweat. His hand remained in precise place, holding the director wand over the chest of the comatose young girl while his other hand utilized the controls that directed the system in what he was doing. They had made four incisions in the chest to accommodate the need for an external pump to circulate blood while this critical part of the operation occurred. With the wand and the attached system Leo was finishing the last cut, removing the sickly, dying heart completely from the girl's overtaxed body.

"Inferior vena cava is now cut," he announced. "Moving on to the superior."

Ocasio was standing nearby, checking the measurements of what Leo was doing against the fresh human heart inside of the replication chamber. With their patient's blood type and cells the heart had been crafted specifically for her body, easing the transplant process and reducing the risk of any sort of rejection. Crusher was across from him monitoring vitals. "Pulse rate is remaining steady," she said.

"Beginning final severance." Using the holo-display projected by the wand, Leo ran the instrument along the superior vena cava. Micro-transporters removed cells and organic matter, effectively cutting the massive blood vessel. Leo kept his movement slow and deliberate, cutting away only as much as he needed to. "Superior vena cava is cut away," he said.

"Activating organ transporter." Crusher pressed a key on a control panel beside her, then several more in sequence. The Jane Doe's heart appeared in a flash of white light in a nearby receptacle. "Preparing to transport replacement. All vitals are still holding steady."

"Transplant is ready," Ocasio said. "All measurements match."

Leo allowed his arm to relax for the moment. Now was the hard part; putting the heart back in and getting it started. He looked to Nasri who ran the sponge on his forehead again, clearing away the sweat again.


Crusher's gloved finger hit the appropriate key. The systems lined up the new heart and beamed it in, every vessel lining up as was necessary. Leo brought the wand back up and began using the regenerator function. It was the dermal regenerator writ large, carefully calibrated so that the regenerator field was precisely small. The cells of the superior vena cava began to link up to the cells of the heart transplant, reforming the vital vein.

Slowly, precisely, the work continued.

In the abandoned husk of Field Hospital Bravo, Lucy's omnitool whirled around her left hand, hovering over the access control for the pharmaceutical storage vault. One last character, in Latin alphanumerics, was displaying on her omnitool screen. "Here we go…"

A "Y" appeared and the omnitool blinked green on its display. The door slid open.

"Excellent work," said Fallina.

With two exceptions, the Asari commandos followed Lucy into the room. The pharmaceuticals had been only partially removed. Lucy pondered that fact as she examined shelves full of hypospray-compatible vials and pill bottles. "It looks like at least half of the stocks weren't pulled out," she said. "That's a little odd. I know it was an emergency evacuation, but Bravo had time to pull out all of the patients. Why so little of the pharmaceuticals?"

"Miscommunication," proposed one of the other Asari. "Evacuations can be chaotic."

"Yeah." Lucy thought of evacuations and remembered the Facility and the evacuation caused by the Daleks. Everyone had gotten out, but she was sure they'd left behind more than a few things. "But something feels off about this…"

"I think I know why the dextro-meds weren't taken in the evac," Fallina said. Everyone looked to her and to shelving marked with both Latin and Turian alphabetic characters.

The shelves were empty.

"What the hell?" Lucy walked up and scanned the area with her omnitool. "This doesn't make sense. Where did they go?"

"Nowhere, according to the Hospital inventory." The computer expert of Fallina's team was operating one of the computer terminals. Lucy thought she remembered the name Niara for the Asari. "They're supposed to be there."

"Then where…" Lucy continued scanning and looking. "Maybe they got misplaced."

"All of them?" Fallina's skepticism was evident in her voice.

"I know, it doesn't seem likely." Lucy smirked. "But you would be surprised what people can misplace when they're not thinking." A thought crossed Lucy's mind. "Niara, isn't it?"

"Niata," corrected the computer expert commando. "Yes?"

"Niata, do you have the inventory codes for the dextro-meds?"

After a moment of checking Niata answered, "I do."

"Transmit them to our omnitools," Lucy said. "Then we'll just scan through the room until we find a hit."

A small grin came to the Asari's face. "I wish I'd thought of that first." The tones of Niata working away on the hardlight keyboard sounded for a few moments. "There we go, I just transmitted the data."

Lucy activated the scanner function on her omnitool and started waving her forearm around. Fallina and the others were copying the same. "Wait," said Fallina. "I think I have something."

Lucy looked to the Asari and followed her scan returns to some of the shelving further in. They converged on it with the others. Lucy read the characters along the shelving side and frowned. "This shelf is for the Dorei-specific medications," she said.

Fallina picked up a vial and scanned it. "This is an antibiotic, dextro-compatible," she said.

"They're all dextro," another of the Asari said, running her omnitool over the entire shelf.

"But look at the labeling," Lucy said. She held one up and read the Latin characters. "This is Turian medication, but it's listed as Dorei."

"That's not right." Fallina was frowning. "The Dorei aren't dextro-compatible, right?"

"No," Lucy said. "They're levo-compatible, just like us."

"Then if this medication had been given to them…"

"...it would either be entirely non-effective, or fatal," another of the Asari said.

Lucy swallowed. No wonder she had felt something was wrong. "This isn't just an accidental mis-shelving," she said. "This is sabotage. Someone was trying to sabotage us from the inside. I mean, think about it. Dorei dying because someone replaced their meds with Turian meds? The Turians would be accusing our people of incompetence, and we'd probably claim the same on their end."

"Reich agents must have gotten in here."

"Maybe." Something about that didn't seem right either. Would the Reich have cared about something so small? Then again, a small-time operative might have just been looking for minor sabotage. "Anyway, we need to get going."

"Selmissima." Fallina looked to the tall Asari with the assault rifle and medical containers. "Let's get these things packed up."

"We'll let the pharmacists back at Charlie sort through them and figure out which medication is which," Lucy said. She sniffed. "Is it just me, or is that smell worse in here?"

Now that they'd found their objective, the stench of dead flesh was something they were noticing more easily. Fallina nodded and agreed. "You can join Niata in looking for the source, if you want." She was already accepting one container from Selmissima. "We'll get the Turian meds secured, and any other meds from the doctors' list we can find."

Lucy nodded and walked back to the computer desk, where Niata was already standing up. The two started exploring further into the vault, toward the rear shelves. "Cold storage is back this way," Niata noted.

"Anything we need from there?"

"There might be a couple meds, but the critical items on our list wasn't listed for cold storage," Niata noted.

"Still…" Lucy felt a tremor within her being, like if she was a living metal detector and cold storage was a piece of metal she was coming into contact with. She followed that sense until they arrived at the heavy metal door. "Is it just me," Lucy began, "or is the smell coming from inside?"

"That wouldn't make sense," Niata said. "The cold storage vault is supposed to be…"

"...sealed." Lucy pointed to the area near the door handle, where there was a clear gap in the frame. "But it's not."

"That… that looks like damage." Niata showed bewilderment. "But that's not from a weapon. It's like something strong gripped so hard that it warped the seal."

That worried Lucy. "I don't see how anyone could have done that. Not with this material."

"Maybe a Krogan," Niata said. "Maybe."

More curious than ever, Lucy grabbed the lever lock and pulled it. Niata opened the door.

The stench was almost physical in its intensity. That horrible smell of rotting flesh and waste from a dead body, something Lucy was all too familiar with when raiding nasty places in multiple worlds back in the Facility days, directed them into the cold storage room. The air still had a hint of cold to it, but it was obvious that the cold had been turned off.

"Someone must have shut down the locker during the evacuation," Niata said.

"Or the generator was taken. The vault door's battery backup must have maintained the security system and internal computers, but wasn't enough for the cold storage air conditioning." Lucy activated her omnitool's scanner. Immediately she got a result. "No point in picking up these meds, the lack of cold will have spoiled them. But there's something this way…"

They walked through the dry room, past the shelves of ruined medication, and thus toward the back of the cold storage vault. The smell grew in intensity and rankness as they walked. Lucy wished she had a breather unit, anything to get away from this horrid stench.

The body was in the last row. There was no telling who it, or rather she, had been, just the remains of what looked like a standard medical jumpsuit. Someone had smashed the dead woman's face in with such raw fury that there were no facial features, no jaw or dental remains, that could identify her. There was no hair left either. "Somebody didn't want this woman identified," Niata said.

"At least not quickly." Lucy knelt down beside her. "We need an empty vial. Something to collect biological samples from for DNA analysis." She activated her omnitool's scanning function again and looked to see if it could read the DNA. But her engineering-specialist omnitool had no such function, nor any way to help secure samples.

Niata leaned over with what looked like silk in her hand. She dabbed the cloth in the dried blood of the woman's ruined face. But it wouldn't take. Not to be deterred, Niata took her combat knife from her waist and began scraping at the blood. The scrapings she put in the silk cloth before tying it into a bag. Seeing Lucy's look, Niata smiled. "I had a lover who's in C-Sec. He told me a few stories about evidence collection on the sly."

Lucy, meanwhile, had her own idea. She took a tool from her belt, a powered bolt wrench, and scraped the edge along the visible flesh of the dead woman's arm. Dead skin cells, pale bronze in coloration, flaked off under the strength of the scraping. Lucy made sure to collect an ample amount of dead skin before she stood up. Too bad I don't have an evidence bag or something, she thought to herself.

Just as the two emerged from the cold storage part of the vault, Fallina's omnitool activated. "What is it?" she asked. "Given your faces, whatever you found wasn't good news."

"Nothing from cold storage. The climate control was off." Lucy frowned. "And we found a dead woman in there who had her face turned to hamburger."

Fallina frowned and shook her head. "It may be linked to our medical saboteur."

"That's it," said Selmissima. She stood up with the last container and thrust it into Niata's hands. "We have everything we can carry."

"It's time for extraction." Fallina gestured to the door while triggering her omnitool. "Karina, Casari, we're ready to get out."

"We're clear of enemy forces here, ma'am, but I suggest you hurry."

"Why?" Fallina asked.

"Because we just got word from General Lukasian. The enemy's just launched a new attack." The sniper's voice remained matter-of-fact. "It looks like they're trying to pound their way through to New Rennes. And Hospital Charlie is right on their line of advance."

"We're on our way." Fallina gestured forward. "Come on, huntresses, double time! You too, Lieutenant Lucero, and I hope you can keep up."

Lucy, despite the situation, grinned at that. "Funny," she said, "I was about to suggest the same to you."

And she began running with them, keeping pace with almost contemptuous ease.

Leo had made it through to the last attachment, the aorta itself, when the machines began beeping.

"Her vitals just dropped. Respiration rate and O2 levels are lowering."

"I've almost got it." Leo continued running the wand along, directing the tissue regenerator to bind the new heart to the Jane Doe's aorta. "Just another minute."

"She may not have a minute."

Leo nodded at Crusher. Sweat dripped dangerously close to his eye. "Sponge," he said, and Nasri immediately tended to him.

"I'm setting the oxygenation rate of her blood higher." Crusher was back at work. "But it looks like her lungs may be failing."

"Do we have any dizaproregene ready?"

Crusher gave him a harsh look. "With how weak her body is, dizaproregene is enormously dangerous."

"A measure of last resort," Leo said, even as he focused on reconnecting the aorta.

There was no reply from Crusher about that. Leo wasn't surprised. He knew that if he was turning to dizap, the girl was already likely to die. But doing anything less seemed criminal.

"Honestly, if you get to that point, we're facing the triage question."

Leo refused to look her way. He wanted to. He wanted to look into Crusher's eyes and see if there was pain there, or resolve, or guilt. "You think we'd be wasting it?"

"In our resource situation? Yes, Doctor, if you use dizaproregene on this patient, it will be a waste. Her survival chances are already going too low to justify it."

"She'll stabilize as soon as we get this heart pumping." Leo remained focused on that task. Almost there

A very low tone came from their omnitools. Ocasio was the only one who could safely check his. "There's an emergency alert," he said. "Doctor Galerius needs us in Triage within the next ten minutes."

"We'll be done by then," Leo said. "One way or another."

"What's the alert?" Crusher asked.

Leo couldn't afford to turn and look at Ocasio. He couldn't see the grim look on the Hispanic doctor's face. "The enemy has thrown more troops into the battle," Ocasio said. "They may be advancing on the hospital."

The gulp nearly finished forming in Leo's throat. But he wouldn't let it. One crisis at a time. That's all he could deal with.

Fallina was the last to jump into the shuttle on the hospital roof. In the distance Lucy could see small forms moving toward the hospital. Forms too large, at this distance, to be ordinary soldiers. "Looks like we just missed a fight with Panzergrenadiers."

"They make a mess inside of those suits if you hit them with the right biotic combination," one of the Asari - T'Sani? - said.

Lucy was already feeling sick from smelling the dead bodies in the hospital. That mental image was something she wasn't eager to contemplate, not even for Nazis. She glared at the Asari in question.

Fallina was already on comms, reporting their success and issuing a security alert. "We need to find everyone who handled logistics in the Bravo Hospital," she was saying to the images of General Lukasian and General Chaganam on the wall of the shuttle's passenger compartment. The Turian general had joined Chaganam, in the field uniform of a Free Worlds League officer, at the main HQ for the Coalition forces on New Brittany. "Someone labeled the dextro meds with labels as Dorei-specific medications."

Both commanders gave her an uncomfortable look. "I am no physician, but wouldn't that be poisonous to the Dorei troops?" Chaganam asked.

"It would," Lukasian confirmed. The Turian's concern was clear. "Either poisonous or completely ineffective. Either way, dozens of Dorei soldiers might have died if Bravo hadn't been evacuated."

"Someone might be attempting to interfere with our alliance." Lucy stepped up beside Fallina. "Someone trying to turn us against each other."

"The Nazis having agents in the planetary population is the most likely cause."

Chaganam had made a good point. But something about this felt familiar to Lucy. Something was nagging at her about this.

"That's a priority for later." Lukasian raised a three-fingered hand and gestured as if to move away the issue. "Right now you're needed back at Hospital Charlie. A fresh enemy division is moving into the area."

"The 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Legionnaires is in position to counter-attack them on that front. But we may not be able to keep them out of the hospital grounds. And there's not nearly enough time for an evacuation."

Lucy didn't need Chaganam to say more. The SS, if they got into the Hospital, would start killing patients and medical staff left and right. There would be no mercy. Leo, Nasri, Hargert, they're all in the line of fire.

"We'll do what we can to protect the patients, General," Fallina pledged.

"Spirits go with you. HQ out." Lukasian cut the line.

"You all heard that," said Fallina. "As soon as we get back to that hospital, we'll find a defensive position and coordinate with hospital security."

Lucy found herself nodding with the others. Now she really regretted not wearing her body armor.

Leo felt a surge of misplaced relief when the last strands of regenerated tissue finished linking the Jane Doe's aorta to her new heart. "Okay. Let's begin cardio stimulation and get this heart going."

"Her O2 levels are still in decline."

Leo nodded to accept that while Doctor Ocasio manned the cardial stimulation device. Using remote, wireless receivers placed into the transplanted heart, the machine began to jolt the muscles in the replicated organ to bring it into operation.

Of course, this was the trickiest moment of the operation. There was no one hundred percent guarantee the new heart would function. Anything from a flaw at the cellular level to too much energy through the stimulator could keep the heart from starting to beat. And if that happened, the patient would die, pure and simple.

"Beginning stimulation," Ocasio said. "Cutting power flow… no response."


"Respiratory rate is in decline." Crusher shook her head. "It looks like cellular damage to the lung has shut down several bronchi clusters."

Leo couldn't hide his frustration at that. Whatever had been done to this girl, the cellular damage was clearly the worst in terms of her ability to live. How did they manage this? Was this a new Nazi weapon?

"Still no response to cardial stimulation."

"Again," Leo said simply. They had a few more tries left, certainly. But once he was past the sixth… no, no, that wouldn't happen. This wouldn't be for nothing.

"EEG readings are declining."

"Push the oxylin."

"20ccs." Crusher did so.

"Third pulse. Still no autonomous heartbeat."


"Even if her new heart starts beating, her lungs may not last," Crusher warned.

"5ccs of dizaproregene will deal with that."

There was disapproval in Crusher's eyes. "That's too much. Her system won't handle it."

"Anything less and she won't regain enough lung function."

"Then call it," Crusher said.

"Fourth pulse. Still no response."

Ocasio's report was met with an immediate "Again". Leo didn't take his eyes off Crusher's. There was challenge in them. She could overrule him. She could assert her seniority as a physician, as a medical officer, and order Ocasio to give up. Ocasio could make the same call, although as a civilian volunteer physician with little surgical experience, his authority over them was more uncertain.

But she didn't.

There was silence as they waited to hear from Ocasio on whether this worked. If it didn't, Crusher would be right. A sixth attempt might work, but at this point, if the heart wouldn't start… Leo knew it would be the end. And Galerius, Lang, and the others needed them out in Triage. Especially with combat casualties coming in.

If there was no response, Leo would have to give up. He would have to let another child die.

And it was clear that Crusher could see how much pain that thought was causing him.

"Fifth pulse." Ocasio's voice made clear the result.

Leo let out a breath. His heart began to ache.

"Wait." Now Ocasio's voice picked up. "I am getting a response. The heart is beating. 70 beats per second."

This time Leo's exhalation was one of relief. Relief that was not entirely earned.

"The O2 count still isn't stabilizing," Crusher said. "The damage to the lungs is too extensive."

"Do you have the 5ccs of dizaproregene?" Leo's question hung in the air for a moment, even as the machines toned away in relation to the dying girl on the bed. "It may be our last chance."

Crusher looked at him intently. "You could kill her."

"She's dying already."

Crusher clearly went to say something but stopped herself. Her mouth moved as she played out the conversation to come. Leo could see she was not convinced this was the best way to deal with the situation. Every minute they were fighting to save a girl who might never wake up was a minute they weren't saving the lives of soldiers and civilians coming into their hospital. Leo knew that if she made the decision to withhold the medication, it was medically justified. It was perhaps one even he would make one day.

Crusher, in the end, did not assert seniority. She simply reached over to a medical tray, pulled the appropriate vial out, and after a moment placed the hypospray over the girl's neck on the jugular vein. A very slight, virtually inaudible hiss sounded and the vial emptied its contents right into the Jane Doe's body.

For several seconds there was no response. The only sound in the OR was the machine reading the patient's heart beat and neural activity. Leo felt almost numb with tension. Possibilities raced through his head. Had he done everything right? Had he made the right calls? Had he wasted time and resources on someone who simply couldn't be saved? Was he, even now, causing deaths by not giving this up?

Dear God, please, he pleaded in his mind and in his heart. Please, I've done everything I can. He put his hand on the girl's shoulder, as if to wake her. Please.

"Doctor Gillam." The sound of Crusher's voice led him to look her way. Her eyes had a gentle look to them now, and the same was true with her voice. "There's nothing more we can do. It's out of our hands now. We should go."

"Doctor Crusher is right." Ocasio spoke up next. "I will stay and monitor her condition, but you are needed in Triage."

Leo closed his eyes. He needed to. They felt so heavy. His heart felt like a heavy lump in his chest. All he could think about was if he did something wrong, if he missed something, if he had failed to save this girl…

"Right," he breathed. "I'm sorry."

"I know. We're all tired."

Leo drew in a breath and nodded to Crusher and to Ocasio. "Let's go."

The assault shuttle was flying in low and fast, a dark shape with low-slung engine nacelles against the debris of the countryside outside New Rennes. From his place of prominence in the cockpit behind the co-pilot, Fassbinder observed with appreciation the burning remains of enemy war machines and soldiers. One of the F1S1 "BattleMechs" was a broken mess zooming by on his right, undoubtedly victim to SS Panzers.

They were arranged ahead, those same machines. Tracked with anti-grav backup mobility, large disruptor cannons mounted on turrets much like the old chem-propelled tank guns of Hitler's panzers, the same panzers that had conquered wide swaths of Eurasia and Africa for the banner of the Hakenkreuz. SS lighting bolts and that same Hakenkreuz were displayed proudly on the turrets of the war machines, as they were on the great armored Panzergrenadier soldiers fighting alongside them.

Ahead of the shuttle, SS aerospace bombers already blasting enemy troops. One of the bombers blew apart after taking a mass effect-propelled anti-air shell from one of the Turian AA emplacements. Said gun blew up seconds later from another bomber's attack.

"Gruppenführer Fischer has a new alert, sir," the co-pilot said. "Orbital visuals confirm that an enemy force is moving to counter-attack. Our troops may not make it to the target."

"Then we will make do." Fassbinder looked back to his men, a squad of four Panzergrenadiers and two squads of light combat-armored Stosstruppen from the Waffen SS. "Remember the briefing. Our primary objective are those individuals. They must not be killed."

"And the untermenschen?" asked a Unterscharführer.

"Consider them a secondary target of opportunity." Fassbinder smirked. The hospital loomed ahead. "If we must, we'll leave some alive in order to secure the targets. If we have the chance… exterminate them."

Leo and Nasri were working together as the combat casualties came in. A Free Worlds League MechWarrior was the next to be brought up. Leo looked over the woman's plentiful cuts and lacerations, creating angry red splotches of blood on dark skin, and immediately ordered Nasri to administer a painkiller while he examined the scan. "Injuries consistent with a partial canopy collision. Blood loss is severe but not critical, no critical damage to organs… but it looks like the toxic coolant in her cooling vest got into her bloodstream. Mark yes and send her to Doctor Lang for priority chelation and synthblood transfusion."

The next patient was a Turian trooper with disruptor burns. Leo was in the middle of marking her to be treated when the first explosion sounded outside.

The Triage Ward entrance was controlled chaos at the best of times. But clear panic was coming as some of the orderlies, heading out with medics to bring in more cases, returned screaming. "We're under attack!" one voice shouted, then another.

Galerius straightened up from where she was treating another Turian. "What's wrong? What's going on?"

"Enemy assault craft, they're landing outside of the hospital!"

As she demanded to know how many, Leo thought back to what Lucy had said. That she'd been worried about something. His finger went for his omnitool's comm key. "Gillam to Security, I need defense teams to Triage Ward, now! They're attacking the hospital!"

"Teams already on their way."

"Evacuate the Triage Ward, now!" Crusher was in motion as well. Orderlies and nurses, including Nasri, began to grab beds and push them toward the door.

Leo ran over to join her. He took the bed of the MechWarrior he'd examined barely a minute before and pushed her to the door, where a Turian medic took her and moved her on. He turned back into the Triage Ward as, from the far hall, armed security troopers appeared at the door and moved on toward the exit leading to the main entrance.

They barely got there when an explosion blasted through the wall and sent them flying. German-accented voices screamed, "Stop! Stop or you will be shot!" Leo watched as a hulking set of powered armor, one of the Panzergrenadiers, stomped into the Triage Ward beside men in combat armor.

A hand grabbed him and pulled him into cover behind an overturned bed. Crusher and Nasri were in cover with him, as was a League soldier with a tourniquet around his wounded leg. From behind cover Leo heard more shouts and weapons fire. He turned his head in time to see a disruptor beam shoot a fleeing Turian medic in the back. He was vaporized instantly.

"Cease fire and you will not be harmed!" a voice cried out.

Leo felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. He couldn't keep the shock off his face. "I know that voice," he murmured.

"What?" Crusher looked at him.

"It's him." Leo was still having trouble believing it. "Fassbinder. He's alive."

"Attention," the voice continued. Now it was booming over the hospital PA system. "I am Standartenführer Fassbinder of the Schutzstaffel. I am here to collect several noted enemies of the German Reich. That is my only purpose, and if my mission succeeds, I will leave you without further harm."

Leo felt his throat go dry. He already had a feeling who Fassbinder was after. It would explain the spy, after all.

"I am aware that among you are members of the crew of the Alliance vessel Aurora," Fassbinder continued. "In particular, I seek two officers. Doctor Leonard Gillam and Lieutenant Lucilla Lucero. Upon their surrender I will leave and the SS will spare the remaining staff and patients of this facility. For every minute that I am defied, my troops will execute one of your people."

Leo swallowed. Lucy wasn't here. She was still out with those Asari commandos. Fassbinder would never be satisfied with that. He was about to kill innocent people.

Nasri looked to Leo and frowned. "Don't," she urged.

"I can't let him kill anyone," Leo said. "Maybe he'll be satisfied with me."

"You don't know that." Crusher shook her head. "He might kill you instead."

"No." Leo shook his head. "No, I think he wants us alive. He wants me alive." Leo activated his omnitool and started operating the comm channel. "Without a ship in orbit we're limited by comm range, but I'm hoping Lucy will pick this up."

"Unterscharführer, execute a prisoner."


Leo immediately rose above the bed and shouted, "Wait!"

One of the infantryman had been about to shoot a Turian medic in the head. But he didn't. All eyes turned toward Leo.

Leo, in turn, was looking right at Fassbinder. The SS man smirked. "Ah, Doctor Gillam," he said. "It has been a while."

"Not nearly long enough for me," Leo grumbled. "I guess you survived your fall at Gamma Piratus."

"Transporter enhancers are useful, ja?" Fassbinder looked around the room. "Where is Lucero?"

"Not here."

"No?" Fassbinder's smug smirk became more of a smug grin. "My agent saw her earlier today."

"Andre Faqin."

The name drew no response from Fassbinder. "Where is she, Herr Doktor?"

"Like I said, she's not here," Leo said. "She went out into the field."

"Really?" Fassbinder made a show of looking at his timepiece. "You know, your minute is almost up."

"I can prove she's not here," Leo said. "The hospital logs will show her leaving."

"Logs are so easily doctored, though. And I'm afraid I don't have the means at hand to discern real records from fake." Fassbinder looked to his watch. "Five… four… three…"

The far door opened again. Leo looked that way and shook his head. No

Fassbinder looked to the door. A brief smirk turned into a scowl. "The gelding," he grumbled.

Hargert walked into the Triage Ward still wearing his cooking apron. The old man had a faint, deceptively-welcoming grin on his face as he took another step into the Ward. "The monster," he retorted.

"What are you doing here, old fool?"

"You demanded my presence, did you not?" Hargert stopped walking. "I am a crewmember of the Aurora, the same as the good Doktor."

Fassbinder laughed at that. "You are a pitiful old gelding, a failure to your Race, a mere cook."

Hargert put a hand to his heart. "Oh, such an insult. I am no mere cook."

"No." Leo felt a warmth in his voice that matched the warmth in his heart. A warmth only equaled by his fear. "He's not."

Fassbinder drew a disruptor pistol from his belt holster. "Where is Lucero?" He held the gun up to Hargert.

"She is not here."

"I will shoot you, traitor."

"Then shoot." Hargert shook his head. "Do you think I am afraid of you, monster? No. I meant what I said before, SS man. Nie weider. We will never be afraid of you and your filth again. And we will not stop fighting until the German people of this universe are free of you, just as we have been for centuries."

Hargert said nothing further. Leo looked from him to Fassbinder. He was tense with anger and hate and the look in his eye told Leo he wanted to shoot Hargert right then and there. "Just wait!" Leo shouted. "She'll be back soon!"

Fassbinder didn't react immediately. Slowly, with visible surprise to his subordinates, he lowered the gun and returned it to his holster. Leo breathed a sigh of relief, even as he wondered why the SS man had stopped.

That relief turned to outright confusion a moment later when the smirk reappeared on Fassbinder's face.

The SS man brought up his gloved right hand and held it toward Hargert. His fingers looked like he was trying to grip a wire between his thumb and his index and middle finger. His blue eyes locked onto Hargert with an intensity that seemed bizarre for the moment.

A hacking, choking sound came from the old cook. Leo turned and watched in shock as Hargert's hands went up to his throat. He slouched over, as if about to fall to his knees, sharp wheezes and choking sounds coming from his throat. Finally he went down to his knees.

A low, satisfied chuckle came from Fassbinder's throat. "I will enjoy this," he rasped.

Leo wasn't the only one watching Fassbinder.

Inside the Asari-crewed shuttle, Lucy stared at the screen in shock. "That's… oh God," she gasped.

Fallina was watching with her own sense of profound surprise. "How is he doing that?" she asked Lucy. "That's not biotics."

"He's using life energy like I do," she answered. "But wrong. Twisted and dark." Lucy brought up her forearm and began entering commands into her omnitool as it came to life. "And if he sees us coming we're screwed. I need to distract him."

"With what?" Selmissima asked.

"Something unexpected," Lucy replied.

"Herr Standartenführer?" one of the SS field men asked, showing utter confusion.

"How is he doing that?" Crusher asked from behind the bed.

"Stop!" Leo cried out.

"This is the power you deny," rasped Fassbinder. Sweat was pouring down his forehead and toward his eyes. His face was turning red from sheer effort. "Do you not feel death coming, gelding? Don't you fear it? The pitch dark that you belong in, traitor? You and your kind… you false Germans… I will cast you all into that endless void! You deserve only oblivion!" A trickle of blood started to flow down from Fassbinder's nostrils.

Hargert went down to all fours. His lips were turning blue.

Leo tensed up. He wondered if he could break the choke hold by knocking Hargert away. He didn't think he could make it to Fassbinder before his men opened fire. "Please don't kill him," Leo pleaded. "Whatever you want us for, you can use him for too."

Fassbinder didn't seem to care. He kept his death grip up. Leo watched as his eyes seemed to flash from blue to gold for a moment, just a moment. And it seemed certain that Fassbinder would keep that grip until Hargert was dead.

And that there was nothing Leo could do about it.

Several meters away, a humanoid form coalesced into existence. "Please state the nature of the medical emergency," asked the EMH. The hologram looked around with befuddlement.

Fassbinder's head whipped around to face the sudden newcomer. His concentration slipped and with it his grip on Hargert. "What is this?" Fassbinder demanded while Hargert began to breathe again.

"I could ask the same." The EMH looked over the invaders. "Bringing firearms into the triage ward is strictly prohibited outside of security personnel."

One of the SS troopers held up a scanner. "Herr Standartenführer, this is a hologram."

Fassbinder opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted as another ripple in mid-air coalesced into a second EMH. "What is the nature of the medical…" The second EMH looked at the first, his identical twin. "This is not appropriate use of my program," the second EMH complained.

Leo fought to keep a grin off his face. Lucy was the thought that went through his head.

"Destroy them!" Fassbinder shouted. At that command disruptor beams struck both holograms. Their forms were distorted by the blasts until they faded away.

After a moment, both promptly reappeared. "That really isn't necessary," one stated.

Fassbinder clenched a fist and drew his gun.

That was when the wall exploded.

The commando shuttle flew right up to the side of the Hospital before Fallina and her team jumped from the side. In cooperation with each other, the Asari commando unit generated a massive biotic pulse that blew the first floor wall down completely.

In that moment of surprise, Lucy raced forward. Her lakesh extended to its full length with a sharp metallic shriek. She cleared the fallen wall and the dust, and even as they started to react, she was on top of the SS troopers. Her blade cut cleanly through the arms of one, causing him to cry out as his dismembered limbs, and the gun they carried, hit the ground. She twisted and slashed out again, a cut that found the neck of a second foe, and a third swipe took the legs of the next.

Sensing the intentions of the nearest armored Panzergrenadier, Lucy twisted slightly and avoided a kill-shot from the machine's arm-mounted disruptor. A fourth SS trooper disappeared in a surge of green energy that consumed him, a victim of that miss. She reached out with a hand and let the power within her reach out as well. Her power gripped the armored trooper and sent him flying into a second armored trooper. Both went to the floor.

The third and fourth of the enemy armored troops might have gotten her, but they were already facing a new problem, made clear by the dark matter energy that had formed around them, locking them in place. Two of Fallina's Asari maintained the stasis fields while Selmissima, the tall one with the assault rifle, was sending the light combat-suited infantry scurrying for cover. The two stunned armored troops were left sitting ducks to Niata, who was already ripping the weapons off of one with biotic fields.

Lucy at last turned to Fassbinder. Hearing his voice over the comms, seeing him in the visual channel, that had been enough of a shock. But sensing him, feeling the malevolent cold of his active power, was worse. The idea that the Reich was starting to look for these powers and to train their own, especially SS, in their use… that was a threat that made her stomach churn. The things that these evil men could do with that power, the ease with which darkness could corrupt them...

Fassbinder started to level his gun toward Hargert. "I'll kill the old…"

Fassbinder's threat against Hargert's life stopped abruptly when Lucy thrust an open palm toward him. The power of the energy within her followed her will. Invisible force slammed into the SS man and sent him flying into the nearest wall.

"Lucy, look out!"

Leo's warning coincided with the sense of danger Lucy felt within. She swung to her right with her lakesh and caught the disruptor beam before it could vaporize her. The beam reflected off her lakesh and hit one of the SS troopers. He was blasted back and hit the ground, unmoving.

The trooper who fired never fired again. Fallina crashed into him in a flash of dark blue energy. The biotics-powered charge sent the SS soldier flying into the nearest wall, where he fell and stopped moving.

Fallina turned and faced one of the Panzergrenadiers currently aiming toward her soldiers. The shotgun in her hands went off and blew a massive hole through the torso plate of the enemy powered armor suit. It collapsed to the ground. Fallina turned and fired a shot that caused an SS infantryman's torso to explode in a messy way.

The loss of the fourth and last of the Panzergrenadiers was to the combined biotics of two of the Asari commandos. Intense dark matter forces rippled and coiled over the armored suit until it began to tear away. The weapons went down, and defenses, and soon the entire suit was in tatters and the pilot within exposed. A single gunshot from one of the Asari put him down.

The remaining SS forces, deprived of their heavy support, retreated from the Triage Ward. Fallina spoke into her comm. "What's our status?"

"They're retreating for their shuttle," her pilot replied.

Lucy almost celebrated until she felt the change in the atmosphere. Or, more accurately, the lack of presence. She turned to where she had thrown Fassbinder, just to find that he was gone. "Did anyone see where their commander went?" she asked.

"I thought I saw him run toward the interior of the hospital." The reply was from one of the orderlies in the room. "But I can't be sure."

Lucy frowned and tried to focus on her senses, on her energy, to feel his presence. Given the malevolent nature of it, it would stick out like a sore thumb.

"I think he's this way," she said to the others. "This way."

"T'Sani, Niata, with us, the rest of you, stay and help with wounded." Fallina hefted her shotgun and followed Lucy into the hospital.

Fassbinder felt shame and rage burn inside of him as he ran further into the hospital. Months of training, of pushing his limits, all of his work… and he was still weak compared to Lucero. He would be the laughing stock of the SS for this defeat.

Perhaps not all is in vain, he thought. Perhaps I can hold out until our main force arrives. He knew that was a long shot at best, but he would not give up. Not on this. He was so close to getting what he needed. His plan was all laid out. And he would find his destiny with it

Fassbinder was so busy he didn't see the closet door nearby slide open. As he walked past it his senses came alive with warning. Curious and concerned, he turned toward the door with a hand going to his pistol.

That was when the force hit him, full strength, and sent him into unconsciousness.

The sense of malevolence went away. Lucy stopped where she was and looked around. "Oh come on," she muttered before concentrating. He had to be out there.

But try as she might, Lucy felt nothing.

"Dammit," she grumbled.

"What is it?" Fallina and her team approached.

"I lost him. It's… where could he have gone?" Lucy began looking around again. "We'll need to put up a watch. He's too dangerous to be ignored."

"I'll get in contact with Security," said Fallina. "But if you ask me, I think he took off to the nearest exit. He knows he's a dead man if we find him."

"True." But something about that didn't sit right. Lucy had a feeling that Fassbinder, whatever had happened, was somewhere else, or had some other plan.

And she already knew this would not be the last they'd seen of the SS man, whatever happened.
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Mon Jun 12, 2017 1:11 am

Now who could that be...

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Mon Jun 12, 2017 9:06 am

It was starting to get dark outside when Leo finally had a moment to step away from the Triage Ward. Even with Alpha getting most of the casualties during their difficulties, enough had come in from the nearby fighting to keep all of the doctors busy while the mess from the attack still had to be cleaned up.

He knew Lucy and Hargert were waiting for him in the mess, but he had another stop to make first. He returned to the Intensive Care Ward.

An Asari nurse met him at the door. "Jane Doe #3," he said. "The adolescent girl. Is she here?" As he said the words his heart pounded with fear. Despite all of the excitement of the SS attack he hadn't forgotten about his biggest effort of the day. He hadn't stopped wondering if she had recovered, or if all of his work had been for nothing.

As those thoughts went through his head, the Asari nurse was looking over the list. "I'm not seeing a Jane Doe #3…"

Leo's heart plunged into his stomach.

"Wait… oh, there she is. Zahra Mercier."

That brought Leo to stare in shock. "Wait, we have her name?" he asked. "How…?"

"She's awake, Doctor," the Asari answered. "She woke up about two hours ago."

With his heart hammering in surprise and joy, Leo thanked the Asari and ventured into the ward.

The young girl with the new heart looked asleep when Leo stepped up beside her bed, in the curtain-covered alcove assigned to her. It was only when he sat down that she moved. Her eyes opened slightly, enough to show their deep brown color. "Monsieur Docteur," she said, and Leo's auto-translator rendered it into "Mister Doctor" accordingly.

Leo thought his mouth was going to go dry when he asked, "How are you feeling?"

Zahra blinked and tried to move an arm. She managed it just enough that her hand came off the bed. Leo took it. "Weak," she finally said.

"That's not surprising. Your body took a lot of damage. We gave you a new heart earlier today."

That was answered with a weak nod. "I thought I was to die. The… the blast… wave… I do not know the word?"

For a moment Leo considered telling her to stop speaking, to conserve her strength. But he stopped himself. She needed to speak, it seemed. Needed to share what had happened. "If you want to tell me what happened, I'm ready," Leo said.

"Can I have a drink first? I am thirsty."

Leo stood and reached for the tray the nurses had thoughtfully left, with a plastic cup and an insulated pitcher of cool water. He poured her enough for a drink and brought the cup up to her lips. Her arm tried to intercept the cup to take the drink for herself, but the limb - horrifying in its bone-thinness - flopped onto her belly. Leo was left to pour the water carefully into her waiting lips, giving her time to swallow each sip until she nodded and he pulled the cup away. "How is that?"

"Better." Zahra licked at her lips. It was painful to see a girl her age in the shape she was in, bone-thin and nearly a living skeleton. Even after days of seeing these patients, it still hurt Leo to think of the suffering that went with such a condition. "The Boche… they did something. There was a… a thing in the barracks. On the ceiling. It lit up."

Leo nodded. "Okay. Do you mind if I share this with others, Zahra? If you do, I won't. I'm your doctor, anything you tell me stays between us unless you tell me to share it."

"Please do. Please tell everyone," Zahra insisted, with as much heat as her voice could manage. "Something in the ceiling. I saw it light up. Mama… Mama pushed me to the door. She screamed for me to get out. I ran. I was the first to run. I remember a loud noise, like a thunderclap, and I looked back…" Zahra's eyes opened more, and it was clear it was from horror at the memory. "There was a… wave… a blast… energy… it hit people and they fell. I kept running. I didn't want it to hit me."

She went silent for a moment. Leo took her hand and waited patiently for her to continue.

"And then I had… pain. In my belly. My heart. It hurt so much." Tears formed in her eyes. "I tried to scream but nothing would move. I just fell over. I… I thought I was going to die. And then I felt nothing. And I woke up here."

"I'm sorry."

"My parents, my uncle and cousin… they are dead?" The way she said it, it was clear Zahra was already certain of it.

Leo sighed and nodded. "Yes, I think. We found four remains in the mass grave with genetic relation to you. You may be the only survivor of that barracks. I'm sorry."

The look on Zahra's face didn't change for a moment. Tears formed in her eyes as the impact of the confirmation hit home for her. Her face twisted into visible pain a moment before she began to weep softly.

There were all sorts of things Leo could have said. He could have expressed further condolences. He could have promised that he would help her (and he would, to the best of his ability). He could have encouraged her to live for her slain family.

He said nothing. All he did was hold her hand. Because, for that moment, he knew it was the only right thing he could do.

After Zahra cried herself to sleep and Leo saw to her further treatments for the evening, he went to the mess hall. He barely had time to sit before Hargert was at his side, bearing a bowl of sausage stew and a plate of salad. Seeing (and smelling) the fine food made Leo realize how long it had been since he ate, and his stomach growled in anticipation. Leo took to both in alternating bites.

Lucy joined them a moment later. "There you are," she said, putting down her half-finished bowl of sausage stew.

"How is your patient?" asked Hargert.

Leo swallowed a bite of salad. "Alive. Grief-stricken. Her name is Zahra Mercier."

"Poor girl." Hargert nodded. He looked none the worse for wear given the day's events.

"What you did today, Hargert…" Leo put his utensils down and looked directly at the man. "...he would have killed you. Hell, I think he hates you the most of all."

Hargert answered that with a thin smile. "I knew he might kill me. I simply had faith that the rest of you might stop him." He directed the smile at Lucy, who smiled back. "Thank you, Fraulein."

"You don't have to, Hargert," Lucy said. "It's what I'm here for." She frowned. "What worries me is that he was using powers like ours. The Gersallian swevyra, I mean."

"After seeing you and Rob and Meridina using it, he must have gotten some ideas."

Lucy nodded at Leo's suggestion. "And because of what he is… he's already being corrupted by it. He's falling into darkness. That's going to make him all the more dangerous."

"Assuming the SS does not punish him for failing today," Hargert said. "We have beaten him twice now."

A sick feeling was swirling in Lucy's gut at that. "Did we?" she asked.


"Did we stop him, Hargert?" Lucy looked to him. "I… if I remember SS rank structure right from our intel briefings, his new rank is higher than his older one. He's been promoted since Gamma Piratus. Why would they promote him when we beat him?"

Hargert's smiled vanished. So did Leo's. "We need to tell Rob and the others," Leo said. "And Admiral Maran. You don't think he could have taken anything from the Facility, do you?"

"I don't know," Lucy said. "I mean, from what I remember, none of his teams actually secured the computer cores, and they didn't get the control room. Not entirely. But maybe they got something…"

"I would think so too." Hargert was frowning now. "How else has he been promoted?"

"Dammit." Lucy rubbed at her forehead. "And then there's the other thing."


"The issue with the Turian meds," Lucy said. "Someone at Hospital Bravo put them in containers labeled as Dorei-specific meds."

The news shocked Leo. "They did what? But… the Dorei are levo-compatible like us, giving them Turian meds…"

"Yeah." Lucy brought a container out. "And what's more, there was a murder at Bravo. Some poor woman got her face pummelled into bloody goo."

The news rocked Leo to his core. Sabotage and murder? "An SS agent?"

"Maybe? I don't know. We know they had them. But it just feels… off." She opened the container. Inside was her bolt wrench. Little clumps of dead skin cells were still visible on the inner rim. She reached further in and pulled out a silk cloth to lay flat on the table. Clumps of dried blood were visible on it. "We got genetic samples from the body. I mean, these will work right?"

"They might." Leo lifted his left arm and activated his omnitool. "I'll see if my scanner can get a good gene print off of them." At a touch of a key the scanner activated. Waves of blue light ran over both samples. The omnitool screen appeared and showed a partial genetic profile forming. "The blood's degraded, but with the skin cells to confirm…" A nearly-complete helix formed on his screen. "There it is. An intact genetic profile." He used his hands to manipulate a hard-light control that emerged from the omnitool in mid-air under his hands. "I'm accessing our database now. Let's see if we can…"

A result popped up. Leo's jaw dropped open in utter shock.

Lucy moved up beside him and read the result.

Profile Match: Doctor Amelia Indira Lang, Force Commander, FWLM.

Leo's finger was already hitting his comm key. "Gillam to Security! This is an emergency, find and detain Doctor Lang now! She's an imposter!"

There were people that Specialist Kevin Lewis wanted to shoot. At least sometimes. The annoying neighbor who ratted him out on his stash of porn vids when he was growing up. The kid at school who punched his lights out. The asshole recruiter who told him that the mercenary life was far more exciting than normal military service in the AFFC.

That's how a kid from a medium-sized city on Grosvenor, a boring planet in the Federated Commonwealth's Crucis March where there was nothing of interest to the Inner Sphere or the Multiverse as a whole, wound up in Rawling's Raiders, a small-time merc outfit that was supposed to specialize in anti-pirate defense for the Periphery. Lewis had imagined seeing amazing Periphery locales, exotic lovers, and all the other things the frontier was supposed to be.

But instead, his first assignment was to the contract with the Free Worlds League to work in Universe S4W8, protecting Coalition facilities in League-held areas. That meant fighting Nazis, who were even more terrifying than the Clans with their hulking power-armored troops, and being bored in damned field hospitals. He was responsible for the locals' "civilian" exit overlooking their vehicle park and mass transit pick-up location, checking IDs and making sure only authorized locals were coming in.

A moment of excitement came when Mister Taylor, in charge of security for the hospital, had called for a security alert. They were ordered to detain Doctor Lang, if found, as a suspected imposter. Maybe, if he was lucky, Lang would try to get through his door, and Lewis would get to do something useful! And maybe even get a bonus from the capture to boot!

Instead, all he saw that night was a beautiful nurse walk up to him. She was Caucasian, with beautiful blue eyes and long dark hair and a body to die for. Lewis was certain she couldn't be a local.

She wasn't alone though. She was pushing a bed. The man on it was one Lewis knew he'd seen before, a local. He was unconscious, or maybe just sleeping.

She smiled at him. "I'm just taking Mister Faqin out to his vehicle. He had a bad day. I'll bring the bed back later."

Lewis almost agreed, but he knew he'd be in deep shit if he did. "We're on the lookout for someone, ma'am, I'm afraid I have to have the bed examined."

"I already had it secured by a doctor," she answered. "The holographic one. Here, let me." She looked to the side. "Computer, please activate Emergency Medical Hologram."

The bald-headed man in the Starfleet uniform appeared beside her. "Please state the nature of the medical emergency."

"I need to get this poor man to his vehicle, we need the bed," the nurse said sweetly. "And you already scanned him. But the guard didn't see it."

The EMH rolled his eyes. "What is it with you people and calling me for… never mind." He let out a frustrated breath before activating a specialized omnitool that formed over his hand, integrated by Zimmerman into the EMH program. "It looks like this fellow exhausted himself by working too hard. Wake him up and send him home. I recommend he be relieved of duty for at least twenty-four hours." The EMH glared at her and then Lewis. "There, is that it? Or do you have another mundane, decidedly non-emergency task for me to handle?"

"Uh, no Doc," Lewis said. "Nothing at all."

"Fine. Thank you and have a wonderful evening."

"Disengage hologram," the nurse said. The EMH vanished.

"Alright ma'am." Lewis nodded. "You're good to go."

The nurse smiled at him and pushed the bed out.

But contrary to what she said, it didn't come back. Nor did she.

It was late when Leo finally saw Doctor Crusher again, in the doctors' watch station between the Standard and Critical Care Wards. "Well, it's been a busy day."

Leo nodded. Before he could speak a distant thunderclap sounded. The fighting was still roaring on close by. "A very busy day."

"I saw that our patient woke up."

"Yeah." Leo nodded. "Her name is Zahra Mercier."

For a moment, there was silence between the two physicians.

"It's odd," Leo said, breaking the silence. He gave a thoughtful look toward Crusher. "Medical ethics, I mean. I was in the wrong, but I was right."


A dull thump of a headache caused Leo to press his forefinger and thumb against his temples and massage his forehead. "You were right about that surgery. By every principle of triage, I should have quit. Zahra's survival was a one in five shot at best. Her system barely handled even five ccs of the dizaproregene and that didn't even fully heal her lungs. All of that effort would have been wasted. While we were needed on the Triage floor. And when we don't even know when, or if, we'll get re-supplied." Leo shook his head. "I made the wrong decision."

"Maybe from a triage stand-point," Crusher said. "But the fact is that if I'd ordered you to stop, our patient would be dead right now." There was something in her voice, a measure of realization, and pain to go with it.

"We were both wrong. And both right. But maybe you were more right than I was." Leo tapped his finger on the desk. "All of that time we were in the OR, saving someone who was likely to die, there were how many patients coming into Triage? Those are people who may have died because help didn't get to them in time. All because we were busy saving one life."

"The life of a child."

"I know. But under medical ethics, is that more important than the lives of adults?"

"I…" Crusher stopped. "I suppose some people would say yes. That children are the future. But I don't want to go down that road of deciding whose life is more important."

"Me neither."

There was another few moments of contemplative silence between the two. "Maybe the important thing is that we don't know these answers," Leo said. "We have to know that we might be wrong. If we start thinking everything we do is right, well…"

He let the sentence hang so Crusher could complete the thought. "...we lose sight of our limitations. And we start thinking we have the right to make tough choices without thinking about them."

"Yeah." Leo rubbed at his eyes. After all of this he just wanted to get some sleep.

His omnitool flashed into existence, at least in part, forming the light around his wrist and the back of his hand. With curiosity he pressed the light to open the channel.

"Attention all Hospital personnel, prepare for immediate evacuation. I repeat, prepare for evacuation."

"What?" Crusher stood. "Evacuation? To where?"

Leo's omnitool registered a second communication coming in, and the voice he heard brought a smile to his face.

"Aurora to Gillam," said Jarod. "Hold tight. We're on our way."

The Aurora dropped out of warp nearly within weapons range of the Baldur von Schirach and her battlegroup of warships. In the seconds afterward, a number of other ships dropped out of warp around her. Four Predator-class destroyers, a Scorpio-class attack cruiser, and two Trigger-class attack ships led by the Koenig came in with the first wave.

"Enemy warships are responding to our arrival." Caterina kept her eyes on sensors. "They're getting ready to fire."

"Hit first," Robert ordered.

Angel answered with a gleeful "Yes sir" even as she triggered the forward weapons.

The Aurora and her fellow ships launched into an immediate attack that pummeled the nearest enemy ships. The Sedan-class cruiser Angel targeted retorted with disruptor fire that drained their shields even as their weapons pummeled away at the enemy cruiser. Solar torpedoes blasted the swastika insignia on its bow, turning it into debris and wreckage.

The Koenig, leading the formation of Trigger-class ships that resembled her so closely, went in phasers blazing. Multiple heavy phaser cannon shots took down the shields of the enemy cruiser and allowed the attack ships' torpedoes to gut the ship.

The arrival of the Aurora attracted the attention of the Schirach. The SS-crewed dreadnought was already turning to bring its terrible battery of spinal mount super-disruptors to bear.

Which is exactly what Robert and the others planned. "Send the signal to the others," Julia ordered, while Robert waited in quiet patience. This was one part of this return mission that couldn't be left to chance.

Thankfully, it hadn't been.

Within moments of the signal, another surge of radiation flooded the sensors of every ship in the system. And Robert and the others watched in satisfaction as the Starship Lexington dropped out of warp.

And like them, she hadn't come alone.

Not even a moment later two Excelsior-class starships, marked as the Charleston and the Lakota, came out of warp beside the Lexington. Not to be outdone, a pair of Saber-class ships also arrived, as well as an older Miranda-class and a new Intrepid-class called the Stargazer. And, last but definitely not least, two large Galaxy-class starships warped in.

"This is Captain Higginbotham," said a voice, coming from the Galaxy-class Madison. "Focus fire on the enemy dreadnought."

"Let's do the same, Angel," Robert said.

The first super-disruptor shot was already firing, hitting the Aurora directly. Jarod quickly checked their shield effectiveness status. "Shields down to sixty-eight percent."

The Schirach had gotten in the hit, but it was soon evident that she was in trouble. Not only was the Aurora's powerful bow array of pulse plasma cannons and phaser weapons tearing away at her, but the entire Starfleet task force that Captain Ben Zoma had called in were coming right for the SS dreadnought. Amber beams of phaser fire from the various ships all struck against the crimson shields protecting the giant ship. The combined firepower of the several Federation starships got the shields down low enough that the SS ship's hull took several direct impacts from photon torpedoes.

Disruptor shots retaliated against the Federation strike group, both from the Schirach and from her escorts, under fire from Aurora's escorting ships. The space around New Brittany was lit up with the amber and emerald streaks of phaser and disruptor fire, accentuated by the powerful pulses of azure energy that erupted from Aurora's main battery and the main battery on the Scorpio-class cruiser, even now savagely tearing into a burning Dresden-class Nazi cruiser.

A missile from the Schirach blasted the nacelle off of one of the Saber-class ships. Another caused hull and system damage to one of the Alliance Predator-class destroyers. Much of the Schirach's fury was still bent on the Aurora, which took another super-disruptor hit. "Shields down to forty percent."

"I'm maintaining evasive maneuvers," Locarno added.

The dreadnought didn't get a chance to fire its spinal mounts at the Aurora again, as Locarno's maneuvering put it out of the firing arc. The Koenig and two of the other attack ships came in on the bow of the enemy dreadnought with phasers and torpedoes blazing. With the Idaho - one of the two Galaxy-class ships - blazing away with phasers and disrupting the dreadnought's forward shields, the Koenig and her cousins were able to batter through them enough for their solar torpedoes to make direct impact on the emitters before they could fire again. An explosion consumed the open ports in the bow of the great enemy dreadnought.

"I'm picking up power surges," Cat said. "I think they're going to warp."

A moment later that prediction was confirmed. The Schirach, and the three surviving ships with her battle group, disappeared in flashes of bright light.

"Stand down from combat, running status Code Yellow."

"I've already received the confirmation from General Chaganam," Julia added. "They're getting ready to evacuate."

"Signal the other ships. Use light fire, keep the enemy pinned down so their troops can disengage. Jarod?"

"I've already sent the signal," Jarod confirmed. Moments later interuniversal jump points began to form on the screen. DropShips from Universe F1S1, troop transports of Alliance build, and a Turian regimental-sized troop carrier emerged from the points. Another series of points brought in a series of hospital ships and passenger vessels converted to provide the same. "Leo's signalling."

"Put him on."

Leo appeared on the holo-viewer. He was sitting at a doctor's watch station. "Hey," he said. "Nice timing."

"You're welcome."

"I've got news. Some of it bad. Even scary. But what's this about an evacuation?"

"We're doing this on a tight timetable," Robert replied. "The Reich's sending reinforcements to take and hold New Brittany. We don't have the ships or manpower to hold this planet and the others. The Coalition Command decided to write New Brittany off, but they let us bring in ships to evac the troops and hospitals. The Epaminondas and her battle group are following us in to cover the withdrawal."

"And what about the people? Rob, some of these folks worked with us, if the SS get wind of it…"

"General Chaganam is already sending out a public signal, anyone who worked with our occupation forces is getting a free ticket off-world," Robert answered. He was frowning a little. "It's the best we can do. Maybe when we start getting Inner Sphere ships ready for this war, or we get the Clans participating, we can come back. But right now…"

"Yeah. I get it. Triage." Leo sighed.

"You said you had news," Julia said. "What did you mean?"

"Some things have happened while you were away. Lucy and I will share them with you when we get back to the Aurora, but right now I'm going to join Doctor Crusher in getting our patients ready for the evacuation. I'll see you when I get back up there. Gillam out."

After Leo disappeared, Julia gave Robert a concerned look. "What do you think he meant by that?"

Robert didn't immediately reply. But there was no denying the sick feeling he had that something was going on, something bad. "I don't know," he said. "But we'll just have to find out. Go ahead and secure us for evacuation work. Cat?"

Caterina already knew what he would be asking about. "We've got the Reich force on long range probes. At their current warp velocity I think we have about ten, eleven hours."

"The Epaminondas is still thirty minutes out, but we should be able to complete the evacuation within ten hours with their help," Jarod added.

"Alright. Let's get this evacuation going, then. And this time, we're not leaving anyone behind."


Leo and Lucy delivered their news to the others. They added the recorded visuals from the hospital. The response was complete quiet.

"I don't believe it," Robert mumbled, looking at the image on the conference room holotable. "Fassbinder's alive."

"Are you sure this isn't a clone?" Julia asked.

"He looked like the original to me."

"And moved like him," Lucy added. "And that's not the worst part."

"He has swevyra," Robert mumbled. "Probably learned how to access it by watching us."

"Given his behavior before, and his ideology, he will certainly fall." Meridina shook her head in disbelief. "Reich swevyra'kse. They will be far more dangerous if this becomes widespread."

"That's still not the worst part," Lucy insisted. "He's not an Obersturm-whatever-it-was anymore. He's something called a 'Standartenführer.' That's the highest rank we've seen him have. He didn't even have that on Gamma Piratus."

"Wait. That doesn't make sense," Angel said. "We beat him. We kicked his ass out of the Facility after killing all of his guys. Why the hell would the Nazis promote that piece of crap?"

"Unless th' scunners got somethin' from th' Facility," Scotty suggested.

"I suppose it's possible." Jarod shook his head. "Maybe they got some data from the general system."

"Whatever it was, this is big news, and we need to report it to Maran immediately." Robert tried to hold back the sick feeling in his stomach. "Was that all?"

"I'm afraid not." With a nod from Leo, Lucy brought up the information from the dead body in Bravo. "Someone attempted to pass off Turian dextro-compatible medications as Dorei-specific. And they murdered Dr. Lang in the process."

"The evacuation is still on, but there's been no sign of the imposter Lang for hours," added Leo. "So whoever it was got away."

"Well, it's probable the SS had agents from the local population infiltrate the hospitals."

"I'm… I don't feel like that's the answer," Lucy said to Jarod. "There's something more to it than that. A local Nazi spy killing just one doctor and swapping medical labels? I mean, maybe, but it feels like they would do something bigger if they were moving toward active sabotage. Something that hurts us immediately and directly. Faking a pharmaceutical mix-up would cause strain in the Coalition, yeah, but hardly worth the effort if you're an SS or military intel agent."

"Yet it is sabotage that might be done without being directly detected, if done right," Meridina pointed out. "At a low enough risk to the agent, it becomes worthwhile."

"Maybe… but I still don't buy it. It doesn't… I don't feel like that's the answer here. It's just too subtle and it lacks the immediate payoff."

"Nazi spy or not, why did they leave Lang's body in Hospital Bravo?" Julia asked. "If Bravo hadn't been evacuated, the body would have been found."

"I think I have the answer to that," said Leo. "Lang was responsible for moving the pharmaceuticals. She would have realized the switch happened. Given her authority and access to records, she might have even figured out who. Killing her buys time for the saboteur, and by replacing her the saboteur got a chance to try something else. They probably figured the Nazis would sweep the vault and deal with the remains. And maybe they figured we would never risk sending anyone back."

"Either way, that's another matter for Admiral Maran to take up." Robert stood. "The evacuation of New Brittany will be complete within the next four hours. We'll be getting out of here with an hour to spare before the Reich reinforcements show up. Let's keep everyone on alert for now… with two exceptions." He looked to Leo and Lucy. "You two need a break. I'm relieving you of duty for the next 48 hours."

"You won't get any complaints from me," Lucy answered.

"If you don't mind, Rob, I have a couple things to check on in the medbay," Leo said. "But I'll stay off-duty while I'm at it."

"Excellent." Robert smiled and nodded. "Enjoy your two days off."

"Or we shall be forced to take drastic measures, I suspect," Meridina added, giving Lucy a bemused look.

"Oh? As in?"

"We'll sic Julia on you," Robert clarified.

"Like I'm not even in the room…"

After Julia's sotto voce remark, the assembled filed out of the room. All except Robert, who looked back down at the planet.

"I sense your discomfort," said Meridina, who was now standing beside him. "It is Fassbinder, isn't it?"

"I've seen him in my dreams, Meridina," Robert admitted. "I've seen him with golden eyes and vicious power. And now… now it turns out he is alive, and that he's learning how to use it."

"Yes. I am worried. But not too worried." Meridina looked at him. "Without a being to guide him in learning how to connect to his swevyra, his efforts will be… like a child left to learn how to walk, how to feel and speak, without any guidance. He will not pose a horrible threat."

"I hope you're right." Robert looked down at the planet. "I just wish I could sense where he was. What he was doing here, and why he has the SS after the Aurora."

"Give it time…"

Meridina left him to his thoughts at that point, and Robert spent the time looking out the window again. Questions assailed his mind. What was Fassbinder up to? How did he get promoted for failing to take the Facility on Gamma Piratus?

What is going on here?

As there was no answer forthcoming, Robert eventually left the conference room.

Fassbinder woke up in a locale he found familiar. He had seen it in video images for a few weeks now: the basement of Andre Faqin's home. The SS officer sat up in confusion. Faqin remained asleep, and utterly still, across from him.

"Congratulations," a woman's voice said. "The Alliance and its allies are withdrawing. Your people have reclaimed the planet."

Fassbinder turned and faced the woman in question. She was wearing a sleeveless blouse and slacks that made her look very casual and hid none of her physical beauty. At first Fassbinder didn't know who she was save the familiarity of her face, but as he considered the face and made the appropriate changes, he let out a growl of anger. "You!" And he lunged for her.

But he never reached her. The dark-haired woman reached up and out her hand and gripped him with... literally nothing. "You're rather ungrateful," said the woman. "I'm the only reason you got out of that Field Hospital alive. If I hadn't reprogrammed their holographic doctor to ignore you and slipped you out with Faqin, you would have been found."

Fassbinder spat out curses in German. "You little untermensch! Brown bitch! Did you think you would go unrecognized by lightening your skin?! I remember you, Lucero!"

The blue-eyed, dark-haired woman who, aside from flawless Caucasian skin tone, resembled Lucy Lucero completely cracked a grin. "I am not Lucero. Surely you can sense that, even with your poor grasp of your potential."

Fassbinder forced himself to calm down for the moment. As he did, he could sense what she was saying and that it was, surprisingly, true. While she looked like Lucero, she didn't feel like Lucero.

"Go ahead and put our new friend down," a new voice said.

The fake-Lucy did so. And then she stepped away and toward the nearby stairs, where a second female was stepping down. Fassbinder focused on her. She had pale blue eyes, long golden blond hair, and a body that was both beautiful and sensually displayed by the low-cut and tight red dress. "And that is what we are here to be, Fassbinder," the woman cooed. "Friends."

Fassbinder looked at them intently. "Who, what are you?"

"As I said. Friends."

"Friends with mutual enemies," the fake Lucy added.

Fassbinder considered that. He sensed the truth from the power growing within him. "You are enemies of the Alliance?"

"Very much so," the gorgeous blonde said. "And it's taken us a lot of effort to get into position to approach you. And I do mean you, Standartenführer Fassbinder."

"You have the Gift. The power of God. The means to further God's Plan."

Fassbinder continued to look at each in turn. "And what does that mean. What do you want?"

"To help you fulfill your potential, Herr Standartenführer," the fake Lucero said. "To train you to use your power to the fullest potential."

"And to help you face our common foe," added the blonde. "The Alliance. And the crew of the Starship Aurora. They are impediments to the Plan."

"And the keys to your future destiny."

"Yes." Fassbinder nodded. "They are. They are all that." He thought on it a moment "And you wish to help me against them?"

"As I said, they are our enemies. You are their enemies. So you should be our friends." The blond stepped forward and offered her hand. "We are the Cylons, and we offer you and your Reich our assistance in defeating the Alliance, the Aurora, and any who stand opposed to God's Plan."

Fassbinder considered it for a moment. Slowly, a grin formed on his face.

He extended his hand as well. "Your offer is accepted," he said. "Let our enemies tremble."

When Leo arrived in the medbay he went to his office. It was only when he got into his chair that Doctor Singh appeared, a disapproving scowl on the New Punjabi woman's face. "You should be resting," she said. "You've done enough."

Leo smiled at her and held up a hand in surrender. "I'm not here to run a shift or make rounds, I'm just going to check a few things before I go to my quarters for the night."

Singh gave him a look that spoke of her disbelief. "If you're not out of the medbay in an hour, I'm going to personally drag you out," she threatened jokingly, or rather half-jokingly.

"That won't be necessary, I promise." Leo pointed to the clock on the wall. "But just to be clear, I'm not counting the hour as starting until we're done here."

Singh shook her head and walked out.

With that done, Leo patched into the Aurora's communications system and sent a hail through the Coalition network to a colleague. After several seconds Doctor Crusher appeared on the screen, sitting at a desk of her own. "I see they hauled you up too," he remarked.

"Admiral McCoy's orders," Crusher answered. "I'm on the Lexington right now. Captain Ben Zoma and Captain Amundsen of the Charleston were crew on the old Stargazer with my late husband, so we're going to do some catching up."

"Sounds good to me." Leo nodded. "It's been a hell of a week, hasn't it?"

"Yes, it has," she agreed. "Have you settled back in?"

"I've been ordered off-duty for the next two days and they're threatening to toss me out of medbay if I stay too long," Leo answered, chuckling afterward. "So yeah, I am."

"That's good to hear." After a moment Crusher nodded at him, an appreciative gesture. "It was good working with you, Doctor Gillam. Hopefully we can meet again in a less stressful environment. Perhaps the Second Multiversal Medical Symposium that's going to be held on Betazed in four months?"

"Sounds interesting," Leo admitted. "I'll see if I can make it."

"I look forward to introducing you to some of my Starfleet colleagues. In the meantime, I wish you and the Aurora the best of luck. Crusher out."

"Good luck to you too," Leo managed, just before Crusher ended the call. He sighed and took a look at the backlog of paperwork. The sight made him wince. He was going to be spending a lot of time clearing that backlog.

But not tonight. Tonight he had once last stop before he let Singh chase him from the medbay. He left his office and went to the urgent care area, where some of the cases from Charlie were being kept.

Zahra Mercier was in a bed looking very surprised, and thrilled, at the advanced technology of the Aurora. He walked up to her bed. "Hey."

"Hello." Zahra looked at him. "I am getting better?"

"Slowly but surely. You'll be heading to a survivor hospital until you're strong enough for outpatient care." Leo pulled up a chair and sat beside her. "You may still need a surgery or two to deal with the problems inside of your body. And you'll definitely need weeks of monitored food intake to recover from your near-starvation."

"I think I understand." Zahra frowned. "But where will I go? My family is dead. I can never go back home…"

"I've already marked a contact in your file. Doctor Pierre N'Djehoya. He's a friend of mine from New Liberty, and when the hospital doctors say you're fit to leave, he'll be contacted to bring you home." Leo took her hand. "On New Liberty you'll meet kids your age, from all sorts of ethnic and national groups. You'll get an education."

"And then your people, your State, will decide what I will do?"

"No." Leo shook his head. "You decide what you'll do with your life. You'll decide who you marry, or even if you'll marry. If you have kids. What you'll do. That's all for you."

Zahra nodded. A distant, sad look filled her eyes. "But I'll still be alone. My family is gone."

"That's the thing about New Liberty," Leo answered. "A lot of people there are like you. They lost loved ones to the Nazis, or people like them. They know what it feels like. And they'll be there for you. And your family…" Leo tapped his heart. "They're still there. They're with you right now. You'll remember them. And that means they'll never be truly gone. That's something the Nazis will never take from you."

For a moment she didn't respond. And Leo didn't blame her. He knew the pain she was in. The shock of loss. And the suffering of what the Reich had done to her and those she loved. He just hoped she would recognize what he was saying was true.

And given the small smile that appeared on her face, it looked like she did.

And that, for Leo, made everything they had gone through worthwhile.
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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Mon Jun 12, 2017 9:28 am

At least Leo gets a happy ending for once. And now we're seeing developments, especially in regards to the really busy Evil Alliance of Evil. I wonder when the Changelings will make contact, if they already hadn't!

But wow, it's amazing how Six, even with Evil Clone Lucy, figured out where to nab them an SS officer... yes, plot device GOD TOLD THEM SO Cylon stuff... but if they can do this, then that means they probably already contacted the Changelings!

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Mon Jun 12, 2017 9:37 am

Six and Twelve can be Force Sensitive. I mean, Lucy obviously, and remember Gina Invieve is now Master Ledosh's apprentice.

That said, they were basically in place to look for any opportunity to slip into the Reich and find Fassbinder, or someone like him.
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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Mon Jun 12, 2017 11:49 am

Another questiones... with multiversal tech, IU drives and such, does it even make sense for the Mass Effect universe to bother with those cryo-ark ships to other galaxies? Not only can they potentially escape Reapers by going to another verse (and what does the Alliance think of the Reaper threat btw?), but can't IU drives also be used to make any inter-galactic voyages much faster? Why haven't we seen IU missions outside of the Milky Ways of the multiverse anyway?

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Mon Jun 12, 2017 5:02 pm

Shroom Man 777 wrote:
Mon Jun 12, 2017 11:49 am
Another questiones... with multiversal tech, IU drives and such, does it even make sense for the Mass Effect universe to bother with those cryo-ark ships to other galaxies? Not only can they potentially escape Reapers by going to another verse (and what does the Alliance think of the Reaper threat btw?), but can't IU drives also be used to make any inter-galactic voyages much faster? Why haven't we seen IU missions outside of the Milky Ways of the multiverse anyway?
To break this down...

A) The Andromeda Initiative started before the Multiversal Contact, being founded in 2176, a half decade before the Aurora made First Contact with Captain Anderson's ship. So it's already built up partially. And it still makes sense as a voyage of exploration, although some people may not go with it now that there are other alternatives. And it's even possible that the Andromeda Initiative will simply collapse from a lack of interest now, but as of this point it's not. (For instance, it's also possible that while people will slough off in favor of exploring their own galaxy with warp drive or other FTL methods, they might get recruits who are simply eager to leave this galaxy behind and go to another, even from other universes.)

B) In 2176 the Reapers were just a legend, and a barely-known one at that, mostly among Prothean scholars IIRC. They didn't start to get known more widely until 2183 and the events of ME1, when Shepard reported on their existence. They were never a motivating factor for the Initiative as a whole, although the game indicates the leadership eventually became aware of the Reapers' threat and were motivated by it. (I'd say more but it'd spoil ME:A).

C) Similarly, the Alliance has almost no knowledge of the Reapers existing. The only indication of them is from Adrana, and Zack's report that the Adrana called their destroyers "Reapers". But that's hardly any evidence for what the Reapers are; it only indicates that a quarter of a million years ago one civilization annihilated another.

D) No, IU drives can't make intergalactic voyages faster. IU jumps without an anchor on the other end basically deposit you within a specific zone of space around the other universe's version of your departure point. Someone jumping from Earth could end up near Jupiter, in interstellar space, or off Alpha Centauri. But the range isn't nearly enough for intergalactic travel to be done using IU jump drives. This is why we haven't seen IU missions outside of our galaxy either.
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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Mon Jun 12, 2017 5:29 pm

Ah... so in-story we haven't reached the time where the first Mass Effect's happenings... happen?

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Mon Jun 12, 2017 5:50 pm

Shroom Man 777 wrote:
Mon Jun 12, 2017 5:29 pm
Ah... so in-story we haven't reached the time where the first Mass Effect's happenings... happen?

The events of the first game are going to happen in Season 3. A big, four episode arc stretching from 3-07 to 3-10 (I'm going to have the first half of the season one episode longer than the second).
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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by speaker-to-trolls » Tue Jun 13, 2017 2:30 pm

Steve that was both beautifully touching and relentlessly tense and exciting. My enjoyment was only marred by my own shame at obviously having missed the earlier revelation that Lucy was a cylon (I remember it, but at the time I foolishly didn't realise it was her)

The Cylons are scary in your version. I look forward to seeing what nefarious things they get up to now that they actually do have a plan :P
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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Tue Jun 13, 2017 3:42 pm

speaker-to-trolls wrote:
Tue Jun 13, 2017 2:30 pm
Steve that was both beautifully touching and relentlessly tense and exciting. My enjoyment was only marred by my own shame at obviously having missed the earlier revelation that Lucy was a cylon (I remember it, but at the time I foolishly didn't realise it was her)

The Cylons are scary in your version. I look forward to seeing what nefarious things they get up to now that they actually do have a plan :P
Lucy herself isn't a Cylon, but rather had her blood stolen waaaaaay back in the pilot, and the Cylons used that to make their 12th model. :twisted:

And I do have some very nefarious plans indeed for the toasters. :twisted:

Thank you for the compliments as well. 2-11 was meant to be both a Leo episode - I felt he deserved another one when planning S2 - and to be a Nazi War-centric episode because otherwise most of the season would have kept the Nazis off-screen, which I felt to be a waste (at the time I hadn't planned for the use of them in the 2-07/2-08 cliffhanger). I'm glad it resonated so well.
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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Tue Jun 13, 2017 6:30 pm

I'd like to re-articulate this, but in public in the thread and not just in the chat:

I'm actually very thankful, in hindsight and after thought, that the closest thing we see to front line groundpounder OOOAH action is actually from the POV of medical personnel trying to patch up miscellaneous casualties.

It's a nice subversion of the typical military sci-fi stuff that by now y'all know I've grown allergic and overreactive to (I really think being exposed to the dour MESS players in all those SDNW STGOD games just ruined mil scifi for me).

On that note, I'll also say that I think the Meridina's family scenes in Gersal were a breath of fresh air. Because having Hawthorne, Davies and those Senators just bicker around in the middle of "Alliance HQ in Genericsville, North America" really put me off. :P

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Fri Jun 16, 2017 3:18 pm


Ship's Log: ASV Koenig; 10 August 2642. Commander Zachary Carrey recording. We've been detached from the Aurora to take part in a joint training exercise with members of the Citadel Council races' special forces. We're currently on our way to the rendezvous point to meet with the ships carrying the strike teams we'll be hosting aboard for the duration of the exercise.

Given that we have already embarked Commander Kane and a team of his Marines from the
Aurora, my little ship is approaching standing-room-only in available living space. But we'll make do.

The mess hall on the Koenig was now split in half, much to the irritation of the crew of the attack ship. Wall partitions set up by engineering crews from the Aurora had turned half of the space once used by the crew for communal eating into a bunk room for the incoming special forces troops.

Zack finished a grilled chicken sandwich at one of the remaining tables. Across from him, Tom Barnes and Magda Navaez, both Lieutenants and serving as his Chief Engineer and Operations Officer respectively, were sharing complaints about the situation. "Hot-bunking, I mean… it's bad enough that the sleeping spaces are like frakking closets." Barnes was frowning intently. "Now we'll have people sleeping in our bunks when we're on duty."

"You think you have it tough? Do you have any idea what all of these extra people are doing to the life support systems?" Magda asked before taking a bite of chicken soup.

"Uh, yeah, actually, I do," Barnes retorted. "I had to spend half a day installing additional life support tanks to ensure we have the capacity we need." After a moment of considering his grilled chicken sub, he added, "And why are we all eating chicken anyway?"

"Habit?" Zack proposed. He finished another bite and said, "I'm not really a tuna guy, and if you ask me, the replicators never get pork or beef right. But they're good with chicken."

"I just want to get these exercises over with." Magda gave him a look. "Why did you volunteer us for this again?"

"Okay, one?" Zack held up a finger. "I didn't volunteer us. Robert and Admiral Maran did. I just didn't object. Two…" He brought up another finger. "...I think we could use the practice. Most of our operations lately have been simple combat support. We could use a week of prolonged operations to get the new crewmembers situated. Finally, three…"

Just as Zack lifted his third finger, Barnes chimed in with, "...we don't have to get sucked into whatever diplomatic niceties the others are going to go through with the frakking Batarians."

Zack nodded in Barnes' direction. "I hate that damned dress uniform. Plus, let's face it, our first contact with the Batarians consisted of this ship shooting them in the face."

"After they raided Yamalia for slaves," Magda reminded him. Her expression darkened.

"Pretty much." Zack wolfed down the last bit of his sandwich. "Anyway, I think my point is made."

"It is. I just…"

"Bridge to Commander Carrey." The voice was that of Ensign Jean Hajar, the navigation/engineering dual-specialty officer who was one of the sixteen or so actual officers or officer-candidates on the ship. A former Starfleet officer, she was relatively new to the crew herself. "Sir, we've arrived at the rendezvous point. The Tokyo and Ravelicus are already here and waiting to commence transport."

"I'm on my way to the transporter station," Zack said. "Go ahead and let Kane know to meet me there."

"Yes sir."

"You two enjoy the rest of your lunch," Zack said. "It's time for me to go meet the guests."

Commander Kane met Zack at the Transporter Station. It was located on Deck 1 just aft of the central lift station that would take them to the bridge deck if they wanted. A teal-complexioned, blue-spotted Dorei man was at the controls, with the rank insignia of a technical officer. "We are ready to commence transport, sir."


The first five arrivals appeared in bright columns of white light joined by a loud buzz.

From the briefing Zack already recognized the Turian officer in charge for the entire effort. "General Victus." He extended a hand. "Welcome to the Koenig."

General Adrien Victus extended his own hand, with its two main fingers and an opposable thumb making Zack think of birds or dinosaurs. "Thank you, Commander. Allow me to introduce Guard Captain Vidinos." He extended his other hand to the second Turian with him. "He's in charge of our special forces team."

"Commander." Vidinos remained still, spine ramrod straight. It was clear he wasn't about to shake hands.


"This is Nisia B'Rani," Victus continued, indicating a serene-looking Asari woman in a plain, functional green bodysuit clearly made as a uniform. "She is the commander of Talein's Daughters, the Asari Commando unit for this operation."

"Commander." Nisia accepted Zack's hand. "A pleasure. My unit has worked with Humans before. I'm looking forward to continuing that with you."

"Of course." Zack nodded. "Welcome aboard."

Next was a Salarian male, wearing a blue-and-white suit of basic Salarian design. "Major Jato Lediks, Salarian Special Task Group 2nd Regiment," he said, beating Victus to the introduction. "It will be interesting to see your vessel in operation. It appears to have some distinctive characteristics that are not part of the standard Alliance Trigger-class design."

"The Koenig is one of a kind," Zack boasted.

That left the final figure. And given the smile that appeared on Kane's face, Zack was pretty sure of who the tan-skinned, red-headed woman in the Systems Alliance Navy uniform was. "Commander Shepard," he said, extending his hand as she stepped down from the transporter. "Welcome aboard."

Shepard accepted his hand with a grin. "Glad to be here."

Four hours and a mass relay jump later, the Koenig was already underway and in interstellar space. Zack was in the conference room, the only one for his ship, with Victus and the others in attendance, along with Commander Kane. "I hope you enjoyed the tour, sir," he said after sitting down.

"Thank you for providing it, Commander." Victus sat in the chair opposite from Zack. "Your ship is the perfect vehicle for this training operation with its cloaking device and stealth capability."

"I trust your teams are getting situated?" Zack asked the assembled commanders.

The others confirmed quickly. Vidinos went beyond a mere affirmation or nod. "I'm pleasantly surprised, actually. From my experience, Allied System ships are far too soft. It undermines discipline."

Zack tried to keep his smile from becoming a smirk. "There's a lot of variation between species, I guess."

Kane chimed in at that point. "I have it on good authority the Klingons sleep on wooden planks."

Whatever point Vidinos had been trying to score hadn't come through. The Turian captain settled back in his seat. From her seat, Shepard gave Zack and Kane a slight grin.

"The exercises will take place on a number of planets in this cluster," Victus continued. "The goal will be to test infiltration, assault, and recovery missions on a number of targets guarded by Citadel-aligned security units. Each team will be assigned a specific sector and related mission. While you will operate independently, your efforts will be in support of one another. The Koenig will participate through provision of tactical data to ground teams and evading detection by opposing space forces. Are there any questions?"

"How realistic is this going to be?" asked Zack. "Are we talking live fire, dummy rounds or simulated?"

"It will be non-damaging fire," Victus confirmed. "Our simulation computers are still being upgraded to take into account the various capabilities of your ships. We can't have an accurate simulated fire exercise."

"Understood, General."

"Now, tactical assignments will…"

Before Victus could finish his sentence, a tone went off over the ship's comm system. "Bridge to Commander Carrey." This time the voice was Lieutenant Creighton Apley, Zack's First Officer. "Sir, we just picked up an automated distress signal from a nearby star system. It's from a ship IDed as the Nartalis, and it says they're under attack."

Zack nodded and stood up. "Set an intercept course at maximum warp, Lieutenant, and engage. Go to Code Red. I'll be on the bridge shortly."

"Aye sir." As Apley finished speaking, a deep electronic klaxon sounded over the speakers in the conference room. Even here the sound of a few pairs of running feet could be heard outside, as off-duty Koenig crew raced to their battlestations.

"Sorry, General, but I'm needed on my bridge."

"We'll join you," Victus said as he stood up. "I'd like to see what's going on for myself. This could present a security risk for our exercises."

Zack nodded. "Understood, General. If you'll follow me…?"

Undiscovered Frontier
"Common Ground

The Koenig was still at warp when Zack stepped onto the bridge, followed by General Victus, Shepard, and all of the others. They took up unused standing positions near the rear of the bridge while Zack went for his command chair. Apley replaced Hajar at the helm. Hajar, in turn, manned the engineering control station. "Report," Zack said.

"We're still about two minutes out at current speed," Apley said.

At the tactical station, Lieutenant April Sherlily said, "Phasers on standby, solar torpedoes loading."

"Cloaking device is already engaged." Magda was settling in at Ops, having arrived just ahead of Zack and the others. "Long range sensors confirms the presence of at least one vessel, unknown configuration and power signature, and what looks like a Turian-built personal scout ship. But I've never seen this design before."

"It may be an older model in service to a private contractor," Victus said. "Some of the mercenary and local government organizations in this region buy our surplus and modify our equipment to fit their needs."

Zack nodded in appreciation of the answer.

"There's more to it," Magda said. "The distress call is going out in Citadel standard, but the underlying communications protocols and language standard aren't in the system."

"Let me see." Vidinos stepped up to Magda's station. Magda gave Zack an uncomfortable look, and he nodded in reply. Magda indicated her monitor with the data on the distress call on it.

Zack was already getting a feeling Vidinos was something of an ass, but he was still shocked to hear the dismissive chuckle that came from the Turian commander. "Commander, this is a waste of time. Don't bother answering the distress signal," Vidinos announced.

Zack looked at him with surprise. So, indeed, did others on the bridge. "What do you mean?"

"The signal's not from any of the proper Citadel species," Vidinos announced. "It's Quarian. They're probably running from whomever they've stolen from lately. We've got more urgent matters to deal with."

A very fragile, very tense quiet settled onto the bridge. Zack stood from his chair and faced Vidinos. "Captain Vidinos," he began quietly, moving within a few inches of the Turian's green eyes, "I don't know about how you handle things in your command, but on my ship, we answer distress calls, no matter who's sending them. That is, in fact, one of our standing orders and required by the regulations of the Alliance Stellar Navy. And I bet it's standing orders for the Turian military too."

"You would be correct, Commander," General Victus said with firm approval in his voice. That approval turned to disapproval when he spoke again. "Captain Vidinos, I will speak with you when this is over. For now, step away from the station and let Commander Carrey and his crew do their jobs."

"Yes, General." Vidinos stepped over to the General and remained silent, but nothing suggested he was apologetic for what he had said.

By the time Zack returned to his seat, Apley was already beginning to speak. "We're coming up on the source of the distress signal now. Dropping us out of warp."

The hull thrummed as the warp engines disengaged. The cloaked attack ship slowed to sublight velocity toward a patch of asteroid belt in a G-sequence star system.

The holo-viewer came on and showed a brown-tinted ship slightly larger than the Koenig weaving around one asteroid. A much smaller craft was doing the same, clearly trying to avoid the larger ship.

"The ship matches a common profile for Batarian raiders," Magda said. "But the power readings are all off. She's definitely not standard."

"Bring us in on an attack run vector," Zack said. But even as he prepared to give the order to decloak and fire, he stopped himself. With the diplomatic talks due to start, I can't afford to cause an incident. We still don't know what's going on here. "Prepare to hail the Batarian ship as soon as we decloak."

"Sir?" Magda looked back at him. "We're giving up the element of surprise?"

"I can't afford to command an unprovoked attack on a Batarian ship right now, not with these talks going on," he insisted, even though Zack didn't quite believe in what he was doing. "April, standby to fire when I give the order."

"Aye sir."

"Magda…. disengage cloaking device. Open a general channel." After hearing her console give the confirming tone, Zack immediately said, "Attention Batarian vessel, this is the Alliance Starship Koenig. We are invest-"

Before he could finish the Batarian ship violently spun about to face them, showing more maneuverability than any M4P2 ship Zack had seen before. "Wait, that's not possible," Apley insisted. "The Batarians…"

A moment later the Koenig shuddered violently while yellow-orangish energy beams slammed against its shields.

Zack felt the tremor through the ship that resulted from the hit. "What the hell… evasive maneuvers! Return fire when able!"

The Koenig corkscrewed to avoid another barrage of energy beams from the Batarian ship. Her own powerful pulse phaser cannons opened up with their furious amber light. They quickly crossed the space between the ships…

...and were stopped by a crackle of yellow energy.

Another barrage of energy shots hit the Koenig. "Shields at ninety percent." Magda was shaking her head. "That energy signature… they're firing Ferengi weapons. And they have standard deflectors."

"What?" Zack stared at her in a moment of surprise.

"They're coming in, full speed," Apley warned.

"They might have shields, but we've got pulse phaser cannons, and I'm willing to bet a ship that size can't power shields enough to stop our best hits." Zack focused his attention back on the viewer. "Attack Plan Romeo. Now!"

The Koenig turned and maneuvered sharply as more energy beams sought it out in space. Occasional hits drained the shields of the attack ship further. But Apley was a great pilot, and Zack's chosen maneuver was meant to take advantage of the Koenig's superior agility as a space vehicle. At the end of the wide corkscrew maneuver Apley pulled the ship into, the ship flipped "downward" and, in the process, brought the main phaser battery back into alignment with the enemy ship.

This time Sherlily fired everything she could. A full-powered phaser barrage battered at the other ship. Her shields started to compensate.

But the barrage continued, focused on the same area of the enemy ship's shields thanks to Apley's piloting and Sherlily's aim. From the forward launchers a pair of solar torpedoes raced out, and then another. The four projectiles, wreathed in white-blue light that made them look like energy projectiles, struck the Batarian ship's shields.

Save the last one. It hit bare hull.

An explosion blasted a large chunk from the enemy ship. At first there was no immediate sign of further damage and a parting shot from the Koenig's dorsal phaser array hit the shields. But after several seconds the Batarian ship suddenly lost power, as was confirmed by Magda. "I'm picking up severe power fluctuations. I think the hits to the shields and the hull overwhelmed the ability of their systems to handle the strain. Their main power systems have failed completely and I'm detecting feedback damage to their sublight drives. I'd say they're crippled."

"What's the status on that other ship?"

Magda was already checking her instruments. "I'm reading severe damage to the entire craft. I think it might have an eezo leak somewhere. I'd recommend we evacuate the occupants to our infirmary."

"Transport them immediately, and inform Doctor Opani she's getting guests."

"Yes sir." Magda sent the relevant commands.

"And what about the Batarian vessel?" asked Victus. It was clear from his tone of voice that it was just simply a question, but Zack knew that his decision here would be scrutinized regardless.

"We don't have the capacity for holding a lot of prisoners." Zack took a moment to consider things. "General, we can beam over some of your people to take over the ship. If you don't mind throwing off our training schedule we could even see about towing them, or waiting until a friendly ship can come and take over."

"Given the circumstances, I think a diversion is in order. Carry on."

Zack nodded. "Magda, please inform Systems Alliance command of our current status. We're closest to their space here. Inform them we'd like a cruiser to come out and take over for us."

"Sending transmission."

"Commander Kane." Zack turned his chair to face Kane. "Would you mind taking over that ship for me?"

"I'll assemble my team. Commander Shepard?"

"I'll get mine," she said. "We'll gear up and meet you at the Transporter Station."

"I would like to see this vessel for myself," Major Lediks said. "I will join your team."

Zack nodded. "Of course. And let us know if we need to scrounge up another watchman or two."

Kane, Shepard, and Lediks left the bridge. Zack shifted in his chair to try and get comfortable. But he was having trouble doing it. The weapons used, the technology… it was disconcerting to say the least.

"The Batarians have been embargoed by the Citadel for years," Victus said. "The fact that they possess technology from other universes means they've found a way around that. It is vital we learn what we can."

"We'll take the next step when they've secured the ship. In the meantime, I'm going to write my report." Zack stood. "Ap, you have the bridge, I'll be in my office."

"Yes sir."

"Commander." Hajar stood. "They may need an engineering officer to help secure the ship and examine whatever they find over there. I'd like to volunteer."

Zack considered it. Lediks was going to provide that… but he was clearly doing it for his own purposes, or rather, Salarian purposes. Having an Alliance officer to report on what the Batarians had on the ship? He didn't want to pass that up. "Alright. Go report to Commander Kane."

"I'll send up Ensign Driik while I'm at it." Hajar's offer would permit Apley to take the center chair once Zack was gone.

"You do that, Ensign."

Hajar nodded and walked off the bridge. Zack watched her go and looked back at the viewer image of the Batarian ship and the crippled little Turian, or rather Quarian, ship. So where are the Batarians getting this technology? he wondered.

"Opani to Bridge," came the accented voice of Doctor Roliri Opani, the young Dorei physician serving as the Koenig's medical officer.

"Go ahead," Zack said.

"I've gone over our patients in the infirmary. One is in pretty bad shape, but I think I can stabilize him. The other is doing well and should be awake in an hour or so."

"Let me know when I can talk to at least one of them."

"Yes sir."

With nothing more to do, Zack left the bridge. He gave the ship one last glance and let himself think of what it might mean for what the others were dealing with.

Sorry Rob, Julia, but we may have just made your jobs far more complicated.

The Mass Relay System had shaped space exploration and settlement in the M4P2 Universe's Milky Way. The various star-faring civilizations had galactic-scale reach due to the mass relays, but despite this they took up barely 1% of the galaxy's volume. The nature of mass effect-derived FTL meant that ships had difficulties traveling at FTL velocities beyond relatively-short interstellar distances.

Gradually, Multiversal Contact would change this, as warp drive and other FTL systems like F1S1's Kearny-Fuchida hyperdrive were providing for greater range beyond the mass relays. But for the time being, with the exception of the Allied Systems' colonial zone in the Skyllian Verge, all space settlement and indeed activity happened within only a few parsecs of a mass relay.

This was why the Aurora could be a quarter of the galaxy away from the Koenig - a distance that would take years to travel at the highest warp speeds even the Aurora could manage - waiting near a mass relay in the Attican Traverse just one mass relay jump away from the lawless, anarchic Terminus Systems.

She wasn't alone. Nearby a Batarian dreadnought had already arrived via the mass relay. It was launching one of its craft while both sides maintained a tense civility. No shields, no kinetic barriers, and no weapons were active… for now.

As the Marines still on Aurora stood to attention, and the bizarre, somber, and brassily-strong tones of an alien anthem started playing rhythmically over the hanger bay PA, Robert Dale looked over his dress whites and decided he wanted to hate Zack for taking the easy job. Living on the Koenig for a week plus and dealing with ground exercises and simulated combat sounded a lot better than what he and the others were about to go through.

The importance of the occasion was easily confirmed, as Foreign Secretary Onaran was already aboard and waiting with Robert and Julia. Due to cultural reasons it was deemed essential that all ceremonial and protocol elements for receiving foreign diplomatic delegations be upheld.

The craft that landed in the bay was a squat, ugly gray craft with mass effect-derived drives. It came to a virtually perfect landing at the assigned spot, barely twenty feet from Robert. After a number of seconds the doors opened and armored infantry stepped out, holding guns at what looked like a variation of parade rest.

The armored infantry were in helmets, so their faces weren't visible. The same couldn't be said for the delegation that stepped out. It was the first time Robert had seen a Batarian in the flesh before. Their heads had a bisecting ridge of cartilage that went over the top and presumably back down the back of the head, with no visible nose but rather nostrils embedded directly into the front of the face. Fine hair covered parts of the front of the face, giving parts of the pale brown skin a fuzzy look. Four dark, iris-less eyes looked about, taking in all of the sights with care.

Finally the Batarian man stepped forward. "I am Captain Robert Dale," Robert said, "Commanding Officer of the Alliance Starship Aurora. This is my First Officer, Commander Julia Andreys. And joining me is Foreign Secretary Lentiro Onaran."

For a moment there was no response. When the Batarian finally spoke, it was with a deep voice with a guttural element that was clearly not in other humanoid voices Robert knew. "I am Tahrad am Rimhar, Minister of Diplomatic Exchange for the Batarian Hegemony." By opening his mouth Tahrad had shown that Batarian teeth were pointed and sharp. "My people welcome this chance to settle our misunderstandings with the United Alliance of Systems."

Robert refrained from speaking the thought in his head. The thought that the Batarian idea of "misunderstanding" actually meant repeated raids by Batarian-backed slavers and pirates against Alliance colonies across the Skyllian Verge. The attacks had petered off during the course of the year, true, but that seemed to be due to the increased presence of Systems Alliance and Stellar Navy fleet units, and the improving defenses on colonies and other Alliance installations that made raids ineffective.

Onaran was the height of diplomacy, however, avoiding that blunt truth by stating, "The Alliance welcomes the Batarian government's diplomatic initiative. We hope that a permanent settlement can end the strife between our governments and pave the way for further ties with the Batarian people."

Robert could sense the immense bemusement Tahrad had at that statement, mixed with contempt as he tilted his head slightly to the right. Onaran sounded naive but he imagined that was the intent. The Dorei was drawing the Batarian out to test his reaction. If he felt any of what Robert was feeling, he would know that his sentiment was useless. Tahrad may be here to negotiate an agreement, but it wasn't going to any paving of the way for a closer future sort of thing. The Batarians, for whatever reason, thought they could get more out of diplomacy than upping the ante with their support of the slaver and pirate raiders.

Something about that worried him. But Robert wasn't sure what it was. He focused on his duties for the moment. "We're still waiting for the arrival of the Citadel Council's delegate to the talks," he said. "But until then, we have refreshments ready in Conference Room 1. Commander Andreys and Commander Meridina will escort you and your entourage."

Meridina showed no reaction to that, but Julia gave him a slightly sardonic look before she gave a diplomatic nod to the Minister and led him, and his bodyguards and aides, on their way.

Robert and Onaran followed enough to get out of earshot of the guards who stayed behind at the Minister's shuttle. "This is not going to be easy, is it?" Robert asked.

"Certainly not," Onaran lamented. "The Batarians are merely taking their conflict with us to another theater. I have no doubt that their proposals will be unacceptable and their threats violent if we fail to give them everything they want."

"So why are we doing this again?"

"Optimism from President Morgan. Perhaps the right mix of acceptable concessions will provide us with relief from the Batarians' criminal proxies." Onaran sighed. "And it will appease Senator Pensley's peace faction, of course."

Robert matched the sigh. "Of course." As they walked out of the landing deck to head for Conference Room 1, Robert found himself wishing he had joined Zack on the Koenig for those training ops. Even a bunk to sleep in sounds preferable to this diplomatic wheeling and dealing. And whatever's going on with that, Zack has to be having an easier time than we are.

Zack had just about finished up his report when the ship's comm system activated. "Opani to Carrey. Our patient is awake."

"I'm on my way." He stood up from his desk and left his mostly-finished report to be completed later. He ventured to the lift and down to Deck 2. It was not a long walk to get to the infirmary.

The Koenig's infirmary was hardly the expansive, state-of-the-art medical facilities that Leo oversaw on the Aurora, complete with a team of trained physicians and surgeons. It was a small unit with about twelve beds overall, two of them set up for immediate intensive care, and in the far corner an emergency surgical theater. As Opani had frequently told him, the Koenig's infirmary wasn't made for heavier casualties. There just wasn't enough space.

Opani had two nurses from the crew on staff. As with many crew, they were cross-trained in other specialties. Right now both were on duty attending to the Quarians they'd picked up. The unconscious one was in a white and red-hued suit, with a nurse obediently checking on him.

Doctor Opani was standing beside the other Quarian. Her dark teal complexion, one of the darkest teals in the spectrum of Dorei skin colors, was contrasted with the light purple of the spots running around the rim of her face and down her neck. Her dark purple hair was pulled into a ponytail at the back of her head.

Zack knew that not every species had the same division of sexual characteristics as Humans and other Human-like species did. The Alakin and the Turians immediately came to mind on that point. The Quarians, however, did not, as the Quarian sitting on the biobed had very clear feminine traits. Which, he supposed, could be something entirely different for another species - Tom Barnes had often joked about the idea of finding a species where the males had the natural busts - but he figured this wasn't the case. Or would at least he would find out shortly. "Doctor, how is our patient?"

"Alive and healthy. Unlike her poor friend. His suit had a number of breaches that I had to patch up with the help of our replicator," Opani said. "She was of great assistance in the matter."

"Suit repair is something every Quarian learns early on," the female Quarian said. Her suit was dark blue and light violet in coloration with a band over the right shoulder and under the left arm. "For us, it can be a matter of life and death." Her accented voice was distorted electronically by the helmet of her environmental suit, with a light flashing as she spoke. Twin eyes shined through the dark color of the helmet face. "And I'm worried that he might still get an infection."

"Their immune systems are terribly weak," Opani said. "So I'm going to be working hard to keep our other patient from dying."

"Good, do what you can" he said to Opani before looking to the Quarian girl. "So, welcome, you're aboard the Alliance Starship Koenig. I'm Commander Zachary Carrey, the Commanding Officer. I'm pleased to meet you." He offered his hand.

After a moment's uncertainty and hesitation, the Quarian girl took the hand and let him have a brief handshake. "Thank you, Commander, for saving us from the Batarians. And I have some information you'll want to see. It may be why they attacked us."

"I'll be happy to look at it, Miss…"

"Oh." The Quarian made a disapproving sound. "I'm sorry, where are my manners? My name is Tali. Tali'Zorah nar Rayya."

Conference Room 1 on the Aurora was no stranger to diplomatic negotiations. Robert considered how many they had already held in the spacious room located toward the rear of the primary hull, on Deck 14. Back in the day, before they knew for sure the Alliance would be formed, Carlton Farmer had included the conference and briefing rooms in the Aurora because it was to be the Facility's flagship, their standard-bearer, and that would require it to fulfill many roles that a normal starship might not be as equipped to perform.

And it was certainly a benefit to have it here, now, for these talks with the Batarians.

The surprise was that, as diplomatic negotiations went, this one was surprisingly quiet while being completely ineffectual. That was new: usually quiet meant general mutual agreement and respect, with dispassionate quibbling over minor details, while ineffectual talks tended to be full of passion and vitriol.

Tahrad am Rimhar looked almost bored as the preliminary discussions continued. The arrival of the Citadel Council's appointed representative and mediator would be the herald for full talks to begin, of course, but that hadn't stopped Onaran from trying to lay the groundwork while they waited. "It is not the purpose of the Alliance to block off any avenue of Batarian expansion. There are still other systems in the region where the Hegemony can easily assert a claim and presence."

"You miss the point, Minister Onaran." Rimhar kept his hands separate on the table. "The Batarian Hegemony has had legitimate territorial claims in the Skyllian Verge for centuries. If anyone determines who may settle which system, it should be us. Your people have already taken over several star systems we intended to colonize in the coming years."

"We found no indications of such intentions," Onaran answered. "You left no claim markers. No buoys. No outposts. Nothing to indicate to anyone that the system had been claimed. Our settlements were made in good faith."

"Good faith is irrelevant. You have taken worlds that the Batarian people have greater rights to. And we insist that you withdraw from those worlds."

"It would seem that we have one another's starting negotiating positions in mind now."

Robert lifted a hand as a motion he wanted to speak. When both ministers glanced his way, he leaned forward. "The territorial issues aside, what I would like to know is if you can guarantee that our people will never be subjected to slavery in your territories, and if the Hegemony will assist in suppressing the illegal trade in sentient beings."

A thin smile crossed the four-eyed alien's face. "I see you share the obsessions of the Citadel Council in this matter. I will tell you what we have long told them. What you call slavery is a respected and honored practice in our culture. The obligation of labor from those of lower status to those of higher status. We will not dismantle millennia of our heritage to satisfy alien hypocrisy."

Julia was quick to response. "Hypocrisy?"

"Your species all complain about slavery, but you all indulge in it. You simply refer to it as other names. Surely you have heard of the Asari-run planet Illum? They call it indentured servitude, but it is slavery. Beyond Illum, the Terminus Systems are full of members of the Citadel's species, and slavery is just as common there as it is in the Hegemony." Taraht clearly thought he was on a roll, and before anyone could object he continued. "Your own societies recognize this principle. Those of higher status force the rest to work for them. You compel labor from your criminals just as we do."

"Even convicted criminals still have basic rights," Robert answered. "And that includes not having an implant forced into your head to take away control of your own body."

"That simply means that you compound your hypocrisy with weakness."

Robert felt a surge of anger at the callous remark, and the tone behind it. But the way Tahrad seemed almost bored by the discussion held him back.

"As for your people being taken, the Hegemony does not condone slave-raiding into worlds with organized governments," Tahrad continued. "There are certain laws and rules that regulate the addition of new slaves to the Hegemony's economy. Of course, your worlds fall into a gray area due to our pre-existing claims upon them, and I cannot guarantee that overzealous agents of the Hegemony will refrain from deciding your presence on our worlds is sufficient justification for enslavement. It is clear from the first contact of our civilizations that criminals are willing to take the chance."

The reference to the attack on the Dorei colony of Yamalia was hardly the most subtle threat on the issue. Tahrad was being wordy and legalistic with that threat, but he had still issued it: withdraw from worlds we want or we'll continue to raid your worlds for slaves.

Julia once again spoke in reply, and there was no mistaking the smirk on her face. "Yes, they did take that chance. But I wonder how many decided not to bother anymore after what happened to those first raiders."

There was a slight slip in Tahrad's smile. Robert could feel the irritation the Batarian felt at being reminded of what happened when the Koenig, under Julia's command, had stopped the slave-raiders with the help of the SSV Tokyo.

Before any further conversation could be continued, a beep filled the room courtesy of the ship's communications system. Nick Locarno's voice came over the speaker a second later. "Bridge to Captain Dale."

Robert noticed most of the sets of eyes in the room focus on him. He definitely had the room's attention. He tapped the blinking blue light his omnitool was displaying over the back of his hand. "Dale here. Go ahead, Commander Locarno."

"An Asari personal yacht just came through the mass relay. They're requesting permission to dock."

"How big of a personal yacht? Can they go in the main shuttlebay?"

"She looks like she'll fit into the support ship dock."

"Well, with the Koenig gone, we're not using it for anything else. Go ahead and permit them docking clearance. Tell them I'll be there shortly to escort the Matriarch aboard."

"Doing so now."

With the call ended Robert stood up. "Excuse me, everyone. I'm going to bring in our mediator."

No protests were made and he left. Robert made his way aft to the docking port for the Aurora's support ship dock, the Koenig's usual place. By the time he arrived the Asari ship was already docked. It was colored a deep purple and looked far too small for the dock's space, but was still large enough that it would never have fit in the shuttle bay or the fighters' hanger bay. Something of the shape reminded him almost of a manta ray.

His arrival coincided with an honor guard and the presence of Commander Meridina. All was ready when the dock door slid open.

A few Asari figures filed out, most wearing fancy, beautifully-colored jumpsuits. They were arrayed around a central Asari, a blue-skinned woman in a fancy black suit, one that was as inelegant as it was moderately immodest, with a cut-out part on the chest displaying part of her cleavage.

Beside her was the one sight Robert didn't expect. A Turian was with the company. He was of a striking gray complexion and wearing a suit that looked more like combat armor than formal wear. He looked at Robert with ice-blue eyes and an intent behind them…

There was something about him. Something Robert was sure he'd seen before. But he couldn't think of what it was.

If he had been given time to dig into his memories, then an identification might have been made, but he caught himself. Protocol was going to be critical here. "I'm Captain Robert Dale of the Alliance Starship Aurora." He smiled diplomatically and nodded. "Matriarch Benezia?"

"Indeed, Captain." The Asari's voice had a husky timbre to it, and the translation systems were treating it as a refined accent. "I received word that you have already received the Batarian delegation?"

"Yes, ma'am. We haven't started negotiations proper yet. Secretary Onaran and Minister am Rimhar are doing some preliminary discussions on our governments' current positions."

In an instant Robert knew that was not going over well. He could sense the instinctive distrust from the Turian. Benezia was a blank slate in that regard. "I expected you would do such," Benezia said. "This is your government's first proper diplomatic contact with the Batarians. But I hope you realize the Citadel Council may find this suspicious behavior. There are those who would argue that you could be looking to make your own deal."

"It is what I would expect, honestly," the Turian said. "Humans have always been an aggressive, impatient species."

"We've been logging the discussions to reassure you of the contrary, Madame Matriarch." Robert had to keep the smile on his face, but he couldn't help but feel that Onaran had miscalculated with his choices.

"I'm certain there has been no harm."

For a moment Robert considered asking to be introduced to her entourage, if only to learn more about the Turian. But they already had unnecessary tension. Making it worse didn't seem like the right thing to do. I'll have to see if we have his image on record.

"If you'll follow me, Madame Matriarch, I'll escort you to Conference Room 1." With her nod of assent, he took a step back before turning and leading them into his ship.

Zack escorted Tali to the conference room on the Koenig. General Victus was already waiting with Nisia and Barnes. Shepard's voice was coming over the speaker. "The crew's being more than a little uncooperative. And they were actively sabotaging the ship before we secured it."

"In what way?" asked Victus.

"It looks like they were trying to destroy specific parts with explosives. And Ensign Hajar's already written off the computer cores from how thoroughly they wiped them."

"Although the wipe itself can be seen as evidence," Hajar added through her own omnitool's communications function. "The way that they wiped their computers was more than a simple deletion. There are a number of ways to thoroughly annihilate the data in a system, some being more thorough than others, some being quicker. I've seen this wiping method before."

"Where, Ensign?" Zack asked.

"When I was on the Tanzania back in Starfleet. It's a method I found in use when we were trying to recover computer data from a ship abandoned by Breen privateers."

"Ferengi, now Breen." Zack took his seat. "Any luck on identifying the shields?"

"Not S5T3, I can say that much. The generator layout is all wrong. I would almost say they're Salehi Defense Corps Mark IIIs..."

Zack blinked. He recognized that company name. "As in D3R1?"

"Yes. These generators are a lot like the models found on numerous ships built in the Colonial Confederation. But the emitter wavelength variance is off."

Barnes let out a sigh. "Hajar, was the variance setting closer to ten cycles per minute?"

"Eleven point one."

That caused Barnes to wince. "Damn. Arcturan knockoffs."

"Tom?" Zack looked at him. "What are you getting at?"

"Back before they launched the Aurora, I spent some time doing the rounds of various outposts and stuff. I visited Abdis D3R1. And l hate that damned planet to this day." The aside was clearly not appreciated by the others, but Zack thankfully didn't feel it necessary to say anything as Barnes kept going. "Well, we had a ship come in with major power failures that nearly caused it to crash. It turns out the ship was from the Arcturus Free States or Freeholds or whatever they call themselves and that the captain bought knockoffs of Salehi Corps' shield generators from a source there. Of course, said knockoffs were pieces of crap and caused the failures when the captain's first mate tried some routine shield tests. Well, the head engineer I was working with knew this stuff already, and he told me how to look for these kinds of knockoffs. The uniform thing you find is an abnormally low variance rate. It allows the shields to look more powerful, but it makes them way more vulnerable to frequency matching firing algorithms."

"This could explain their power failures during the fight," Zack said.

"How could your defense technology have wound up in Batarian hands?" asked Nisia.

"That's the problem. It's not really ours." Barnes shook his head. "I mean, the Arcturans are… they're like Space Somalia, I guess? Or maybe some other… I dunno, anarchy-central, that's what the place is."

"The Arcturan Freeholds, or Free States, are basically a collection of settlements with almost no civil government and with residents uniformly devoted to keeping it that way," Zack added to clarify what Barnes had said. "The only reason the place isn't a pirate haven is that the pirates are too organized and controlling for their liking, and because the Arcturans know that they'd get stomped by their neighbors if they let the pirates in. Everybody has a gun and you don't live long if you don't know how to use it."

"It's like the Wild West, but with spaceships," Barnes said.

"Wild… West?" asked Tali, in a moment of curiosity that drew the attention of the assembled.

"It's the kind of world you would find in the Terminus Systems," Zack said, improving on Barnes' failed analogy. "And it's no surprise that Arcturan-built gear could wind up anywhere, even here." He looked to Tali. "Anyway, now that we have an idea on some of the new capabilities the Batarians are trying to field, our friend here has some information to share."

Tali seemed uncomfortable and for a moment Zack wondered if he had been wrong to put her "on the spot" like that. But after that clear moment of discomfort Tali brought her arm up and her omnitool activated. "My friend Kon'Fanim and I were on a scouting mission for the Migrant Fleet. We're leaving on Pilgrimage soon and this is part of our training on being away from home." Above the omnitool a series of figures and numbers flashed by. "We were just supposed to scout some empty systems in this cluster and report back. But when we were scouting this star system…"

Zack looked at the one Tali had indicated. "The Hylakos System," he said.

"...we found signs of mining that weren't in the latest reports on the extranet." Tali lowered her hand. "We landed and took readings of the mined sites. It was confusing. Whoever did it took a lot of effort, but there was no sign of element zero. And I can't think of anything that would be valuable enough for the effort."

"What did you find?" Victus asked.

"Basic minerals. Cadmium, lithium, and something like mercury. A liquid-state mineral, I mean, but it doesn't match mercury's atomic composition."

"Did you get a scan of it?" Barnes leaned forward. "I might be able to identify it."

"I can say I've never heard of this metal." Tali's large fingers tapped her omnitool and brought up a model of the substance. Barnes accepted it and displayed it on his omnitool. When his eyes widened, Tali asked, "What? You know this?"

"Yeah. Oh frakking yeah."

"What is it?", Zack asked his friend.

Barnes looked at him. "It's latinum," he said. "Almost pure latinum."

"Wait, what?" Zack sat up.

"What is this 'latinum'?" asked Nisia.

"It's a liquid metal that you can find in certain asteroids and moons," Barnes answered. "In societies with matter-replication technology, it can end up being used as currency because its atomic structure is too complex and delicate for a replicator to assemble. I mean, it's like gold and silver in older economies, or eezo in yours. You simply replicate some non-reactive mineral like gold to act as a binding agent and poof, you've got usable currency. And it sometimes gets added to other alloys for stuff. Latinum can be a protective material when alloyed with steel and some other minerals, mostly smaller things like household objects and appliances. You won't find it in starships or anything like that."

"And if the Batarians are finding latinum out here, then that gives them a ready cash source to go buying things on the Multiversal black market." Zack looked to Tali. "I'm guessing that's when the Batarians attacked you?"

"They came out of FTL almost on top of us. If Kon wasn't such a great pilot, they would have killed us with the first shot. I started transmitting the distress signal right away."

"And so here we are." Zack nodded to Tali. "Thank you, Miss… is it nar Rayya or Zorah?"

"Zorah is my family name. I am from the ship Rayya."

"Well, Miss Zorah, thank you again. I'm afraid we don't have any space for quartering, but Doctor Opani can put you in a bed in the infirmary, and our mess hall replicators are available for you if you need something to eat or drink."

"Since you have Turians on board, your food is dextro-compatible?"

"It is." Zack nod.

"Then thank you, Commander. If you need anything, let me know. As long as I'm on your ship, it's only right that I help keep the ship working."

Zack nodded. Barnes smirked and nodded as well. "If I need the extra hands for something, I'll keep it in mind, kid."

After she left Zack looked to the others. "General, I'm going to issue a report on this to Alliance Defense Command."

"I'll inform Palaven and the Citadel. Although I expect there will be few, if any, consequences to the Hegemony. The Batarians always insist that pirates and slavers are 'criminal elements', and the Citadel has never gotten convincing, undeniable proof to the contrary."

"Right. I know how that goes." Zack stood. "Hopefully Commander Shepard and the others can find something over there. I'd like to know where these ships are based."

"I think we would all like to know that, Commander," Victus answered. He stood as well. "Please keep me informed."

"Of course, sir."
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Fri Jun 16, 2017 8:37 pm

Very cool so far. I like this. It's an episode that's not necessarily in the main arc.

D3R1? Is that an original verse?

Blackmarketing in the multiverse must be hard if all IU-capable vessels are under strict United Alliance of Systems (as opposed to Systems Alliance or Earth Alliance or such) control. Or if regulated by whatever UAS-ally that's trustworthy... like the Federation?

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Fri Jun 16, 2017 8:38 pm

Shroom Man 777 wrote:
Fri Jun 16, 2017 8:37 pm
Very cool so far. I like this. It's an episode that's not necessarily in the main arc.

D3R1? Is that an original verse?

Blackmarketing in the multiverse must be hard if all IU-capable vessels are under strict United Alliance of Systems (as opposed to Systems Alliance or Earth Alliance or such) control. Or if regulated by whatever UAS-ally that's trustworthy... like the Federation?
D3R1 is the universe that Apley and Derbely are from, with the Sol Republic and Colonial Confederation - basically one is a democratic socialist state and the others are a libertarian nation, and they don't get along much... but both joined the Alliance for their own reasons.
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Sat Jun 17, 2017 5:20 am

BTW I must also say that I missed Zack a lot. And it's great to see him here being assertive and CO-ly. I can't complain about your characterizations. :P

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Sat Jun 17, 2017 3:05 pm

For Kane and the others, moving around the wrecked Batarian ship was a struggle in more than one way. Some corridors were blocked by debris or remnant fires. The lifts couldn't work half of the time, even with the backup power sources brought from the Koenig's relatively-meager stores. And the Batarians themselves were not helpful captives.

After an inspection of the team looking through what was left of the engineering area, Kane walked back toward the bow of the raiding ship. Wediks and Shepard were still there with two other officers: Ensign Hajar and one of Shepard's people, a dark-haired officer she'd introduced as Lieutenant Kaiden Alenko. "Have you found anything yet?" Kane asked.

Hajar spoke first from a computer panel. "I'm still trying this data reconstruction program, but I don't hold out much hope. Their data wiping program is thorough to the point of physical data removal."

"I am hoping to find something in the access memory buffers," said Wediks from another station, which he was working on with his omnitool.

"And what about the ship itself?"

Hajar shook her head. "The ship's a total loss. That power overload and the resulting secondary explosions caused too much structural damage. We would need a cruiser-scale structural integrity field to risk any sort of sublight or FTL velocities."

"But I might be able to do something with the communications gear." Alenko was operating one of the consoles. Like Shepard he was in Systems Alliance standard issue battle armor, but without the white N7 designation present. "It looks like it was also damaged in the fight. But that's worked in our favor."

"Oh?" Shepard asked. "In what way?"

"Because the power overload fried out the connection between the comm system memory and the main computers. When they ran their data wipe process, it didn't carry into the memory."

Shepard walked over to him. "But wouldn't that mean that the overload also fried the system memory?"

"Only partly." Shepard and Kane could see Alenko visibly sorting through data sectors, some functional and some corrupted. "The wiring burned out first. So there's still some data left in the system memory I can use. Maybe some comm activity…" One of the icons on his omnitool display flashed green. "There. I've got something. It looks like an audio transmission that hadn't been cleared from memory yet."

"Can you put it on?" Kane asked.

"Let me see…" Alenko started pressing more keys. "Here."

The guttural tones of Batarian speech started crackling over the bridge speakers. After a moment the auto-translators kicked in. "...targets in this side of the cluster. Allow me to move closer to the Humans' trade lanes! The prizes…"

"The prizes do not merit the risk. At this juncture we cannot afford to alienate our trading partners by drawing attention, and we certainly cannot jeopardize the upcoming talks with the Multiversal Alliance. The Minister will have our eyes ripped from our heads if we ruin his plan."

"But my men are restless. We haven't claimed prizes for over a month."

"They will have to wait. If things go as planned, many prizes will come to them, and their portions from our contributions to the slave markets back home will be great enough that we'll all move up in caste. Your only worry at this point is to protect the latinum deposits. Let us worry ab-…" The voice dissolved into static-laden gibberish for a moment before the file ceased running.

"Well, that certainly sounds ominous," Shepard said. She looked toward Kane. "A plan involving the negotiations with your Alliance."

"I'll report it to the Koenig immediately." Kane was frowning. "But I have another problem."

"How are they going to react when this ship doesn't check in?" Shepard nodded. "From the way it sounds, they might assume the captain decided to take matters into his own hands and move closer to the major trading lanes in this cluster. That won't make them happy."

Kane nodded. "Which means they'll be sending searchers when check-ins don't come on time." Kane pressed a hand to the side of his combat helmet. "Kane to Koenig. We've got some updates for you, and some bad news."

With the meetings over Barnes headed back to his preserve in Engineering. With Hajar over on the Batarian ship his second, Lieutenant (j.g.) Ana Poniatowski, was working her off-shift time. The slight Polish girl with honey-colored hair didn't show any fatigue while covering the scant battle damage they had incurred. "The shield generators passed the post-battle inspection," she said while Barnes was tapping keys at the Engineering Master Systems Display. "I am a little worried about what looks like some stress damage on the port impulsor's power conduit."

Barnes brought up the relevant section. "Go ahead and assign a DC team to look it. And send Lang and Zeroll to check up on the starboard aft torpedo launcher. Our last diagnostic put up some warning flags I want them to look into."

"Yes sir." As Poniatowski said that she looked up with some confusion. "What is…?"

Barnes turned his head to follow what Poniatowski was looking at. The starboard-side entrance to main engineering had opened, and the Quarian girl they'd picked up was already stepping through the door. Barnes let out a little groan of frustration before making his way over to where she was leaning over to inspect one of the control surfaces. "Hey!" he called out. "You, over there, Tali-whatever it was!"

The Quarian turned to face him. "Tali'Zorah," she corrected.

"Yes, whatever." Barnes stepped up to just outside of her personal space. "This is Main Engineering. I can't just have you wandering around here on a grand tour, I've got a ship to run."

"I know, and I'm here to help," she said. "I'm an engineer too."

"Really? A fully trained engineer?" Barnes couldn't quite keep the skepticism out of his voice. "And in what fields? With what systems? Do you know how to keep a naqia reactor operating? Have you trained with plasma coolant lines? Do you know how warp drives work?"

"I've seen the diagrams on the extranet…"

"Yeah, I figured." Barnes shook his head. "I get it, I mean, you're fascinated with engineering, always reading stuff online about reactors and engines and vehicles. But I don't care how many net pages you've studied, kid, you don't have the education or training to work in here, and I've got enough work to do without you getting in the way."

"I have training, you ignorant…" Even with her face obscured by the glassy plate covering it, it wasn't hard for Barnes to imagine a generic humanoid face twisted with irritation and frustration. "My people live with this every day! I've learned how to run starships since I was a child!"

"There's a difference between patching up a bulkhead and fixing a plasma feed or a power conduit, kid." Barnes got closer. "Now, I'm busy, so I need you to go. Get up to the mess hall, get yourself some grub, go check up on your buddy, whatever. Just stay out of trouble."

Tali's body tensed with frustration. She let it out with a sharp, "Bosh'tet!" and a string of Quarian curses as she turned and left Main Engineering.

Barnes made sure she was out the door before walking away, causing the door to close as he did. Poniatowski looked up from where she had finished delegating the engineering and damage-control teams. "Maybe you were a little harsh?" she asked.

"Maybe," he admitted. "But you've got to be that way with kids who think they know more than they actually do. Give them an inch and they take the mile."

"'Inch'? 'Mile'?"

"Centimeter and kilometer." Barnes shook his head. "Anyway, let's get back to it."

Victus entered Zack's office with measured steps. The Turian general nodded to him. "Commander, you had something to report?"

"Yes sir." Zack motioned to a chair, one he'd replicated to be easier for Turians to sit in. "General, have you heard anything from your superiors?"

"The Citadel Council hasn't responded to my report. Palaven Command has. But my instructions are merely to be ready to support whatever course of action is decided upon by the other authorities. The Hierarchy has few interests in this region of space. Our presence is at the request of the Council."

"So you've got no new directives?"

"I do not. And I haven't received any news on a ship being sent out to take custody of the pirate vessel."

Zack nodded. "I haven't heard anything either," he said. "I even relayed Kane's last report. I sent it straight to Admiral Maran. But all I get back from Defense Command is to support whatever decisions the Citadel and the M4P2 governments decide upon."

"It would appear our superiors are uncertain of how they want to handle this information." Victus turned thoughtful. "It makes sense. Everyone wants the negotiations with the Hegemony to succeed. Your Alliance, the Citadel, Palaven… nobody will want to risk ruining that with an incursion into Batarian-held territory."

"But we're still quite a distance from the recognized Batarian claims in the Verge," Zack noted. "Even if these pirates are working for the Hegemony, or Hegemony officials, I can't see how dealing with them will undermine the talks."

"The Batarians are sensitive and prickly, Commander. It's easy to offend them."

"They're also slavers, and that offends me," Zack said. He was frowning. "So, General, what should we do? Like I said, I'm following your lead on this. We can't just sit here. Sooner or later, someone in this gang is going to be looking for their ship. They'll have to, if that signal was accurate."

"I'm in agreement."

"We don't have room for prisoners," Zack continued. "We can't kill them…"

"Technically, Commander, we can," Victus said in correction. "As pirates and raiders, they are subject to execution in the field if caught in the act."

Zack's jaw clenched at that. His head lowered for a moment. The thought within him was if he could do such a thing. Just… kill people out of hand. Not in a combat situation, not when it was killing an enemy before they could kill him, or those he was responsible for. It would be the cold-blooded execution of helpless prisoners.

A dark thought quickly echoed in his head, with his voice. As if they'd think twice about killing you after you surrendered. They'd only spare you to put a chip in your head and sell you as a slave.

"I'm not saying we should," Victus said. "But we may have to. If the Batarians realize their ship was taken by our forces, they'll move to avoid further compromising their operations."

"And they may also rush whatever plan they've got involving the talks." A sick feeling came to Zack. "Could they be planning an attack on the Aurora? If they've refitted ships with this technology…"

"I think that might be too brazen an act. The Batarians know how everyone else would see it." Victus shook his head. "Although if you can send a warning to them, go ahead."

"I've already sent them a message with the recovered audio file. I also sent it to Maran's with Kane's report." Zack put his hands together on the desk. "But that still leaves us with a big problem. That ship. We either have to destroy it and make it look like an accident…"

"...or we have to hide it."

"Hide it," repeated Zack. After another moment of thinking on it, he reached to a button on his desk. "Carrey to bridge."

"Bridge here, sir," answered an Alakin voice. Ensign Driik had clearly assumed a bridge watch to give Apley some time off-shift.

"Call all senior officers to the conference room, we're having an emergency meeting in fifteen minutes' time."

"I'll inform them right away, sir."

Experience on the Koenig so far had been frustrating for Tali. Every instinct she had demanded that she be doing something for the ship, something to ensure it was going to keep working. It was the impulse of a lifetime that she could not easily ignore. Laying on her assigned bed in the infirmary, Tali let Barnes' words stew in her mind. That smug bosh'tet. How can people with so much technology be so small-minded?!

True, she knew little about the actual mechanics of warp drive flight, and the electro-plasma system used for the primary power conduits was not the kind of thing you'd find on a Quarian ship, but the underlying mechanics of the latter were still easy to understand, and for the former… well, she could grasp enough, couldn't she? And she wasn't even asking to work on the warp FTL drive either! Just something to do, something she could do and was trained to do.

"Well, I can see someone is frustrated," an accented voice remarked. Tali turned and faced Doctor Opani through the purple hue of her face plate. Internal systems adjusted to let Tali see the actual color of what was around her. The dark teal complexion, the dark purple hair, the purple spots… the Dorei were unlike any other species she'd seen before, on the extranet or in person. "How are you?"

"I am better than Kon." Tali looked at her friend, still unconscious on the nearby biobed. "Has he gotten an infection?"

"I believe so, going by his body's internal reactions. And I've consulted with Citadel medical databases on Quarian treatment . I think my regimen of medicines and anti-bacterials will control the infection and keep it from spreading." Opani settled onto the bed opposite from Tali. "I am fascinated by your species," she admitted. "But I'm also quite sad for you."

"What do you mean?"

"Your immune systems forcing you to live your lives in those suits. The way this galaxy treats your people." Opani shook her head. "It saddens me that your people cannot enjoy the simple pleasures I have known my whole life."

"Maybe if we could find a homeworld…" Tali lifted her legs up onto the bed and rested her elbows near her knees. "We do what we have to in order to survive."

"I can understand that." Opani curled her legs under her. "So, what is bothering you? It's not hard to see you are frustrated."

"It's that fire-headed jerk you have running Engineering," Tali spat. "I went to him to help and he he threw me out. He treated me like I knew nothing about how to keep a ship running, like I was some inexperienced child."

"Maybe he's worried that you don't know enough about our technology?" Opani suggested. "I am certainly a physician, and I have surgical training, but I would never fail to step aside in a matter that demanded a medical specialist. That would be irresponsible of me."

"I am willing to learn."

"Learning takes time."

"I know! But…" Tali sighed. "You must understand, Doctor, that I grew up on a ship. Quarian children are taught from the time we are young to do what we can to help keep our ships working. We get taught how to fix bulkheads, replace air filters, rewire power systems and equipment, anything that might be necessary for us to know in a ship-wide emergency." Opani was now studying Tali's face plate intently, as if to discern the expression hidden beneath the plate. "Every instinct I have is urging me to help maintain this ship."

Opani contented herself with a single nod of her head. Some Humans might have responded by setting their hand on Tali's arm or shoulder. Opani had been around Humans enough to contemplate it, although most Dorei cultures had more intricate rules about physical contact between people in such contexts due to their contact-based psionics.

"I'm not stupid," Tali protested. "I know there are systems on this ship I could not work on without learning more about them. But I'm a trained engineer and there are plenty of things I could easily help with, if only that arrogant engineer would let me."

"You're referring to Lieutenant Barnes?"

"The one with the red hair? Yes."

Opani nodded. "To be honest, I'm not sure if even Lieutenant Derbely, our usual Chief Engineer, would have accepted your help. She is just as protective of the ship as Barnes is."

"Then what am I supposed to do?" Tali demanded. "Everything I've been raised to do is telling me to find work on this ship while I am here. I'm not supposed to sit around like a small child!"

"I understand it is frustrating, Tali'Zorah. Perhaps if you took the time to read more about our tech…"

The tone of the ship's intercom stopped her, with an Alakin voice speaking afterward. "All senior officers please report to the conference room. Commander Carrey has called an emergency meeting. I repeat…"

"I must go," Opani said, sliding off the bed to her feet. Sensing Tali was not appeased by the reading suggestion, she added, "I will speak with Lieutenant Barnes about this. Maybe he has work that he feels is safe for you, work you can do that will make him trust you."

"That is all you can do, I suppose," Tali lamented. "Thank you, Doctor Opani."

Opani nodded once before walking to the infirmary exit.

The senior officers of the Koenig, General Victis, Captain Vidinos, and Nisia gathered on time in the small conference room on the ship, with Kane, Shepard, and the others visible on a holo-monitor from the battered bridge of the Batarian ship. "There's absolutely no chance we can tow this ship," Hajar said. "There's too much structural damage."

Barnes shook his head. "Even if there wasn't, I'd be against it. Our tractor beam can tow a mass that size for maybe an hour or two before we burn it out."

"Wouldn't that be enough?" Sherlily leaned forward. "We can tow it into interstellar space, maybe drop a specialized beacon so we know where we left it? Another ship can pick it up once someone decides what to do."

"Maybe." Magda looked from her colleague to Zack. "But let's be clear here. We have no idea what the capabilities of these Batarian ships are. They've gotten shield technology, weapon technology, and computer programming from other universes. The sensors on this ship looked standard, but that doesn't mean the sensors used on other ships in this group are. And most M4P2 sensor suites could possibly track the remnant radiation of a warp trail, especially one influenced by an operating tractor beam."

"In other words, we could give away that the ship was taken," Zack said.

"Exactly. At this point I don't think we can take anything for granted about these people. Unless we can find out for certain what they've been getting off the black market..."

"We've tried everything with the prisoners, but nobody's talking." Commander Shepard crossed her arms. "And they act more like military personnel than pirates."

"That's not a surprise, Commander Shepard. Many of these Batarian criminal organizations use Batarians trained by their government for military service," Victus said, looking at the screen.

"That's convenient," Kane remarked. "The Hegemony must have a lot of veterans they can talk into becoming pirates on their behalf."

Victus answered, "It's long been suspected, but we have no proof, and we're not likely to get any."

"We could destroy the vessel," Lediks proposed. "The anti-matter reactor core they installed has numerous flaws we could exploit."

"And what would we do with the crew?" Apley asked.

"We have no room for them on your ship, Lieutenant. The obvious solution is to leave them on their vessel."

"You mean blow up helpless prisoners." Opani glared daggers at the Salarian on the screen. "That is monstrous!"

"No, Doctor, it's expedient," Vidinos retorted. "And advisable. They're pirates and slavers and by interstellar law they can be executed in the field for those crimes, if necessary."

Opani opened her mouth to continue her argument, but she stopped. A strained, haunted look came to her face.

"Maybe there's an alternative," Sherlily said. "What if we tractored them deeper into the asteroid field?"

Magda shook her head. "Without knowing how sophisticated their sensor systems are, I can't tell you if they'd pick up trace gravitons or not. Or traces of our impulsor drives. Even if they couldn't find the other ship, they'd know it was tractored away. Unless we can cloak and hope the cloaking field absorbs the trace radiation…"

"Cloaking and running the tractor beam? Nope, not happening," Barnes said, shaking his head. "The gravitons will mess up the cloaking field. I might be able to buffer the drive for a bit, keep it from leaving as strong a trail, but that's all I can promise you."

"I don't like killing prisoners who surrendered," Shepard said. "We're better than that."

"Isn't Human history full of occasions when Humans did that to each other?" The question was from Vidinos. "And I know what your people did on Torfan, Shepard. Don't try to climb on any moral high ground, because Humans don't have it."

"I wasn't on Torfan," Shepard retorted. "And it doesn't change the fact that killing prisoners goes against interstellar law."

"You are in error, Commander." Lediks was speaking again. "The interstellar law under Council rules clearly stipulates that pirates and slavers are subject to summary field execution."

"Hostis universalis," Zack murmured. When a few people looked his way, he clarified, "It's a legal term I heard during a command officer conference a couple of months ago. We were being reminded that under existing interstellar law in most universes, pirates and slavers can be considered hostis universalis, 'enemies of all', and we have no legal obligations toward them. We can leave them to die in their broken ships if taking them would risk our crews." Zack frowned. "A few captains and legal experts even made the argument that we could just shoot them, if we wanted."

"Then it's clear all of our governments are in agreement. Let's stop wasting time."

"Before we render a decision, I want to know more about what we have recovered." Victus looked to the screen.

This time it was Kaiden Alenko who spoke. "Ensign Hajar helped me recover more data from their comm systems' access memory. I think that I might be able to provide coordinate data on where some of the transmissions were being directed."

"Then we could possibly find one of their bases," Zack said, pleased. "Maybe even their main base."

"That was my thought as well. We're still running data reconstruction over here…"

Alenko was interrupted by a tone over the Koenig's intercom. "Bridge to Conference Room," chirped Ensign Driik.

Zack tapped a button on the plain gray plastic table they were seated at. "Carrey here."

"Sir, we have a ship approaching on long range sensors. It's using a warp drive field, approximately Warp 5 in velocity. Power signature and readings are not in the database. But it could be a Batarian ship. The mass readings, if accurate, indicate the vessel is of cruiser capability."

That caused Zack to frown. "Damn," he said. "What's their ETA?"

"Fifty minutes."

"Keep me informed and have the transporter station prepare to evacuate the ship of our personnel. Carrey out." He looked to the others. "We're out of time."

"I'll have our people prep for immediate extraction," Shepard said. "Ensign Hajar is going to standby to enact any plans you have in their engineering sections. Signing off."

The team on the enemy vessel disappeared from the screen. The conference room went quiet. "It appears we have a decision to make, Commander," Victus said.

Zack nodded. They did have a decision to make. And it was the kind of decision he never wanted to face.

Personal Log: Commander Zachary Carrey, 10 August 2642. I have twenty minutes left. Twenty minutes in which I have to decide whether to condemn the prisoners we've taken to prevent their compatriots from knowing we're onto them.

I never expected to make these kinds of decisions. I never wanted to. I wish Victus would order us to blow up the Batarian ship and be done with it. But he's leaving me that decision. I think he's testing me to see what I'll do. If I'll do the "right thing" or not.

What is the right thing? I mean, these people aren't innocent. They're pirates. Worse, they're slavers. They would put control implants into every member of my crew if they got the chance. I shouldn't give a damn if they die. I'm not sure I actually do, in fact.

But… killing them for expediency, blowing them up after they surrendered… I don't know. It's one thing if their ship blew up while we were fighting. But this is an execution. And it feels…

...it feels like murder

The sound of his door chime sounded as Zack finished his log. "Enter."

He had hoped it would be General Victus, coming to give him an order. But instead it was Doctor Opani who stepped in. "Commander."

"Doctor." He nodded. "What can I do for you?"

"Our Quarian guest, Tali'Zorah. She deeply wants to help the engineering crew. It's… cultural."

Zack nodded. "Well, she can go to Tom, I'm sure he'll…"

"He turned her down," Opani said. The expression on her face showed how unsettled she was at the moment. "And since you are friends I am certain you knew how he would respond."

"Yeah. The truth is, Doctor, this isn't the best time." He frowned. "And you know it."

Opani remained silent for a moment. Her blue eyes lowered for a moment before she focused on him.

"You seemed to give up on arguing against the 'kill them all' option," Zack noted. "I expected you to fight longer."

"Maybe I should have. But…" Opani shook her head. "I don't want to be merciful to the likes of those slavers. They've caused too much suffering."

"Including to you."

Opani's eyes widened.

"I'm sorry," Zack said. "But your file mentions it. I… I can't imagine what it was like."

"It was Hell," Opani rasped. Old pain showed on her face, the pain and horror of what had once been done to her. "I was trapped in pure Hell."

"And yet you are against blowing these people up," Zack said.

"I don't know… I am, but I know what they do, and so I'm…" Opani's eyes teared up. She flopped into one of the open chairs across from his desk. "I am a healer. I am supposed to support continued life, not death. But what they do to people, slavery, it is a death, a living death… oh Deity, what am I supposed to do?"

"Nothing," Zack murmured, even as he thought on what she said. "It's my decision. I have to make it." He looked at his reflection. The thought of what was going on weighed him down. He looked to Opani again.

He had no gifts. He couldn't read minds, sense feelings, or whatever it was that Meridina was teaching Lucy and Robert. But he didn't need those to understand what her experiences had done to Opani. "A living death," he murmured.

For a moment he envisaged not doing anything. He saw the Batarian raiders find that they'd been discovered. They would run, reorganize, abandon one base to take up another… and then they would eventually attack, with who knew what kind of weapons and technology. Some people would die, and others would be dragged off to Batarian space to be turned into slaves. To go through what Opani had suffered, or what he'd seen on the faces of slaves from C1P2 back in the day.

He couldn't know that would be the result. But the thought of it, the risk, was too much.

It didn't make it any easier for Zack when he reached for his omnitool. "Carrey to Hajar."

After a moment Hajar responded. "Hajar here. Sir…"

"Get it done. Now. We're almost out of time."

There was a short pause. "Say again, sir?"

Zack knew what she meant. Hajar didn't like the decision. She was undoubtedly hoping he would specify something else. "Set off their reactor, Hajar. Blow up the ship. That is a direct order."

For several seconds there was a pause. A very subdued "Yes sir" replied. "Hajar out."

Zack looked at Opani. She was returning the look. "Do you think you did the right thing?" Opani asked.

His silence was answer enough.

Zack stepped onto the bridge a few minutes later. Apley moved to the helm to let Zack take his chair. Victus was already present and standing with Lediks, Vidinos, and Shepard near the chair. "Commander." Victus nodded. "I see you made the decision. Thank you for not making me force the issue."

"You're welcome, General." Zack's reply was flat, emotionless. He tapped the key on his command chair to activate communications. "Carrey to Hajar. Are you done?"

"I just finished. One flaw in their system is in the deuterium injectors for their reaction chamber, they can't handle an increased reaction rate that the system is safely rated for. They'll blow in a couple of minutes, at best, which will lead to a build-up of anti-deuterium in the reaction chamber until containment is overloaded. It should cause the near-vaporization of much of the ship and it should look like a mechanical accident, engineer negligence."

"Confirm that everything's going according to plan, then?"

"So far so good. Reaction material levels are increasing. I'm already seeing signs of the deuterium injectors overstraining." For a moment there was nothing. "Okay, injector 1 just failed. And the only reason I know that is from my own scans… the Batarians' safety systems are completely inadequate and I need beamout now. Now now!"


"Transporter Station has her, Commander. She's beaming over now," Magda confirmed.

Zack sighed with relief.

The holo-viewer lit up a moment later as the Batarian ship was destroyed from within, the victim of the out-of-control antimatter reaction caused by their sabotage.

"Hajar cut that too close," Shepard muttered.

"She underestimated how badly the Batarian ship's systems would react," Lediks added. "This should help support the ruse."

"I've already cloaked the ship," Magda said. "The Batarian ship is still nearly ten minutes out at their current warp speed. I can't tell you if they detected the explosion."

"Will it work?" Zack asked. "What we did?"

"I'm scanning what's left now. I don't think there's any debris big enough to confirm they were hit by weapons. Maybe they'll identify weapons hits if they recover the right piece of debris and subject it to close analysis in a metallurgical lab."

"Not likely," Sherlily remarked.

"No." Magda turned in her seat to face Zack. "I recommend that the helm keep us a safe distance away to make sure that stray micro-asteroids don't give away our presence."


"Already moving."

Zack said nothing more while his ship changed position. He was too busy with his own thoughts, his feelings, and the awful spectacle he had just witnessed. I just killed prisoners. I left those men to die.


Zack turned his head and looked to General Victus. "General?"

"I know it asked a lot of you. But you did what you had to do. Our situation demanded it."

I did what I had to do flashed through Zack's mind. It was a nice phrase, he guessed. If only it hadn't felt so wrong. He still wasn't sure it was necessary. And it felt so callous, so plain… who knew how people could apply the phrase to something terrible and wrong.

"It was duty, Commander," Victus continued. "I appreciate the cost for you."

"Thank you," was all Zack could say.

Silence filled the bridge until the appointed time came. The ship that dropped out of warp was at least four hundred meters long and twenty meters from top to bottom. The rear of the ship looked like it had been completely rebuilt, which explained the two warp nacelles in the rear section. The pylons lifted the nacelles just above the dorsal hull of the gray and dark red ship.

"The sensor traces I'm getting are definitely not from M4P2 systems," Magda said. "And this one is also using impulsor drives. For the weapon emplacements I'd say they're also of Ferengi origin."

Zack watched the ship remain near the cloud of fine debris left by the destruction of the first ship. "Anything else?"

"They're still just scanning." Magda kept examining her instruments. "They're being thorough. But I'm not seeing anything that would give up what's happened. They're not taking samples. Wait… now I'm detecting a transmission."

"Intercept it," Zack ordered immediately.

"I'm doing so now. Apley, I'll transmit coordinates to you, move us to that spot so I can get a better fix."

"Maneuvering us now."

Apley's hands moved over the controls with precision. Koenig followed her unsuspecting quarry with the care of a hunting cat slipping through high grass. Asteroids big enough to be noticed if deflected off their invisible hull were avoided as much as possible and their speed tightly regulated.

Magda's focus was entirely on her screens. Colored light from her displays danced over her brown eyes as she used the Koenig's sensors and communications systems to pluck the offending signal from subspace.

The bridge remained completely quiet while these two did their work. Zack noted it and approved, and he could see that Victus did too.

Magda's attention shifted to another of her screens. "I'm getting an energy spike. They're engaging their warp drive."

With a flash of light the Batarian ship elongated and vanished.

"Did you get enough?" he asked Magda.

"I'm not sure. I can give you a general vicinity. But it's not in the direction they're going."

Lediks was the first to respond. "They may be resuming a prior patrol."

"I've still got them on sensors, Warp 5.5." Apley looked back. "Sir, I can catch up to them."

"No. No, I think tracking the signal is the better bet." Zack looked to Magda. "Anything?"

"I can give you a general vicinity," she said. "I'm already running calculations to narrow the field."

"Relay heading and coordinates to the helm. Apley, take us out when you're ready."

"Aye sir" came from two sources. Moments later, the Koenig went to warp.

There was no change in the atmosphere of the Aurora conference room. Robert couldn't quite believe it, either, given how the only thing that could be agreed upon was that neither side had given up anything of substance.

"The Batarian claim to the space around the Ren'kharam Relay is two centuries old," am Rimhar insisted. "Your new colonies have directly infringed upon that space."

"There were no indications of any prior claim when those colonies were established," Onaran replied. "Is it not general practice in M4P2 to place beacons outlining such claims?"

"The Ren'kharam Relay only connects to Batarian relays. Our claim was self-evident. You cannot hold it against us that we did not anticipate the use of non-relay travel capable of reaching the region."

"Nor can you blame our people for settling worlds where no prior use was evident." Onaran was remaining reserved, but it was clear he was tired of the fruitless back-and-forth with the obstructive Batarian diplomat. "We acted in good faith."

"If someone plants a house on your land and insists he saw no sign of it being owned, would you simply hand it over?" asked am Rimhar.

"If I could be sure of his good faith, I would work with him on a solution beyond base demands…"

Onaran never finished, as he was interrupted by Benezia. "The hour has grown late." She looked over the two. "It is best if we retired for the day. The session can resume tomorrow. We shall reconvene in fourteen hours."

"Agreed, Matriarch," Onaran said.

"Agreed." Minister am Rimhar stood up. "We shall return to our vessel."

"Of course, Minister." Robert didn't bring up the security escort that was ready to follow him. He simply nodded and watched the Batarians walk out. Once they were gone he turned to Onaran. The Dorei man had clearly been drained of any energy or enthusiasm by the long, fruitless session. "This doesn't seem like any negotiation."

"It is a tactic, I expect. They have started with maximum conditions to posture." Onaran shook his head. "It is frustrating. But I have faith it will improve."

Robert looked back to the door that am Rimhar had left from. He didn't have the same feeling. For all of his bluster, am Rimhar didn't feel like he was posturing. Robert got the sense that he was planning more than was evident. "I'm not sure," he said to Onaran. "I think am Rimhar has another agenda."

"Is that with the benefit of your Gift, Captain?"

Had another person, especially a Human, asked that, Robert would have been inclined to consider it as sarcasm. But Onaran wasn't being sarcastic. The Dorei included people like him, people who could exercise the "life force" powers that Meridina had taught him in, and accepted the uses of said abilities.

So he nodded. "I'm sure of it. There's something going on here that isn't obvious."

"If this entire negotiation is a Batarian intrigue, it will have to be something worth the cost they will incur once their deception is revealed."

An electronic tone sounded and a blue light started to flash above Robert's left hand. Jarod's voice came over the comms. "Jarod to Dale."

Robert touched the light and brought the blue-colored omnitool to life, assuming the form of the familiar multidevices they had stopped using so recently. "Dale here," he said in reply.

"We've received a transmission from the Koenig. You're going to want to see this."


"The Bridge Conference Room. And you might want to bring Secretary Onaran."

Onaran heard that. His head tilted slightly.

"We're on our way," Robert answered.

The entire senior staff had assembled in the bridge-side Conference Room by the time Robert and Onaran had finished going over the latest reports from the Koenig. Robert sat back in his chair for a moment and considered the implications.

Julia spoke first on them. "The Batarians have links to the Multiversal black market now. There's no telling what sort of technology they can buy through it."

"And since the buyers are officially 'pirates', the Hegemony will deny all knowledge of what's happened. They'll play up the new technology as seized from the pirates." Robert sighed loudly. "I knew am Rimhar had something up his sleeve."

"Do you think he knows?" asked Onaran.

"He's one of the higher ups in the Hegemony, isn't he? What are the odds he doesn't know something." Robert shook his head. "The only question is how much he knows, and how these talks figure into the Batarians' actual plans. For all we know he might even be the Minister mentioned by the pirates."

Julia said, "Whatever they're doing, it's going to happen soon given the way they talked about it."

"It's got to be something more than a new wave of pirate attacks." Locarno looked from her to Robert and then to Jarod. "Even with new technology, the Batarians are still at a disadvantage."

"What is Commander Carrey doing now?" Onaran asked.

Jarod was the first to answer. "According to his last update, they're still tracking down the source of Batarian transmissions in that area. General Victus is considering attempting an attack, if the target is soft enough."

"Given their location in the galaxy, could Zack call in reinforcements by jump drive?"

"The spatial aspect isn't good. Maybe some ships on outer frontiers. But they're at the far end of the Verge, in the heart of Beta Quadrant. They can't call in any heavy fleet units."

"Still, at least he has that possibility." Robert tapped his hands on the table. "Okay, we know they're up to something, we don't know what they're doing or how. I want everyone on the ship to be on the lookout. Discretely. We can't let this spook the Batarians."

"I'll start going over their comm activity," Jarod said.

"And I will make sure Security is alert to anything further out of the ordinary," added Meridina.

"Good. With that done… let's call it a night, everyone." Robert rubbed at his tired eyes. "Whatever happens, we're going to be busy tomorrow."
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Sat Jun 17, 2017 11:22 pm

No easy outs for Zack. I really thought they'd think of something clever. AND I legitimately thought this was something from the RPG, since it's like one of those multiple choice situations where your choices will not only be plot relevant but will affect your karma, with CHARACTER A will dislike your choice whereas CHARACTER B approves, etc.

I like the Turian general. He's being a cool mentor figure.

"Sometimes Shroomy I wonder if your imagination actually counts as some sort of war crime." - FROD

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Sun Jun 18, 2017 3:37 am

Doctor Opani checked in one last time on the infirmary before signing off for the day. The Gamma Shift nurse was fully briefed on the condition of the unconscious Quarian patient and possible special needs. She checked on Tali, asleep on the biobed she'd picked and with no issues showing on the biobed scanners.

Tired and hungry, Opani went to the mess hall, or rather the half that hadn't been turned into a sleeping area for the special forces troops they were carrying. She replicated a kipatiran, a warm baked pastry with a vegetable and cheese filling, and a cup of cool fruit juice. An empty table was easily found, even in this reduced space, and she went to work on her food.

She was mostly done when Barnes sat down with a late snack of a pastry she had heard him call a "hot pocket". A replicated "soft drink" still fizzed in a plastic cup. "Hey Doc," he said.


"So, Zack said something about us talking?" Barnes asked. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing is wrong, exactly. But I think that you may have been rude to our guest."

Barnes took a sip of his drink, which might have been an explanation for his sudden sour look. Or it may not have been. Opani waited patiently for him to respond. "Look, I'm acerbic sometimes, yeah, and I can be a jerk. But that doesn't change the fact that she has no training or experience with our technology and equipment. I don't care how good an engineer she thinks she is."

"She seems bright. Eager. This work is part of who she is."

"Sure it is." Barnes bit into his food and frowned. "Ugh. Christ, these replicators make anything and everything taste like ass."

"They always have," Opani pointed out. "Don't change the subject."

That prompted him to look at her, hard. "There isn't a damn subject, Opani. She's a kid and she's not working in my engineering department."

"Why are you so resistant to it?"

"For the same reason you wouldn't want some kid around who thought helping her daddy with bandages makes her capable of performing surgery," he retorted, and there was real heat in his voice. "In fact, that analogy works perfectly, because that's basically what you're asking me to do."

Opani was quiet for a moment, allowing Barnes to take another bite. She felt there was something about the way he was opposed to this, something more than the objections he was listing. "Why won't you give her a chance? You don't need her to run the reactor, just give her a task. Pair her with an engineer and…"

"No. That's final."

"Why are you being so obstinate…"

Barnes responded by standing up and grabbing his unfinished meal. He tossed it into the replicator and hit the reclaim button. Opani jumped up to do the same and followed him as he stamped out of the mess. "This is none of your damn business," Barnes barked back at her, already knowing she was behind him.

"This is personal," Opani shot back. "It has to be. What has that sweet girl done to you? Certainly you're not listening to the poison from the others about thievery?"

"No, no I'm not," he replied.

"Then why won't you work with her? Find her something to do? She can't be that much younger than you were when you started this. If you could imagine being in her place…"

Barnes whirled around so quickly that Opani nearly walked into him. "That's the problem," he said, his tone reflective of his broken patience. "Because I can imagine being in her place. Because I was in her place."

Opani looked at him with confusion. "What?"

"I've wanted to put together machines since I was a kid," Barnes said. Some of the anger had gone out of his face, replaced by the look of someone dredging through old memories. "I've always wanted to be an engineer. Like my parents. And I always thought of myself as one from the moment I passed my first engineering prep class in high school. And then everything with the Darglan Facility happened, and soon I was running ships and seeing myself as the engineer. But I didn't know jack crap about it, not really. I was still just the kid with a big head and ego ready to fry my brain out if it meant learning more about machines."

Opani remained silent.

"Then I met Scotty." Barnes smiled a little. "And I realized I didn't know jack crap. I still wouldn't know jack crap if he hadn't seen something in me and taught me what I was missing. Me being an engineer is because of him. It took a lot of time, training, and work to be able to do this job. So yeah, I get the girl's position because I've been there. I've been her. And I made enough mistakes back then to know what can go wrong if I let that girl work our most critical systems." He let out a sigh. "So yeah, I get where she's coming from. And that's why I don't want her in Engineering. The kid shouldn't have even been out here, dammit. She sounds college age, not fully grown up. She should be taking classes, not flying scouting missions."

"Her people don't have your ways, or mine. Keep that in mind."

"Then whatever it is they do for higher education. But my point stands."

"I see." Opani rubbed at her forehead. "Thank you for your honesty, and sleep well."

Barnes nodded and walked on to his quarters.

Zack retired to his room. It was the only quarters on the ship that had been fitted to have only one occupant, and that had been at the insistence of Scotty and of Captain Farmer back in the day. "The ship's commander needs his or her sleep" was their argument, and their recommendation was accepted.

It was only times like now that Zack realized why the two Starfleet men had said that.

He sat at his desk in his white uniform undershirt and boxers. Zack's face reflected his sleeplessness and state of mind, how upset he was at what had transpired. In his mind he kept flashing back to the Batarian ship exploding on the viewscreen. Several dozen Batarians had been vaporized in that explosion.

They were pirates, slavers, and in a straight battle he wouldn't have thought twice about their deaths. But this was different. He kept wondering about it. Wondering if he could have found a solution. A way to keep them safely contained on the Koenig, anything that might have seen them live. Anything that would spare him the knowledge that he had left those beings to die. That he had given the order.

His hand crept to his desk's computer control panel. He hit a key to activate his message recorder. "Computer, log this message, deliver when I give the word."

"Please list recipient."

Zack swallowed. "Clara Lydia Davis, currently residing on New Caprica, assigned to New Liberty Volunteer Corps as a nurse."

"Recipient logged. Ready to commence message recording."

"Begin." After a moment to compose his thoughts, Zack started speaking. He told her how much he loved her. He told her he missed her. As he did so, he thought about what he was saying, about his feelings.

He didn't want to hurt Clara, so he never told her about some of those feelings. About the occasional dreams where Clara wasn't the one in his arms. The flashbacks to the virtual world his mind had once been pulled into, where Julia Andreys had become Julia Carrey as he had fantasized about so often. He felt ashamed of the fact that a part of him would always be in love with Julia, no matter how much Clara deserved every bit of his love. It made him feel unworthy of both.

Soon he got into the purpose of the message. It was nothing less than a confession, as if she could forgive him for it and grant him absolution. "I've killed in battle, I mean," he said. "I haven't counted how many ships the Koenig has destroyed. I've got no idea how many people have died fighting my ship. But this wasn't that. I left those Batarians to die. To get blown up. Not in a fight, but as an execution. I… I keep thinking I could have saved them. I should have saved them, should have done something… I just don't know what."

Zack went silent as he thought on that. That he had no alternatives save tipping off the Batarians to the loss of their ship, and risking that whatever plan they had in mind would be put into action. He was tormenting himself over a decision that was a lose/lose situation. As Victus had put it, he did what he had to do. And he would have to live with that.

He felt a quiet urge. An urge that ashamed him, even as he imagined the fiery sensation of his father's tequila pouring down that throat. He shook his head to get the thought, the desire, out of it.

"I made the decision," he said quietly. "Now I have to live with it." He stared off into space, and into the corners of his own mind, and dwelled for a moment on his thoughts. "I can live with it," he decided. "It wouldn't be the only bad thing I have to live with." He drew in a breath before shaking his head. "Computer, delete that entire message."

"Message deleted. Would you like to try again?"

"No." Zack shook his head. "No, I don't think so." And with no further remarks, he slid into bed, wondering if he would be seeing that ship explode again in his dreams.

It was one of those nights again.

It had been weeks since Robert had dealt with the dreams that came to him, offering what he and Meridina believed were possible hints to the future. Now they were back and with a vengeance. He had glimpses of Fassbinder, the SS man thought dead on Gamma Piratus but recently determined to still be alive. The "Aryan ideal" German man's eyes went from deep blue to bright gold and yellow, darkness clinging to him and a sinister smile of triumph crossing his face.

Then it was the girl in red and gold again, crying out as her amber eyes shined with ethereal energy that sent power rippling over Robert. Nearby Julia was on one knee, stripped down to a sleeveless white undershirt and shorts, her face full of determination.

They were gone the next moment. Robert looked around at the Presidium of the Citadel, now beset by fires and smoking rubble. People cried out around him as, to his horror, shadowy figures with singular shining eyes impaled them on strange devices.

The Citadel Council chambers appeared around him. Broken metal forms were scattered before the platform leading to the guest podium. At the podium was a single figure, a Turian, covered in cybernetic enhancements and pieces. Robert had seen this image before. But never had he seemed so familiar.

"Our only hope to survive is to prove ourselves," the Turian said. "Servitude is preferable to extinction."

"We can fight them, we can win!" a Human voice urged. Robert briefly thought it was his, as it was a sentiment he felt within, but despite the haze of the dream he realized it was a woman speaking. And it was a familiar voice. "Can't you see? It's taken you over!"

Robert turned his head to face the direction of the voice. He felt surprise at recognizing the face. Shepard?

And then he was alone, in the middle of rubble and debris, his side hurting, and above him was a massive metal monstrosity with a glowing red eye staring down at him. It made a noise, as if the Devil was playing a trumpet through a synthesizer.

Maybe it was that noise that woke him up. Or maybe a part of Robert's mind was tired of the frightening imagery. Either way, he found himself sitting up in his bed. He quickly checked to make sure he hadn't woken up Angel, the instinct firing before his memory reminded him that she wasn't here now.

After the moment passed he found the dream was coming to mind again. The image of the cybernetic Turian was stuck in his head. He felt like he should recognize the figure. But the image blurred as he awakened, the dream distorted by that very waking.

When his omnitool display flashed the numbers 0402 at him, Robert sighed and laid back on the bed, turning to his side as he sought to get comfortable enough to sleep again.

In her life, Tali had slept on far less-comfortable things than the biobed in the infirmary, and her sleep had been quite restful. She woke up to find that only a single nurse was on duty, checking Kon's life signs. Tali did the same and confirmed for the nurse that he was still stable, or that his suit's sensors considered him stable, at least.

With her grumbling stomach in mind, Tali went to the mess hall and the replicator within. Only a few people were present in the room, mostly Humans wearing different uniforms from the ones she had seen Opani, Barnes, and the other ship personnel wearing. She remained clear of them and went to the replicator. She tapped the controls to see a list of dextro-compatible foods loaded into the system. The choices were as varied as she imagined they would be, and she selected a morning meal within seconds.

It was one thing to order the food, however, and another to endure it. She'd tasted replicator food before and knew that it never quite managed to taste proper, but this was utterly atrocious. "Forget it," Tali muttered to herself. She knew just what to do.

Nobody said anything when she returned to the replicator. First she had it reclaim her uneaten meal. But instead of walking away she activated her omnitool and interfaced it with the replicator. This let her run a diagnostic scan on the software and hardware. Seeing the latter made her grumble. She got onto her knees and pulled away the covering for the replicator's internals, revealing the various wires and cords that made up the device's guts. She went to work immediately on it.

Tali became so intent on her work that she was surprised when a voice said, "Are you sure you should be down there?" She swung her head over and up. Two humans, a woman and a man, were standing nearby. "I'm not sure Barnes will appreciate you messing with the replicator," the man said.

"I'm just fixing it," Tali answered. "The matter re-constitution system needs to be re-calibrated, it's completely off."

"Is that why everything's been tasting like crap?" asked the woman. There was something about the redhead with darker-toned bronze skin that Tali thought was interesting. She seemed to stand out compared to other Humans she'd met since arriving on the ship. "Because I've had replicated food before, this is something even worse."

"That's what I was thinking, so I was adjusting the internal systems and recalibrating the system. I think too many unrefined elements were being added. It would explain the taste."

"Well, don't let us interrupt you." The man nodded. "Your name was Tali'Zorah, right?"

Tali nodded. "It is."

"Commander Carter Kane, Allied Systems Marines." Kane offered his hand. Tali looked for a moment before carefully accepting.

"Commander Shepard, Systems Alliance."

Tali accepted Shepard's hand too. "I'm sure you want to eat. I'll be done in a minute."

As she went back to work, Kane said, "If Barnes finds out you're doing this, he's going to go on the warpath."

"I offered to help him keep his ship running well. He chose to ignore me. Well, he can, but I'm not eating terrible food because he and his crew can't be bothered to do a little maintenance on the replicators."

"Oohrah to that," Kane said. "I want my Marines to have edible grub, replicated or not. And they wouldn't let me bring a big store of MREs since we're all cramped in here."

"I just need to double-check this power line… connection to the computer switch looks good…"

After a few moments Tali slid away from the replicator. "Now try."

"Two mugs of coffee, black."

The requested items appeared in brilliant white light. Kane took one and handed it to Tali, taking one for himself. "Mmm. What do you think?" Kane asked after trying his.

"I'm almost convinced this is real coffee," Shepard answered. "Nice job," she said to Tali.

"Thank you. It was a simple repair." She stood up and put the panel back on. "Now I can enjoy my meal too."

Given how badly the mess hall replicator was acting Zack had opted for eating in his quarters with the replicator unit there. As always replicators didn't quite get the oatmeal and buttered toast right, and the milk tasted bland, but it was at least filling.

He was done with the toast and mostly done with the oatmeal. He eyed the closet full of uniforms, which he would be pulling on next, and turned his attention back to his report. He'd had a pleasant enough sleep given the events yesterday and time to internalize what had happened. He wondered if he would have been even more bothered had he been forced to look at the Batarians before they died. If he could have seen their fear.

Zack chose to ignore that for the moment and focus on what he saw on his digital pad. Hajar had been running the night shift and provided meticulous reports. Long range sensors had detected another Batarian ship that was on a different course. Analysis of its course had further refined Magda's calculated point of origin for the transmissions to and from the now-destroyed Batarian raider. Whatever they were looking for was going to be easier to find.

The question would be raised soon: what would they do when they found it? Attempt an attack, a covert landing of troops? Should he try to torpedo enemy ships still in their dock spaces, should it be that kind of facility (he suspected it was)? He really wanted to get Victus' special forces groups into the place to see if they could get their hands on any further information about the Batarians' plans and goals. But risking his ship unnecessarily was not something he could do.

As his final bite of oatmeal went into his mouth, a tone sounded on the ship's speakers. "Bridge to Carrey," said the voice of Lieutenant Apley.

"I'm here, Ap," Zack answered.

"We've got something on sensors. You're going to want to see this. I think we've found the Batarian base."

"Be right up."

Zack arrived on the bridge in time to find his command crew taking their proper positions. He went for his chair. "What do you have for me?"

"It's definitely a base," Magda answered. She gave her screen a close inspection. "I won't be able to determine how many ships are there until we get closer, but I'd say there are definitely a few ships, maybe as many as ten."

"Mass sizes?"

"Mostly raider-size. Maybe one or two cruiser-sized ones. I can't give you more accurate counts until we get within sublight sensor range."

"How long?"

"Two hours, twenty minutes," Apley answered.

"Okay." Zack nodded. "Status of our cloaking device?"

"Still operating within normal parameters," Magda said.

"Any sign of a graviton net? Tachyon detection grid?"

"Nothing. I'd be surprised if they could get something like that, even off the black market."

"Sometimes, Magda, I don't think anything would surprise me." Zack settled into his seat and, as he often had to, waited until they were in range.

Barnes ate breakfast in his quarters and double-checked the day's scheduling. Provided there were no alerts - and he expected there would be -- someone would finally be getting to the mess hall replicator by about 1200 to fix it. It was the earliest he could get a repair tech to the job given the niggling little fixes needed from the fire they'd taken the prior day.

Ensign Ling arrived by the time breakfast was done. The Gamma Shift officer was that shift's Engineering Officer; now Ling would sleep in here due to the need for hotbunking. "Ling," Barnes said. "So, how's the husband?"

"He's fine. Our daughter starts school in a month." Ling sighed. He was mostly East Asian in appearance, but the darker tone to his complexion and the shape of his cheeks was from an African grandparent "I had hoped to go get some leave time, but in this line of work, with a war?" He chuckled and hid his obvious sadness. "Unless we're sent somewhere near Sirian space, it's not happening."

"Woh, sorry to hear that," Barnes answered. "The replicator's edible in here by the way. I'm hoping to get the mess hall unit fixed sometime today."

Ling blinked. "What do you mean by that? It's been fixed. I don't think it's ever been better."

Barnes had been turning away from Ling. That made him turn back. "What? What do you mean it's fixed, there was no scheduled…" He frowned.

"Everyone's saying that Quarian survivor we took aboard did it this morning. And I'm telling you, sir, the food's never tasted better. It made my noodles taste more like noodles than liquid polymer, and… sir?" Ling watched as Barnes literally stormed out of his quarters. He might have gone after him to find out what was going on, but with everything going on and knowing that at any time he might be called back to his post, Ling decided to climb into bed instead.

Tali couldn't be too surprised that word swiftly spread on the small ship of her fixing of the mess hall replicator.

What she hadn't expected was the number of people coming to her to fix small things.

"How did you get your omnitool memory so full in the first place?" she asked the Human crewmember sitting in front of her in the mess. Tali looked over the results of the scans she'd had to run on the offending omnitool. "It looks like you were trying to load half of the ship's data into it."

"Our multidevices used to have two hundred megaquad storage capacity," the girl protested. "This thing locked up at just a quarter of that."

"An omnitool shouldn't be storing that much data," Tali said. "It's built with wide-frequency range data-streaming capability. Aside from vital programs and applications, everything you load onto it should be remotely accessed from dedicated data servers."

"Well… I'm still getting used to that," was the sheepish response.

Tali sighed and shook her head. "Never mind. I remember one of my friends, Mela, he once overloaded his omnitool trying to generate a welding flame. We had to spend a day fixing it. This…" She tapped a few more keys. The screen on the young crewwoman's omnitool unfroze. "...just needs a hard reboot cycle. There, your memory buffer is clear."

"Thank you. It might have taken all day for me to get it fixed by the tool shop," the girl said, her voice warm with gratitude.

Tali watched the girl leave and felt content. While she had wanted to help maintain the ship more directly, helping a ship's crew with repairs was at least a decent activity for her. Her father would be far happier than he would with the thought that she was doing nothing of use.

It looked for the moment like no one else was coming to ask her anything. Tali began to relax.

She stopped relaxing when the door slid open and Barnes entered. His eyes focused on her with clear frustration and anger in them. "You!" He stomped up. "What the hell were you doing?!"

"Excuse me?" Tali asked.

"Oh, don't give me that. I've heard all about the mess hall replicator. You're a guest on this damn ship, you do not open up equipment and start fiddling with it to see how it works!" Barnes slammed his hand on the table. "One thing wrong and you could cause food poisoning, or worse, to anyone who…"

Tali stood up. She wasn't as tall as Barnes, but she didn't have to incline her head so far to face him directly. "Listen, I've had enough of you thinking I'm that incompetent. I know replicator technology too! Lan'Durah taught almost everyone on the Rayya about them when he brought the technology back from his Pilgrimage."

"Oh, really. Alright, let's play this game." Barnes activated his omnitool and went over to the replicator. "Let's see… matter stream regulators… within proper limits. Control systems… responding normally." Barnes' voice started to lose its angry energy as, bit by bit, his diagnostic showed green fields for every part of the machine. "...matter re-constitution matrix… calibrated correctly." He started to mumble. "Damn, like it's fresh off the…" He cleared his throat. "Computer, Barnes Order Number 4."

The replicator obeyed and a cup of hot cocoa with a marshmallow appeared. He took the marshmallow and dropped it into the frothy brown drink. After giving it a moment to melt he sipped the hot fluid. And there was no mistaking the look of shock on his face.

It tasted… good. Better than normal for a replicator, almost like the real thing. "Last time I tried this it was so hot I almost burnt my tongue off," he mumbled lowly. He took another drink and savored the warm, chocolate flavor on his taste buds, touched with the creamy remains of the marshmellow. Slowly he glanced toward Tali. She had crossed her arms. And he was certain there was a satisfied look under that featureless faceplate of hers.

"Well." Barnes coughed and set the cocoa down on the replicator. With a tap of the key the system reclaimed the beverage. "Um… crap." He rubbed at his forehead and couldn't help but notice everyone was looking at him. "Yeah, I've got nothing. I'm the asshole here. That's… hell, that's work worthy of my best, of Scotty's best. Recalibrating the matter re-constitution system to that level… it's brilliant. I'd love to…"


All eyes turned to the entrance to the mess hall. Three Turians entered, Guard Captain Vidinos in the lead. All focused directly on Tali. "Where'd you put it?"

"Put what?" Tali asked, confused.

"The auto-spanner that went missing from the toolkit of my squad's gunsmith," Vidinos answered. "Where did you take it, Quarian?"

"An auto-spanner? Why would I need an auto-spanner, why would I take yours?" Tali stood her ground as Vidinos and the men with him walked up to her. They spread out enough that they were clearly cutting off any avenue of escape. One of the Turians activated their omnitool and began to scan her.

"It's a new model, just issued by Palaven Command," Vidinos said. "The kind of new technology you Quarians just love to get your hands on. So, I'm going to ask again… where is it?"

"I don't have it, I wouldn't want it."

"I'm not reading it, sir," the Turian with the scanner said.

"Any interference?" Vidinos looked to his man. "It wouldn't surprise me if her suit is shielded to prevent people from finding things. It's how Quarians would operate." As he spoke, Vidinos seemed oblivious, or perhaps simply uncaring, about the looks he was getting from the others in the mess hall. Barnes was staring at him in near disbelief.

"There's no null spots, sir, nothing to show shielding. She's clean."

"There, you see?" Tali said, her voice laced with irritation. "I don't know what problem you have with my people, but you can't just accuse me of being a thief…"

"I've been around enough Quarians to know what you people are like, always looking for new tech to take home, not caring who it belongs to," Vidinos retorted. He nodded to one of his men. "We'll find where you hid it. I'm sure you'll tell us after time in the brig."

By this point one of the other Turians grabbed Tali by the arm. "Hey!" she cried. "Let go!" A second Turian grabbed her other arm. "You can't do this! I didn't take anything!"

"Of course you didn't. That's what your kind always say." Vidinos turned around. When he stepped, his men stepped, and they began to pull Tali with them despite her struggling.

Vidinos only managed three steps before Barnes moved in his way. "Hey, Vidinos, I don't know who the frak you think you are, but you're damn well not a senior officer of this crew, and you don't have authority to put anyone in the brig without our say-so."

"Stand aside, Lieutenant, I'm the superior officer and you're out of order."

Barnes got into his face, scowling with fury. "Hey, asshole, I'm a frakking senior officer on this ship. I'm the Goddamned Chief Engineer. I don't have to do jack crap if you say it. Fact is you don't have jack crap for authority on this ship, I do, and I'm frakking tell you to let her go."

Vidinos may have noticed the gathering personnel, or he may not have. His soldiers certainly did see as the other half dozen Alliance crewmembers and Marines in the room started to move toward Barnes. But all Vidinos did was glare into Barnes' eyes. "I don't know why you care about this suit rat" - and the emphasis made it clear Vidinos intended to fullest meaning in the slur - "but I've got three of the best special forces soldiers that the Turian Hierarchy has to offer, and I'm not letting the Quarian get away with stealing from us. We're taking her into custody, either in your brig or in our barracks. If you've got a problem, take it up with Victus."

"I'm not letting you take her anywhere."

"Who's going to stop us? You?"

"How about me?" another voice declared.

Shepard stepped up beside Barnes. She directed a glare of her own at Vidinos. "Lieutenant Barnes is right, Vidinos," she said to him. "On this ship, he's got the authority, not me and not you. So do what he says before he has you dragged to the brig."

Vidinos' mandibles twitched. If his face had the same muscles as a Human's, he would be scowling, and Barnes and Shepard were both certain of that. "I want that auto-spanner found," he said. "It's property of the Turian Hierarchy."

"I'll have my people look for it when they can," Barnes said. "Now move on, you're causing a disruption."

"Let the Quarian go, men," Vidinos ordered. His troops obeyed. "I'm sure these Humans will learn the same hard lessons we did about the Quarians, right around the time the Quarian strips their ship bare."

With that parting remark Vidinos and his men stepped past Shepard and Barnes. They moved on to the exit door.

Kane stepped in before they could leave. The faint semblance of a smile crossed his face. "Hey, Guard Captain," he said. He brought up his right hand. It was gripping a tool that looked like a ratchet wrench with a small specialized motor assembly embedded in it. "A member of the Koenig crew found this and gave it to me. It looks like someone left some fancy new auto-spanner in the armory over the course of the night. I thought the mark looked Turian, so…" When Vidinos moved his hand toward it Kane held it out and let him take it. "It's not bad either. Not as good as our latest, I mean. Ours has an auto-adjustment setting so we don't have to change the spanner socket out. One size fits all. Maybe your people should look into buying some from us."

Vidinos turned away to walk past Kane. He stomped out of the mess hall with his men just behind.

"That guy is an ass," Barnes grumbled.

"A bigoted one." Kane nodded to him. "It's a good thing one of your people found this. Guys like that can cause a lot of trouble."

"Did that asshole really think he'd get away with attacking us?" Barnes asked Shepard.

"Maybe. Sad thing is, Vidinos is a damn good spec forces officer," Shepard said. "It would be a lot easier to hate his guts if he were an incompetent idiot too."

"Life would be a lot easier if all the assholes were incompetent too."

"Yeah. If only." Barnes turned to Tali, who was now seated. His face was turning red from shame and embarrassment. "Hey, kid… Tali, right?"

"Yes," she answered.

Barnes drew in a breath and walked up to her. He slid onto the bench for the next table, facing her instead of said table. "Your work on the replicator was great. I mean, it showed real ingenuity, a bit of creativity…"

Tali remained silent. But the way she kept her arms crossed was anything but silent.

"Aw, hell… I was an idiot, okay?" Barnes said. "A big dumb idiot asshole who assumed and didn't check things out. You still want to work in Engineering while you're here?"

"I would. I'm a Quarian engineer, and it feels wrong for me to not help maintain a ship I'm staying on."

"Fair enough." Barnes extended a hand. "Let's get down to Main Engineering. Poniatowski and I will see where we can put you."

Tali's posture relaxed slightly. "Thank you," she said, in clear relief.

The quiet on the Koenig bridge ended in the final minutes before their arrival. "I'm getting short-range scans of the system. Passive only." Magda went to work at her Ops station.

Zack turned in his chair to face her. "What do we have?"

"It looks like an A1-grade star," Magda said. "Reading four planets and a thin asteroid belt between the first and second. Three of the planets are gas giants, the innermost planet looks like it's a D-grade barren world, no atmosphere." After another few seconds Magda's attention clearly focused on one of her screens. "I'm detecting a faint power signature near one of the moons around the third planet."

"Just one signature?" Zack asked.

"With passive-only sensors, I wouldn't necessarily pick up ships in standby mode," Magda said. "Until we get closer I can't tell you anything more."

"How much closer?"

"Sublight range."

Zack thought on that. The Koenig's Darglan-designed cloaking device was just as good as something the Romulans could field, if not better, but there were still plenty of ways to give themselves away depending on what the Batarians might have with them. "What's the fourth gas giant like?"

"It's an ice giant-type. Methane, ammonia, water, and sulfur are the primary components of the atmosphere, various other elements. The magnetic field is on the higher end for ice giants, though, approaching small Saturn-type gas giant level. I think there might be a higher quantity of ferrous minerals in the convecting parts of the giant, but we'd need better sensors, or a probe, to confirm."

"Not really what we're here for." Zack thought of that. "Could we use the fourth planet to hide ourselves more effectively?"

"Let me examine the four moons first. Their orbital pattern and magnetic fields are…" Magda let the sentence hang. "Wow. It looks like one of the moons is actually conducting its own small mass effect field. I'm guessing a high concentration of eezo being subjected to electrical activity from other minerals. Maybe even a naqia deposit… yes." Magda looked to Zack and nodded. "I'll relay the coordinates to Apley, but if we stay in that section we should be hidden from any scans they can throw at us."

"And our scans?"

"Well, active scans might still get picked up." Magda went to work. "But maybe… I might be able to make a few light scans and make them look like routine electromagnetic activity from the fourth planet's system."

"If you can."

Things went quiet again until the thrum of the warp drive disengaging filled the ship. Apley's hands moved over the sublight controls. "We've dropped out of warp at the north pole of the ice giant. I'm moving us to the point that Lieutenant Navaez specified."

"Sensors are showing an artificial structure in orbit over the third planet's outermost moon," Magda said.

"On screen."

The holo-viewscreen activated and showed the image of a squat structure with a crater-studded moon framing the bottom of the image. The white light of the system's star was currently coming from the side of the image, illuminating half of the gray and brown-hulled station in pale sunlight. Several arms were erected from the middle of the central structure downward, making Zack think of a jellyfish crossed with an umbrella. Ships were visibly attached to most of these arms, but the central arm continued all the way down to the moon. "Is that a tether to keep them attached to the moon?"

"I'm getting heat sources from that central shaft," replied Magda. "It's a lift system. Actually, I'm starting to wonder if the base is actually on the moon. Even if it isn't, I'm betting they're mining the moon as well."

"Could pirates build something like this?" asked Sherlily. "I mean, it's easy to build a station, relatively speaking. But tethering one to a moon? Where do you get the resources for this?"

"It's not hard to guess," Zack murmured. "But proving it is another matter." Zack looked over the image. "You know, this place looks like it could have a lot more ships."

"Maybe they're protecting other assets in the area?"

"Maybe." Zack thought of that. "Or maybe there's more to this than we think. I mean, you don't build a base this big unless you've got enough ships to make it worthwhile. There's what, five there?"

"Four. And what looks like a partially-completed ship on one of the berths." Magda shook her head. "In fact, it looks like some of those docks might be construction docks. This might actually be a shipyard."

"If they're getting a lot of technology from other universes, that makes sense," Zack noted. "It gives them somewhere to build new ships using that technology." His eyes remained focused on the base. "Can we get life sign scans from here?"

"Not enough to say what's in there, just that there are living things aboard," Magda said. "We'll need to get closer, or use active sensors, to get more information."

"Not right now." Zack shook his head. "I don't want to give away our presence. Continue what scans you get, I want every bit of knowledge we can find about this place without giving ourselves away." Zack tapped his comm control on his chair. "Bridge to General Victus."

Only a moment passed before the Turian general replied, "Victus here."

"General, we've found something, a space facility of some sort. We're taking scans now, and we should have something for you and the other commanders in an hour or so."

"Very well. I'll have the team commanders in your conference room in ninety minutes. Victus out."

"Ninety minutes, Magda," Zack said. "No pressure, right?"

"No, sir," she breathed, ignoring the fact that there was, indeed, pressure. "No pressure…"
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Sun Jun 18, 2017 4:33 am


He should've hugged her. :3

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Re: "Whispers of Destiny" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 2 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Sun Jun 18, 2017 7:44 pm

The second day of the diplomatic meeting was going about the same as the first.

"Had you contacted the governments of this region before settling, you would have known not to colonize on those worlds," Tahrad stated evenly. His remark was a response to Onaran's protest at the extent of Batarian claims, which made up over half of the Alliance's settled zone in M4P2. "The Batarian Hegemony will not surrender its claims because of your haste."

"Your claims are hardly reasonable," Onaran responded, maintaining his own even tone. Robert could feel that he wasn't feeling "even", however, but was increasingly frustrated by the intransigence of the Batarians.

Nor was that the only source of frustration.

"Whatever the reasonableness of the Batarian claims, the point is a fair one," stated Benezia. "The Alliance made no effort to establish diplomatic contact with local civilizations before you began to settle. I have to agree with Minister am Rimhar on that matter."

"There were scant signs of any interstellar civilizations in this region of space at the time," Onaran said. "Nor were there any indications of territorial claims. Even the Citadel Council does not recognize these Batarian claims, Madame Matriarch. And it is unfair to hold our lack of information on the Citadel Council's existence against us."

A new voice entered the conversation, and from an unexpected source. "While you are not Human, Secretary Onaran, I cannot help but hear Human whining in your words," stated Benezia's Turian bodyguard. "Those are the same words Humanity used to excuse their reckless activation of a mass relay in complete defiance to Citadel law and common sense."

Onaran eyed the Turian. Robert looked his way and felt the voice jolt his memory. "I am sorry, Matriarch Benezia, but I am unfamiliar with your associate. Is he with the Council?"

Benezia gave the Turian a brief, irritated look before nodding. "He is under Council authority, yes, but I do agree his words were unnecessary and uncalled for. I apologize."

The Turian showed no response to that.

Robert held up a hand and got a nod from Benezia. He looked to am Rimhar and asked, in a careful a tone as he could, "Minister, are you seriously suggesting that we should just pack up and evacuate over half of our colonies in this universe because the Batarian Hegemony might, in some unknown future, actually take physical control of those worlds?"

"That would be the appropriate course for you to take, yes," the Batarian minister answered. "And it would have the added benefit of reducing your exposure to the criminal elements that have led to so many regrettable exchanges between our governments."

The gall of am Rimhar was shocking, but put delicately enough to, as always, give him room to evade the accusation of a threat.

Robert eyed Onaran, sensing he had a point to make. "A curious observation, Minister, as criminal organizations so rarely conform themselves to such things. It is just as likely they would take up bases in our abandoned territory to renew their attacks upon us. Especially if they sense weakness."

"I find it unlikely. Such criminals are far more likely to turn their attentions to more attractive targets."

Like the Systems Alliance's colonies in the Verge, Robert thought.

"Interesting how familiar you are with these organizations' behavior," Onaran observed.

Tahrad suddenly jumped to his feet. "Are you accusing me of collusion with criminals, Mister Secretary?!"

The ferocity of the words were not matched by the emotions Robert sensed in the Batarian. He briefly eyed Onaran, and it was clear the Dorei knew he was being toyed with. "Of course not, Minister," Onaran said. "I would never make such a dreadful accusation. I feel we are beginning to make progress in these talks and would never jeopardize this. I am merely curious as to your familiarity with their actions and was hoping you might share more insights with us."

Two of Tahrad's eyes narrowed. He sat back down wordlessly and glanced toward Benezia.

"While it is clear that your positions are not compatible," she said, "I believe that we are making some strides toward resolving our differences. A question of compensations for settling your rival territorial claims may provide us a break from this impasse…"

As Benezia began to lay out her thoughts on compensation for withdrawing from worlds or claims, Robert settled his eyes on her Turian companion. He could feel the impatience and the raw dislike in the man. But there was something more to him.

Robert lowered his arms below the rim of the table. He activated his omnitool on a low-light mode and began typing out a request to the bridge.

I wonder how Zack's mission is going? Robert thought to himself as he did so.

The special forces commanders were at the table with Zack and Victus. An additional pair of seats had been brought in for Barnes, Magda, and Sherlily. Magda was using her omnitool to remotely control the holo-projector built into the conference room table. A three-dimensional, accurately-colored model of the Batarian pirate base hovered in the air over them, spilling gray and brown light over the assembled. "Our scans have confirmed the following," she began. A tap to her omnitool highlighted the central shaft linking the base to the moon. "This is the central tether attaching the facility in question to what appears to be a mining facility below the surface of the mine. Passive scans only tell me so much about this underground facility, unfortunately. And active scans could give us away, even through a cloak."

"You mean they can see this vessel through its cloak if you engage active sensors?" Lidiks asked.

"Not necessarily. It's like if someone in a foggy room of mirrors shines a light at you You may not be completely sure where the source is, but you know someone's out there shining lights."

"And we'd lose the advantage of surprise." Shepard nodded. "Okay, so we go in without knowing everything. That's nothing new. What can you tell us about the orbital base?"

"Passive scans tell us quite a bit more about it," Magda said. With a tap of her omnitool she zoomed in on it. "They're definitely powered by fusion cores. The docking arms include machinery for starship construction and repair, but nothing above a certain dimension and mass. I suspect anything more powerful than a destroyer-sized ship can only be resupplied or patched up here, not built."

"So they probably have a bigger repair yard somewhere," Zack said.

"Most likely in Batarian space," Lidiks stated. "Whatever their links may be to the Batarian government, the Hegemony would never allow such organizations to field cruiser-grade warships independently."

"Analysis of the gravitational profile of the base, and the heat patterns within, indicate there are some living areas toward the outer decks of the facility. Quite a few, actually." Magda zoomed in toward the upper decks. "The heat profiles indicate that the center of the orbital facility forms the receiving area for whatever comes up from the moon, with persistent heat profiles here." An area toward the middle of the structure, just off of the center to the left of the image. "Given the intensity of the thermal profile I'd guess this is a command chamber of some sort." Another key tap brought up more areas. "And these are the locations of the fusion cores."

"Those would be our ideal targets," Vidinos said. "Could your ship hit them in a firing pass?"

"Those look deep enough that I can't guarantee we'd get them in one pass," Zack said. He looked to Barnes. "Tom?"

"I'd have to know the material composition to tell you for sure." Barnes looked over the sensor records. "I mean, the mass readings imply the presence, or really lack of presence, of some materials. But I'd need a sample. And since we can't get one, all I can say is that I wouldn't bet on it."

"What about transporting in explosives?" Kane asked. "Could we cripple enough of their power sources to knock out their base's operations?"

"We can take out maybe half of them in a single beaming," Barnes said. "I mean, assuming one bomb per reactor core. And if their safety precautions are crap, we might even cause a meltdown that takes out the whole place. But they've got enough redundancy that I don't think that's enough to cripple them. And if they can raise shields… that means no assault teams beaming over."

"Given they have to protect the docking arms, could their shield perimeter be out far enough for us to decloak within the shields?" Zack asked, looking at Barnes. "I mean, if we can get that close without being detected."

Barnes and Magda exchanged glances and, after a moment, nods. "Yes," Magda said. "That is possible."

"Of course, they've got turreted weapon emplacements," Barnes said, pointing to said weapons on the hull. "And our shields will be down."

"What kind of weapons are they?"

"Looks like mass effect cannons," Barnes said. "But frankly, the only thing I can tell you is that they don't have phaser emitters set into the hull. They could be particle cannons for all I know, or plasma cannons. Lasers, disruptors, mass drivers. Any number of weapons I wouldn't want us to get hit with."

"So we get one or two transports, and one salvo, before we have to raise shields," Zack noted. He continued looking at the structure. "April, how much could we take out with one opening salvo?"

She looked over it. "Depending on our attack vector… Well, a double salvo of two torpedoes each, that's four emplacements. And if we line up the main battery…" She ran her hand over the holo-image. "I could probably get seven of these emplacements with my best shot."

"Unfortunately, there appears to be at least fourteen on each facing of the station." Shepard shook her head. "So you'll need time to take out the others. And possibly those ships in the docks. We're looking at beaming over just one team in the first wave."

"Then we should send our best." Vidinos looked to Victus. "My people will go."

"How much training do you have in assault beaming, Vidinos?" Kane asked. "That's one of our specialties."

"There's nothing you can do that we can't," Vidinos said in reply.

Victus remained silent and refused to intervene in the squabble. He directed his eyes to Zack. "Commander Carrey, your ship will be at risk for this operation. What would you prefer doing?"

Zack considered his reply carefully. He looked over the structure carefully, focusing his attention on the weapon emplacements and the enemy ships that would undoubtedly be looking to blast them to pieces once the fight started. This, plus the confined space they would be operating in if they remained inside the base's shield perimeter, would make the attack tricky. It would require every bit of his ships' maneuverability to make this work.

"We need to give the assault team our best," he said to Victus. "So I suggest a joint team." Zack gestured to the assembled commanders. "We send these five together, with one of their people to round the team out."

"And who will be in command?" Vidinos asked, in the kind of tone that made it clear he wanted that role.

"I'll leave that up to the General to decide," Zack answered.

"I'll consider that, and who will accompany you." Victus turned his head from Vidinos to Zack. "So you transport over a strike team while launching an opening salvo. What would you do afterward?"

Zack was already looking at Sherlily and the display, imagining his ship's approach vector and where they could go after the opening attack. "We start trying to pick their ships off, and take out their remaining weapon emplacements. We'll be putting everything we have into engines and weapons and hope our proximity allows us to move more quickly than their firing emplacements can track. Meanwhile our strike team will get their shields down and we beam over more troops, if needed." Zack turned his head toward Victus. "Although a lot depends on what you want to accomplish, General. If we send more teams, we might be able to blow the place up, but it means we'll take longer getting out of here. A smash-and-grab aiming at taking the contents of their computers could work better."

"Intelligence is something I wish to acquire, yes," Victus said. "But if we can remove this facility, I want to make that our objective."

"Well, let's see what happens when the mission starts. There's too much we don't know about this place to make plans beyond the opening of our attack."

Victus nodded at that. "I concur. Everyone, get your teams ready for deployment in case we need them. As soon as Commander Carrey reports his ship's readiness to move in, get to the transporters."

"Yes sir," Vidinos said.

"Yes, General," Shepard added.

Zack looked back to the holographic image of the pirate station and frowned. "Where are all of their ships?" he wondered to himself while Victus and the troop commanders filed out of the room The last thing we need is for them to come home right after we start this. "Is there anything on long range sensors, Magda?"

"Nothing the last time I checked," she answered.

"I know we'll be busy, but try to keep an eye out all the same. I don't want to get taken by surprise." Zack stood. "Okay everyone, let's get to our stations. We'll give Victus and his teams some time to get ready and then we're going in."

Everyone present nodded in agreement.

Barnes stepped into Main Engineering and found all of his Engineering staff waiting for him, with Tali standing among them. "Alright people, we've got maybe ten minutes before we're going into combat. I want everyone on standby for combat stations. Kellerman, you're going to be on damage control."

"Sir?" The Ensign, an Anglo-American from Universe L2M1, gave Barnes a confused look. "Are you sure? Who's going to be monitoring the coolant systems?"

"Our volunteer, Tali'Zorah," Barnes answered, looking at her. Seeing the surprise in some of the others, he added, "Anyone who's eaten in the mess today knows what's she got in this line of work, and I'm betting coolant lines on Quarian ships aren't any different than on ours."

"We don't use plasma, but that seems to be the only difference," Tali revealed.

"I'll be doing my usual thing here with Lieutenant Poniatowski. Any questions?" When nobody said anything he nodded. "Everyone take your places then. Things should start happening soon."

The assembled engineering staff dispersed to head toward their battle stations. Tali took up her place at the coolant monitoring station. "All lines are functioning. No faults showing. We're ready." She looked to Barnes as he looked toward her from his station by Main Engineering's Master Systems Display. "Lieutenant Barnes?"


"Thank you again." There was gratitude through her partly-synthesized voice. "It feels good that I'll get to help you deal with the people who hurt my friend."

Barnes nodded. "You're welcome."

It was all quiet on the bridge of the Koenig when Zack confirmed that the teams were ready. "If we can, I'd like to get their second wave aboard," he said to everyone. "Six people aren't going to be enough."

"I'll see if I can buy you the extra time," Apley said.

"I'll give it my best." Sherlily nodded at tactical. "Phasers and torpedoes ready. I'll fire as soon as the cloak goes down."

"On my mark then. Ap, take us in."

"Aye sir."

Still hidden behind her cloaking field, the Koenig moved out from her hiding place at full impulse. Zack waited patiently as the minutes ticked away while the ship crossed the millions of kilometers between the two ice giants and their moons. It felt almost like forever while the seconds crawled past.

Gradually the Batarian pirate base grew larger on their screen, looming with an unmistakable malice. It seemed silly to think that his small ship could trouble such a place. But Zack knew they could, that they would.

As the station filled the screen, Magda gave him the signal he had been expecting. "We're within the likely shield perimeter."

"Steady…" Zack ignored the sweat that he felt forming on his forehead. "Mark!"

Everyone acted in sequence. Magda deactivated the cloaking device. Within milliseconds power surged into the torpedo launcher mechanisms, sending out a full spread of solar torpedoes. The drive fields of the projectiles gave them a white-blue glow that shined over the hull of the station before they crashed into the weapon emplacements they'd been lobbed at, destroying them in bursts of energy and light.

"Transporter Station is beaming our team over," Magda reported.

Even as Magda spoke, Shepard and the others materialized in a corridor on the station. By common agreement Nisia, the Asari, was in charge, and she had brought along one of her compatriots to fill out the first team. "We've arrived on target," she said, checking her omnitool. "Move out!"

The six started moving. Ten seconds after they did, another six figures appeared from bright columns of light. Led by Lidiks' subordinate Captain Letos, and including Shepard's subordinate Alenko, they followed the first team.

Kane and Shepard were on point with Nisia and Vidinos behind them. Even as they moved on, both were waiting to hear for the arrival of the third group.

It didn't come.

The opening run went off as planned. Mostly.

The torpedo barrage was followed up another second later by phasers, firing as soon as the energy surged into the capacitors for the emitters. The powerful amber pulses blasted apart more of the weapon emplacements. As Apley turned to maintain his maneuver, the aft torpedo launchers fired and took out another pair of emplacements.

"Second wave is beaming," Magda said.

Zack nodded. Space around started to light up in energy, green bolts that were barely missing his ship. Apley kept any of the shots from hitting.

"Second wave over. Preparing third…"

Before Magda could say anything else, one of the green bolts crashed into the Koenig's hull, causing the entire ship to shudder. "Direct hit on dorsal hull," Magda confirmed. "Raising shields." Moments later very slight rumbles shook the deck. "Shields holding at ninety-seven percent."

"Damage report."

"Armor damage only… wait. I'm getting a fault signal from the cloaking device, it looks like a cloaking emitter cell took a partial hit. Our cloaking device won't work."

"So we're committed."

"Victus to bridge. Can we send the third team?"

Before Zack could reply, the ship shook slightly again. "Shields still holding."

"I'm trying to evade the fire and give Tactical openings, sir, but those turrets are tracking really fast. I can't get out of their lines of fire."

"That's a negative, General. Not unless our teams disable their defensive systems." Zack turned his attention elsewhere. "Apley, April, forget the turrets. Time for those ships, before they finish launching."


"Magda, what are we being hit with?"

"Plasma fire," Magda confirmed. "Consistent with Coserian technology."

"Coserians." Zack had heard of them; a former big bad empire that used to dominate parts of what was now Gersallian and Dorei space.

As the thought came to him the Koenig aligned with one of the docking arms. Phasers lashed out at the Batarian pirate vessel still tethered to it. Evidently the ship hadn't been close to ready for action, and hadn't raised shields; Sherlily's aim and fire pattern demolished the ship in two barrages. As they swept past two shots from the dorsal phaser array took out the ship's power core, detonating it. The ship was consumed in the energy of a matter/anti-matter reaction.

The next ship they targeted fared little better, being turned into a husk in space by the phaser blasts and a torpedo that gutted it. They turned and faced the third ship. When Sherlily directed their main batteries' fire over it, the amber bursts were stopped by crackles of yellow light that formed over it. She pumped more fire into the ship as they sped by, but it remained shielded and intact. More importantly, it pulled away from the dock it had been tied to.

The Koenig jolted once more, this time from yellow spears of light coming from the fourth ship, now free and moving to pursue. "We got half of them," Zack said. "Let's see what we can do about these two. Ap, Attack Plan Hotel?"

"Sounds good to me, sir," Apley said. And with that, he sent the Koenig into a dizzying array of spins and turns to avoid the mass of incoming fire.

The Batarians had some warning of what was hitting them. But the warning hadn't come quickly enough for them to protect their command center from the spec-forces team.

Shepard and Kane went in first. He started with a powerful spread of flash-bang grenades from his rifle's underslung launcher. His helmet's optics protected his eyes from the bursts of light that caused cries of surprise and anguish from the beings in the command center.

This opened them up for Shepard's assault. Biotic energy gathered around her and, in an instant, she was propelling forward like she had been shot from a cannon. She slammed into the Batarian in the central "pit" of the control room, sending him flying. With a quick turn Shepard brought her shotgun to bear. There was a thunder in the room in the moment before the mass effect-propelled flechettes from her Katana-model shotgun tore through the torso of a second Batarian.

Kane opened fire on the other corner, taking out one target and sending the others to cover. At the corner of his eye he saw movement looked toward what, he quickly realized, was not a Batarian.

"Secure the chamber!" Nisia shouted, moving in with one of Vidinos' men. The Asari-make assault rifle in her hands fired toward the other far corner.

"Down!" Kane shouted, ducking behind a control station, as the non-Batarian figure he recognized brought an arm up. A quick whir filled the air as a cannon emplacement appeared on the being's arm, the barrel formed from the palm of a cybernetic hand. A bolt of green energy nearly hit Shepard, spared by her instinctive reaction to Kane's warning.

Nisia turned her attention to the attacker. He - or she - was from a species she'd never seen before, a gray-skinned humanoid with three eyes on their head arranged like points on an inverted triangle, a ridge of bone between each eye that connected to a skull covered in black and dark gray metal. The upper right eye was rimmed by a cybernetic implant. The suit, in contrast to the browns and reds the Batarians favored, was rust-colored leather of some form that stretched over a wide body, wider than normal for most bipedal or humanoid species.

An amused smirk came to the face of the cyborg when Nisia opened fire. Emerald energy crackled and slivers of metal clanked harmlessly against the ground.

Nisia and the Turian had to leap for cover when another emerald bolt came from the cyborg's arm. It smashed into the bulkhead behind them and exploded.

"What the hell is that thing, Kane?!" Shepard asked from her cover.

"I think it's a Jeaxian, but I've never seen one before!"

"What the hell is a…"

Shepard couldn't finish the sentence in time. The cyborg blasted the station she was hiding behind. An explosion of metal and ceramics created a storm of shrapnel and left the station demolished. Kane looked to see Shepard blown to the ground, either hurt or stunned and unable to move for the moment.

The energy shield the cyborg had was strong. He couldn't be sure how strong since there was no telling how much power it could generate. Kane opted for a more raw force approach. With a quick key press he swapped his grenade launcher attachment from flash-bangs to charge grenades. Ineffectual fire from Nisia and the growing number of allies in the room was causing the Jeaxian cyborg's energy shield to remain constantly visible. He - Kane was mostly certain the Jeaxian was male - was directing a blast toward Lidiks and a second Turian. Alenko was remaining in cover at the door where Vidinos was now stepping through.

"Fire in the hole!" Kane opened up with the grenade launcher, firing his entire available clip in five seconds. There was a roar in the air from the micro-rockets that kept the grenades on course, with some acceleration toward their target.

One by one the charge grenades struck. They lived up to their name, directing the energy release from their shaped charge payloads into jets of plasma that directed their full fury into one small cone of effect. The blasts knocked the Jeaxian back, one by one, while the green shield flickered. The last blast caused the green energy to crackle weakly and seem to short out. A lance of plasma drilled into the side of the Jeaxian. He screamed, but he didn't go down.

Kane was so busy shooting the grenades he didn't see Shepard get back up. There was a burst of air and energy when she slammed into the cyborg with a biotic charge. Its shield had been depleted momentarily by the grenade barrage by Kane, allowing Shepard's attack to connect and send the cyborg flying into the far bulkhead wall. After a moment it started to stand.

"Sustained fire!" Nisia shouted, and everyone heeded her. Shepard's shotgun barked again, Kane's rifle opened up, and a host of other weapons did so as well. The Jeaxian screeched as energy and metal began to rip through unshielded flesh and metal. Kane's fire ended with the depletion of his charge clip. As he went to change it, other guns quieted as they overheated.

When the firing was over the Jeaxian was slumped against the wall, his body reduced to a pile of blood and torn flesh with sparking cybernetics still active where it hadn't been broken.

Kane brought his rifle up. "Okay, the chamber is…"

The Jeaxian's arm came up and aimed right at him. Green energy formed around the barrel as it prepared to fire…

A single gunshot blew what was left of the Jeaxian's head off. The arm flopped lifelessly before blowing up from the gathered energy.

All heads turned to where Guard Captain Vidinos had entered the room. His Phaeton rifle was still raised up to where its scope was parallel to his right eye. He lowered it as if nothing of importance had happened. "It looks like the chamber is clear," he said to the assembled.

Nisia nodded. She looked to Alenko and one of her Asari, the one who had joined them in the first wave. "Gain access to the station's systems and see what you can do about disabling their defenses. And I want all intelligence data you can glean from their databanks. Everything about their operations, their plans, and their assets. I want to know how many people are here."

"And if there are any more like that thing, I'd hope," Shepard remarked, looking to the messy remains of the Jeaxian cyborg. While the others went to work she looked at Kane. "Which species was it, anyway?"

"A Jeaxian, I think," Kane replied. "They're a species from the N2S7 universe, that is, the home universe of the Dorei and the Gersallians. From what I know about them, they're a former client species of the Coserian Empire that once tried to conquer the Dorei. They're mostly clan or tribe based and tend to cause trouble in the Unaligned Worlds, raiding and slaving and pirating."

"I guess we know where the Batarians are getting their technology," Shepard remarked.

"Commander." Alenko looked up from the station he was analyzing with his omnitool. "I'm tapping into their communications now. You're not going to like this."

"What?" Nisia asked.

"They got a distress call out," he said. "Some message, I can't tell who it was sent to. The translator reads it as 'Begin now'."

"Well," Shepard sighed, "isn't that ominous?"

"Inform General Victus, and continue finding what you can."

When Zack was informed by Victus of what the others had found so far, his only answer was "We'll send a warning out", after which he turned to Magda. Before he could speak the ship shook again. "Magda? Send a priority transmission on all Alliance and Citadel space channels, warn them of an imminent pirate attack of unknown scope against unknown targets."

"I'm trying," she said. "But we're being jammed."

"Send by IU radio then," he insisted. As he did so the ship shook again, and Zack's attention went back to the tactical plot holo beside him, showing him the two enemy ships that were continuing to pursue his ship while the Koenig tried to evade the remaining weapons on the Batarian station.

"Shields at fifty-four percent." After a moment Magda spoke again, and this time with a positive report. "IU radio signal sent."

WIth that done, Zack could return his attention to keeping his ship intact.

Robert's first inkling that something was up came when he noticed one of Tahrad's aides look toward his omnitool. The Batarian minister didn't pay his man heed at the moment, busy as he was griping about the Alliance's colonization of a garden world in one section of the Verge. "The planet Sahvad has been legally claimed by the Hegemony for the last hundred years," he insisted.

"Again, Minister, it seems that our definition of valid claims remains incompatible with your own."

"I will remind the minister that the CItadel Council rejected the wild extent of Batarian claims in the Verge decades ago," added Benezia.

"Of course you did," Tahrad said. "The lack of respect for my people among the Citadel has long been chronicled. It is why we no longer accept the Council's decisions in the Hegemony."

The aide finally seemed to get Tahrad's attention a moment later. As Tahrad conferred with him, examining what looked like a message, Onaram gave vent to only a little frustration with his reply. "The Allied Systems agreed to these talks as a gesture of good faith, Minister, and under the impression that the Batarian Hegemony was ready to consider reasonable solutions. But so far your entire position has remained inflexible and dogmatic. You demand the Alliance withdraw from over half of the systems it has colonized in this universe on the grounds of territorial claims with no reasonable justification beyond your government's declarations."

Robert felt a surge of anger fill Tahrad. Anger, frustration, a sense that things had developed as they had to mock him. He stood from his seat and looked to Benezia. "Matriarch Benezia, an urgent message from Khar'shan demands my attention. I request a recess so that I can return to my ship."

Benezia looked to Onaram. "Does the Alliance have any objections?"

Onaram had surprise on his face at the request. Tahrad had never asked for any recess from the conference so far. "No objections, Matriarch," Onaram said. "I believe a recess will be of great benefit."

"Then we shall recess until this evening." Benezia stood and nodded to them before stepping away from her table.

The Batarians couldn't get away fast enough, from what Robert saw. Within seconds they were on their way to the door, and then out. "I wonder what has happened," Onaram said softly. "I can read the agitation in their body language."

"I can sense it too. That message has Tahrad spooked. He's angry, and he's surprised." With a bad feeling growing inside, Robert keyed his omnitool. "Dale to Bridge. Can you tell me anything about a signal that just came to the Batarians a few minutes ago?"

There was a short delay before Jarod's reply came. "It was heavily encrypted and came over extranet communication protocols. I can't tell you where it came from or what was in it, not right now anyway." Before Robert could respond, Jarod continued. "We just picked up a message over IU radio bands. It's from the Koenig."

"Really? What's in it?"

"Commander Carrey has issued a general warning to all Citadel, Systems Alliance, and UAS defense commands of an imminent attack by Batarian pirates against an unknown target, with unknown 'but likely strong' forces."

That got Onaram's attention. And it certainly had Robert's. "How would he know that? Is this about that ship he stopped?"

"I can't tell you that."

Robert considered the situation. "They could be planning an attack anywhere. Against us, against the Systems Alliance… Jarod, get a hold of Commander Andreys. I want everything on standby for combat, as quickly and quietly as you can manage it."

"Will do."

Onaram's expression was grave. "Captain, you're not saying they intend to attack here, are you?"

"I've got no idea what's going on," Robert admitted. "But I'm not taking any chances."

Gunfire in the corridor on the left side of the command station was the first indication of the impending Batarian counterattack. Nisia nodded to Vidinos. "Take charge of a fire team and hold them off as long as you can." She looked next to Kane. "And I want another fire team holding the other exit."

"Yes ma'am," Kane answered. He looked to the one Alliance Marine that had come over on the second wave, Popodoulos, and to Shepard. "Popodoulos, you're with me. Commander, do you mind joining me?"

"Don't mind it at all. Jenkins, you're up."

The other Systems Alliance trooper with them, an enthusiastic young SA Marine, jumped to it immediately. "Yes ma'am!" He ran up to join them at the exit door.

"I don't have anyone on sensors coming this way yet," Popodoulos said to Kane. He kept his assault rifle at the ready, much to Kane's approval.

"They'll come soon enough." Kane was remaining at the door for the moment. He looked back into the command chamber, where Nisia and Lidiks were overseeing the efforts to hack into the local system. "Any luck getting into their defensive systems?"

"I've almost got it," Alenko insisted.

"I'm more concerned about what else is on this station." Nisia looked at Lidiks. The STG regiment commander was operating another of the stations with his omnitool. "What have you found in their databases, Major?"

"Correspondence with several known criminal organizations in the known Multiverse," Lidiks answered. "The Batarians have opened black market trading ties with the Orion Syndicate, who appear to be brokering their contacts with other organizations."

"Make sure to get copies of all data, the Council will want to see it."

"Of course."

The Koenig's Main Engineering section was active as it would always be in a combat situation. Lieutenant Poniatowski was monitoring the reactors, Tali was still at the coolant controls, and Barnes was looking over everything. "Lang, I'm showing shock damage to the starboard impulsor," he was saying. "Your team is the closest."

"Jawohl, Lieutenant," came the engineering mate's reply.

Barnes re-directed his attention immediately to other issues. "Ana, I'm redirecting plasma flow to keep the phasers' power up."

"Adjusting reactor rates."

The ship shuddered under them again. Tali noticed a notification pop up on the station she was at. "I have stress damage showing on the starboard impulsor coolant line."

Barnes looked over his team assignments. After he did he tapped a key. "Kreek, you and Ortiz need to get over to the starboard impulsor housing, reinforce the coolant line."

"Confirmed", Kreek said.

Barnes tapped a key at his station. "Engineering to Bridge. Whatever the frak is going on, I hope you're going to deal with it soon. I've got my entire damned staff tied up on repairs now."

Zack overheard Barnes' complaint. He was simply too busy to reply to it. His thoughts were entirely focused on the tight maneuvers that were keeping the Koenig intact from the enemies facing them.

Sherlily's accurate fire had taken out several more turrets on the Batarian station's hull. But it was proving difficult for her to get a good shot at the two ships chasing them around. Apley had to keep the ship moving to avoid the volume of fire coming their way, keeping her from directing the full fury of the Koenig's weapons on her target. The latest attempt proved clearly futile, as only part of a burst played over yellow-hued shields before Apley had to bank hard to avoid a pair of plasma bolts coming their way. "I can't get a solid lock," she protested.

"I'm doing what I can," was Apley's response.

The ship shook again. "Shields now at forty-two percent." Magda looked up from her station. "We're going to start suffering shield cohesion loss soon."

Zack heard her, but gave no response. His eyes remained on the icons showing their attackers, chasing them around the frame of the enemy station. His eyes narrowed as he saw one ship pull into another direction. "They're trying to get us into a crossfire."

"I'll do what I can to keep us out of it."

Zack began to nod but stopped. He imagined the maneuvers in his mind, what the Batarians were trying to do, what they were clearly capable of. A mental image appeared in his mind, one that proved the key to the outcome he desired. "Ap, break to starboard, raise the bow twenty degrees," he ordered.

"Aye sir."

They performed the maneuver. It brought the Koenig right up along the lift structure connecting the base to the moon below. As Zack expected, the ship trailing them remained on them while the other ship was moving to catch them in a direct crossfire. His angle, toward the enemy base, gave the Koenig the appearance of being interested in going after more of the turrets.

Just as he wanted them to think. The enemy ships moved into position to catch the Koenig in what would be a nasty three way crossfire.

"Sir, they're moving to…"

"I know, Ap. Steady on course… Initiate Attack Plan Oscar on my mark."

"Yes sir."

The Koenig kept her course up, weaving and spinning to avoid incoming fire, while the enemy ships moved to box her in between them and the station. The trap was nearly perfect.

It would have been perfect if Zack hadn't wanted them to make it.


At his call, Apley threw the Koenig into a sharp maneuver few vessels had the power and maneuverability to pull off. She dipped back "down" relative to the base, impulsor drives pushing to the limit to shift her position relative to the two enemy ships.

The enemy ships were already firing when Zack gave the order. The Koenig's rapid maneuver thus had the benefit of getting them out of block of space the Batarian fire was moving into. Energy beams and missiles moved on…

...and toward their opposite ship in the prepared trap.

The two ships couldn't destroy each other in these barrages, of course, and they sought to evade the fire in the second they realized what happened.

That bought Apley and Sherlily the moments they needed. Apley lined up the Koenig on the ship that had been in front of them and Sherlily opened up with the Koenig's phaser cannons, joined by a full spread of torpedoes. The pulses of amber energy battered their way through the shields and began to send plumes of flame from the Batarian ship's hull. Then the torpedoes came in, four in all, with one missing due to the Batarian ship spinning just enough for it to fly on and smash into the hull of the Batarian station.

The other three, however, had hit home. The Batarian ship suffered an internal explosion within a second of the torpedo strikes, then a second burst of radiation and energy from the ship's failing M/AM reactor. The ship was nearly vaporized in the blast.

Apley turned the Koenig toward their other competitor. It was now recovering from the friendly fire the Koenig's maneuver had caused and its pilot and crew were reacting to the Koenig's maneuver, not to mention the sudden fact they were alone. The Batarian ship, now the hunted, twisted away and began evasive maneuvers.

But Apley stayed on them, as much as he could, even if it brought them dangerously close to the shield perimeter of the Batarian station. Sherlily fired away at the ship. Some shots missed, some didn't, and the yellow energy that appeared from those hits grew visibly weaker.

They'd run out of time, or so it seemed, as the Batarian ship shifted to break away completely. They had figured out what the Koenig was doing, that they were refusing to leave the shield perimeter, and the Batarian pirate captain recognized this gave their ship a mobility advantage. They could hit and run.

Unfortunately for them, though, Sherlily was a really good shot.

Just as the Batarian ship moved to break away, she fired another salvo of torpedoes and barrage from the cannons. Apley banked to avoid leaving the shield perimeter, turning around enough in the process so Sherlily could open up with the aft torpedoes.

By the time the last two torpedoes were flying in, the first had already slammed into the weakened shields of the Batarian ship. One had gone clean through and slammed into the engine assembly in the rear. The ensuing explosion was joined by a clear slowing of the ship.

Then the last two torpedoes hit and this ship, like those before it, was blown apart.

It might have been a moment to celebrate. It wasn't however, as another plasma bolt slammed into the Koenig. Magda immediately reacted. "Shields down to thirty-five percent. We're getting bleedthrough damage."

"Koenig to strike team, it'd be nice if you got those defensive systems under control." Zack felt another jostle shake the deck.

"Shields down to thirty percent. We have damage to the port warp nacelle, an active plasma leak. Safety systems are cutting off the warp plasma flow. Warp drive is offline."

"Engineering here. I'm on it," Barnes said.

"I'm losing power in the port impulsor engine," Apley said. "We're going to start taking hits."


Zack's open-ended remark wasn't lost on Barnes, who was already moving toward the exit to take on the warp nacelle repair himself. "Dammit," he groused. "Poniatowski, Tali, what's up with the engine?"

"Coolant systems are still intact," Tali said. She glanced his way and on toward the MCD. "It looks like the housing took a stress crack from that last hit."

"Dammit," Barnes said. "Okay, I'm going to get to the warp nacelle and do what I can do. Poniatowski…"

"I'm not certified for engine repair," she reminded him. "I'm a reactor specialist."

"Yeah, but I…"

"I'll do it," Tali said. The two points of light in her helmet focused on him. "I've repaired sublight engines before. Your engines aren't that different from our own, mechanically speaking."

Barnes' first inclination was to reject Tali's offer. But he stopped himself. He needed all the other repair teams where they were. "Alright," he said. "Just be careful. With the engines in operation, you can't go into the interior housing space. The vibrations can become lethal."

The ship shook hard yet again. "I'll be careful," Tali promised.

"Good luck, kid." Barnes turned and left. Tali was right behind him.

The status updates from the Koenig had Kane concerned. The ship was taking a battering, and they still didn't have control of the station defensive systems. He looked with concern to Shepard. "This Alenko kid, he can do this, right?"

"His service record says he can," Shepard said. "I just met him, though, so I can't say if he's as good as some of your people."

"Well, you can't put someone up against Jarod and have it be fair," Kane said. "But God, I wish we had him…"

"Our shields are down to twenty-eight percent," Zack's voice warned over the comms. "And we've sustained engine damage. We need those guns down now."

"I'm almost through this," Alenko insisted.

"Recommend we fight our way to the reactors," Lidiks said to Nisia. "That may give the Koenig time to repair, if they survive that long."

"And if they don't, it lets us take down this base…"

Kane didn't hear Nisia's sentence end. Gunfire erupted in the hall he was responsible for. Popodoulos and Jenkins were pouring automatic fire down to the end of the corridor, where a T-shaped junction gave them the advantage of a chokepoint. Several armed Batarians went down, driving the rest of their comrades back to cover. Shepard concentrated and sent a pulsing wave of biotic power down the length of the corridor. Cries told them that her shockwave had caught at least a couple of Batarians.

"Any time, Lieutenant," Nisia said firmly, but without hostility, to Alenko.

"Just one layer of protections left… there!" Alenko punched a key on the board in front of him. "I've just shut down their automated weapons."

"Koenig here. All fire has ceased and the station's shields are down. Thanks. We're preparing to beam more teams over to assist you."

"That may not be necessary." Alenko continued working. "I'm setting off counter-intrusion defenses. It's sealing every bulkhead in the station, cutting it off section by section. I can even distribute sedative gas throughout the station."

"Do it," Nisia ordered. "Cut us off first."

Alenko keyed the command. Kane looked back to the end of the corridor, where a solid bulkhead slid into place at the bottom of the T-junction.

"Commander B'Rani." Lidiks looked over from his station. "I have discovered the purpose of the living area at the top of the base." He keyed something on his omnitool.

The main holographic viewer of the command station activated to show a live camera feed. A feed depicting cells, and within the cells were figures. Figures in sometimes tattered clothing, looking weak and exhausted, and almost all were not Batarian.

"Slaves," Nisia murmured.

"I am cross-checking their records. Yes. It appears sentient-trafficking is among the black market trade the Batarians are engaging in."

"Which species is that?" Alenko asked. "It looks like a… a cat-human?"

"That's a Mi'qote," Kane said, having directed his attention to the screen. "N2S7."

"I can confirm this," Lidiks said. "There are approximately four Orion males, three Caitians, four Mi'qotes, a dozen Humans, an Asari… Sixty beings in all used for labor in the mine. They appear to have been implanted with control devices."

"Slaving bastards," Kane growled. "We need to get them out of here and blow this place to hell."

"General Victus, Commander Carrey, did you get this?" Nisia asked. "If you send over teams, you should direct them to the cells first."

"We read you, Commander B'Rani," Victus said. "I will arrange for…"

"General, we're going to need to evac." Kane could hear tension in Zack's voice.

And it didn't take a genius to figure out what would cause that. It was no surprise when Alenko brought up the sensor screen for the facility. "We've got a bogey coming in. And it's a big one."

"It's always something, isn't it?" Shepard asked Kane.

"Murphy loves to kick us just when we think we’ve won," he agreed.
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

Moderator of SDN, Former Spacebattles Super-Mod, Veteran Chatnik

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