"The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Mon Dec 18, 2017 7:56 pm

I actually thought we'd see Voltron. :P

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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Tue Dec 19, 2017 7:20 am

Invictus wrote:
Mon Dec 18, 2017 4:52 pm
Well I thought SOTS was always something in a guest-starring capacity, so it was a pleasant surprise to see it revisited this soon.
When I initially conceived of SOTS showing up, it might have been something like that, but certain elements of the backstory fit the mythos I'm building. So SOTSverse will probably average three appearances per season. Maybe even more at times. And the next update will be quite a big one in terms of showing what I and a co-writer are doing with the setting as part of this Multiverse.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Tue Dec 19, 2017 7:23 am

Shroom Man 777 wrote:
Mon Dec 18, 2017 7:56 pm
I actually thought we'd see Voltron. :P

Tricksy Steve.
I admit I was tempted to find a way for that to work. But I just couldn't. Not considering the episodes of the show I tied this story to.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Tue Dec 19, 2017 5:56 pm

Steve wrote:
Tue Dec 19, 2017 7:20 am
Invictus wrote:
Mon Dec 18, 2017 4:52 pm
Well I thought SOTS was always something in a guest-starring capacity, so it was a pleasant surprise to see it revisited this soon.
When I initially conceived of SOTS showing up, it might have been something like that, but certain elements of the backstory fit the mythos I'm building. So SOTSverse will probably average three appearances per season. Maybe even more at times. And the next update will be quite a big one in terms of showing what I and a co-writer are doing with the setting as part of this Multiverse.
Lovely! Screw those f-ing SB nerds who can't stomach incredibly awesome original works and only settle for rehashed fanfics :D
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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Wed Dec 20, 2017 12:05 am

Shroom Man 777 wrote:
Tue Dec 19, 2017 5:56 pm
Steve wrote:
Tue Dec 19, 2017 7:20 am
Invictus wrote:
Mon Dec 18, 2017 4:52 pm
Well I thought SOTS was always something in a guest-starring capacity, so it was a pleasant surprise to see it revisited this soon.
When I initially conceived of SOTS showing up, it might have been something like that, but certain elements of the backstory fit the mythos I'm building. So SOTSverse will probably average three appearances per season. Maybe even more at times. And the next update will be quite a big one in terms of showing what I and a co-writer are doing with the setting as part of this Multiverse.
Lovely! Screw those f-ing SB nerds who can't stomach incredibly awesome original works and only settle for rehashed fanfics :D
Come on, be fair. There was only one complaint about SOTS, and it mostly seemed to be "I have no emotional attachment to this setting and you haven't given me one yet, plus I innately distrust SDN stuff". You and I set the record straight on SOTS' origin. ;)
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Wed Dec 20, 2017 5:59 am

Ship's Log: 11 March 2643; ASV Aurora. Captain Julia Andreys reporting. The Aurora has finished repairs necessary to bring us back to an Alliance universe. Given the presence of a hostile alien empire in this universe, now designated G0L9, we have only remained long enough to ensure the Castle of Lions has completed repairs to its wormhole drive. We are due to jump back to Earth L2M1 shortly.

While we wait, other crew matters can now be attended to.


Julia and Meridina were waiting quietly in the conference room. Outside the window the Castle of Lions kept its place adjacent to the Aurora. Julia couldn't help but admire the Altean vessel's form and felt pleased they had saved the vessel.

She turned her head and noted, with a similar pleased feeling, that the color was returning to Meridina's face. She seemed at ease now. "It's good to be out of the Fracture, isn't it?" Julia asked.

Meridina nodded quietly. "I was learning to adjust, but still… yes. It is."

Any further conversation ended when the door swished open and Leo entered with Epstein. Julia motioned for them to take seats. "Did you find out what happened?" she asked. She needn't specify.

Epstein nodded to Leo in deference. Leo sighed and looked to Julia. "Zack's blackout wasn't directly caused by alcohol intake, although there is a relation."

"Oh?" Julia wondered what he meant by that.

"It was a side effect from a drug he was taking," Leo said. "Niltox."

Julia frowned. "Wait, Niltox? Isn't that a de-toxicant?"

"It's the most powerful one that you can replicate," Epstein said. "And the most dangerous."

"Most de-toxicants require you to take them before you imbibe alcohol," Leo explained. "They work by keeping the body from interacting fully with the alcohol. It ends up going through the system unabsorbed until it comes out the only way it can. That's why using them always ends up putting you in a bathroom stall for awhile."

"Yes, I'm familiar with that."

"Niltox is different. Niltox forces the brain and nervous system back to normal. It can make you completely sober in high enough dosages." Leo shook his head. "But like any medication, you can take too much of it and suffer side effects. Going by what I've seen, Zack has been taking it quite often and in unsafe dosage levels. The blackout is, honestly, an early warning sign of neurological damage."

"I see." Julia was openly frowning at the news. "So, basically, Zack's been drinking again, and he's been using this stuff to cover it up?"

"Most likely," Leo said. "The fact that it took this long means he hasn't been drinking heavily, at least…"

"That doesn't make me feel any better about it," Julia remarked. "And I'm not sure what it changes in this situation."

Leo shrugged. "A measure of responsibility, at least. Zack knew better than to go on duty under the influence. The Niltox was a way for him to sober up quickly. He just didn't realize that his body couldn't handle the repeated high dosages. It's probably why he ignored the automated warnings."

"With his emotional state, and the influence of the alcohol, his judgement on that was certainly impaired," Epstein added.

At this point Julia sighed in frustration. "It doesn't alter the fact that Zack knowingly continued to drink even when on deployment on the Koenig. When he's supposed to avoid anything like that. I'm not sure this will save him."

"Nothing will save him unless he wants to be saved," Leo noted. "There's no changing that. He needs counseling, not a court-martial."

"There is a psychiatrist in your staff, correct?" Meridina asked.

"Yes. Doctor Ewing. But I'm not sure he has the experience to handle Zack's case. For that matter, I'm not sure Zack would even open up to him."

"He'll have to," Julia said. "I've tried to be patient with him, but it's clear Zack can't be allowed to make this choice anymore. I'm going to order him to report to Doctor Ewing."

"I'm not sure it will work, but it's certainly got to be tried," Leo agreed. "In the meantime, I'm signing for him to be taken off-duty for the time being. He's not fit, mentally or physically, until he recovers from the Niltox and gets a handle on himself."

"He has awoken?" Meridina asked.

"He's woken up a few times, yes," Leo said. "He's not being very conversational though."

"I shall speak to him," said Meridina. She glanced toward Julia. "It may be best if it were me."

Julia didn't say what she was thinking. She assented with a nod before looking at Leo again. "Before you go, anything more about our casualties?"

"No fatalities. A few injuries. Lieutenant Marlua will require light duty for the next two weeks due to a head injury."

"Right. Well, thank you both for seeing me on this matter. You're all dismissed."

Leo and Epstein stood and nodded to her before departing. Meridina stood as well. She walked several steps toward the door before turning back toward the table. "You have something you wish to ask?"

Julia looked up at her. "I wasn't projecting my thoughts that loudly, was I?"

"No. This was not from my mindwalking."

"Ah." Julia nodded. "Alright. I get the feeling that you know about Zack's… feelings for me."

"I do. And I have known for… some time."

"And you think it'll be easier for him if you're the one who speaks to him about all of this?"

"I do, yes," Meridina said. "And easier for you as well."

Julia immediately considered turning her down. It was on her second thought that she realized this would be for the best. Zack's emotions were in enough turmoil right now without her lecturing him. "Alright," she said. "I'll leave it up to you."

Meridina nodded and continued on her way.




Talara returned to the bridge of the Castle of Lions and found Allura sitting on the floor. "Princess, Coran and Lieutenant Lucero have nearly finished the teludav repair. And we have finished detaching the interuniversal transceiver. We'll be returning to the Aurora shortly." When there was no reply she walked up and sat beside Allura. "I'm sorry. I… can't imagine how it feels."

"She would come back if she could," Allura said. "Whatever keeps her from coming back… it has to be important."

"It probably is," Talara said. "But if it were my mother, I know it would still hurt."

There was silence for several moments. "You saved us," Allura said. "Myself and Lieutenant Lucero. Thank you."

"You're welcome, Highness."

Allura's expression betrayed some confusion. "I'm just not sure how. To do what you did, you had to interface with the system. That's only possible if you have the power of the royal bloodline."

"But it ended when you had no children," Talara pointed out. "So maybe it's something else."

"Or maybe the bloodline continues in your people. Maybe your ancestors were distant relatives of mine?"

"Doctor Gillam might know. I will ask." Talara looked around at the bridge. "I do wish you could come to Fala. My people, our people, have so much to learn about what our people were before the loss of Altea."

"When Zarkon is defeated, I will, if it is possible," Allura promised.

Talara nodded. "When Zarkon is defeated."

The door to the bridge opened. Pidge walked in, out of her armor now and back in her normal clothing. "Are we almost ready to go?"

"The teludav should be operational shortly," Allura said.

"Oh. Well… before we go, I'd like to do something first."

"Oh? What?"




Sometimes Humans still surprised Allura. She never imagined one could make a sound quite like the one that came from the Aurora Science Officer.

Lucy, for her part, had a wry, amused grin at the sight of Caterina squeeing while hurriedly operating her omnitool. She kept moving around to take in the full sight of the Castle bridge. "This technology is amazing," she said. "Some of this stuff is even better than what the Darglan had!"

"You've got some pretty amazing things too," Pidge said.

"I wish I had days to look this ship over!" Cat examined the control columns for Allura's station. "So this draws in the life force power stuff, right? To operate your FTL wormhole drive."

"Well, yes…"

"I can't believe something like this exists…!"

The scene continued until Coran returned to the bridge. "Well, that's all done," he said. "The teludav is fully operational!"

"Good. We can get the others then," Allura said.

"Then it's time for us to go." Lucy stepped up beside Cat. "We're probably overdue ourselves."

A sigh of resignation was Cat's initial response. "Right," she said. She looked to Pidge. "Thank you for letting me come over. This is wonderful."

"I got to see your ship. It was only fair." Pidge smiled back. "Maybe one day your Alliance can come here permanently. I'd love to see more of your Multiverse."

"Well, there's a lot more to it than the Fracture," Cat said.

"Yeah, that's not exactly our best tourist spot," Lucy added.

"And I hope we get to come back too," Caterina continued. "There's so much more about the old Altean technology I want to learn."

"Anyway, we had better go." Lucy gave Cat a meaningful look. "Although first things first…"

Cat caught the look and nodded. Pidge noticed it as well. "What?" she asked.

"Oh, just something we have ready to be beamed over," Cat explained. "Can you take us to your kitchen?"




Their departure left the bridge to the three Alteans. "It was an honor to meet you both," Talara said to Coran and Allura. "I look forward to the day when you visit Fala."

"So do we," Allura assured her. A bemused look came to her face. "And take care of yourself. I know how hard it can be to look around and see all of those hideous ears that Humans have."

Talara giggled at that. "Oh, they are hideous, aren't they? Sometimes I wish I had been assigned to a vessel with a Dorei majority crew. Their ears are too long, but at least they're the right shape."

More laughing came from all three.




"You know, I don't think Coran is going to like this," Pidge said.

"It'll be our little secret," Lucy answered, grinning.

Pidge gave her a look. "You've never met Hunk and Lance. Between those two, there's no way this is staying secret."

Cat giggled. They were standing in a corner of the kitchen where Lucy was presenting to Pidge a portable replicator unit. "Anyway, you'll have to keep the reserve of raw material up. Actually, that green goo stuff will probably work just fine."

"So it'll take the goo and reorganize it on a molecular level into something like real food, right?"

"Pretty much." Cat nodded. "It could be a long time before you're back on Earth, any Earth, so at least this way you get to enjoy Human food."

"Coran will still make that face of his when he finds out," Pidge said. She was still grinning widely. "So I suppose this is it. We need to get going so we can pick up the others."

"And I'm sure Julia's tapping her foot waiting for us to beam back so we can jump out." Cat nodded. "So this is goodbye."

"For now, anyway." Lucy grinned. "I have a feeling we might be back one day."

"A feeling, or one of those vision things your powers can give you?" Cat asked.

"A little of both? I think." Lucy set her hand on Cat's shoulder. "Come on, Cat, time to go home."

"Alright." Cat nodded to her before looking to Pidge. She held her hand out. "It was nice meeting you, Katie."

"It was great to meet you all." Pidge took Cat's hand with her own. "And for future reference, my friends get to call me Pidge."

"And my friends call me Cat."

"Good luck out there, Cat."

"Good luck, Pidge."

As soon as their hands let go, Lucy tapped her omnitool's comm button. "Lucero to Transporter Station 3. Two to beam back."

Cat and Pidge waved goodbye. The transporter pulled Cat away in a burst of light mid-wave

"I really wish we had those," Pidge sighed.




On the Aurora bridge, Julia stood just before the image of Allura, Coran, and Pidge appeared on the holo-viewscreen. "Good luck, Princess, everyone," she said. "Whatever the circumstance of our next meeting, I hope to hear that you've beaten Zarkon."

"Thank you, Captain. We intend to. And we wish you the best in your own conflict with the forces of evil. Farewell."

The call ended. The holo-viewscreen showed the Castle of Lions turn away from them. A large blue portal, or wormhole, formed in front of the Altean ship It entered the portal. Moments later the wormhole closed.

"Now that was one of our stranger encounters," Locarno said. "Not to mention one of the closest."

"Tell me about it," Angel muttered.

"But we still walked away from it," Julia observed. "Not to mention learning even more about the Fracture. Although I've had my share of that place. It's time to go home."

"The jump drive is still fully functional," Jarod said. "Setting coordinates to L2M1."

"Jump us out when you're ready, Commander."

"Aye Captain," Jarod said.

The Starship Aurora made a slight turn in space. Moments later a green vortex formed, leading their way home.




Meridina walked up to the doors to Zack's quarters and knew immediately he was present. And that he was not in a good place mentally. She settled her spirit and prepared herself for any of the reactions his condition might lead him to before she touched the chime control.

After several moments of no response she touched it again. She was on the verge of a third try when the door slid open. She stepped into Zack's quarters and nearly lost her breath to the sense it gave her. Guilt, shame, sorrow, it all permeated the environment.

Zack was sitting on the couch. The undergarment she had been told was known as "boxers" was the only thing he was wearing. Despite his condition mentally his body was still generally in shape. It was, perhaps, not quite as athletic as it had once been, when his lifestyle had been more active, but the curve and lines of muscle still showed on his torso and arms. His hair was not combed at the moment, giving it a wild look. And his eyes…

That was the sign of his condition. They were red, bloodshot, and rimmed with dark coloration from insufficient sleep.

"I'm being relieved, right?" he asked. "You're taking my ship away."

Meridina shook her head. "I do not believe that is the way to describe it."

"But it's what's happening. I'm being relieved of duty because I screwed up." Zack looked toward the table. A bottle of amber-colored fluid was there. "Leo tells me I've been damaging my brain by taking the Niltox."

"Yes."

He nodded. "Fitting. I didn't have the courage to admit to anyone I was falling back into the bottle. The Niltox seemed the best way to hide it."

"Why, Zachary?" Meridina asked. "Why hide it? Your friends are here and would gladly help you in your grief."

"Oh, of course they would." A bitter tone came to his voice. "It's about all I'm good for. Being helped. Being pitied."

"Your sense of shame is misguided, I believe."

Zack looked intently at her. Meridina sensed the turmoil within him. She felt worry at the way his guilt and shame and humiliation were building into a great reservoir of self-hatred. "Because you don't know how it was for me, not really. Growing up, then after school… being pitied by everyone. I was the guy with the drunkard dad. I was the kid who lost his mom to it. The guy who lost his sports career to his Dad's drunken fuckups. Everywhere i went, I'd see the pity in their eyes. That's how people saw me. Pitiable." He shook his head. "And here I am again. 'Oh poor Zack, he lost his girlfriend, he needs me to cheer him up…' All when it's my fault she's dead in the first place."

"Is it?"

"Without me, she'd have stayed home in Kansas. Found a good guy, someone who actually loved her and would be there for her. Someone whom she wouldn't have to go into space for."

Meridina took the seat opposite from Zack. She could smell a faint trace of alcohol in the room. "You speak as if you did not love her," Meridina pointed out. "But I know you did. I felt it within you."

"I didn't love her as much as I should have. As much as she deserved," he countered.

"You mean your affection for Captain Andreys."

"Affection?" He laughed harshly. "I've been in love with Julia since we were in middle school. Elementary school even." He returned his eye to the bottle of alcohol still on his table. "All of that time Clara was giving me her whole-hearted devotion, I was in love with another woman."

"You did not act upon it."

"That doesn't change the fact of it." Zack picked up the bottle. "Maybe I've been lying to myself this whole time, Meridina. About love, about my place in the universe." He looked into the amber fluid, as if he were divining the future in it. His future. A future with no happy ending. "Maybe the best thing I can do is just go away before I hurt someone else I love."

There was a moment of silence in the room. Meridina could think of nothing more to say. It seemed that no matter what, Zack was determined to suffer. There was just too much shame and guilt inside of him to get through to him. The incident on the Koenig and his blackout at such a critical time made that sense even worse.

"The Captain… Julia… will have to report what occurred."

"Good."

"You seem unnaturally determined to assign all blame to yourself," continued Meridina. "You offer no room for compromise or reason on the matter. I would almost think you want these things to be true. That you would prefer it."

Zack stared at her for a moment. "You know, I… well, you've been around. I've always struggled to find my place out here."

"And yet you have," Meridina said. "You have garnered the respect of numerous officers and commanders for your actions on the Koenig. You have long since proven yourself a capable commander."

"I never tried to be," he answered. "The Koenig… I always loved flying her. Then they made it where the only way I could was if I was the guy captaining the ship. I would've been happier just sitting at the helm…" He shook his head. "And yeah, I know I did good. At least, until I lost control of this." He held up the bottle. "I should've left this stuff here. I thought I could control it. And I ended up putting people I care for in danger by losing it." Zack quietly stood from the couch and walked over to his desk. Meridina watched him look through a small stack of digital readers. He pulled one of them out and approached her with it. "The truth is, Meridina, I'm not worthy of that kind of respect. I mean, look at me. Clara dies and I fall apart. She'd be pissed if she saw me here like this."

"Most likely," Meridina agreed. "But yet, something inside of you broke that day."

Zack shrugged. "Maybe it was the facade that broke. The illusion that I was everything she and the kids and everyone else believed me to be. Maybe I was never the hero they thought I was. I'm just some jerk from Kansas who was pretending to be a space hero so people wouldn't see what I really am."

"And what are you?"

"Nothing." He handed her the pad and turned away. "I'm a nothing." He walked to the door of his bedroom. "And it's about time I stopped pretending I was anything else." Once he reached the threshold of the bedroom he turned back partly. "Please go. That pad has everything you need."

Meridina glanced down at it. A touch of her finger activated the screen and displayed file. "Zachary," she murmured in quiet sadness.


Attention Admiral Maran,

I resign my command of the
ASV Koenig and my officer commission.

Sincerely,
Zachary T. Carrey





For Cat and Violeta, it was dinnertime. For Cat herself, it was a chance to make up for the previous few days. All of her projects were on hold and the entire night was completely clear for the two of them, starting with their dinner.

Hargert brought said meal to their table. Sirian-style noodles and sauce for Violeta while Cat was given a dish of specialty enchiladas. "Specially made for you both," he said, "by request."

"Thank you, Hargert," Cat said in reply.

"Ah, but we are not done." He set down glasses. "A fine port as well. It took me some time to find the right wines to fit the palate of your meals."

"Excellent as always," Violeta assured him. They watched Hargert fill their glasses and step away. As each went for their food, Violeta said, "You didn't have to arrange this, Cat."

"I did," she insisted. "You deserve it."

The smile Violeta made at that caused Cat to blush. Making her girlfriend happy felt good. It was a warm, fuzzy feeling that she wanted to experience more of.

"So I heard that the lion pilot was just a fifteen year old girl," Violeta said. "What was she like?"

"Pidge? Oh, she was cool. I mean, she was… well…" Cat shrugged, giggling to herself. "Actually, I think she was a lot like me. I mean, those lion ships pick their pilots or something, and it reacted to me too… so I guess we're a lot alike."

"Somehow I doubt anyone could be as adorably nerdy as you, Cat," Violeta answered, grinning. She pushed her fork into the long strands of pasta and the creamy sauce covering it. Cat used her fork to take off a piece of her meal. "That had to be one of our strangest missions."

"Yeah. And on top of all that, finding out the origins of the Falaens like that? I mean, the Falaens are really awesome people, and then you find out someone once tried to wipe them out… it's horrible."

"Yeah." Violeta took a bite and started chewing. The look on her face told any observer how much she was enjoying Hargert's efforts. "The survey mission is over now, right?"

"Yeah. Admiral Maran wants us back for debriefing. They'll send another ship to complete the areas we didn't get to. Hopefully one without anyone on the crew with mental powers or psionic capability."

"The Dorei on the ship are certainly happier." Violeta took a drink of her wine while Caterina chewed a bite down. "When we're done, did you want to make a go at the Dragon King again?"

"Yeah, definitely," Cat said. "Angel said she'll be there."

"Did you ever talk to someone about joining as a healing class?"

"Sorry." Cat winced and shook her head. "I haven't."

"Oh well. We'll think of something."

Their dinner progressed on for only a couple of minutes before they both heard "Excuse me". They looked up to see Talara. "May I sit? Just briefly, I don't want to interrupt your meal."

Cat nodded to Violeta, giving her the choice. "Sure, I guess," Violeta said. "Shouldn't you be resting for your shift tonight?"

"Actually, Doctor Gillam has me off duty for the next 48 hours," Talara answered. "He wants to make sure I'm fine after using that device on the Castle."

"I heard you saved Allura and Lucy," Cat said. "That was great."

Talara blushed slightly. "Thank you. I don't want to keep you from your meal, I just wanted to ask you something about the game."

"We're planning on trying again tonight," Violeta said. "You're welcome to join us."

"Oh, I will love to. But I wanted to ask you… that Potion of, what was it, Introspection? What does it mean by the term 're-spec'? I'm not sure what that words is in your English language."

"You must be reading online guides written in gamer vernacular," Violeta said. "They're talking about changing your powers. The Potion of Introspection lets you pick a different class of character."

"Oh. Well, that sounds useful."

"Oh? You want to change your class?" asked Cat.

"I had fun as the Dragon, Dragoon, I mean. But when I examined your rules I found a class that I think will work better for me."

"Well, that's what the potion is for. Which class did you want to play?" asked Violeta.

"Well, I was looking through your systems, and I found this one…"

The Falaen, or rather Altean, brought up a stat screen on her omnitool. Talara let them get a good look at it. It depicted a humanoid in shining white armor hefting a sword. A shield was slung over the figure's back.

"That's the Paladin," said Talara. "I would like to choose this instead."

"A frontline fighter," Violeta noted. "Armored melee fighters with Light-based magic powers. It would change your role on the team. Your entire point is to protect the rest of us by drawing enemy attention and defending with your armor and shield. I mean, you can do damage with your sword, but you don't hit as hard as everyone else does."

Cat let out a little laugh. "Don't forget the healing ability. The Paladin has a healing ability, right?"

"A few." Violeta gave Cat an amused look. "Although I didn't think you would be interested enough to know about it."

"Well, I know it doesn't fit me, but I was thinking of who else might want to play and what classes would fit them." Cat was still smiling. "I figured Rob would be a Paladin if I ever got him to play."

"You mean Captain Dale?"

"Yeah. I mean, it sorta fits him…"

"Well, you're right about the healing. And it's the one role we really need in the party for the Dragon King fight." Violeta turned back to Talara. "So that's it? You want to use the potion and become a Paladin?"

"Yes," said Talara, grinning. "I rather like that title, honestly…"




Tag



Julia read the digital pad again and let out a sigh. "So that's it," she said.

"It is." Meridina nodded.

"Do you think I could talk him out…"

"I do not believe anyone could change his mind right now, Julia," Meridina said. The informal name use came from their private surroundings in the captain's quarters. Julia was at her desk in said quarters, clad in a cherry red bathrobe from shoulders to midway down her thighs. Meridina's arrival had found her fresh from her morning shower. Meridina herself was in uniform and now seated in a comfortable chair in the living area adjacent to the desk.

"He's throwing away everything he's built over the last two years." Julia tossed the pad onto the desk. "Damn him."

"I am at a loss with him," Meridina admitted. "He is so full of shame and guilt. He is challenging everything he has become since he took command of the Koenig."

"But he'll turn to the damn bottle!"

"That, I believe, is the greatest source of his shame." Meridina shook her head. "He is humiliated by his inability to control his urges. He is comparing himself to his father."

"Yeah. And that would make him feel horrible." Julia rubbed at her eyes. "I don't want him to resign like this, though. Not when he's impaired."

"He is certainly impaired emotionally."

"I'm going to talk to Maran about it. With what happened on New Caprica, Zack is a psychiatric casualty for certain. We just took too damn long to find it out."

"Nevertheless, he will not remain on the ship. And I do not know where he will go."

"I know. And I can't make him stay. I just have to hope he doesn't get into trouble." Julia set her hands back on the desk. "Thank you, Meridina, for handling it. I'm sure Zack's problems don't make him pleasant for you to be around."

"I have experienced far worse in the way of troubled minds," Meridina replied.

"Still, I'm sorry for any discomfort it caused you."

To that Meridina grinned slightly. "Compared to our problems in the Fracture, Julia, Zachary's thoughts and emotions were no difficulty."

"I see." Julia reached for a mug of replicated coffee. "Speaking of the Fracture, I'm sure you're glad to be out."

"I am, although I also find myself… perturbed."

"Perturbed?"

"So much happened, and my swevyra feels a cloud over the events," Meridina said. "The purpose of our attackers, and the source of power that came to our aid. I cannot help but feel that we have come to the attention of very powerful forces."

"Well, yeah." A thought came to Julia. "Do you think that NEUROM might be behind that strange assassin that tried to kill Angel and Jarod?"

"I do not know either way. And our information seems insufficient to make a guess."

"Right." A thought came to Julia. "Do you suppose Admiral Gal-Nazad and Squadron Leader Tissim are in big trouble for our escape?"

"Quite possibly. The Ministry of Fate seems unkind to those who fail its objectives. Although I feel there was something more to what occurred."

"Whatever happened, I'm just satisfied that we got out of there." Julia frowned at her desk. "Those people are nasty. I actually feel a little sorry for Gal-Nazad and Tissim."

"True." Meridina said nothing more. But she couldn't help but wonder at the sensation of dread she felt when she thought of NEUROM, its Ministry of Fate, and what had just occurred. There was more to the situation than felt apparent.

EIther way, she knew Julia was right to feel sorry for the two NEUROM commanders. Her feelings told her that they were unlikely to trouble the Aurora crew again.



In the heart of NEUROM space, deep within the Fracture...


Inside the cavernous hall, everything shone in gold, gold reflecting gold... Massy gold, gold plate, mirrors reflecting gold—there was gold over blue and gold flooring, gold around the windows, gold in the ceiling, triangles forming a set of false-arches and converging on triangular points in the roof, lighting rectangles projecting down, light gentle but white and stripped of natural colouring. It tended to wash out the view from outside, and fade the rest of the colours, the tapestries, the furniture, the elaborate wooden desk with brass fittings, the reclining couches covered in rainbow quilts.

The massive gold-plated doors, covered in tesseract patterns, slid open and two women strode through them. One had white hair in a mess of disorder, hidden under a cloak. Her skin was dark and unnatural, and her eyes red. The other was a tiny mouse of a woman, dark curly hair with dusky skin that had been bleached by countless aeons far from exposure to the rays of a sun. She wore a practical spacer’s suit surmounted by a black cape, and her eyes were concealed with a pair of massive, completely opaque sunglasses.

Sitting on an open-backed couch, a third woman was the only original occupant of the chamber. Her legs folded in lotus, she sat quietly, draped in piles of furs. Her eyes looked away from them, toward the visage outside the windows. There, the brilliance of the sun washed out the view of the immense landscape curving around its glow – the lakes, the rivers, the farms, the cities. The huge mountains that rose until they seemed to touch the sun.

The white-haired woman stepped in front of the figure in repose, her boots smacking on the tile. She made a neat, precise bow which belied her look as so much of a homeless bag lady. Her shorter companion followed suit.

The woman blinked as if she had not noticed them before and looked to them both. “Tisiphone. Megaera.”

“Master, you called us both at once. That is rare, and I am concerned,” the woman called Tisiphone answered levelly. “There was a disturbance in the Force within the Fracture.”

“We both felt it,” Megaera agreed. “You surely know more.”

“You sensed a technology,” replied the Alekto, something like a woman bedeviled with a headache, “which briefly visited us. A threat to the Force, I believe, draining, disrupting.”

“It is not necessarily true, Master,” the elder woman replied, sparing a glare for her younger counterpart for a moment. “The Rakatan used such technology as that which I infer you speak of.”
“It’s not quite the same, though certainly this is your area of expertise, not mine.” A dry smile, laced with bitterness. “That’s not what concerns me, however; that would be the denouement. The Lady of Admirals permitted one of her servants to intervene against us. That is what happened. A War Cruiser effected the escape of the two ships—the one using the Force crystal and the Alliance ship...”
“The Aurora?” Tisiphone jerked, her hand reaching instinctively for her belt.

“The Aurora,” the Alekto agreed. “Sidney’s pet project. You remember the orders that I gave to CORTEX.” It was not a question.

“Yes, they were to absolutely not attack or interfere with the Aurora in any circumstance whatsoever, no matter the price that we paid for it,” Tisiphone agreed.

“He disobeyed, didn’t he?” Megaera asked.

“Yes, my son disobeyed. As he often does!” The Alekto’s calm voice turned into a snarl by the end of the statement. “He gave explicit orders to the States Reserve Fleet which led to them attacking the Aurora and need I spell out to you how utterly deadly that could be to the entire universe should the worst occur? If he is right, reality itself might start to destabilize and our only hope would be to get on our knees and beg to the Useless Fop! ...Or take ourselves through the Darkness to another universe cluster and abandon all we have created here to annihilation.”

The weaker two of the Erinyes exchanged a glance. Anything to do with the titular ‘Lady of Admirals’ always put their mistress into a foul mood, no matter how trivial. They both knew there were real grounds for fear, though, when it came to the Aurora.

“Master, you should assume direct control. It is the only way to prevent these kinds of incidents, and if the Lady of Admirals is willing to risk the truce so blatantly...”

“You are being kind to me. To us. This was our fault. Our side’s violation.” Gloved hands crackled knuckles, the Alekto’s eyes opening to gaze downward. “Direct control. Like you’ve wanted me to for centuries?” The Alekto smirked. “Come now, you can’t hide it from me.”

“Master is the most powerful being in this universe, and I am being modest,” Tisiphone answered, dropping to one knee in a gesture that Megaera did not follow. “You are the ultimate weapon. Forget but assuming direct control of NEUROM; even the Imperator Byzon would bow to you within a year of your fleets going forth.”

“You would create some beasts to conquer the surface of the worlds for me, I imagine? I suppose even the legendary strength of the Bragulans would be little use against a terentatek... No, no wars of intergalactic conquest.”

The elder woman sucked in her breath with a hiss, and shot daggers as Megaera paraded slowly around to massage the Alekto’s shoulders and adjust a multicolored rainbow shawl that was draped over them. “You are an ambitionless cur and disrespectful to the one who trained you,” she shot at Megaera. “Do not tempt our mistress into inaction again!”

“Don’t fight,” the Alekto interjected, a dangerous glint flashing in her eyes. “This is no matter of personal pride. It’s objectively true the All-Father is imperiling something far more important than anything the past games have. He certainly has an ulterior motive. A message must be sent, and a plan drawn up to assume control for the purpose of containment and holding NEUROM together if he does not heed the message.”

The hands on her shoulders stopped, as the woman behind them grew more pale. “...Of course, Alekto. It’s true that we cannot let the All-Father continue to pursue this course. When we were discussing matters with the Tal’kona’sha it was clear that with the end of the Ancients, with the Old One having gone beyond the rim, that we would have little in the way of reliable allies against these kinds of events. If the Lady of Admirals were to decide the truce had been violated… We are still the weaker power.”

Tisiphone smiled. “So you both see. We must act, Master.”

“So we must.” She folded her arms out. “Take the appropriate measures to make it clear to my wayward child that he is not to act against my explicit decrees. If the hand offends, strike it off!”

“The Fates are already attending to other tasks...”

The Alekto nodded quietly and raised a hand. “Very well, go yourself with my leave and deal with all those who disobeyed our instructions. It is time for CORTEX to undergo a cleansing.”

Triumphant, Tisiphone bowed, turned, and departed with her cloak fluttering behind her. As the doors opened, she called out to one of the red-skinned courtiers beyond: “Prepare my ship!”




The arrival of an unmarked craft of unknown type with the energy/mass ratio of a heavy attacker never boded well in the fleets of NEUROM. Less so when the vessel in question had just returned from a failed mission. Much less so when the occupant disappeared from the internal scanners the moment they arrived…

...And then appeared, hooded, cloaked, in rough, black leather garments over a disorderly dark pair of boots, hands likewise encased in black. Her skin seemed almost black, too, gray and blackish and off-coloured like a rubbing of dirty ash with a shock of disorganized white hair. She turned to face Admiral Gal-Nazad, the hood no longer concealing, and her eyes were red.

He dropped to his knees, and slowly, then quickly, the rest of the bridge crew of the Tatrin's Bane followed.

The woman's red eyes gleamed. “My Master does not tolerate disobedience!”

“But, Excellency... This mission originated from the Palace of the All-Father himself.”

“Admiral Gal-Nazad, you are the ranking officer, and the responsibility is your’s! The All-Father had no authority to order this mission and do you understand what that means?”

“Oh, Fates...” His voice hoarse, he closed his eyes and cast them downwards, body stiffening as his mind revolted at what that meant. A memetic imprint from his childhood seared across his features, in absolute terror.

“Cross the Fates and face the Furies, Admiral,” the voice was laced with glee as it invoked the old rhyme.

His face went ash pale, skin gray with fear at the hideous bedtime rhyme that was supposed to scare children, now coming to life before his eyes. She responded by smirking, gloating at him with her half-shadowed face. “The...” He coughed, choked for words, and trailed off with a gurgle in his throat. Only in his thoughts did he complete the sentence.

“That’s enough speculation,” she addressed a thought in his mind. “Admiral, the only thing more intolerable than disobedience to The Alekto is failure. Truly your degradation is complete, but I am not here to turn you over to anyone. We Furies are quite capable of delivering Fate ourselves.”

She paused, and let hope spring in the smallest ember of the man’s soul before she quashed it. “My Master has authorized your death. Personally!” With an unmistakable snap-hiss, a blade of glowing hues of ruby and crimson descended until the tip lightly scorched the deck, bringing the smell of burning grip-sealant and melting durasteel in a hideous whiff that was shortly joined by the smell of a body relaxing in death.

Right next to the severed head which toppled to the deck.

The red glow across the bridge disappeared, and The Tisiphone looked up, her eyes seeming to strip the flesh off the Flag Captain and stare into his soul. “Captain Soru, forward the recording to the All-Father’s Palace.”

“But, but, Excellency, He shall be...”

“If he punishes you for acting as the messenger of one of the Erinyes, the All-Father will not like the consequences, I assure you. You are under my orders and only I and my Master may punish you for them. The Tisiphone has commanded it, now obey!”

“Yes, Your Excellency!”

With a contemptuous sneer, the woman drew her cloak closer and spun about, leaving the bridge with no more than a whisper of rippling wind to mark her passage, just as she had come. She had other business to attend to, just like she had attended to Admiral Gal-Nazad.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Fri Dec 22, 2017 8:26 pm

Nice. I don't like the All-Father being anybody's bitch but I'm very happy to see how the Fracture and NEUROM are so messed up that they're worthy to be the stage of your metaplot actors.
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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Fri Dec 22, 2017 10:42 pm

Shroom Man 777 wrote:
Fri Dec 22, 2017 8:26 pm
Nice. I don't like the All-Father being anybody's bitch but I'm very happy to see how the Fracture and NEUROM are so messed up that they're worthy to be the stage of your metaplot actors.
The All-Father is still a being of frightening power. It's just that the Alekto is even more powerful.

There is also a tragedy to the entire story of this family. We'll see it in later installments of the arc.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Sat Dec 23, 2017 10:02 am

Good job on the NEUROM naming conventions, the Dune-esque way of it is actually really good! That's a big contribution to the SOTSverse since the naming conventions of the region are something I haven't really tackled (dunno about Vic).
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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Mon Dec 25, 2017 7:25 am

As we work on 3-05, here's a small Christmas gift for the readers: my attempt in STO to render the Alliance uniforms, to help you visualize what the brave crew of the Starships Aurora and Koenig look like while they're out saving the Multiverse. `;)


A Captain in the Alliance service, presumably visiting a Defiant-class Starfleet vessel. Pay no attention to the Hierarchy guy and the Kobali in the background...
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This is, well, I'm not entirely satisfied with how the face looks, but it is the version of Lucy Lucero I rolled for STO as an Engineering officer. Fortunately for all of the threats facing the 25th Century Federation, STO Lucy doesn't have the Force.`;)
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Edit: To elaborate, I used the "Odyssey" uniforms but recolored. Slightly off in the case of the top guy (my main for STO). The Alliance uniforms are mostly like this, but with slightly thicker color along the shoulderline and trim on the cuffs too. Actually, they also look a bit like the Sierra 1 uniforms, if you are familiar with STO. But the rank insignia placement is definitely right with the Odyssey type, including the general shape.
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Fri Jan 05, 2018 4:27 pm

By request of one of my co-writers (my co-writers being Tomyris and Voyager), we're doing this a little differently. Today the pre-title teaser goes up and the rest of Act 1 is going to go up later, after everyone's had time to see this bit and built up anticipation for what's coming.:)


Teaser



The denizens of the space station Babylon-5, a quarter of a million in all, were used to a certain amount of chaos and spectacle in their lives. The station's role in the events of their home universe of E5B1 made that inevitable. Even the removal of the InterStellar Alliance government to Minbar hadn't diminished this, not with the station's continuing role as a diplomatic post. Indeed, the station's population was becoming more fluid than ever with the visitors and residents from the other universes and the unique species to be found there. These days one could find Ferengi retailers and Volus traders haggling in the Zocalo, or Asari maidens and Miqo'te wanderers dancing in the more lowbrow establishments.

Dealing with the potential conflicts of all of these beings, visitors and residents, was part of the job description of Security Chief Zack Allan and his staff. It was often a hectic job, occasionally frustrating, and almost always thankless.

Normally Zack hated being called to Brown Sector, where destitute lurkers struggled to survive among a cutthroat, multi-species criminal underworld. But given the choice between said call or dealing with a feuding Ferengi DaiMon and Brakiri syndicate official, Brown Sector suddenly had a great deal of charm.

Now he and a hand-picked strike team were standing outside of one of the entrances to a seedy dive set up in the heart of Brown Sector. Zack pulled his PPG and waited for the confirmation signal to appear on his newly-issued omnitool. He worried that the mostly-hard-light machine wasn't working when the signal didn't come, and didn't come… and finally it did come. The suspect was sighted. One by one the teams marked that they were in position. The arms dealer wasn't getting away.

"On three," he said into the security channel. "One… two…"

On the count of "three" a hushed "Go!" was the response. In one movement three teams of security personnel rushed into the bar. The denizens, many having reasons to believe they were the target, hit the ground to ensure they weren't shot if a fire fight broke out.

While Zack was certain half of the people here had active warrants, he was only here for one. One of his Narn personnel was securing the target by the time he walked up to the pasty-skinned Human-looking man. "Arthur Gagnor, you're under arrest on charges of arms smuggling, bribery, illegal possession of military-grade ordnance… and skipping out on a docking bill on Kalnit Station." Zack blinked at that one. "The Brakiri must really be mad at you over that last one."

The look on Gagnor's face was one of shock more than fear. He clearly never expected to come to B5 Security's attention. "All of my stuff is legal and above-board," he insisted. "You've got no right to hold me."

"Tell it to the judge," Zack replied. "Get him out of here."

Gagnor's pasty face was pale as he was led away. Given the look of the crowd Zack was quick to join his security people in departing. A riot in Brown Sector would certainly lead to headaches with Captain Lochley.

The thought was fitting when, a moment later, Lochley's image, garbed in the blue uniform of an Earthforce naval officer, appeared on a screen projected from Zack Allan's omnitool. The commander of B5 had a dusky complexion with brown hair pulled into a regulation-fitting pony-tail. "You found our guy?"

"He never saw us coming," Zack answered. "Seemed real surprised."

"Don't they always?"

"I guess so. But it is a bit weird, Captain, if you ask me. Records show the guy's been through B5 half a dozen times in just the last two years. Now the Brakiri and Drazi are suddenly interested in him?"

"He probably crossed the wrong Brakiri syndicate on a business deal," Lochley answered. "The fact that he's a gun runner is reason enough to want him off the station."

"Well, he'll be on his way to the Brakiri Homeworld by tomorrow," Zack said. "Then he won't be our problem anymore."

"Again, good job Chief. Now, I believe you have that other case to get to?"

Zack frowned. All of his hopes that Lochley would let him off when it came to dealing with the DaiMon evaporated. "Yes, Captain, I do," he said in resignation. "Allan out." He turned the channel off. Ignoring the knowing smirks and grins on his security people, he walked on in the hopes of quickly exiting Brown Sector.




Several weeks later...


Shining in the light of an alien sun, the Alliance Starship Aurora maintained a geosynchronous orbit over the planet Cestus 3. A Federation Ambassador-class starship, the Tucker, was to the Aurora's starboard side, while a blockier, single-hulled Gorn warship was to port. One could notice some vague similarities in the layout of the Federation and Alliance ship, principally with the layout of a primary hull and a drive hull with a bow-mounted navigational deflector dish, with the warp nacelles attached by pylons to the sides.

There were clear design differences, however. The smaller Federation ship's primary hull was a saucer attached by a clear neck to the round drive hull. The kilometer-long Aurora's primary hull, while wide proportionately as well, had a long shape to it, closer to an arrowhead than a saucer, and the drive hull started much further up, directly connected to the primary hull with the deflector dish only about twenty-five percent of the way down the ship's length and almost directly below the location of the main bridge at the top of the primary hull. The two hulls shared a wide and long connection area, flowing together without any visible neck. The rear end of the primary hull was marked by a drop in height of over fifty meters. Toward the top of this drop was the main shuttle bay for the ship while, below it, was the armored dock for a supporting attack or scout ship; in this case, the Starship Koenig. Below this dock, at the top of the drive hull, was the recovery deck for the Aurora's starfighter wing laid over the hanger deck and its attached launch tubes for the eighty-eight Mongoose starfighters of the vessel.

The drive hull itself started to extend down to the ship's lowest thirty-third through thirty-fifth decks aft of the deflector dish, providing additional machinery spaces and the decks used by the ship's company of Marines, with the secondary shuttle bay at the rear of Deck 32 towards the stern. Four long, sleek warp nacelles with bright blue ramscoops and drive coil sections were arranged in a flat X shape around the drive hull, just far out enough to give their hydrogen-collecting ramscoops clearance around the hull.

In the Aurora's main conference room Captain Julia Andreys, the vessel's commander, stood with her officers in their dress uniforms. Unlike the standard duty and formal uniforms, the dress uniforms were primarily white with branch color trim - burgundy red in the case of Captain Andreys - and gold-embroidered epaulettes. Rank insignias were still on the collar, and awards and commendations were worn on the left or right breast of the suit. Various such medals were being worn on the officers of the Aurora, both those of Alliance origin or from the systems that made up the Alliance.

They were joined by Starfleet officers wearing their dress uniforms, which were long flowing one-piece jackets of branch color and black over black trousers, and the reptilian Gorn in elaborate leather outfits. The Gorn were a particularly large species of reptilian bipeds, with long tails and sharp claws. There was, even here, a slight tension in the air, if anything from the knowledge that the Gorn could overpower most of the other attendees if they desired.

That they didn't desire such was obvious to the digital document that was now being signed by one of their number. Opposite from that Gorn and two flanking subordinates was an older woman with graying light hair in a blue dress suit. To one side of her was a Tellarite male in a gray and black suit, to the other side was a Human man in a Starfleet dress uniform with the rank of Captain. Once the Gorn and his entourage signed the document, she too signed, as did the Starfleet captain and the Tellarite. Julia picked up the document and, after a ceremonial examination, pressed a key to transmit it formally to their respective governments. "Prince S'skist, Governor Bacco, congratulations," she said. "The border treaty is now complete."

"Thank you, Captain Andreys, for your assistance in these negotiations," Governor Nanietta Bacco answered. "They haven't been easy."

"This is true." The Gorn's voice was a reptilian hiss. Julia didn't let herself respond with an instinctive shudder at it. "I am pleased that our species have chosen to move on from our past. This treaty will maintain peace between the Federation and the Gorn Hegemony for decades to come."

"That is my hope as well…"




With the ceremony over, Julia led the assembled to the Lookout for the post-signing reception. Hargert had gone above and beyond as always, serving food from a variety of cultures including his attempt to satisfy the Gorn palate. As always, it included at least two cakes of decent size.

Angel gave Julia a look as they waited to take their first portions. "I wish they would let us remove these things once the actual ceremonies are over."

"Technically the reception is part of the ceremony," Julia pointed out. "Or the event, anyway. Whatever the treaty, things can happen here that will still affect everything that comes after."

"You're not going to let us duck out early, are you?"

"Not too early."

Once they had food Julia went to find a table. She expected one of the others to come over. She was surprised when it was Governor Bacco herself. As politicians went, Julia found the Governor of Cestus III to be refreshing in her moderately-blunt honesty and unassuming charm. Spending time with her was not going to be the chore that other politicians would make it. "Governor, how may I help you?" Julia asked.

"You've done quite enough already, Captain," Bacco said. "I think the talks would have ended again if you hadn't shown up."

"I don't think I can take credit," Julia insisted. "You and the Prince already had the acceptable terms laid out. I didn't provide anything for the treaty itself."

"No, but you gave us the push to put it all together," insisted Bacco. "Because of that, my constituents can sleep peacefully without worrying about the Gorn. And the Gorn can do likewise."

"That's the benefit of peace," said Julia. "The Multiverse has enough war going on as it is."

"Yes." Bacco nodded. "I hear your war is going well?"

"Except for everyone dead from it, I guess," Julia remarked. "The Nazis are counter-attacking our forces in Argolis right now. The Aurora is one of the few Alliance ships that hasn't been called in over it."

"I don't pay as much attention to the conflict as others," Bacco admitted. "Although I do seem to hear a lot about Nazi counter-attacks."

"They're getting desperate as our forces are approaching Earth," Julia said. "The hope is that the Nazis are running out of crews because of it. If they run out of enough people, maybe it won't matter how many ships their yards can build."

"Hopefully you will put an end to them sooner rather than later," Bacco said. She turned to the Lookout window and the view of Cestus 3. "We're not strangers to violence out here. For a century the Gorn have been disputing this area of space with us. There have been all manner of raids and attacks. Now maybe we can put that behind us."

"That can be the hardest part, can't it?"

"Yes. People are still afraid of the Gorn. This treaty won't stop it." Bacco's expression was thoughtful. "I can only hope that given time, people will stop being afraid."

"It would be nice," Julia said. But she knew from experience that time didn't always heal the emotional wounds of violence. "Sometimes all you can do is hope."

"Will your ship be remaining long enough for shore leaves?" asked Bacco.

"Maybe. I have no orders to leave just yet."

"Then I'd like to invite you down for a Pioneers game."

"Pioneers?"

"The Pike City Pioneers. One of the teams in our planet's baseball league."

At that Julia nodded in understanding. "I didn't know baseball was still played in this universe."

"It is on Cestus 3," Bacco said proudly. "It's our favorite past time."

"I'm sure you'll get a few of our people down there for the game, then," she said. "But I'm not really a baseball person. Basketball is my game. Besides…" Her face fell a little. "The one person I would have considered going to a game with isn't here anymore."

"Oh?"

"A friend of mine played baseball back on our world. But he had to leave. He's… going through a bad time in his life." Julia decided she didn't want to say anything more about Zack. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm thankful for your hospitality, Governor, and I didn't mean any offense."

"I understand, Captain," Bacco answered. "It's always hard to see those we care for suffer."

All Julia could do in reply was nod. She simply didn't have the words to do otherwise.




The next morning Julia commenced her usual morning rituals. T'ai chi and mok'bara forms to loosen up for the day and a warm shower to finish waking up and prepare herself. Once she was at her desk in a red terry-cloth bathrobe, a white towel wrapped around her drying blond hair, Julia took the time to check the reports that came in during the "night" while eating a bowl of cornflake and blueberry cereal. The Alliance fleet was still stretched thin from the ongoing engagement in Argolis. A second battle was now being waged at Alpha Cassiopeiae that had already drawn in the last reserve fleet in the Stellar Navy. One of the intel reports alluded to the possibility that the Reich was reacting to the declarations of war by the Aururian Empress and the Democratic Worlds' Assembly from Universe A2M6 by launching an offensive with everything they had available. Other reports chalked it up to rumors of a growing split in the Reich between the military leadership in the OKW and the Nazi Party's SS.

So far the Aurora hadn't been to the front in over half a year. Julia wondered if that would continue or if they would be called to it soon, given this event.

After finishing her cereal it was time to get the day started. She shut down her desk computer station and returned to her bedroom to get the uniform she'd be wearing for the day.




When Julia arrived on the bridge she found the command staff officers at their stations, or preparing to assume them. Nick Locarno was relieving the Falaen (or Altean, now) Ensign Talara from the helm. Jarod was already at Ops. Tom Barnes was fussing with something beside the Engineering station while Caterina Delgado was already busy with her science/sensors station. Her older sister Angela was now at Tactical.

Last but not least, Meridina was in the command chair. The Gersallian woman stood without looking. Her "swevyra" abilities - the "life force" powers she knew how to wield - had undoubtedly told her of Julia's arrival before Julia could announce it. As she approached Julia could make out the one extra accessory to Meridina's appearance that none of the other bridge crew shared; her lightsaber, the circular, flashlight-shaped weapon strapped to her belt on the left side. "Good morning Captain," Meridina said. She spoke English with a lilting accent that was vaguely Irish in tone. "I trust you rested well."

"Of course," Julia answered. She took her seat and Meridina slipped into her chair to Julia's right. "No last minute failure of the new treaty, right?"

"None," Meridina stated. "It would appear that the final settlement these people have sought has finally come about. You should be proud for the part you played."

"I'm not sure I deserve that much credit." Julia settled a little into her chair. "Are we ready for departure?"

"The last liberty parties are due to transport back in an hour," Jarod answered, turning to face her.

"Alright. Until then, we'll maintain standard…"

A tone from Jarod's control board interrupted Julia. Jarod turned his attention back to the board. "I'm getting a distress signal from Alliance bands," he said. "It's coming from the colony on Gamma 12 in Universe E5B1."

"I am aware of this colony," said Meridina. "It is a joint project between Gersal and several of the Human states in the Alliance."

"How many ships can react to them?"

"Not many. From what I can tell, even with our distance and the need to jump, we'll be the first to arrive if we maintain high warp."

"Right. Okay, bring up our liberty parties now. Prepare the ship for emergency jump."

"Transporting now." After several moments Jarod nodded at his station. "Transport confirmed. All personnel are back aboard."

"Take us out."

"Setting jump drive to Eta Serpentis system jump anchor. Engaging…"

The Aurora's jump drive generated a green vortex in the space over Cestus 3. The kilometer-long starship flew into the point. On the other end it was in the middle of open space.

"The spatial aspect was too high," Jarod revealed. "We're ten light years off the anchor."

"I expected that," Julia said. "Helm, maximum warp, engage."

"Aye ma'am."

While Locarno initiated the Aurora's powerful Darglan-built warp drive, Julia thought of the situation. Who in E5B1 would attack an Alliance colony? It wasn't even near what was once Darglan space, so it was unlikely to be the Psi Corps or that IPX group from the Earth Alliance. None of the ISA races would have a motive to. Nor would they want to risk President Sheridan sending the White Star Fleet against them for violating the peace of the E5B1 galaxy. That left only a few options... "Jarod, anything else from Gamma 12?" Julia asked. "Do we have identification on the attackers?"

"I'm getting telemetry from the Gamma 12 sensors now," he said. "Visual data confirmed."

"On screen."

The holo-viewscreen activated to show a shot of Gamma 12's orbital space. Ten vessels hung in orbit. The biggest ship had a flat, wide profile with four large engine ports on the back and as usual with dreadnoughts of E5B1 outmassed the Aurora, being slightly longer than 1.54km. It was flanked by smaller ships that were more rounded, with less sharp edges to their hulls, of primarily yellow coloring with black markings. Wing tips to either side were tipped with a light pinkish emitter, possibly a weapon port, with two open barrels were slung under the bow. The yellow color scheme was met with the black patterns on the other ships as well, although the lead dreadnought's fork-pronged main hull was primarily black, with the secondary hull section above and on the rear half of the ship was an orange-toned color. The large ship had a cluster of three large weapons barrels mounted spinally in the opening at the bow and encased in a round armor shield, splitting the black hull into two partitions with its presence to provide the pronged appearance.

"I don't recognize those vessels from any of the E5B1 recognition charts," Julia said. "Do we have them in the library?"

"I'll check," Jarod said.

Julia turned her head and faced the science station. "Anything interesting in the sensor data, Lieutenant Delgado?"

Cat shook her head. "The sensors on Gamma 12 aren't the most sophisticated. I'm still trying to figure out more about them from these sensor returns."

"ETA, Mister Locarno?"

"Twenty-one minutes at current warp velocity, Captain. I have us at Warp 9.9993."

"That is our fastest speed, yes?" asked Meridina.

"Just about."

"At this rate we'll probably burn out the fraking field generators," muttered Barnes.

"If we have to spend a day replacing burnt out parts, that's better than finding a burnt out colony," Julia said. "Anything else from the colony?"

"I'm afraid not," Jarod said. "It looks like they're being jammed now. I'm attempting…" He stopped speaking. Julia noticed his eyes stare at the result on his screen. "Oh my God," he muttered.

That worried Julia. Jarod rarely said things like that. "Jarod, what is it?"

"The computers just matched the ships at Gamma 12 with E5B1 records," Jarod said. He seemed almost horrified.

"And what are the results?"

Jarod looked up at the ships on the viewer again, as if trying to confirm what he was seeing, before he turned back to face Julia. It was unsettling to see how startled he was.

"The match is at ninety-nine percent probability," Jarod said. "Those are Dilgar ships."

Undiscovered Frontier
"Yesterday's Enemies, Part One"


Authors' Note: This episode, and the setting, incorporates as canon the Legendary Fanfiction by Lightning Count, “The Dilgar War”, with his full blessing and permission: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/2594689/1/The-Dilgar-War
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Sat Jan 06, 2018 6:08 am

There was silence and confusion on the Aurora bridge. "Dilgar?" Meridina frowned. "I am not familiar with this species."

Julia was. "They were supposedly wiped out almost thirty years ago," she said. "They were an aggressive, genocidal species that attacked virtually every race in what is today the InterStellar Alliance. They might have conquered them all if the Earth Alliance hadn't joined the war." Seeing Meridina's curious look and figuring what it meant, she preemptively answered the question that was coming. "Last summer, while the Aurora was in the repair yard, I attended a command seminar at Defense Command where an Earthforce officer who served in the war spoke about Earth's mobilization efforts against the Dilgar, and the scope of the battles with them. The Dilgar and the Liberation Navy fielded thousands of ships at some battles. The war had gone down to the knife due to the sheer bloodyminded behavior of the Dilgar. Some of the things the Dilgar did to the other species…" Julia trailed off.

Meridina nodded quietly. "I sense what you mean. And it does not bode well for the colonists if they are truly Dilgar. What happened to them, then, that we have not been fully briefed about such a vicious species?"

Julia's look was somber. "A few years after they were defeated and forcibly repatriated to their home system, the primary shed its outer layers in some bizarre natural disaster and killed the entire population."

"So they are presumed extinct." A thought occurred to Meridina. "Is there a record of any other species using their ships?"

Jarod provided an answer. "No. In fact, the records suggest every single one of their battlecruisers was accounted for in the war. But we've got two of them over Gamma 12 right now."

"Who else is in range?" asked Julia. "Can another ship make it there before we do?"

Meridina turned to her small station and checked fleet operation logs. "Just the Heerman, Captain. She is at Alpha Sextus."

Commander Imra’s as solid as they come, Julia thought, feeling her skin chill. Although I would prefer more than another attack ship against a force of that size and power. We'll have to make it work… "Tell the Heerman to make best possible speed."

"I am relaying the signal." After a moment Meridina nodded back. "Commander Imra acknowledges. Her message states that she is already underway. Their ETA is now nineteen minutes."

"And ours?"

"Eighteen," said Locarno.

"Good. We'll need every ship we can get. Set running status to Code Yellow." At that command's implementation, yellow lights activated at points on the bridge to indicate the heightened alert level for the ship;. "We’ll go to Red in ten minutes."

Jarod was still looking over the relayed visuals from the Colony. "Lieutenant Delgado, I want you to analyze these images from the colony. They’re only eighty percent matches for Dilgar ships and some are showing energy signatures different from those reported in the files we have."

"On it," Caterina replied.

Julia allowed the others to get to work. At this point, her biggest worry was that they'd arrive far too late and find the colony a twisted wreck. The Dilgar reputation for atrocity and genocidal behavior was the stuff of nightmares. The Nazis and SS couldn't hold a candle to some of the things the Dilgar did to the other species in the League. Savage medical experiments, massacres, torture… if a crime existed against thinking beings, the Dilgar committed it.

Everything said they were dead. How are they still around? thought Julia. How could they hide for all these years? One way or another, she would have to find out.




The Aurora dropped out of warp in the Gamma 12 system primed for battle, with raised shields and armed weapons. The moment the ship decelerated her fighter launch tubes lit up. Mongoose starfighters moved into squadron formations to fulfill mission orders in the prospective battle. From the rear of the primary hull the Koenig emerged and backed its way out off its dock. Once the ship was clear it flew "above" the Aurora, raising shields and arming her own weapons.

On the Aurora bridge everyone was secured into their seats. "Put the Dilgar squadron back onscreen," Julia ordered. She leaned forward, watching the starscape around Gamma Twelve.

"Putting them on," Jarod said.
The image flashed to showing the squadron holding position, much as they had been in the last image received from Gamma 12. Julia glanced to Caterina. "What’s their status?"

"I'm detecting energy signatures broadly consistent with Abbai-standard grav shields at standby on the three largest ships. No weapons charge." She glanced up. "They haven’t even moved toward the colony, Captain. They’re holding high orbit. I can confirm the ship types from the records, too. One Mishakur variant, two Sekhmets, two Tikrits, five Ochlavitas. It looks like they've been modified with warp drives." Cat was checking her readings again. "The seven smaller ships… are showing deflector shields with energy signatures consistent to Klingon D-7 model cruisers. And their warp drives also have intermix ratios comparable to Klingon ships."

"That's a hell of a mishmash of technology." Julia thought of how the Batarians also widely adapted technology from other universes whenever they got their hands on it. Wherever these Dilgar were… That thought prompted Julia to ask, "Can you verify their species from the life sign readings?"

"They're not Human. I'm cross-checking with the library records now…" Cat looked back to her and nodded. "I'm reading all the crews as Dilgar, going by the Earth Alliance records."

Julia’s curiosity at that point became overwhelming. "Hail them," she said.

Jarod nodded. "It looks like they've implemented Multiverse-standard communications. I'm already getting a return signal."

“Dilgar Commander, this is Captain Julia Andreys of the Alliance Starship Aurora, representing the United Alliance of Systems. Identify yourselves and your intention.”

The holo-viewscreen removed the image of the Dilgar ships. Replacing it was an image showing the Dilgar bridge. Two unambiguously female humanoids were in the visible image, one sitting down in the command chair and one standing at her side. They possessed a dun-brown fur that looked like brown skin if Julia blinked too hard, classic sharply raked pointed ears and yellow, broadly-set feline eyes. The woman in the command chair had a sort of dirty blonde hair, and was dwarfed by the second, a tall and massively built woman standing to her side in a grey uniform to contrast the dark blue with ornate decorations of the tiny, sitting woman’s. Both had tinges of gray hair, the woman in the command chair more, and they shared a crimson sash across their uniforms which was counter-wrapped about their necks like a scarf as well, despite the different colour of the uniforms.

The woman spoke without preamble, and the translators did not kick in: She spoke fluent English in a neat, clipped accent which Julia started at, for it was almost identical to that of the Aurora's JAG officer Lieutenant Vajpayee, though her voice had an unpleasant rasp, a bit like that of a lifelong smoker. "I am Warmaster Shai’jhur, Head of State of the Honourable Union of Tira and Rohric. I have arrived here with this squadron to ask for your help, intervention, and mediation, in the interests of galactic peace and of the protection of innocent civilian life. On those grounds, I would treat with you and your people, Captain Andreys."

Of all the things she had expected to hear… Julia sank back in her command chair. "Hold position and don’t make any sudden moves with your ships. I will confer with my staff and government and reply shortly."

"Of course, Captain Andreys. Thank you for the courtesy. We will hold position."

At a nod from Julia, Jarod ended the communication. "That wasn't what I expected," he admitted.

"I didn't either."

"Funny how they thought the best way to ask for our help was to show up at one of our colonies with a full squadron of warships," Angel noted dryly.

"Maybe they were afraid of being attacked if they only sent one?" Cat asked.

Julia was already looking to Meridina. "I do not sense immediate danger," said Meridina. "But if you are asking me to read their minds, all I can say is that they were very well-disciplined mentally. I would need to be closer, and more direct, to reach their thoughts."

"Right."

"The Heerman just signaled," Jarod said. "They've dropped out of warp under cloak and are ready to begin an attack run."

"Have them hold position," Julia said. "And get me Admiral Maran."




"The Dilgar." Admiral Maran seemed to be considering the very sound of their name when he said it. The Gersallian admiral was at his desk in Defense Command. The skyline of Portland was visible behind his head of gray-streaked dark hair. "I have heard only stories about them. Remarks from representatives of the ISA races, usually in reference to atrocities by the Nazi Reich. Apparently even the Nazis can compare favorably to the Dilgar."

"I've heard the same," Julia said. "And suddenly they still exist."

"Warmaster Shai'jhur mentioned two members of a union, likely worlds," Meridina noted. "Tira and Rohric."

Jarod tapped away at his omnitool control. "We've got nothing on Tira. But apparently Rohric was a colony world of the Dilgar before they were forced to return to their homeworld Omelos. It's remained unsettled since the Liberation forces made the Dilgar abandon it."

"It sounds like they missed a few," Locarno remarked.

"What would you like me to do, Admiral?" Julia asked.

"For now, talk to them. Try to find out why they came out of hiding so blatantly. But be careful with making any commitments. As things stand, we can expect the E5B1 species to be watching our interactions with the Dilgar like hawks. And that is if they give us the benefit of the doubt."

"Yes sir. Anything else?"

"The fighting at Argolis and Alpha Cassiopaiea has drawn in all of our available reserves. I may be able to find a ship or two to send your way, but don't expect significant reinforcement. Be careful. Maran out."

Maran's image disappeared from the screen. Julia looked over the others. "Jarod, Meridina. According to fleet logs, what ships can render us assistance in a pinch?"

"Just a few," Jarod answered. "All light vessels."

"Nothing to help us fight a dreadnought, then."

"Well, if they're here to talk, we won't need it," Cat said.

"Given their reputation, I'm not putting a lot of faith in that," Julia admitted. "So it's nice to know our options."

"Even when they all suck," Barnes muttered.

Julia grinned wryly at him. "Especially when they all suck," she corrected. "Go ahead and re-establish communications with the Warmaster."

Jarod did that deed using the conference lounge's controls. A few moments later Shai'jhur's image appeared over the table courtesy of the holo-emitter in the middle. She faced the image directly. "Warmaster, my government has authorized me to speak to you on your request."

"The reputation of the Alliance is deserved, then," the raspy voice answered. "The rumours of our demise may be greatly exaggerated, as you humans would say, but our enemies are working on ‘fixing’ the problem. To put it bluntly, Captain Andreys, my people are going to be slaughtered without your assistance.”

Julia showed no reaction to that announcement. "I'm listening."

"A force of Brakiri and Hyach ships has seized Tira. The Drazi are sending a fleet to exterminate the population. I request the aid of the Alliance in protecting my people."

"There's no record of the Dilgar ever possessing a world called Tira," Julia said.

"Nor would there be. It was a… desperate gamble, founded by Supreme Warmaster Gar’shan’s forlorn hope of sending civilian ships randomly into hyperspace to seek new worlds." Shai'jhur stopped speaking long enough to cough. "Captain, all will be explained. I am not here to deceive. But time is of the essence. Our sources, what little of them have escaped notice by our enemies, have already confirmed the gathering of the Drazi fleet. They are intent on extermination."

"How do you know that?" Angel asked. "What proof do you have? For all we know, they're just out to make sure you're not preparing for another attack. Given the stuff your people did to them, I know I'd be sending the biggest fleet I could find to keep an eye on you."

Julia watched to see what Shai'jhur's reaction to Angel's remarks could be. At first, she was too busy coughing to give a reply. Julia wondered how ill she might be. Or is it an act to play for sympathy?

Once Shai'jhur was able to stop the hacking cough from interrupting, she gave a reply. "I do not deny we have earned distrust, or that your argument is a valid one. But the Drazi are not a kind people either. The Enphili can testify to that fact, for instance."

Julia looked to Jarod. He looked up from his omnitool a few moments later and nodded. "They're a low-tech species along the Drazi frontier," he said. "Before the start of the InterStellar Alliance, the Drazi sponsored raiders that attacked them and other worlds like them to keep them from becoming a potential threat to Drazi expansion. ISA intervention put an end to that."

"They were also complicit in the orbital bombardment of Centauri Prime," Shai'jhur observed with a kind of dry humour infecting her voice. "Against the wishes of President Sheridan and the InterStellar Alliance leadership, naturally. They will not hesitate to attack civilian targets, Captain. Of course I could go on and talk about the virtually enslaved population of Shambah, but really, the point’s been made."

Julia didn't need Jarod to confirm that for her. She remembered the story of Centauri Prime all too well. Because of that violent attack, the Centauri withdrew from the InterStellar Alliance completely and had turned themselves into a hermit kingdom. "As you said, the point is made," Julia conceded. "But if I'm going to confront member races of the InterStellar Alliance like this…"

Before she could finish, a tone filled the room. "Bridge here," said Lieutenant Sabiha Neyzi, Jarod's primary backup at Operations. "Captain, the Shenzhou just dropped out of warp. Captain Ming-Chung wishes to speak with you and Warmaster Shai'jhur urgently."

Julia blinked and gave Jarod a look. "What's the Shenzhou doing here? I thought they were on rotation over the Darglan homeworld?"

"That's what they're listed as doing," Jarod said.

Julia knew there was one way to quickly find out what was going on. "Tie them in with our current communication, Lieutenant."

"Aye ma'am."

The holo-screen expanded to show a second image. Captain Li Ming-Chung of the Starship Shenzhou appeared on the screen. She was Julia's age and a veteran of the pre-Alliance days of the Darglan Facility. Her name broke the usual Chinese naming conventions as part of her rebellion from the patriarchal nature of that culture, placing her personal name first like a European name and then the family names of her slain mothers.

To one side was her First Officer. Commander Tuyan Otiros was a blue-skinned, teal-spotted Dorei of the Yenmar Republic. On her left the viewing seat was taken up by a woman of dark brown complexion, a human with a bindi on her forehead that marked her as a practicing Hindu. Her hair was gray with time, her skin healthy and young from being sheltered in starships but her physique frail from accumulated years of zero- and low- gravity.

Captain Andreys,” Captain Ming-Chung greeted her, the urgency tight in her voice. “We tried to arrive before something irrecoverable had happened. The lady to my left is Captain Kaveri Varma, Earthforce Retired. She has important information about the Dilgar situation.

Julia couldn't hide her surprise, nor the sheer bewilderment - and suspicion - of the timing. "Oh? Go ahead, Captain Varma."

Captain Andreys, the attack on the Dilgar world of Tira consisted of twenty Brakiri and twenty Hyach vessels which were sent after a Dilgar supply-purchasing network was unraveled. I don’t understand how or why, but Mister Arthur Gagnor, arrested on Babylon 5 several weeks ago, was actually an agent of the Dilgar government of Tira--who had previously provided assistance to groups working in concert with your Captain Dale and Commander Meridina, I might add."

Julia glanced to Meridina. "I recall the name," she said. "It was through observing him that we located Lyta Alexander."

That matter settled, Julia returned her attention to the screen. This prompted Kaveri to continue. "The Brakiri and Hyach sent high-level communications to the Drazi homeworld and a first wave of more than sixty Sunhawks is enroute and will arrive at Tira in another twelve hours. Captain, there are only twenty million Dilgar on Tira--but that is half the surviving species, and there’s no substantive war industry. There are mercenaries, hired by the Brakiri, who have already rigged flood-gates with explosive charges which could flood the entire capital. Some of the information is from Warmaster Shai’jhur, certainly, but I have independent verification on other parts and it is frankly imperative that we act quickly to avert genocide.

Shai’jhur took a breath and looked up briefly to the massive Dilgar woman at her side, before addressing Julia. “Well, Captain Andreys. You have heard Captain Varma. May we meet? Time is of the essence, but I wish to verify to you and your people … That we are a nation in distress. Despite being a flagship variant the One-who-fights-alone is not well suited for a conference, so I don’t mind presenting myself aboard either of your fine ships.

Julia considered the request quietly. When she spoke, it was with her eyes on Li. "Captain Ming-Chung, have you been able to verify any of Captain Varma's statements? Do you trust her as a source?"

There was a moment of consideration from Li before she nodded. "Captain Varma approached us in a manner that justifies some of her claims, yes. And on our way here we passed close enough to Drazi space to detect definite signs of fleet mobilization. Her story is… credible, at least."

"Alright." Julia looked to Meridina next. Meridina's only reply was a moment of consideration followed by a quiet nod. "Very well. Warmaster, you may come aboard and meet with myself, Captain Ming-Chung, and Captain Varma."

"We are thankful for your consideration, Captain. One-who-fights-alone out."




Captain Ming-Chung and Captain Varma arrived first on the transporter. Julia and Meridina were waiting with Lieutenant Commander Phryne Richmond, the ship's Chief of Security. The Australian woman had a complexion close to porcelain. Her black hair was cut short around her head and her eyes, a brilliant green in color, were fixed on the transporter pad. “Permission to come aboard, Captain?” Kaveri was certainly traditional.

Julia nodded. "Welcome aboard, Captain." She stepped forward and offered her hand. Varma accepted the handshake cordially.

"We are receiving a telemetry signal from the Dilgar flagship, Captain," said the technical officer manning the station, a young Human woman of East Asian ancestry. “Four life-forms.”

"Go ahead, bring them aboard."

There was another series of bright bursts of light accompanied by a light buzz. The form of the Dilgar leader appeared on the transporter station with another of her officers at her side. For a brief moment she seemed genuinely disconcerted. The other Dilgar, a female who seemed much younger and had a remarkable shade of long red hair on her head that contrasted with her dun light fur on the rest of her body like a mane, did not. If anything the younger Dilgar seemed more intrigued than put off by the transporter. Behind them stood two more officers, the towering, heavily built female in grey that had been seen in the viewscreen and a young male in blues who stepped forward.

“Here stands a Warmaster!” The junior officer shouted.

"Warmaster Shai'jhur, welcome to the Aurora," Julia said with a formal tone as she recovered her surprise from the shout.

For a long moment, Shai’jhur’s eyes lingered on Kaveri, before they flickered to Julia. “Thank you, Captain. The introduction is--traditional, I confess. My officers are Battle Captain Fei’nur,” she gestured to the massively built woman in green, “Combat Master Tra’dur,” a nod to the redhead, “and Combat Expert Can’ur. Respectively they are my security and reconnaissance chief, my operations officer, and what you humans would call my Flag Lieutenant.”

"My first officer, Commander Meridina, and my chief of security, Lieutenant Commander Phryne Richmond."

“A pleasure to meet you all,” she said, shaking hands down the line in the human fashion. “Captain Ming-Chung,” she added, and then paused… And gently took Kaveri’s hands in her own. “It’s been a long time, Kaveri.”

“Namaste, Shai’jhur. It has indeed. I hope you have been as well as you could, with all that has happened.”

“It has not been an easy time, Kaveri, but dharma laid our path, and more often than not since those terrible dread days, we have walked in hope.”

“I am gratified to hear it. Would that we had more time, but… matters press upon us urgently.”

All of the Alliance officers were staring at the two by the time the exchange finished, save Meridina, who was not so much staring as quietly observing and sensing the interplay.

Kaveri glanced around, and offered with a wry smile, “I know what you’re probably thinking, and the answer is simple enough. If you’ve ever seen an old, rather intellectual American-Japanese War movie called ‘Hell in the Pacific’, that’s our story--well, except the ending. That was pretty bloody different.”

"I am familiar with the existence of such 'movies'," Meridina said, "although I have only viewed a few at the insistence of Lieutenant Barnes."

"His taste in movies doesn't quite go toward that one," Julia observed. She tried to remember if that was one of the old movies her father loved to watch when she was little, and a dim memory of an American and a Japanese soldier castaway on an island came to her. It certainly made as much sense as an explanation as anything else would. "My senior officers are gathering in Conference Room 1. We'll meet them there."




The Aurora Conference Room was no longer made up for the formal gathering that the Gorn-Federation treaty had called for. A number of tables were set up in a half-circle around a central holotank. The Aurora bridge officers were at one table, the Koenig officers at another. Seats for Captain Ming-Chung and Commander Imra of the Heerman were provided beside Julia. This left a third table for the Dilgar to take up. Everyone noted that Varma stood with Shai’jhur as the Dilgar clustered around the replicator.

Cat took a breath and approached them, offering a small smile. “You can order some snack food by voice command, though I’m not sure we have anything compatible with Dilgar digestive systems.”

“Most Earth proteins are,” Shai’jhur answered.

Her utterly massive grey-uniformed subordinate stared at the hole in the wall suspiciously. “Replicator. Provide meat.” She ordered in English.

The replicator beeped. “Insufficient detail,” answered the feminine computer voice.

Fei’nur looked half-crestfallen as she looked past Cat toward Shai’jhur. “Warmaster, it doesn’t seem to be working.”

“Try asking for …” Shai’jhur glanced from Kaveri to Cat, and offered a reassuring little wink to Cat. “...Turkey jerky.”

“Replicator, give me turkey jerky,” Fei’nur asked. Her look grew only more perturbed as it beeped again.

Specify flavor.

This time, Fei’nur had a solution: “Default.” A bag of turkey jerky strips materialised in the air, and with a child’s wide eyes she tore it open and began to eat, her expression growing brighter as she did. “This is utterly incredible. It tastes like meat.”

Cat was trying to hide a grin. The Warmaster grinned back, making her own selection and then going to sit down with the rest of her staff, save Fei’nur who remained standing.

Julia had almost giggled at the strange scene between the Dilgar, Cat and the replicator, but it was clear time was of the essence and after she sat, she turned to Jarod and whispered, "Did you get through to Maran?"

"No," he whispered back. "He's gone. According to Admiral Tsu, the Kentan is off to join the fleet at Argolis."

Julia nodded grimly. The Reich's offensive there must have become especially fierce if Admiral Maran was bringing the Kentan into the battle. "So he didn't leave any instructions?"

"Admiral Tsu relayed a message. He's trusting your judgement."

"Ah. It's good to be trusted," she noted, with some sarcasm. All the pressure was on her yet again.

Aside from Meridina nobody paid much attention to their exchange. The rest of the command crew were obviously curious about what was going on with the Dilgar. Meridina gave Julia an urgent look, one matched by Lucy. Both sensed the quiet impatience in the Dilgar. A fierce worry for the fate of their fellows. Understanding that, Julia nodded to the Dilgar table. "Warmaster, if you would please? Give us the specifics."

“But of course,” the Warmaster replied. “I am sure there is a great deal that it would be nice to cover, but suffice to say, I will cover the historical particulars for now in the interest of brevity. In the closing year of the war I was a Battlemaster and an escort forces commander with a pentacon of destroyers. At Third Balos I organized the rearguard and fought to the bitter end to allow as many of our ships to flee back to Alaca and Omelos as possible. As a result, Supreme Warmaster Gar’shan, who had recovered from a sustained illness, resumed direct control of the remaining war effort, as Warmaster Jha’dur had disappeared. He promoted me to War Captain and put me in charge of a special squadron of captured ships, testbed prototypes, and other vessels of that sort, as well as new construction. The One-who-fights-alone is an example of the later, a Mishakur incorporating the technology of what you call the Sekhmet-class. We were almost out of fuel and the enemy was constantly raiding Omelos at that point, so my force worked up into an effective combat group back at Rohric.”

“I am actually a native Rohrican, not born of Omelos. Before the build-up to the war the world had a population of about two million; we were one of the Forty Families, the original landowners who had homesteaded the planet in the first wave of colonisation. The government sent about another twenty million colonists during the runup to the war, but they were not Rohricans, not culturally. A bit more than a month after Third Balos, the Liberation Navy made its final push on Omelos. I was recalled to support the fleet at Omelos and die in glory. May we be blunt, Captains? It was the Führerbunker at that point! Der Untergang! The Supreme Warmaster promoted me to Warmaster in the recall message, likely enough to drive me to obey the orders--no Warmaster had ever surrendered to the enemy. I disobeyed anyway.”

As Shai’jhur was talking, Cat kept glancing to the replicator. Jarod noticed it, and his eyes followed her’s, widening fractionally as he watched Fei’nur stuff a bag of jerky into a uniform pocket, push the repeat button on the replicator, stuff another bag into another part of her uniform, and keep going, with some kind of single-minded fanaticism about acquiring as much replicator jerky as possible.

Whatever else, though, Shai’jhur appeared serenely oblivious, and carried on with her story. “Well, we are all a very stubborn lot on Rohric, so we moved the orbital infrastructure of our outer colonies--Innata, Wahant and Rohric--into orbit of a distant Brown Dwarf almost a lightyear from the Rohric primary where they could be hid from casual sensor tracks. I held my fleet there. The Rohricans....” Shai’jhur dissolved into a brutal series of coughs that ended with something that looked much like blood hacked onto the scarf around her neck, her entire tiny body shaking from top to bottom.

“The League never landed troops to force your people back to your homeworld?” asked Julia. She felt a little guilty pressing the woman, but as a negotiator she also wanted to know how serious the illness was. Leo was quietly scanning in the background.

“You’ve just seen the reason why.” Kaveri had a sympathetic look on her face as she stepped in to reply. “The Dilgar, you see, had a very poor selection of colonies when they went into the stars. Two marginally habitable worlds they had to wrest from the Drazi in violent border skirmishes and that were constant sources of conflict with the Freehold, one volcanic hell with a corrosive atmosphere too thin to allow life outside of domes, one world that was so inhospitable that they sent prisoners there to farm or die, and… Rohric. Which looks like a somewhat arid but otherwise acceptable enough world. Until you land. Then you find out that the entire planet is infested by a particular strain of spores, produced by a very resistant species of the local flora. They burrow into the skin and the lungs, producing bleeding sores from a virulent allergic reaction in every known species. Who would want to expose their people to such a thing? They bombarded the visible signs of habitation and then departed. I assume the population took shelter from observation in the caves and wadis of the desert, Shai’jhur?”

Shai’jhur had recovered in the meantime. “Exactly, Kaveri. We learned to live underground while the fleet sheltered at low power, orbiting the Brown Dwarf until the League stopped coming around. Then we built a distant station infrastructure there. There were about three million counting the populations from Innata and Wahant, the new settlers we’d managed to keep, and the fleet. To that, well… Supreme Warmaster Gar’shan’s notional plan was to buy time for as many colony ships loaded with sleeper pods as possible to leave Omelos--traveling randomly through hyperspace. They went in two broad directions. I thought the plan was insane and managed to intercept enough of the ships in one direction to save three-quarters of a million.”

“During the brief window between the League withdrawal and the destruction of Omelos, we rescued more from the surface. But the real surprise came later on--Supreme Warmaster Gar’shan’s second thrust had borne fruit after all. Battle Captain Fei’nur was on a reconnaissance mission and discovered another Dilgar organization operating. They called themselves the Ghosts of Omelos and had found a water world roughly beyond Tal’kona’sha space, and settled a million Dilgar, using cloning to recover their numbers. Unfortunately, there was a dispute over political authority which contributed directly to this incident and was only resolved by it. To put it very simply, I had been pursuing democratic reforms and education to create a legitimately Dilgar society broadly compliant with the norms of sapient rights practiced by the Earth Alliance and now ISA. They hadn’t, and they didn’t like that I had. But the occupation made them finally sign the union out of desperation.”

"That sounds like it could be trouble," Jarod said. "If they're unreconstructed elements, I'm sure they'll want to reconsider once they're out of danger."

“They’re not quite that bad. They were all carefully selected to be part of a New Dilgar that were to be a meritocratic society beyond the old honor and old nobility which enabled so much destruction and amorality. They have simply not had opportunities for open dialogue on the past or participatory politics. And, to be frank, I have always been the lawful government of all surviving Dilgar. Warmaster is a military-political title; as the only Warmaster I am the Head of State. Period. And I am committed to sapient rights and democratic reform. Period.”

Julia glanced toward Meridina. Meridina nodded once. "I sense her sincerity." A few seats down Lucy did as well.

"Alright," Julia said. "And you want our help. I suppose the question then is if we can talk the Drazi, Brakiri, and Hyach into a compromise solution."

"Given the history, that's going to be a pretty tall order," Locarno said.

"Still, we can't let them perform genocide," Leo added. "Their own Declaration of Principles makes it clear they're supposed to pursue another way."

The mention of the ISA Declaration of Principles prompted Julia to look to Meridina. "Do you think we could get G'Kar to help? They should respect him."

"I am uncertain as to his whereabouts," Meridina admitted. "But I will attempt to contact him and inform him of the situation."

"Either way, if we're going to stop this, we need to get to Tira," Li observed. "But the Drazi have a several hour head start on us, and it's going to take us nearly eighteen hours to get to Tira at our highest warp speed."

"The Drazi will arrive several hours before then," Varma pointed out. "That's enough time for them to wipe out the entire population."

"Mister Scott, do you think the Aurora could make it to Tira in eleven hours?" Julia asked. "At our highest warp velocity?"

"I wudnae recommend it, Cap'n," the old engineer said, shaking his head. He stood out among the Alliance officers for his choice of engineering uniform, a black engineering vest over a white jacket. The beige trim of operations was visible on the vest, as well as the three gold strips of Commander rank. "Ye'd have t' maintain our highest warp speed for th' entire run. Ye're more likely t' burn out th' drives before we get there."

"What if you warp in hyperspace?" Varma asked. "Isn't that possible?"

"It'd be daft, ma'am," Scotty insisted. "Th' warp field cannae form properly in th' energies o' yer hyperspace layer. Even if we managed it, we'd lose track o' th' beacon network in th' first second."

"He's right about that." Jarod was resting his chin on his hand. "But there's another way to cheat. We use interuniversal jumps."

"You mean we set the anchors to pull us closer to Tira's coordinates with each jump?" Cat asked. "Because it could work."

"But ye cannae jump often enough, Mister Jarod, ye know that," Scotty said. "Two jumps, maybe, but after that ye can burn out th' drive if ye dinnae give it time t' cool down."

"We've done two jumps before," Julia noted.

"Aye. An' it puts strain on th' drive each time. An' ye're lookin' at three jumps, minimum, just t' get us close enough t' warp in."

"If it is at all possible, an entire world rests on the attempt," Varma insisted.

Varma's plea caused Scott and Barnes to look at each other and then Jarod. "We'll need ships or other anchors at the right points," Barnes said. "Otherwise, no anchor, there's no telling how far off the jumps will take us."

"I'll calculate the best possible courses," Jarod said. "And on the bright side, we might pick up a few ships on the way."

"So if we do this, we'll get there in time?" Julia asked.

"Maybe. Maybe not." Jarod shook his head. "I can't tell you for sure that we'll get the spatial aspects we need to make it in time. We could still be two or three hours late."

"It's still our best option," Locarno insisted.

"If we sent a signal ahead, maybe we could warn them to stop?" Cat asked. "Maybe buy us some time?"

“Dilgar and Drazi were in a blood feud long before the Imperium attacked the League, I fear…” Kaveri trailed off for a moment, as her face paled and her voice grew softer; “...but my daughter, Zheng-li, may be in position to buy you a little time. If I may have access to your com array?”

"How?" Julia asked.

“She is the captain of a new Earthforce destroyer on patrol in the coreward League. I sent her a message before I set out for my rendezvous here.”

Bringing Earthforce into the affair made Julia wary. It seemed like a complication that could make the politics of the situation even more explosive. But there was no denying that they needed someone to get there before the Drazi. If they could be made to consider holding their fire for just an extra hour…

"Alright," Julia said. "Mister Jarod, please assist Captain Varma in sending her message, and then report to the bridge. We need to get underway immediately."

“One final thing,” Shai’jhur remarked as she was getting up. “I think for purposes of coordination between our squadron and your own during what will be a very complex set of maneouvres, I should have an officer aboard the Aurora. Combat Master Tra’dur is one of our best astrophysicists, may she remain?”

Without hesitation Julia nodded. "Yes. Lieutenant Caterina Delgado, our science officer, will coordinate with her."

It said a lot about Caterina's development during her time with the Doctor - a year for her, four minutes for everyone else given the Doctor's time traveling ship - that instead of seeming flustered or worried, she nodded and gave a professional reply of "I'll take her to Science Lab 2. We can use the simulation systems there to plot the best course with the possible spatial aspects of our jumps in mind." Caterina stood and moved toward the door. Tra'dur followed.

"If everything is settled, I should return to my ship to prepare for these jumps," Li said.

"We'll keep in touch through a tactical commline," Julia said. "This meeting is dismissed."

“I will be traveling with the Warmaster,” Kaveri said, softly, as she prepared to follow Commander Jarod, “so there will be a second transport to the Magaratha.

“Is that the name of Warmaster Shai’jhur’s ship in Dilgar?” he asked as she walked. Kaveri nodded in the affirmative, but the look on her face told him everything about she was thinking about.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:27 pm

The Huáscar had done marvels on her speed run to Tira. Alert status lights indicating she was at enhanced readiness gleamed, modified ZEBRA, bare minutes from being fully buttoned-up for combat. Captain Zhengli Varma stepped out onto the bridge after offering a last set of prayers at the tiny idol rack in her sea cabin. Around her the crew reflected tension and confusion, uncertainty at the course of action their Captain had flung them on with little warning.

She was a slight woman of south China in her blood, and south India in her heritage. Her Line Medal was safely in a chest in her sea cabin, and her command had been a quiet nightmare. Her crew was still riven between pro- and anti-Sheridan factions and she herself was distrusted by both and only held the command through General Lefcourt’s personal confidence. But her command was still one of the newest Warlock-class heavy destroyers in the fleet, larger than many dreadnoughts - even counting those of the Allied Systems fleets - and the fastest ship that had ever served in EarthForce.

Huáscar had more than that, too. She also now had deflector shields fitted with improved power generation systems linked to her reactors, and there was, with all the other Warlocks, the X-RAY Special, the code name for the biomechanical sensor system whose controls, buried deep in the ship, gave her a ranged accuracy to her weapons fire that had stunned Zhengli during trials. Earth couldn’t have asked for a more powerful nor poised warship, but the internal relations of Earthforce remained balanced on the head of a pin.

Below them floated the spectacularly beautiful water-world of Tira. So the Dilgar found life here. Her excitement at that, the peace of her mother’s soul, and frankly the peace of her own, warred with memories. There was her time as the night-shift second in command on Babylon 5, her brief interview with Jha’dur, bemused and baiting a member of the house of Varma of whom she had proved not unacquainted. ‘I shall make sure you and your mother get the serum so that I may hear the Dilgar tongue in my hour of triumph.’ The mad, broken image of the last Dilgar.

Well, not quite the last, thank the merciful Gods. The species had not died, and for the first time Zhengli had gazed on an image of the woman who, in a desperate gesture of hope, had reached out to trust her mother in the middle of a war with no trust possible. And now here she was, with twenty million innocent civilians on the planet below. Forty ships in front of her, more coming, and only her proud destroyer.

Around her were twenty Brakiri ships, eighteen Hyach, and five Hurr. The wreckage of two Hyach ships remained, also, to provide testament to the Dilgar having offered resistance before they retreated. And all of them were tracking the Huáscar with a suspicion in stark contrast to their status as allies.

"The Brakiri have hailed us," WO1 Baeraz reported from comms. "They’re demanding to know the purpose of our presence in a Brakiri system."

Zhengli snorted incredulously. That was impressive even for the Brakiri. "We’re a hundred light years from Brakiri space, and they haven’t filed a formal claim with the ISA territorial board. Tell them that."

"Yes Sir…" A moment. "They want to speak to you directly."

"I’ll handle that." She glanced to the comms section. "Patch me in to the Brakiri."

"Aye-aye, Captain."

“Brakiri Commander, this is Captain Zhengli Varma of the Earth Alliance Ship Huáscar. I would know your intentions.”

Captain Varma, we are conducting security operations on the surface of the planet we have claimed. These security operations are consistent with the ISA charter to maintain galactic peace.” It was telling that the Brakiri commander refused to give his name.

Zhengli decided that if they were going to play games, so would she. “The planet appears to have a pre-existing native intelligence, Brakiri commander. Your claim to this system is not recognized, and your operations have an offensive character to them. Surely you will not mind if an Earthforce ship observes your operations more closely?”

She waited for an uncomfortably long period of time for a response, before turning to her crew; “Take us into high orbit, set Condition Two.”




The first jump took the longest to set up. Using data from Cat and his access to the active fleet positioning logs, Jarod found an Alakin warbird on internal patrol in their native universe, A7R6, that had the right position for the first jump. The four Alliance ships present made their jumps in sequence, each bringing some of the Dilgar ships with them. The Aurora took charge of ensuring Shai'jhur's flagship made the transition.

In Science Lab 2 Cat immediately brought up a holo-starmap to display the last leg of their planned course. "See if there are any ships in the vicinity of Phi Trajanus," she said aloud.

"What about Beta Durani?" Jarod asked.

Cat checked and shook her head. "No, that aspect would bring us too far off our course. Our last jump could carry us into Tal-kona'sha space."

"Good point. I'll let you know the coordinates for our next jump."

Upon Jarod's reply finishing, Cat noticed the young red-haired Dilgar had sat aside a pad on which she had been working calculations by hand and was staring in open admiration at the holo-table displaying the starmap. "You don't have holographics?" she asked.

"Never to this level of sophistication," Tra'dur replied. There was a simple wonder in her voice. "The technology of your ship is incredible, more than you can realize. I have dreamed of working with equipment such as this."

"Well, you can right now," Cat said. She tapped a key to highlight a block of stars around their target. "We need to ensure that our last jump puts us somewhere in there. That means we have to be in one of these systems on our next jump." Another tap of the key brought up another block of slightly larger size.

Tra'dur examined the map. "I would avoid this star." She pointed to a particularly ominous Wolf-Rayet exotic. "The gamma ray pulses it gives off could penetrate shielding inside of one lightyear."

"Hrm…" Cat double-checked the records and nodded. "You're right. Let me mark that off." The boxes shifted slightly. "But now it's carrying us too far in the Y plane. So we need to adjust like so…" The box shrunk yet again. Cat frowned at that. "This is going to be tricky." She keyed the comm line to Jarod again. "Jarod, on our last jump, we'll need to send one ship ahead first to anchor the others. The arrival zone is too small to risk a free jump scattering the group."

"I read you."

Again Cat looked to Tra'dur, and when she did, she couldn’t help but stare at the calculations she’d been writing. Her eyes widened. Tra’dur had been double-checking the computer computations by hand, an act that of all the people Cat knew… Only Cat could do. And despite the situation, the millions of lives riding on this, Tra'dur entranced with the opportunity to be where she was. "You don't have any labs like this back on Rohric, do you?"

"No. It would be an extravagance even if we had access to the full range of your technology." There was a sadness in Tra'dur's voice. "That was my first lesson as a child: Unauthorized emissions were a grave risk. A radio wave from the surface when we were hiding from a passing scout could be the end of our species. I first learned physics and calculus by lantern-light in a classroom built into a cave. The old government led us into this hell and the price was paid by the children too young to be responsible for it."

"Well, maybe not any more?" Cat ventured. She stepped up beside the Dilgar. The species was not as overtly feline as the Caitians or the Rr'timm, but there was still the look of a graceful cat to Tra'dur. One staring longingly at the door of its cage. "Maybe things can be different for you now."

"Perhaps." There was the faintest flicker of hope in Tra'dur's expression. "It would be nice if we could move beyond the blood in our past. Mother… Mother has been doing her best."

“Your Mother?”

“Warmaster Shai’jhur is indeed my mother, and the only parent I’ve ever known. I am the second of six.”

Cat's face became pensive. "I know what that's like. My papa died when I was still very little, so I don't remember him." Something occurred to her a moment later. "So your father is why you're 'Tra'dur' and not 'Tra'jhur'?"

Tra’dur looked up wryly. “Well, that was the clan name of the gene-donor my mother used. A very distant relative of Jha’dur, but I hope you don’t hold that against me. When I was young mother taught me that the principles of universal rights outlawed punishment of relatives for the crimes of another…” She stared at the wall and swallowed. “Doesn’t that rather apply to all of us, right now?”

"Yeah," Cat answered. "It does."




On the Aurora bridge Jarod finished examining the fleet logs. What he found caused him to grin. "Well, that's luck," he said.

"Commander?" Julia looked at him.

"I found the next ship in our chain," he said. "Our next jump is S4W8. There's a refugee convoy moving toward Phosako space under convoy."

"Do the Phosako ships have jump anchors?" Meridina asked.

"No. But the allied ships with them do. The Eagle is with the convoy."

"Arik's son's ship?" Julia nodded. "That'll do just fine. Put him on so he knows we're coming, and why."

"He's answering our hail now."

The image of a bronze-skinned man with a closely-trimmed beard appeared on the holo-viewscreen. His uniform was unique, modeled after the Alliance uniform but with a silver torch as rank insignia on the collar to mark him a Commander in the New Liberty Defense Force. "Captain Andreys. It is a pleasure," Yonatan said in an accent of some refinement. Julia recalled his mother spoke English the same way. "What can I do for you?"

"Help me stop a genocide in progress, Commander Shaham."

Immediately Yonatan's expression darkened. His own people had come perilously close to experiencing such an end, if not for the intervention of the Aurora. "Tell me how."

"We're going to use you as a jump anchor," Julia said. "Once we're done with that, if you can detach yourself from that convoy we'd be glad to have you. If not, you've still contributed."

Yonatan seemed to consider it. "Allow me to communicate with the Phosako squadron commander. I will signal you when we have come to a stop and you can safely jump in."

"Thank you, Commander."

Yonatan disappeared from the screen. After he was gone Julia looked to her left, where Tom Barnes was sitting at the Engineering station against the wall. Cat's science station was astern of him and currently manned by Lieutenant al-Rashad. "Status on the jump drive?"

"It's already showing strain," he answered. "You've got maybe two jumps before we'll need to take the entire system down for a comprehensive repair."

Which would take days, Julia knew from experience. "So we make these next jumps count."

"The Eagle is signalling. They're ready to receive our jump."

"Signal the warning to the others and jump when ready." Julia felt impatience gnaw at her. They were running out of time. The Drazi would be arriving at Tira any time now. And the only thing between them and genocide would be a single ship.




It had only been about thirty minutes after the conversation with the Brakiri commander ended before her sensor tech operating the long range scans jerked up. "We’ve got them, Sir."

Lieutenant Carstairs stepped over, leaning down. "What is it, Johnny."

"Sixty-two repeat six two signatures approaching from the outer system gate. Consistent with the energy emissions of a mixed group of Drazi Sunhawks Mark-One and Mark-Two."

"All right. Captain." He turned to Zhengli’s side. Major Foster the XO was in the secondary CIC since they were already running at Condition Two. "We’ve got the Drazi force coming from the outer system… They have overwhelming strength, how are we going to talk them out of opening fire on the surface?"

Zhengli took a breath. "I’d say the Brakiri mercs being on the surface would do that, but let’s not kid ourselves. Neither the Brakiri or the Drazi care about hirelings. Patch me through again to the Brakiri Commander.”

“Aye-aye, Sir!”

Zhengli watched the broadcast indicator light up blue, taking a breath. “This is Captain Varma. Brakiri Commander, do you accept responsibility for the command of the Drazi forces entering the system?"

"Absolutely not! They are here of their own volition, Captain Varma! But certainly they are concerned about the existence of a Dilgar state and will take measures to remedy that situation."

"If the Brakiri, Hyach and Hurr ships in the system open fire on the surface of the planet, I shall open fire upon you," Zhengli replied bluntly. "The surface of this planet is under the protection of Earthforce. We will not permit genocide, and it would be a manifest violation of our earlier terms for you to join in any kind of Drazi attack on the system, is that understood?"

"These are the Dilgar, Captain Varma! If they had possessed sufficient technology, they would have been worse than the Shadows!"

"You already have troops on the surface, Brakiri commander. I will add that any massacres of civilians by them will meet the same response. I don’t care that they’re Dilgar. They’re sapient beings and they’ve been sitting here doing nothing to you. Any act of genocide will be interrupted by our maximum effort. And in fact, if you withdraw your troops from the surface, I shall also regard that as a preparation for genocide and take appropriate measures."

"You have nothing to be concerned about," the sneering voice came back. "We are merely containing the situation until a final solution can be arranged. You have no right to command me to end an occupation, or to maintain one."

"I might choose different words than those for the meeting with the ISA," Zhengli replied drolly. "President Sheridan probably won’t like hearing about a final solution. Huáscar out." She made a cutting motion across her neck.

"Drazi ships are still on an inbound vector for the planet. They have weapons charged, Sir."

Zhengli nodded. "Get me their commander, Officer Baeraz."

"Aye-aye, Sir… Drazi commander responding to hail."

"Drazi Commander, this is Captain Zhengli Varma of the Earth Alliance Ship Huáscar. The surface of the planet Tira which we are currently orbiting is under the protection of Earthforce. We are currently dealing with a situation in which the Brakiri have already landed mercenaries and you may be assured that I will not permit you to land troops or open fire upon the surface."

"This is Tar’koth of the Drazi Freehold. I do not care about your claim of protection, Captain Varma. There are Dilgar on the surface of that planet, in number, representing a fleet which fled into hyperspace when our old League friends helped us beat them. They are a danger to the entire galaxy unless they are removed," he chuckled, "no, to the entire Multiverse! We have come to remove them."

"I will not permit you to end the lives of twenty million innocents, not in uniforms or under arms, Tar’koth. The Earth Alliance did not permit the League of Non-Aligned Worlds to conduct genocide against the Dilgar during the Dilgar War, and we sure as hell won’t let you do it now against a prostrate colony of twenty million survivors of Omelos."

"Join us as allies, or stand against us, Captain Varma. You have no other choice. The Dilgar were living in Hell, we will send these Dilgar there, and they will be very welcome there where all the rest of the Dilgar are waiting for them. No matter what you say about genocide, you let us finish the Dilgar at the end of the war. Just in a convenient way that made you all feel better."

"Are you saying, Tar’koth, that your government knew about Omelos’ sun?"

The Drazi laughed. "Are you saying that your government didn’t?"

Zhengli’s brown skin had paled as far as it could, and in her officers they all knew that was a sign of rage. "This is your last warning. Break off your approach course and remain in the outer system. The terms have not changed. Tira is under the protection of Earthforce."

"We are your allies!" Tar’koth began to rage, laughing mockingly. "You would not dare!"

Varma made another cutting motion to the neck to order the channel closed. "Lieutenant Carstairs, confirm readiness conditions."

"Captain we are holding Condition Two and the ship is set Modified ZEBRA throughout."

Zhengli stared as the first wave of Sunhawks became to move toward Tira in direct contravention of her ultimatum, feeling her pulse briefly overwhelming her brain, before a strange kind of calm settled down upon her. Twenty million civilians on the surface, that’s what matters. "Shields up. Sound General Quarters."

Lieutenant Carstairs as the Officer of the Watch had the duty of repeating the orders. He tensed, glanced to Zhengli, and then ahead. But his stentorian voice cut the bridge. "Aye Captain! Tactical, activate deflector shields! Bosun!"

"Bosun’s Mate, Aye Sir." He didn’t even hesitate.

"Sound General Quarters!"

"Aye sir!" The Bosun’s mate took his whistle and activated the 1MC. As the ancient, clarion notes cut across the circuit an Earthforce ship was going to stations in earnest for one of the first times with artificial gravity, and the current protocol had reverted to USN wet-navy traditions since the zero-gravity action protocol had become useless. The noise was unmistakable and instantly commanding.

"General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands man your battlestations! The direction of travel is up and forward to starboard, down and aft to port! General Quarters! General Quarters!"

"Shields show nominal at full power, Sir," Lieutenant Syung confirmed.

"Well, we’re going to find out how well they work," Zhengli said quietly, then spoke loudly enough to be heard "Excellent, thanks to our Confederation friends we’re going to give quite a surprise to the Drazi." She spun to her command chair, clapping herself into it and securing the straps. "Target the lead Drazi group!"

"Fire Control, target the lead Drazi squadron!"

"Time plus one minute, Captain! All power systems at combat diversion, reactors have military power available."

"Range to the Drazi squadron?" Zhengli glanced to Lieutenant Syung.

"One hundred five kiloklicks and closing, Sir. Time to firing range is one minute and counting." Syung’s fingers danced over his consoles as he guaranteed the flow of data to central fire control.

Zhengli didn’t want to distract him again. "Lieutenant Carstairs, sing out when we have the range." She activated the channel to the CAG. "Major Larsen, launch the alert squadrons."

"Aye-aye, Captain."

She activated the open channel to the Drazi flagship again. "Drazi commander, this is Captain Varma of the Huáscar. Laugh all you want, but as I said, humanity will not permit even our allies to commit genocide. We will open fire at the time of my choosing and convenience if you do not immediately break off from approach to the planet. This is your final warning: You are instructed and commanded to break off!"

"Eat vacuum, human! The Freehold can afford the reparations for a single human cruiser if it means we have ended the threat of the Dilgar once and for all!"

Zhengli’s face clouded as the comm line clicked off. "If it is to be our fate to be a second Persephone, I can think of few nobler fates." she muttered, half to herself - thinking of the cruiser whose loss, attempting to defend refugee shipping over Tirrith, had irrecoverably started Earth on the path to the Dilgar War.

The Bosun’s mate sounded over the 1MC: "Time plus two minutes."

"We have the range," Carstairs spoke softly.

Zhengli nodded once.

"Material Condition ZEBRA is set throughout the ship. All hands at General Quarters, Sir! Time is two minutes, nine seconds."

The words crossed her lips without another moment of hesitation. "Lieutenant Syung, you are fire free."

The two massive particle beam mounts fixed forward on the Huáscar opened fire in unison, each at a different target. They were identical to the mounts on an Aegis defense platform, and the result was immediate and dramatic. One of the targeted Sunhawks was cut in two, and the second one exploded as the beam coursed through its engineering section. A lead salvo of twelve missiles was already heading toward the Drazi as the phased plasma cannon and railgun turrets which could bear bracketed and hammered a third Sunhawk with terrible fury.

The Drazi had not responded to the attack. Zhengli truly had shocked them, they had honestly led themselves to think that she wouldn’t open fire. And they had been wrong. As the third targeted Sunhawk exploded from massed fire, the missiles began their final approaches, and the brief moment of the Drazi standing passively by as they were cut to pieces was lost.

Curving into evasive patterns and accelerating, the Drazi broke from the planet, and instead, angled to englobe her while minimizing their exposure to the particle cannon. As her fighters moved in to engage their Drazi counterparts (and there the odds were much better, 36 against 60), all of the surviving Drazi ships came in straight for her. Huáscar’s particle cannon caught two more of them as they manoeuvred anyway, and as her shields lit up from stem to stern with the massed fire of more than fifty Drazi warships and held, for a moment, just a moment, Zhengli thought she might get out of this alive.

....If someone came in the next five minutes or so.




The impromptu task force that Julia assembled during their jumps cruised along at warp in formation. The Aurora was in the lead with the Magaratha, as Jarod had re-labeled the tactical for brevity with the Dilgar name. The Shenzhou was in formation with the other Dilgar cruisers. The Koenig and Heerman were now joined by the Eagle, cruising along at warp beside them, while the pentacon of Dilgar lighter ships now numbered with a pair of light Alakin warbirds - painted in gold and browns as by Alakin style - and a cruiser-sized Dorei Unama-class starbird, a ship of bright purple and green and blue. Rounding out the ad hoc group was a Gl'mulli orb ship from the same convoy the Eagle had withdrawn from.

All things said, this ad hoc group was not as potent as a full task force from the Alliance would have been, but depending on the conditions at Tira, Julia hoped it would be enough to get the Drazi to back down.

"We're approaching Tira," Locarno said.

"Anything on sensors?"

Cat was back at her station. "I'm picking up multiple contacts. Profiles match Hyach, Brakiri, Hurr and Drazi ships… and one matching the profile of an Earthforce dreadnought, Warlock-class."

"How many Drazi?" Julia asked.

"Fifty-two… no, make that fifty-one."

This let them know what they could expect when they dropped out of warp twenty seconds later. Julia watched the screen as it resolved on the battle raging before their improvised squadron of Alliance and Dilgar ships. Before them was a Warlock class destroyer, her deflector shields failing as they came in. She now stood, wreathed in the massive ring of hundreds of simultaneous explosions as her interceptor grid worked to keep her covered, as the hammer-blows of heavy hits tore into her armor. Julia watched the ship shudder from stem to stern and knew they were just in time.

"That’s the Huáscar, Zhengli’s ship," Kaveri’s voice came from the Magaratha. "And she doesn’t have long, Captain Andreys."

"Agreed. Jarod, put me on with them. When he nodded Julia spoke up. "This is Captain Julia Andreys of the Alliance Starship Aurora. Drazi commander, cease-firing on the Huáscar immediately and withdraw from planetary orbit, or I will be forced to open fire. You have ten seconds to cease firing."

"You have brought the Dilgar warships to us to be destroyed, Captain Andreys, and for that I will thank you. Break off now, this is our business!" Drazi ships started manoeuvring away from the Huáscar, but not away from the battle and planet. They were vectoring toward Julia’s squadron, and Warmaster Shai’jhur’s pentacons in particular.

It was as simple as that. The Huáscar could be destroyed at any moment, and it was clear the Drazi were coming on for them. There was no time to talk. "Tactical, lock weapons. Commander Meridina, signal the squadron to open fire."

The two responded immediately. Within seconds the forward pulse plasma cannons of the Aurora were thundering their sapphire fury at the nearest, largest Drazi Sunhawk. The Darglan weapons were more than a match for the Drazi ship and blew it apart. Solar torpedoes from the Aurora's bow launchers acquired another Sunhawk, which broke in half from the resulting destruction. More plasma fire from the Aurora, this in the form of beams from the emitter banks, carved flaming gashes and wounds into the Drazi ships. The Shenzhou, not to be outdone, busied itself with scattering a squadron of Sunhawks coming in on an attack run against the Huáscar.

The light starships - and the Mongoose fighters from both Alliance cruisers - dove ahead of the ships to break up Drazi formations. Working together the Koenig and Heerman crippled a Sunhawk. The plasma cannons on the Dorei starbird blazed bolts of brilliant purple energy into one Drazi ship and then another. The Alakin opened up with their weapons in support of the Dorei ship when it came under fire from three Sunhawks. One of those ships took a spread of torpedoes from the Eagle, which moved on to attack a Sunhawk still menacing the failing shields of the Huáscar. When a Sunhawk menaced the Eagle from behind, its engines were blasted into debris by the Gl'mulli orb ship.

The Alliance ships opening fire did not startle the Drazi into inaction, however. With several of them cursing the fickle nature of Humans, they returned fire with full vigor. The lessons learned in engaging the Huáscar were now employed against the Aurora. Concentration of fire was the order. The Drazi pressed the attack with the full might of their numbers. They seemed bound and determined to fulfill the mission of genocide.

The Aurora shuddered from a hit to the shields. "Shields still holding at sixty percent," said Jarod.

"Forty-two enemy contacts still intact. Forty-one now."

"Captain, on your command we are ready to engage," Shai'jhur said.

"Not yet." Julia had a feeling that once the Dilgar opened fire, nothing would stop the shooting until one side or the other was completely annihilated. She checked the tactical map beside Meridina's seat. "Helm, bearing zero two eight mark zero zero three. All ships, follow."

The movement was confirmed and the various ships followed. The Drazi kept their attack up for the entire time, taking further damage and loss and inflicting very little of the latter in the process.

"Shields still holding at fifty-three percent," Jarod said after a wing of Sunhawks broke away from an attack run. Angel carved one of them up with a barrage from the port-side plasma emitters. "The warbird Yreep reports shield failure… they're taking direct hull damage."

"We're on it," Apley said over the tactical commline. The Koenig moved to torpedo the Sunhawks harassing the wounded Alakin ship. At the same time one of the Dilgar Ochlavati positioned itself to shield the Alakins from further damage. Their shields held, barely, against the attack.

The change in position was complete. The Drazi, now reduced to nearly half of their original force, were falling back to regroup. Julia's maneuver put her ships - and the Huáscar - into position to thwart any attempt to bombard the city on Tira. "Attention Drazi ships. I am asking you to cease fire. There's no need for this bloodshed."

"There is every need!" an aggrieved Drazi commander shouted. "The Dilgar must be destroyed before they can regain their strength! And we will not let you or anyone else stand in the way!"

"Is this what you want? If you continue to engage my ships, you could end up provoking a war with the Allied Systems. Do you think the rest of the InterStellar Alliance is going to let you do that?"

"They suffered from the Dilgar too. They will not suffer them to live."

"Then why haven't they joined you in attacking my ships?" Julia asked. "Why aren't they helping you?"

There was no answer to that. Indeed, for a time there was nothing. Not until they could just make out what sounded like a strike of scaled flesh against scaled flesh and a body slumping to the floor.

It was a new Drazi voice that spoke next. "This is Captain Tarinak. We acknowledge your superior tactical position, Captain Andreys, and we will halt our attacks. We request a ceasefire to recover our comrades from their ships."

"We'll be glad to assist in your efforts."

"You will do no such thing," the Drazi growled. "We remember what the Dilgar did to prisoners. We will not leave our comrades to that fate."

"The Alliance doesn't torture people, Tarinak."

"It seems you prefer to let others do the deed for you," was the sneered response. "You should leave. When the rest of our fleet arrives, the Dilgar will die. And so will anyone who stands with them." There was an audible cut to the line signifying the Drazi had cut the channel.

"I can feel the fear and rage from here," Meridina said. "They will not listen to us."

Julia watched the Drazi ships launch recovery shuttles. "Maybe the others will. Mister Jarod, hail the lead Brakiri vessel."

A moment later a Brakiri appeared on the holo-viewscreen. He had a visible cleave to his high forehead, with the bone ridges seeming to support it over his eyes. Dark brown hair swept down around the back of the Brakiri's head. "I am Captain Tabir. We monitored your conversation with the Drazi. I can assure you, Captain, that I have no intention of bombing the planet below."

Julia stopped herself from pointing out he was willing to let the Drazi do the job for him, and so he wasn't getting any credit from her. "I'm glad that the Earthforce captain and I aren't the only ones opposed to genocide."

"Our purpose here is self-defense only. Before the Shadows, the Dilgar were the greatest threat our people ever faced. We had to act once we discovered they still existed."

"I can understand investigating, certainly. Although an armed invasion was maybe a little too much?"

"We had to be sure they had no stockpiles of offensive armaments." Tabir smiled at her. "After all, under the terms of the treaty by which we spared the Dilgar at the end of the war, they were not supposed to leave their homeworld. They are in clear violation of that treaty. Our response was entirely measured and in keeping with the intentions of the InterStellar Alliance. Our occupation is legally justified."

Julia considered her options. Ordering the mercs out was likely to only cause the conflict to re-ignite, assuming the mercs didn't first "accidentally" set off the charges on the barrage gates holding the water back from the city. And while she was certain the Brakiri wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice those mercs if they were pushed into a bombardment, it would certainly be bad for future business with the like and not an option to be taken lightly, so the settlement on Tira was safer if the mercs remained where they were. "As long as your mercenaries are limiting themselves to a search for offensive armaments or mass casualty weapons, I have no objection to letting them finish their work," she said sweetly. "In fact, I'll be happy to help you. My Marines are ready to beam down and join your search."

"Your offer is greatly appreciated, but it would undoubtedly aggravate the locals further. Any sort of incident might result from this. I think it is best if we complete the search on our own."

Translation: send the Marines down and the colony burns.

"Very well," said Julia. "We'll remain in orbit until we hear from Tuzanor or Portland. If you are empowered to begin negotiations for the Brakiri, I'm told the Dilgar leader is ready to seek a permanent peace with the entire InterStellar Alliance."

"I shall consult my government. A chance to end the threat of the Dilgar forever cannot be missed, and the Brakiri Syndicracy will certainly recognize the Allied Systems' role in this awkward situation. Now, Captain, I must contact my superiors on the homeworld. Tabir out."

The moment he disappeared Julia's diplomatic smile vanished. "That sniveling ass," she grumbled. "At least the Drazi are being honest about committing genocide." After giving vent to her feelings on the matter Julia turned to Cat and asked, "What's the status of the Huáscar?"

Cat looked over her screens. "I'm reading multiple points of hull damage and systems failures. Nothing too severe, though. They can probably fix themselves up without any help."

"Regardless, they saved the day here. Mister Jarod, please hail them." Julia stood from her chair. The holo-viewscreen changed to show a woman of mostly East Asian extraction, like Li Ming-Chung, in the blue uniform of Earthforce's fleet branch. She looked to be in her mid-thirties.

“Thank you…” her eyes narrowed on Julia's uniform. She was instinctively looking for Earthforce insignia, Julia guessed, although Captain Varma quickly corrected herself and looked to Julia's collar for the four gold strips of the Captain rank. “Captain. Huáscar thanks you for your help.”

"We're glad to help," Julia answered. "You did the right thing to stand up against genocide. You and your crew deserve to be commended."

“It is always the duty of a Kshatriya to uphold Dharma, Captain. The Dilgar are not deserving of death. They never were.” Zheng-li took a breath, and looked up with fire blazing in her eyes. “The Drazi have admitted their government was aware of the fate of Omelos’ sun. They let twelve billion people die. They knew the Alliance had forbidden that as an end game of the Dilgar War, and they let it happen anyhow. No, we are not going to let then succeed. Not now that the threat is clear.”

There was a sudden commotion behind her outside of the feed. “Sir, why are you bringing FMFs to the bridge, Sir?”

“Stand down, Bosun’s mate, we are upholding the laws of the Earth Alliance against barratry!”

Zhengli’s face lost all expression, and she turned to the side, lunging to rise and raise her PPG. The screen cut out.

The sight drew the attention of the entire bridge. "What just happened?" Julia asked.

"They cut the transmission at the source," he answered.

"Get them back," Julia demanded. "Now."

The Huáscar remained a quiet image on the Aurora bridge's holo-viewscreen, damage still visible on her dark hull, and an unknown struggle occuring aboard her.

"Someone on the vessel mentioned barratry. That is the Human term for seizing or hijacking a military vessel, I believe," Meridina observed.

“It can apply to civilian contexts, too, but in Earth Admiralty Law it specifically means gross misconduct by the Captain and senior officers,” Jarod corrected.

“Gross misconduct… Anything yet, Mister Jarod?"

He shook his head. "Nothing." After another moment passed his station let off a tone. "Wait. We're getting a hail."

"On screen."

A man in an Earthforce uniform with a sandy blonde high and tight haircut and blue eyes appeared. He spoke in an English midlands accent. “This is Major Foster, Acting Commander of the EAS Huáscar. The Captain with whom you were speaking is guilty of barratry and filibustering the territory of the Brakiri Syndicracy and has been removed from command and confined to the brig. You have engaged and attacked the Drazi Freehold’s fleet while they were on a peacekeeping mission, while violating Brakiri territory. You have no right to interfere in the affairs of our galaxy and I expect that you will withdraw and allow ISA member nations to handle this matter amongst themselves. You have forty-eight hours to comply.”

"This isn't recognized Brakiri territory, even in the ISA," Julia retorted. "And you heard the Drazi. This isn't a peacekeeping mission, they're here to commit genocide. How can you side with them?"

“I think it will quickly become apparent that the Dilgar are a serious threat to galactic peace. The Dilgar, of course, committed genocide three times over and attempted it another eight,” Foster replied. “They are the most dangerous species in existence. And the Drazi are our allies. I will, of course, execute directives from Geneva, but I am not going to allow our allies to come under attack, Captain Andreys, unless I receive explicit orders to the contrary according to my lawful chain of command. The Brakiri clearly have not being committing genocide. And I’m sure we’ll find plenty of Dilgar war criminals on the surface to arrest.”

"Your allies won't come under attack if they don't try to commit genocide, Major. And the last time I checked, Earth was a signatory to the InterStellar Alliance Declaration of Principles and the Geneva Accord on the Prevention of Genocide, among other laws that the Brakiri and Drazi are blatantly violating here." Julia fought to keep her voice under control. Incredulity was becoming outrage inside of her. "Whatever the crimes of the last generation of Dilgar, one planet of barely twenty million survivors is hardly a threat to galactic peace! How many Dilgar war criminals can be left after Third Balos and the battle for their home system anyway?"

“The Brakiri are not committing war crimes, Captain Andreys, and they have the surface. And I’m not concerned about the Drazi. They’re our friends and we’ll talk it out with them. Unlike the butcherers you are trying to defend.”

"So you're holding the sins of Jha'dur and her ilk against the entire species?" Julia asked. Her next remark was delivered in a pointed tone. "That's the same logic the Minbari used to justify their war against Earth."

“I suggest you think twice before comparing us to the killers of our entire generation. The fact is that it’s my duty to insure the survival of Earth, Captain. Don’t stand before us.” With a chilled expression on his face, the screen blinked out.

Julia returned to her seat and let out a breath, wondering if the situation could get any worse, and dreading that it most likely would.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:31 pm

Holy crap, everyone's insane! This is wonderful. Well done. :mrgreen:

My only gripes, as relayed by FB IM, are the strange out-of-placeness of the alienoid Dilgar captain's references to Earth films and IT WAS THE UNTERGANG FUHRERBUNKER.

Fine, maybe in that bit where the Dilgar and Varma were marooned, they had Earth movie marathons. Sure. :P
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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Tue Jan 09, 2018 1:32 am

Ship's Log: ASV Aurora; 3 April 2643. Captain Julia Andreys recording. We remain on station over the planet Tira to protect the colony of Dilgar. By doing so, we court a war between the Alliance and a number of species from Universe E5B1 including, it seems, the Earth Alliance. But if we withdraw, the Drazi and Brakiri will exterminate over twenty million civilians. My choice seems to be war or genocide. One is undesirable, the other unacceptable.


The command staff of the Aurora were in their conference lounge. The monitors showed their counterparts on the Shenzhou, Koenig, and Heerman, while a fourth image showed Shai'jhur and Kaveri over on the Magaratha. Outside the window their ad hoc squadron was visible in orbit over Tira. The Dilgar now numbered thirty-six ships with the arrival of what was left of Tira's defense forces.

"Tactically we have a partial advantage," Jarod said to the assembled. "The Huáscar is still repairing its damage and the remaining ISA fleets mostly have un-upgraded vessels with no deflector shields. We could drive them from the solar system."

"But if we try, that would precipitate full scale war with the InterStellar Alliance," Li noted. "President Sheridan wouldn't be able to resist the demand of the races here."

"The Earth Alliance would fall in just to get a chance to seize the Darglan homeworld," Julia added. "Unfortunately, if we don't do anything, once the Drazi reinforcements arrive and the Huáscar finishes repairing, we'll be the ones at a tactical disadvantage."

"We can't remain at Tira indefinitely," Imra said. "The fleet's still engaged in S4W8."

"I need solutions." Julia's eyes moved slightly to face the monitor with Shai'jhur. "Warmaster, our only option may be for you to formally contact Tuzanor and ask for President Sheridan to intervene personally. He's the one figure that the ISA races respect and fear enough that they'll back down."

I am prepared to do it, I have nothing against Sheridan. But there are some complications, especially in regard to Earthforce but really with the old liberation allies in general. I’d like to discuss them with you, if I could, in person.

"We can have you beamed back aboard whenever you're ready, Warmaster."

I’ll be ready with my staff in ten standard minutes.




Fifteen minutes later Julia brought Shai'jhur into her ready office off of the bridge. She offered a seat at her desk to Shai'jhur. The Dilgar leader coughed for several moments, only stopping after she sat down, supported by Battle Captain Fei’nur. Kaveri Varma sat at her right side. Julia took her seat at her desk. "This is about as private as you get on this ship, Warmaster," Julia said. "What is it you need to discuss?"

“Well, I’ll lay out the situation plainly, Captain Andreys,” Shai’jhur started after a moment. “The issue is that what the Brakiri commander said to you is false. The lawful Dilgar government never agreed to be confined to their homeworld. To paraphrase Louis XIV, I was the lawful Dilgar government and the only regime continuity. Properly I am not the true Head of State under the old laws, but certainly since the death of Supreme Warmaster Jha’dur I have been the Head of Government. And it was with full constitutional continuity that I passed my reforms. And the rightful Head of State was a one hundredth degree collateral relative of the late Emperor, who abdicated her responsibilities to me when I began reforming the government. That ‘treaty’ was signed with the Surgeon General, who had no authority to sign it. Not while both myself and, bluntly, Jha’dur, as Warmasters, remained alive.”

A pause, and she sighed, looking down into the table, before forcing her head up and continuing. In that moment, she looked old. “The Warmaster Council never told the rank and file what was going to happen to Omelos’ sun, you understand? I didn’t know. My original objective with what I called the Rohric Independent Fleet was simple: I was going to wait until the League got tired of occupying Omelos, possibly supporting a resistance campaign on the planet, and then when they were distracted by other events and fully demobilized, I would sweep in and liberate my people. It was a good plan, for the circumstances. Then Omelos’ primary explosively decoupled its outer layers… And twelve billion Dilgar died. But the fact remains, Captain Andreys, that I am legally at war with the former member nations of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds and the Earth Alliance.”

There was no immediate perceptible change to Julia's expression or posture as Shai'jhur explained the situation. It was certainly a legal minefield, of course. She had effectively brought the Allied Systems into the Dilgar War. At the same time, the facts on the ground were still the same. Genocide was wrong and it had to be stopped. And if the races of the ISA signed on for genocide… then the onus of the bloodshed was on them.

"So the obvious necessity of the moment, Warmaster, is to end the war legally. Which I'll admit is easier said than done. And it's going to require President Sheridan's involvement.

“He can negotiate for the ISA in full,” Shai’jhur agreed. “However, I wish to make something else clear, first, which I think will make everything easier.” She glanced to Kaveri, who handed over an embossed folio which was marked with a sharp claw-pattern crest. “I have consulted my government and by universal vote of the elected Statutory Council, I hereby present the Honourable Union of Tira and Rohric’s application for accession as a member state of the United Alliance of Systems.”

Julia accepted the folio and glanced over it. The language was translated into English and very formal. The formality might have made it obtuse if not for the straightforward nature of the text.

It was certainly a bombshell as well. Julia imagined that once announced it would certainly hurt Alliance relations with most of the ISA's races save, maybe, the Minbari. The Alliance's position in E5B1 would become quite precarious. The Earth Alliance's push to undermine the Alliance's claims to former Darglan worlds would get plenty of adherents. And all for the sake of not even fifty million people on two planets.

Of course, when she considered just how willing those factions were to commit genocide…

"I'll transmit this to the appropriate authorities on Portland," she said. "Normally starship captains aren't the usual channel for these things but given the circumstances, the application should still get processed and brought before the Council. Although you have to understand that the Alliance has strict requirements on sapient rights."

Shai’jhur looked serious as she nodded. “You can have your people review a complete packet of our constitutional law, recent press documentation and electoral records. Of course we anticipate having an Alliance working group visit to verify these, but they should provide a straightforward demonstration of our ability to meet, within our own species’ laws, customs and culture, the rights and norms of the Alliance. No different than the Gersallians or the Dorei. I am sure we have some innovations that will mystify you but in the end it will all be perfectly clear that we are fully committed to meeting the principles required for membership. Indeed, as a demonstration of my commitment to full interspecies equality I have already signed documents granting Kaveri Varma citizenship in the Union and the rank of Battlemaster in our Armed Forces.”

"The Cabinet and the Senate will likely determine how the investigation is conducted." Julia considered the folio and what Shai'jhur had just said about Varma. "If I may," she began, "what happened between you and Captain Varma? It's clear that the two of you are a lot closer than anyone else imagines."

Kaveri smiled. “I believe I can start, though there’s a few parts I don’t know that Shai’jhur will have to fill in.”




Lt. Kaveri Varma had been the only one out on the escape pod from the Denali - and now she was diving for cover as her escape pod exploded, and staring in horror at most of her supplies going up in a brilliant fireball as the fuel cells cooked off. Now she had almost nothing, and the Dilgar were here... She plunged into the scrub and waited.

In the distance, there was a booming noise of a shuttle having gone down.... And then nothing came for the rest of the day, except for the wind and the waves, which rose, and fell, with a brief storm tossing across the isle, so far out to sea. The next day, there was nothing except silence, and without the escape pod, no radio nor beacon, either.

The lack of troops made her believe that, perhaps, the Dilgar had perished in the crash, but to be safe, she stayed away from the crash-site, working with the small kit she had in her survival pack. At least she thought the fish were edible, starting to hack together a fishing pole for use as the sun set. On Earth, at least, it was an ideal time, bringing back memories of heading to the beach at dusk when she was a girl in Konkan.

Fishing was patient, quiet work, resumed the next morning, and the weather was dark and grey, but otherwise well as the sun brightened slowly in the horizon with the dawning of the next day. And about thirty minutes on, a voice in halting English cut the darkness.

"Stay where you are!"

Nope! shot through her mind like lightning, as Kaveri dove for cover, scrambling as quick as she could for broken ground.

"....Human, are all humans -- disobedient!? " The voice echoed again, almost trenchant.

As Kaveri searched, she could see the glint of a scope up in the rocks, and a flash of dark blue over the gray. But she would not let herself be drawn into revealing herself, and she stayed silent. A Dilgar who knows English? Intelligence? Divine, but I do not wish to be captured by her! Her survival rifle had gone up with the escape pod, which meant she felt uncomfortably reminded that Dilgar had evolved from a line of carnivores, and this one was armed.

The Dilgar rose, and began to pad down across the rocks, now, keeping the rifle leveled and walking low, in a swift, nimble gait which was sure-footed in the scree of the slope leading down to the beach, a predator's walk from an already small figure.

Darting away, she was trying to break contact, thrashing through the scrub - trying to get far enough away to slow down and start to hide, rather than end up with a bullet in the back.

"Please stop, human! A truce! A truce! You have my word! A truce!"

Pausing, Kaveri halted, looking back, incredulous. "... What?"

"I just wanted to ask you a question, human, but I could hardly expect you to not attempt to kill me if I came unarmed!" She came to a stop as well.

Kaveri did not dignify that with a response, only thinking back to intelligence's reading of the Dilgar, and how they did little but prepare for war and personal combat.

"Human, this is really quite important." She drew herself up -- and the rank tabs showed that she was a Battle Captain. Not exactly a low-ranking Dilgar.

"Human, ...can you fish?"




Kaveri smiled wryly as she finished the story. "So, four and a half months later, Shai’jhur was rescued, and I was left behind. Two weeks after that, I was recovered as part of the general fleet advance. They asked me a lot of uncomfortable questions, but to be honest, I always felt Shai’jhur was the one in far more danger."

Shai’jhur smiled. "Perhaps I was, but I believe I understood Warmaster Jha’dur better than most did."

"...Warmaster?" Julia glanced at her, feeling a bit trenchant at the idea of someone ‘understanding’ Jha’dur.

"You were always at your safest with Jha’dur if you told the truth," Shai’jhur replied, and started her own story.




It was a frail, tiny looking Dilgar female by any measure who entered the antechamber to the Lab where Jha'dur did her reports and computer time. Steady yellow almondine eyes betrayed no fear, however, as she drew herself up and saluted. "Battle Captain Shai'jhur reporting as ordered, Warmaster."

The figure at the desk did not look up for some time, before finishing whatever file she was finishing, and looking up. "Battle Captain. Your preliminary report has come to my attention - you have spent much time with one of the humans, by what you wrote." Cold eyes transfixed her, the commander of First Strike Fleet, the battered force thrown back and shattered by the humans, who still was searching for some way to turn the tide. "You did not return with them."

"I'm a drylander, Warmaster. I didn't know how to fish. So I made a deal with the human, who did," Shai'jhur replied, standing rigidly at attention.

"What was the nature of this arrangement, Battle Captain?" Gaze falling back to her paperwork, the Warmaster was making short notes with a stylus.

"Whichever of us was rescued first wouldn't tell our rescuers about the other to give a fair chance to get clear. Beyond, of course, the truce of cooperation that lasted for the duration of the time on the island."

"Which of you was rescued first?" Looking up, Deathwalker lurked in the eyes before her. "Why did you think of such an arrangement?"

"I was, Warmaster. I thought of it because I considered that a veteran Battle Captain was a sufficiently greater asset to the Dilgar than a green Lieutenant to the humans, and I could learn most of the useful intelligence from her over the time we were together, anyway."

"You have learned useful intelligence?" There was a fractional shifting, and then Jha'dur was leaning closer. "Sit, Battle Captain. What have you learned?"

Shai'jhur moved to sit. "Of course, Warmaster. I can explain in some detail how the war is being presented to the human population, and what their response to the war and the war effort has been, as well as various sociological observations on humans."

"She did not share any military intelligence, but by being friendly she shared those things which would not naturally occur to her to be important."

"The humans are much better acquainted with us than we are with them, Warmaster, I might add."

"You will tell me, Battle Captain. You will tell me everything, and spare nothing. If I am satisfied... you will leave this ship to take up a new command. If I am not..."

Shai'jhur bowed her head and raised her hand. "I'm not sure about the nobility on Omelos, Warmaster, but on Rohric we are taught not to lie." She swallowed. "I'll get started, and spare nothing."

"See that you do not."




“You see, honesty and competency together could forgive a great deal with Warmaster Jha’dur, Captain Andreys. Failure of your own making and incompetency, honestly admitted, were what got you, if you handled the matter with some dignity in your failure, a pistol with a single round and five minutes, and if you tried to lie or make excuses -- your one-way trip to Lab Nine.” Even after thirty-two years, Shai’jhur shuddered a little.

For Julia the most surprising thing wasn't the shudder that involuntarily shook Shai'jhur. That seemed the reasonable thing. It was that, through the story, Shai'jhur spoke about Jha'dur with what sounded like respect, even a little admiration. Julia would expect that from a defiant Dilgar refusing to accept the abuses and evils their war on the other races had caused, but it was quite clear Shai'jhur was not such a person. "It sounds like you still respect her, almost," she said carefully.

“Jha’dur was my commander, and we had clean glories, Captain. We also had occasions when I volunteered myself and my crew for dangerous duty in the rearguard and the pickets to avoid being assigned as a bombardment ship. That’s how I kept my hands clean. I’m sure there were others who did the same… But very few survived, period, after Third Balos. She was also probably the smartest woman of any race in the past ten thousand years. She was damned by our system, Captain Andreys. What was it the human philosopher Hannah Arendt said? The Banality of Evil? Yes, exactly that: She was an orphan, Captain Andreys, and in Dilgar society orphans were cast out to die. Supreme Warmaster Gar’shan helped her - merely by keeping her from being expelled from school as a favor to an old comrade, her father. That was it. And that was considered exceptional, to the point of placing in peril his position as a high-ranking Intelligence officer.”

“She kept her brother and herself alive by slowly pawning off her entire family estate, when she was a girl. And then when she had gotten into the academy, they took her aside and told her that her entire species was going to die in less than fifteen years unless they won the war. The way they indoctrinated children on Omelos in those days… They were raised to see all aliens as animals. She was set up. Is she a war criminal? Yes. Did she deserve to die? Yes. Did she, in the end, make choices which killed innocents? Certainly. But that was the fault of our entire society too, not just Jha’dur. From her point of view, she was just a woman trying to save her people. If we pretend Jha’dur was Deathwalker, was this creature of evil, instead of being a brilliant tactician loved by the lower deck who also happened to kill billions, we’re just escaping our collective responsibility for what happened. Jha’dur was not born fully formed to evil, she was made that way by our entire society.”

"I can see why you've put so much effort into reforming Dilgar society," Julia remarked. "I can't imagine it was easy."

“It wasn’t easy, but I was well-motivated, Captain. I have watched pretty much my entire people die. We take expectant mothers up to the Brown Dwarf Station to try and protect children from the spores, keep the children there until they’re two years old. Can you imagine what it is like as a mother to take your children back to the surface of Rohric after that? Some parents kill themselves and their children to avoid it. Depression, hopelessness, alcoholism are the norm. I promoted Dharma study in an effort to provide people an explanation for why, to give them anything to latch on to other than hopelessness. It…” She squeezed her hands.

“But I owe it to all those we left behind. Don’t we, Fei’nur?”

“Warmaster.” The giant woman took a step forward, her face carefully schooled into a reserved, neutral expression.

“If sins are expatiated in blood, Captain, we have certainly bled. It was… Living through the end times.” Her eyes seemed almost apocalyptic as old memories were coming to the forefront of her mind.




There was a quiet tension in the Lookout. Anyone could look through the transtanium windows and see why, with the sight of the Brakiri and Hyach ships, not to mention the large Huáscar. It was odd that the ship that had made their success so far possible was now known to be an enemy, but the word was already spread through the crew.

Despite the nervous tension Cat was sitting and enjoying a meal with her sister. Violeta was on the bridge and not available for dinner, unfortunately, but at least they would get to see each other when Violeta's bridge watch was over. For now there was Hargert's offered meal, a particularly German offering of sausages (including, yes, sausage stew), rice pudding, and noodles with gravy and a cabbage casserole. "I was hoping it would be Latin night again," Cat admitted to Angel.

"You always want Latin night," Angel pointed out. "Besides, you can always replicate it if you really don't want the German stuff."

"Yeah, but then that would be mean to Hargert," Cat protested. "He works so hard."

Angel nodded once in agreement. "So, how was it with that Dilgar girl?"

"Who? Tra'dur? She's nice. And jealous of our technology. And as smart as me."

"That I would have to see, because nobody is as smart as you."

Cat gave her sister a bemused look. "What about Jarod?"

"Jarod cheats." Angel looked around. "So where is she?"

"Still on the bridge," Cat replied.

"No, not your girlfriend. Your new friend," Angel said. "Aren't you supposed to be working with her?"

"Well, yes, but when I said I was coming here to eat she said she wanted to finish a simulation she was running on the Science Lab 2 computers." Cat smiled and giggled. "It's some astrophysics model she drew up in school or something, but the Dilgar don't have sophisticated enough computers to examine it. We do."

"Ah. Well, I can see why you'd be friendly with her." Angel laughed. "You're both hopeless geeks."

The Dilgar woman entered just then, bag slung over her shoulder. With her striking red head of hair over her dun fur, and that cute tiny button-nose, yellow eyes looked about alertly. Swathed in crimson sash and scarf, her blue uniform with gray tone had gaudy rank tabs and, science officer or not, she had a sword buckled at her side. Stepping up to the counter, she spoke briefly with Haegert and then picked up a tray with a bowl of sausage stew, two sausages by themselves on the side, and a tiny helping of noodles covered in a very large quantity of gravy. The amount of meat was almost comical for the tiny woman as she looked around, and then headed straight for Cat and Angel.

"Oh, hey," Cat said upon Tra'dur reaching the table. "Did you finish your simulation?"

“Yes, I did. It confirms something about hyperspace that one of my relatives hypothesized back in the old Imperium but never followed up on,” she said rather excitedly. “I think it might provide the theoretical link between the hyperspace used here and that used in S0T5.”

"Are you going to write a paper?" Cat asked.

“...I’d like to, yes. It would be a great thing to be doing recognized science again, as a people. We have some very strong biological sciences still as well, and I’ve thought before we might be able to help the League races we hurt in the past, but, of course, they might not like our help.” She was quietly demolishing the massive pile of meat dishes she’d acquired, taking mouthfuls between sentences.

"You should contact the Vulcan Science Academy," Cat said. "The Vulcans only really care about the logic and scientific grounding of papers, and they're becoming the lead science organization for the whole Multiverse."

“I want to go there! I should really like to study at the VSA,” Tra’dur said with an unbridled delight. “Everyone would just be focused on science, you’re right, and I wouldn’t have to be concerned. Though I think Vulcans are vegetarians…”

"They are, but they still have meat programmed into their replicators," Cat said.

"Big on meat, aren't you?" Angel asked.

“We are preferential, but not obligate, carnivores. Also, I hate to claim status as a victim for myself, but we always wanted for food growing up, and the spores stunt our growth. My generation of Dilgar is as short as our iron-age ancestors on Omelos. Battle Captain Fei’nur is an example of a Dilgar who grew up healthy.”

"Maybe our medical technology can help with those spores? Chelate them out of the body or something."

“Oh, they’ll pass if you stay away from Rohric for long enough. That hasn’t exactly been an option for anyone. And mother’s family was poor, but stubborn, so they stayed on Rohric to be free and respected before the war. That would be another advantage of the Vulcan Science Academy… Or staying on a ship like this, exploring. I’ve only been to about twenty systems in my life and about six have been on this trip. I want to see the Multiverse!”

"Well, that sounds familiar." Angel grinned at Cat.

Tra’dur was grinning, now, and reached into her bag, pulling out … A pair of bagpipes. “For hobbies, I confess to having learned this human instrument, I understand it’s very old, as well as a few others. Can I play it here?”

Angel blinked. "Just where did you get a set of bagpipes?"

“Well, to be honest, it was war booty passed down in the family.” She turned the pipes to display a silver regimental plate. The Black Watch. Royal Highland Regiment of Canada.

"So it's a trophy from the war." Angel shook her head. "Be careful showing that thing around Scotty. He takes the bagpipes almost as seriously as he does the engines."

“I honour them by keeping it according to their regulations and playing it as respectfully as they would,” she answered, raising the instrument to her lips. Quite flawlessly, she started to play The Black Bear.

Everyone in the Lookout started looking their way. Some were surprised, others annoyed, a few simply bewildered at the sudden blare of bagpiping. Angel and Caterina shared uncertain looks, each wondering just how this was going to turn out. Especially if…

"Now who's playin' th' Black Bear in th' middle o' dinner?" a voice called out.

Cat and Angel turned and watched Scotty enter the Lookout, still in his engineering vest over a long-sleeved white turtleneck and black trousers. He looked around and quickly followed the eyes of the others in the room to their table. Cat and Angel said nothing while the older man came over. His eyes went to the bagpipes and then to their current owner. There was the slightest hint of… not quite anger, but certainly instinctive disapproval.

“Commander, Sir,” she smoothly finished and rose. “My name is Tra’dur, Combat Master on the Magaratha. I should like to think I do them honour, Sir. They were meant to be played.”

“Oh, lass, you’re right they were. But they’re a’ regiment’s, aye?”

“The Canadian Black Watch”, she answered, reverently holding them as she displayed the name plate. “I made the repairs myself.”

“An’ ye did a good job, lass. They are in tune.” He looked at the plate for an unusually long time, quiet. “There’s about a thousand men between you an' those pipes I’m guessin’.”

“I don’t hold it against them, I hope their families won’t hold it against us.” She looked up, her eyes almost glassy. “They were such incredibly brave men. They held the rear-guard on the retreat at Balos. We had never seen such soldiers before, never would again. Not even our worst dared deny their courage. The story goes that Warmaster Jha’dur was so impressed by them that she ordered the few survivors be left to go free. I play for them as much as for myself.”

“Ah, lass.” His eyes were more grandfatherly. “I willnae say it’s wrong, but they might be upset. ‘Ere, I’ll help ye get a pair fitted for yerself, real ones, nae replicated, an' ye can play those an' make 'em yers."

A nervous, but relieved smile, touched Tra’dur’s lips, and she nodded. “I’d be honoured, Commander…”

“Montgomery Scott, lass.” There was a little twinkle in his eye. “Do these things right, and I think ye'll make a fine piper.”




From the moment that she had started, Shai’jhur seemed gripped in the spell of a terrible memory. She recounted Fei’nur’s arrival, the terrifying realization… The desperate call for help from the surface of the doomed world. Her small lungs heaving, claws skittering on Captain Andreys' desk, each word was uttered with a dull precision. Behind her, Battle Captain Fei’nur shrunk in place like the story was physical pain.




I am the Warmaster at the End of Days. It had been the first thought that had flashed through her mind when she heard ragged Fei’nur’s report when she had finally reached Rohric, after her daring escape from Balos. Her second had been to lay her cards out and beg the humans for help.

But the humans were far away, and the preliminary signs of Omelos destabilizing were already occurring. Her own people had been terrified the Earth Alliance would not help, and Shai’jhur was not sure if they would, or if they would pretend they had tried their best and would be unable to. And in the end, the event simply happened too fast to plan their way to another resolution.

Instead, Shai’jhur had activated her invasion alarm and used the emergency mobilization protocols to fling every single military and civilian ship in the Rohric Independent Fleet for Omelos, arriving as the radio broadcasts, steadily more desperate, began. And it had been Fei’nur, child of the Ogkharin ghetto, Fei’nur, the replacement, who earned her commission by killing a squad of Drazi with an entrenching tool, and who Shai’jhur had trusted to commence the evacuation on the End of Days. The League had obligingly retreated to let the Dilgar die, and into the short gap between the retreat and death, Shai’jhur had quietly slipped.

The radiation was peaking, and Ogkharin was sweeping toward the terminator line. The dawn would be bring lethal radiation for everyone on the surface. "Combat Expert…" Shai’jhur’s voice cut the open line. "You need to finish up the last transport. You have ten minutes until Ogkharin reaches the terminator." She spoke in a strangely detached tone. Around her bridge, listless, hopeless faces and eyes contrasted with those lit with a desperate energy. They had long since muted all the civilian channels: They didn’t need to listen to the death cries of the western hemisphere.

"Understood, Warmaster." The voice that came through was flat, emotionless. There would be time to look at the new scars on her soul later, Fei’nur thought, looking around at the masses of Dilgar around her. Her people, the ones living close enough to the spaceports to reach them when the evacuation orders had come down, not the hand-picked selection of society which had made it aboard the evacuation ships before the Battle of Omelos. Now, the slowly growing light on the horizon portended death for anyone who did not make it aboard these last transports. She bit her cheek hard enough to draw blood as she withdrew a small cylinder from her jumpsuit and pressed the button atop it… setting off the charges that would collapse the passenger gangways to the loading platform, as she turned to those around her; "When the sun rises, anyone not aboard dies! Move, Dilgar, move if you want to live! Push until you can barely breathe!" And some of the weaker will not be able to, but there’s no other choice…

In later years, Fei’nur knew she was the last Dilgar to breathe the choking, polluted air of Omelos. Somehow, in her nightmares, it always tasted sweet.

The next day, Warmaster Shai’jhur came to visit her personally where she lay in her hospital bed, almost overcome with radiation burns. "Combat Expert," she began, hesitantly, and then reached for Fei’nur’s hand in an unprecedented gesture from a Dilgar superior officer. "Thank you for your effort. Both with the people and with the Warmaster’s Council files."

Her eyes were flat, when Fei’nur coughed and shuddered, weakly grasping her Warmaster’s hand back. "Anything… for my Warmaster. I will never forgive that I failed her, that I arrived too late… but I will force myself to live with the shame. She found it within herself to do so, how could I do any less…?"

"I must ask for more," Shai’jhur answered softly. "I am going to take every measure necessary for us to survive. Survive as Dilgar, a proud race, and free. Some of those measures you will not understand. They will bother you. Challenge what we were told. What we believed. You must, with the reckless lack of fear of a woman who has seen what you have seen, challenge them. Remonstrate. Question what I do. I will always listen. And then you must accept when I stay the course, and do it anyway. But I will always listen."

"I am not sure if I am capable of such a thing, Warmaster, but if such is your order, I shall attempt it with my utmost, to death itself. Is this something you find satisfactory?"

"Yes. It is all I would ask." Around them, the incoherent moans of those drugged into bliss as they died, those just too late to save, washed into the dreadful numbness of the day after the apocalypse.




Shai’jhur finished, leaning into Fei’nur, who stood as woodenly as a statue. Kaveri had leaned back in her chair, quietly weeping. “And so we pulled ourselves together. I had six daughters to set an example for the rest. We had a new war on our hands, against drunkenness, drugs and suicide. So, Captain, now you know everything. Including how twelve billion Dilgar died. Perhaps we adults who started the war deserved it, but wither the children?”

"No." Julia shook her head. There were no words she could conceive of to deal with the grief and loss. It was a truly terrible thing to contemplate the death of an entire people, a unique species and culture that might have yet had something to contribute to their galaxy, to the Multiverse. Forever denied the chance at redemption.

Not to mention the children. Beings who, by definition, were innocent of the crimes of their parents. "Children don't deserve to suffer for the crimes of their parents." As she said the words Julia wondered if her own people could have that thrown back into their faces. An interstellar war could be terrible on civilian populations. The protection that starships and space installations enjoyed ensured that civilian targets faced utter annihilation if not defended themselves… and it was those same defenses that were targeted first to enable planetary invasions. How many children in the Reich had died while the Alliance fought their parents?

“And so here we stand.” Shai’jhur sighed, like so much of a deflated balloon. “Captain, I must figure out what is happening on the surface. We are being denied information, and we must know how bad it is. But I don’t want to send my own effort independently.”

"I was already considering sending a team down." Julia shook her head. "If we move too directly, the Brakiri will probably blow the barrage," she said. "We have a runabout specifically designed for stealth insertions. But I have to warn you that even that's not guaranteed."

There was no hesitation on Shai'jhur's part. “Battle Captain Fei’nur can go, to support your personnel in conducting the reconnaissance and avoiding blue-on-blue incidents. The rest should be your’s, Captain.”

"I'll inform Major Anders and Lieutenant Lucero."

“An operations officer? This could involve intense special forces activities, Captain, I wouldn’t necessarily think it wise to have someone slowing down the group.”

Julia nodded and grinned. "Lucy is not your average operations officer. She's been trained in the arts of the Gersallian Order of Swenya, if you've heard of them. She's become experienced enough that they consider her to be an honorary Knight, in fact."

“Only vague rumours,” Shai’jhur answered. “We still have telepaths, though they are no longer restricted to the Mha’dorn. Yes, if that is her ability, I understand perfectly. Fei’nur, you are detached to assist the Alliance forces in conducting a reconnaissance of conditions on Tira.”

“Yes, Warmaster!” she came to attention.

Shai’jhur smiled. “Now, we just need to wait for Sheridan’s reply.”




While I foresaw my career ending in such a fashion, I was expecting it to be at the hand of either Sheridan or Clark’s people, not at the hands of my own crew. The thought floated to the surface of Zheng-li Varma’s mind, as she sat with her legs folded under her in her own ship’s brig. Her eyes slowly opened, as she regarded the reinforced steel door before her, then closed again. I must trust that I have instilled the values of righteousness into my crew, that they will choose to see this as mutiny. We are often tested, but it is so difficult to wait, when one can do nothing. Still, to fail to act to protect the helpless… would be failing in my duty. There was nothing else to be done.

Her reverie was interrupted by a soft knock on the cell door. “Captain?” It was Lieutenant Johnathan Goodman, the Security Officer for the Huáscar, a big, easygoing man from Belize. “We’re arranging to have your regular meals brought down.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant. This will all end badly, mark my words. Even Admiral Hamato was not willing to engage in indiscriminate bombardment, nor his subordinates. Earthforce does not want to sully itself in this. We will not come off well.”

“You know Foster’s politics. The entire crew is on pins and needles right now. Nobody wanted to fight our allies, though, but Foster doesn’t care about that. What he cares about is that he thinks you imperiled Earth’s interests for the sake of aliens.”

“I’ve never done that, Lieutenant. This will turn the UAS against us, and make us multiversal pariahs. It’s in Earth’s interests to be part of a wider community, to be what we should be. Sheridan threw me off Babylon 5, I thought that was the usual defence against a charge of race treason?” She was bitter-sounding, as the wounds the Minbari War had left on Earthforce seemed to be ensnaring her again. “The Dilgar did evil things, but at least they had a reason for it. We wanted to see them become part of the galaxy again, like we did for the nations defeated in the Second World War.”

“It isn’t that you’re wrong, Captain, it’s that to a lot of our officers, you went rogue. We had no orders. You just acted.” He hesitated, a chill, cold sweat visible on his face.

“Are you telling me that I do not have a responsibility under the Genocide Convention, Lieutenant? I do not need orders - I would be a criminal if I waited for them and allowed it to happen. I swore an oath, and I am acting within it. You recall the Legal Handbook? ‘A state’s obligation to prevent, and accordingly to act, arise at the instant the State learns of, or normally should have learned of, the existence of a serious risk that genocide will be committed.’ The Captain’s eyes were cold, hard, and unforgiving. “I will see the Commander spaced if he results in us failing in that sacred charge, Lieutenant. I am ashamed that so much of the crew followed him, and regard it as a personal failing as Captain of the Huáscar.”

Goodman looked uncomfortable. “Captain, when the war ended everyone agreed to put it behind us, but you know, Major Foster is one of Clark’s people…”

“And did I not stand with General Lefcourt at Mars, in accordance with my oaths? Did not Sheridan expel me from Babylon 5? I am a soldier, and I will not abandon my duty. I see Major Foster as having committed mutiny.” The word fell like lead between them. Her uttering it raised the stakes to an entirely new and dangerous level for Huáscar’s crew.

And Goodman knew it, pacing in front of her cell nervously. “Look, Captain, you know the crew is basically split into two camps. Those of us who sided with Sheridan think you did the right thing and those who served Clark regard this as a betrayal of Earth’s interests. They don’t think Geneva applies to aliens and they never have and never will. I…. Sharon Farallon,” the Chief Engineer, “is the one who’s most torqued off about Foster. I’m worried he might order her arrest next. I’ll… I’ll talk to some people, Captain, I’ll keep Foster’s Nightwatch buddies out of here. But you gotta understand that if this goes down, it isn’t going to remain non-violent.”

“This is far more clear-cut than anything Sheridan ever did, Lieutenant. Regardless, be careful. This is a wound that the Minbari inflicted on us, and it has not yet healed. I will not have good people shot down by a mutineer if I can help it.”

“Well, I’ll get people talking,” Goodman answered. “Since I’m Security, nobody is going to question my coming into the brig. I’ll… get people talkin’.” He looked levelly at Zhengli. “I’m with you.”

“You are… a good man, Goodman.” She half-grinned at the pun, managing to find a hint of levity in the situation, as painful as it was. “Huáscar will get through this.”

Goodman laughed at the joke despite of, or perhaps because of, his nervousness. “I’m prayin’, Captain. You’re right about it, though. It’s right and wrong that matters here… And it just ain’t human of us to stand by and watch civilians get shot down from orbit. I’ll talk to you again soon.” He closed the viewing screen and his footfalls drifted away.

Shortly afterwards, one of the guards slid Zhengli’s food into the cell. As she did, the woman whispered softly: “You did right, Captain, but I don’t how we’re going to get past those Nightwatch goons.”

“We’ll find a way. Be careful, feel out some of the others. We need to act before they open fire on those UAS ships. Earth will have a whole lot bigger problems than some alliances with genocidaires being messed up if Foster really does that.”

“Aye Aye, Captain..”




After dinner Caterina headed back to Science Lab 2 to check on a couple of things. One of those was Tra'dur's simulation which explained, or at least further explained, the Dilgar woman accompanying her. "You look really content," Cat observed.

“Commander Scott was very kind. I’ve always loved music so much. I know all of the human spacing songs, and any others I’ve found along the way, but instruments were hard to get…. To many of our own songs from my mother’s era are just terrible, so I prefer the human ones,” she grinned wryly. “And by terrible, well. Actually, I don’t think it’s even appropriate to start singing something that recursively talks about how it was ‘sung again with a lot of blood’.”

Cat made a face. "Yeah, I wouldn't either." She took a seat at one of the computer controls and activated the ongoing simulations. Her own simulation was one of her newest investigations as a result of their trip into the Fracture. Attached to it were notes from Doctor T'Dala and Professor Satek of Vulcan regarding the new parameters for evaluating T'Vral Distortions. She read them again just to do so, and to feel giddy at having two esteemed astrophysicists writing notes to her like she was a fellow colleague, not a student.

Not that she wasn't still a student. She was in many ways, and she didn't even have a doctorate. But it was still a great boost to her confidence.

“So what are you working on, Cat’Delgado?” Tra’dur asked as she settled down, reorienting herself to the system and checking the paper notes that had still been important to the way she worked, after the way she learned.

"It's a simulation on T'Vral Distortions," Cat replied. "They're a result of intense space-time distortion near a star allowing the bleeding of subspace into real-space. They've been theoretical for two hundred years until I found one in the Fracture last month." There was a real enthusiasm in Cat's voice. "It was amazing to see Doctor T'Vral's theory was true. The Vulcan Science Academy is asking me to do a presentation this summer at a symposium they're hosting on the Citadel in Universe M4P2. I've already put in my leave request for it and it's so exciting…"

“The Citadel? I’ve heard that each of its arms is as grand as Babylon 5! I should love to see it. If they’re doing a symposium there… Perhaps there will be peace, and I can actually go to such a thing.”

"It's enormous. It doesn't have the same charm as B5, but there's lots of interesting things, and nearly every sapient species from that version of our galaxy has residences on the station."

“I see--or rather I don’t, but I wish I did.” A smile crossed her face, showing her fangs. “Do you have a mate, Cat’Delgado, or is it just the mathematics for you?”

A deep blush appeared on Cat's face. "Uh… I'm with someone, yeah," she managed.

“Tell me about him?”

Cat swallowed and giggled nervously. "Uh… well… you see… I'm not sure how your species and culture or whatever view this sort of thing, but…" After drawing her silence out Cat sighed and came out with it. "...well, I'm with another girl, not a guy."

After a quiet pause built up some anticipation in Cat, Tra’dur laughed softly. “Cat’Delgado, my mother is hopelessly only attracted to females. But she was a noblewoman in the old Imperium, so she had a mate for a time. But the relationship ended when their son died--that’s a long story. But that’s why she had us with a genetic donor instead of mating again. In the old Imperium it wasn’t forbidden, it was just that you were expected to do your duty to your species and procreate.”

Cat made a face at that. "Eww," was her response.

“Well, we came up with some better technology for that. I’d just been so impressed by everything around me that I’d assumed you had it as well.”

"Well, I think we do," Cat said. "It's just the idea of being forced to be with a guy just to have a kid. It's… yech."

“It is rather disgusting to think about, I admit. Copulation with someone you don’t even wa--” And suddenly, just like that, Tra’dur fell silent, collapsing across her desk.

There was a moment when Caterina was completely uncertain of what had just happened. Training and experience kicked in after that moment. Her hand went straight for her omnitool and triggered the communication system. "Delgado to Medbay, medical emergency in Science Lab 2!"




An anti-grav stretcher bearing the unconscious Tra'dur came right through the sliding doors into the medbay's emergency care ward. A pair of orderlies moved the Dilgar girl to a bed. Leo entered with Doctor Lani Walker, of the Tohono O'odham people of the American Southwest, behind him. "What's wrong?"

It was Cat who called out "She just collapsed!" from the door.

While Walker commenced scans to determine any issue with Tra'dur's blood chemistry and lower organs, Leo went right to the most likely source. He activated the powerful scanners built into the emergency ward bio-bed and used them to scan Tra'dur's brain. As the results showed he narrowed his eyes and operated the scanning controls with his omnitool, refining the results. Once he got to the right magnification he nodded. "I'm picking up some kind of organism in her brain. It looks like… spores, with associated lesions in brain tissue. Still minor."

"It must be the spores from her homeworld," Cat said. "Can't you get them out?"

"We're going to try. In the meantime." He looked to his nurse. "Let's start off cautiously. Five ccs of oxylin, now."

"Yes Doctor."

Leo glanced back to Cat. "This is a serious medical situation, Cat, I'm afraid you need to leave."

"Oh. Okay," she said. "I'll go let Shai'jhur know."

"Sounds good to me. We may need the help with her physiology." Leo immediately returned his attention to his patient. "What do we have in the library files on them anyway?" he asked Walker. "I want to know what I should be avoiding here…"
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:35 am

A content warning for this one. Something nasty is depicted.



The individual on the monitor was not someone Julia usually dealt with. The tan-skinned man in question was on the large side, dressed for business (at least with the high-collared 27th Century aesthetics of a FedStar Earther), and seated at a desk behind which a window showing the Portland skyline was visible. Small dots that could only be air cars moved in streams around the large buildings. "This is highly irregular, Captain," the man said in a Spanish accent. "Councilman Mutombo usually receives these applications through the Foreign Office or from diplomatic representation in Portland. There is no precedent for a naval captain to submit one."

"This is an irregular situation, Mister Vasquez," Julia answered. "And we're dealing with a possible genocide out here. The Dilgar application for Alliance membership could provide a diplomatic mechanism we can use to prevent it."

"So you have said. I admit I am not sure we should even be involved in this. We're already waging one interstellar war…"

Julia tried to keep the frost out of her voice when she pointed out, "Yes, against enemies who commit genocide. As an Alliance officer I'm bound by regulation, ethics, and basic morality to do whatever I can to prevent genocides. This is one mechanism we can use to do that."

Vasquez looked down at his reader again, as if studying it for an imperfection. Finally he sighed in defeat. "Alright. The Councilman will be returning from the current Council session in an hour or so. I'll bring this to his attention. I can't promise he'll call the Committee right away…"

"Just do what you can, please," Julia pleaded. "It could mean the difference between life and death out here."

"Right." A sympathetic look came to the aide's face before he reached off-screen for the key to terminate the call.

After sighing with relief Julia immediately sent another call to Defense Command. But they couldn't relay her to the Kentan or any other responsible official. An attempt to contact Admiral Maran's flagship directly failed; it was undoubtedly in the middle of a combat operation. And the Presidential Mansion stonewalled her immediately on getting ahold of Morgan, insisting he was in high level meetings and could not be disturbed. She barely got the official in question to promise to relay her message to Morgan. And the Foreign Office insisted Secretary Onaram was off-world in important classified meetings.

Whatever rest she hoped the conclusion of these efforts would bring did not come. Julia barely had time to rub at her forehead before she got the call from the Medbay. "Captain, you should get down here," Leo's voice said. "This is serious."

"On my way," she said.




Getting called to the medbay was rarely good, Julia thought during her trip. It usually meant a complication to their mission or a medical crisis that was going to affect the crew in some way.

Upon arrival in the medbay she was met by Doctor Walker. "Doctor Gillam is still with the patient," she said.

"Who is it?"

"One of the Dilgar aboard. Lieutenant Delgado said her name was Tra'dur?"

"Damn." Julia shook her head. "She's the exchange officer. And the daughter of their leader. What's wrong with her?"

"A number of spores worked their way into her brain. She lost consciousness. The spores are causing lesions to form in her brain tissues."

"Knowing Doctor Gillam, he's doing everything he can."

"He is. But our knowledge of Dilgar physiology is limited. We can't fight this thing effectively unless we know more."

"We'll have to…"

Before Julia could finish that sentence a blue light appeared over the back of Walker's left hand. She pressed the light and opened the communication. "Doctor Walker here."

"I got through to Shai'jhur," Caterina said. "She's having one of her medical personnel connect to us to help."

"I will inform Doctor Gillam," Walker replied. She returned to the emergency care ward with Julia behind her. Julia looked to the occupied biobed, where the young Dilgar officer was still unconscious and being looked over by Leo. "Doctor, we will be getting a contact shortly."

"Good." Leo glanced up briefly. Noticing Julia, he nodded and returned to work. "Captain, thank you for coming. I thought you should see this. It might be relevant to the Dilgar case."

"Oh?" Julia asked. "Doctor Walker said spores got into her brain?"

"Yes. Probably the ones Shai'jhur mentioned." Leo tapped a key and shook his head. "And removing them is almost impossible. They're really small. Our surgical transporters don't have the resolution to get them. Not without taking healthy tissue too."

"I can ask Mister Scott about improving them," Julia said.

"We could use that. Right now I'm trying to get the spores that are in the bloodstream. I'll send samples to Lab 3 for biological analysis."

"I'm sure Doctor Ke'mani'pala will be a great help."

The screen in the medbay flashed with the indication of an incoming connection. Leo answered the incoming call.

A young looking Dilgar female appeared on the screen, a redhead just like Tra’dur. In fact, it looked like there was a distinct family resemblance between the two. This was confirmed a moment later. “This is Surgeon-Commander Nah’dur of the Redoubtable. The Warmaster informed me that Tra’dur was suffering from fungitoxic hydrocephalus, is that correct?

Leo nodded. “I’m Doctor Leonard Gillam of the Aurora and that would be my best guess, yes, Surgeon-Commander… Are you related to the patient?”

Yes, she’s my older sister, but we don’t have regulations about family members treating each other and anyway, it is straightforward. We have all been deviled with these spores since we were very young, the scarves we wear are to hide our bloody spittle from our enemies, but to me, these spores are the enemies I will someday beat. Tell me, what would your normal method be for removing a foreign object from the brain?

Leo glanced to Dr. Walker. The woman grinned. Nah’dur was, to a word, eccentric. “We have transporter based surgery,” he explained the concept, watching the woman take notes on a pad.

When she finished taking notes a moment after he had finished explaining, she looked up with a chipper grin. “Brilliant. This is going to be very easy. The spores may be too small to resolve, but Dilgar antibodies shouldn't be, and the fluid in the lesion will have a high concentration that the surrounding tissue will not. By this point the lesions should be large enough to fit nicely within the resolution limits. I’m sending the calculation for that to you, as well as the chemical trace of the antibodies. Very, very few spores will have gotten to the brain, so if you target each lesion, she should be waking up tomorrow no worse for wear since we’re still at an early enough stage that the displacement isn’t causing a buildup in pressure or cell damage. Of all the people… This happens to about one in a thousand Rohricans in their lifetime and it’s just plain bad luck. I could get you the drugs we normally use to treat it, but there are side effects and about five percent still die and another thirty percent have brain damage. I don’t want my sister’s three hundred kilo brain messed up, and I’m quite confident this will work. Though she’ll owe me some rotgut from the Magaratha’s still.

Leo had confirmed the presence of the offered calculations by this point. "Thank you, Doctor," he said. "Here we go." He loaded the relevant data into the system. Within a few seconds the bio-scanners located the antibodies inside of the lesions. With a couple presses to the control board the surgical transporters started to remove the antibodies and spores within.

The procedure was still delicate. A look from Doctor Walker was all Julia needed to leave the doctors to their work.




Upon receiving the order from Julia to report for the insertion mission, Lucy returned to her quarters to suit up. She removed her uniform and put on the Gersallian-made armor she used for field missions. The armor was purple in color and quite mobile despite its look and size. Lucy finished fitting the final pieces and re-clipped her lightsaber to the belt. She reached into her closet and retrieved a blue combat robe of Gersallian make, which she pulled on. She left the hood down as she always did.

Once she was ready Lucy departed for the other side of the ship. The Gonzalez would be departing from its place in the secondary shuttle bay, at the rear of the ship's lower drive section.

In that bay the squat form of the Gonzalez was waiting. It was the replacement for the Basilone, one of the many small craft lost to the near-disaster that struck the ship toward the end of the prior year. Like the Basilone the Gonzalez was a stealth insertion runabout, equipped with its own cloaking device and a turreted gun that could be used to give fire support to friendly troops trying to board the craft. Lucy approached the main door on the side when she was met by a man in light Marine power armor. His complexion and appearance indicated a man with at least some Native American heritage. The rank insignia on his suit showed he had the rank of Major, or equivalent to a Lieutenant Commander. "Lieutenant," he said. "I'm told you'll be coming with us."

"Major Anders." Lucy nodded once to the commander of the Aurora's Marines. Major Gabriel Anders was the relatively new head of said Marines. Indeed, with a few exceptions all of the Marines on the ship were new given all of those lost fighting the Cybermen and Daleks. His predecessor, Commander Kane, had gotten along well enough with Lucy, but had nearly been killed fighting the Daleks that included having limbs blown off. This would be her first working with Anders. "I'm here for the mission."

"So I see." Anders looked over her with uncertainty. "You're not going in armor?"

"This is my armor."

"Not powered, though." He shook his head. "I'd feel better if you had a proper suit. At least a support tech suit. It'll make insertion easier and I won't have to worry about you taking a hit."

Lucy sighed at that. "Major, I'm trained in the life-force arts of the Gersallians. They consider me an honorary knight. Trust me, you've got nothing to worry about."

"I've heard about all of that," Anders said. "But life force magic or no, you'll be safer in an armor suit."

"But less mobile and able to fight," she countered. "This is how I do things, Major. You're going to have to trust me." Lucy hoped she sounded conciliatory. At the same time she didn't want to waste time going to Julia over this.

Anders sighed. "Your funeral," he murmured.

With that out of the way Lucy followed him aboard the Gonzalez.




The Gonzales' departure from the Aurora was done carefully. The other ships in the friendly squadron were used to mask the opening of the bay door from being seen. The stealth runabout cloaked before emerging from the bay. Under the control of Ensign Getamanan the craft slipped around the friendly vessels in orbit and made their way toward the water world below. Beside Getamanan, Lucy monitored the systems and made sure their approach angle would prevent re-entry heat from exceeding the stealth craft's absorption and cloaking capability. Major Anders and Fei'nur were seated behind them to observe.

The Gersallian's piloting was spot-on throughout the re-entry phase. Once they were fully in atmosphere he altered the attitude of the craft to minimize wind resistance - avoiding creating an aerial wake profile that particularly fine sensors might detect - and brought them in toward the Dilgar colony.

A great reversing lake system, sometimes outflowing into an estuary and sometimes accepting water from the sea, mingled in a beautiful, light blue expansion of tropic, brackish water. Secure on one coast of the lake, situated on the largest piece of contiguous land on the water world (an island-continent around the size of Brazil), a simple set of rammed earth barrages with steel floodgates salvaged from wrecked freighters defended the city from tide and wet season flood.

It was designed for a million people, and the rest of the population had spread beyond it, but it remained the nerve-centre and capital of Tira. Modular buildings built out of shipping containers predominated, some up to ten stories high, and wooden low buildings with thatch roofs the rest, but the streets had been smartly laid out. There were signs of fighting, though, for smoke rose at places, especially in the outlying areas near to the jungle.

Lucy shook her head. "There's a lot of wild fear and anger down there," she said. She checked her sensors. "I am showing multiple groups of Dilgar together at various points in the city, all in internal spaces. Individuals only in the streets with large numbers of non-Dilgar, consistent with an enforced curfew. And there’s concentrated bodies of Dilgar on the outskirts in the jungle verge.”

"Surviving government forces then," Anders said. "We can link up with them if it proves necessary. But orders are to observe, not intervene."

"I know." Lucy tapped another series of keys. "I'm not showing active loss of life going by the bio-scans. They're not trying to kill everyone… wait." A particular reading came up. "Okay, it looks like one set of life signs is decreasing. But they're very faint."

"Can you get us close?" Anders asked. "This sounds like it bears investigating."

"I am doing so now, sir," Getamanan answered.

The Gonzalez changed heading slightly and flew toward one particular structure in the northern section of the city.

“Where are you planning to land to avoid accidental detection on the ground?” Fei’nur asked, looking over the readings but evidencing no distress.

"We'll drop onto the site," Anders said. "With our personal cloaks engaged and with a height of ten meters with stealth landing boosts engaged."

“Shuttle only to orbit, then?” She clarified, nodding to the plan. It was straightforward enough.

"That's the usual plan for these ops," Anders answered.

By this point the Gonzalez was hovering in the air above the structure at the desired height. "We're in position, Major," Getamanan said.

"Alright." He stood up. Lucy and Fei'nur did the same. Technical Officer Wang moved from a backup station at the rear of the cockpit to take Lucy's place. They walked into the back where more of Anders' Marines were waiting, already in their light power armor. "Get ready for a quiet drop, everyone. Activate silent drop protocols."

The various Marines nodded and operated the omnitools that appeared, on command, over their forearms.

Lucy, for her part, merely went over and retrieved the blue Gersallian-style robe from a hook she'd set up for it. She pulled it on over her purple body armor and noticed Fei'nur giving her a curious look. She answered with a little grin before checking that her lightsaber was still fixed to her hip.

One of the Marines hit a key at the back of the runabout. The rear loading hatch opened. Anders nodded to his people and was the first to jump out. He shimmered out of view in the process Not quite halfway to the ground, quiet thrusters fired on the boots and back of the armor. Anders landed softly (or relatively softly anyway) on the roof of the structure.

One by one, the other eleven Marines in the infiltration squad did the same. Fei'nur and Lucy would be the last to go down. Lucy sensed readiness in the Dilgar in the moment before she jumped, shimmering out of view as she did.

Lucy slid the tactical goggles over her eyes before she reached to her belt and triggered her own personal cloak. Once she was cloaked she jumped out. The wind in her face was strong. If not for her goggles her eyes would be closing to protect themselves. This would ordinarily be dangerous if not for her other gifts, which were already guiding her to begin applying counter-force to her landing. Her timing was well enough that she was virtually floating the last hundred centimeters before her feet hit the roof. She looked around and observed the others in formation through her tactical goggles. She glanced toward where Fei'nur was. “Can you adjust the wavelength on your cloak?”

“I apologize, I am still getting used to operating your equipment,” Fei’nur answered innocently, then nodded. A moment later a wavery form showed on the tactical goggles. “I am ready. We will proceed to the anomalous lifesigns.”

"Sanders, Xalin, take point," Anders said. Two Marines, a Human woman and a Dorei male, moved to the obvious entranceway first. Lucy walked up behind them and ran a scan with her omnitool. "Anything, Lieutenant?" Anders asked.

"Nothing," she said. She brought up a hand and waved it side to side. The door opened in sympathy with her motion. "Let's go."

They descended into a stairwell. For several floors they went down surrounded in a darkness that would have obscured them even without their cloaks. Their progress was not slow, but neither was it with urgency. There was clear method in their pace that Fei'nur found it easy to follow. As always, Humans - even Humans from another universe - proved to be quite good at soldiers' work. Lucy Lucero was the visible non-soldier of the group, but there was a self-discipline to her movement that kept her in step with the others.
Once their readings showed they were at the right floor Lucy stepped up to open another door. This required half a minute of careful work to thwart a security sensor on it. Once it was quieted the door slid open and they stepped into the corridors of the facility.

“This facility has been cleared of regular civilian workers,” Fei’nur observed. “The codes have all been set on overrides. And it’s a biomedical facility.” She cut herself off after that. “Not biohazard, though,” she amended after a moment.

"I'm still showing decreasing life signatures on this floor." Lucy shook her head. "And this isn't just some biological waste they're destroying." A sick feeling filled Lucy's gut. She focused and felt it. Life was being ended. "This way," she said urgently, and for the first time she, not the Marines, was at point.

They heard smashing glass and laughter before long. Lucy brought them into a chamber occupied by mercenaries. Most were Brakiri, but there were members of other species too. Humans, Narn, and a couple from the other League races. Lucy recognized a Krogan among their number.

The chamber had originally been laid out with about two thousand humanoid-sized clear tubes with equipment in them. As it stood down, three-quarters of them were smashed, wrecked, deactivated. Laying on the floor in pools of blood in varying degrees of development were Dilgar fetuses. Babies. As they stood there, the Brakiri standing to the side and watching with sneers and smirks, the mercenaries were using fire-axes seized from the facility to smash open more of the cloning tanks, throwing the infants onto the ground and stomping, hacking and bashing them to death. There were already so many dead on the floor of the cloning hall that the entirety of the walkways were slicked with blood and shattered intestines.

A surge of violent emotion threatened to grip Lucy. Her discipline forced it back down. This was destruction, death, just for the sake of the act, and it was horror to see it being carried out.

One of the mercs looked around. The others noticed. Lucy did too and grimaced. They had a telepath with them. "Telepath," she muttered over the secured tactical comm line, in a low enough voice that it didn't leave the stealth field. "We're blown." She looked to Anders, wondering what would happen.

She knew what Carter Kane would've done. He would have likely opened fire. This was a chance to see how Anders, who always seemed more reserved than the Aurora's prior Marine Commander, would react to the matter.

Anders' reaction was a quiet, "Open fire."

Fei’nur lunged to the left in an explosion of movement the moment that Anders’ orders left his lips. She had her rifle up, firing integrally suppressed subsonic smart-rounds which tore into the cluster of the Brakiri away from the tanks. She had done it without saying a word, utterly expressionless until the moment she acted. And then she was, just like that, an explosion of motion and energy and disciplined fires.

The telepath, a Hyach, was already calling out a warning. But it was too late for many of the mercs. Anders' Marines opened fire with deadly precision, gunning down a number of the mercs even before they could reach for their rifles. One of the Marines made sure to shoot the Hyach in mid-warning.

Lucy had a feeling that lightsaber marks would make it completely impossible to deny their presence. She reached out with her life force and ripped the weapons from the mercs that, even now, were still working on killing the infants in the tanks. They looked in confusion at their empty hands in the moment before Lucy started yanking them to the ground, one by one.

One of the Marines' targets was the Krogan. But said merc, with crimson carapace over pale flesh and a suit of blue armor, proved more resilient than the mercs with him. He lifted a massive Krogan shotgun from behind his back and pointed it forward. There was a sudden roar and a blast that hit one of the cloaked Marines. Blood spewed out behind the cloaked figure. The shotgun's mass effect-enhanced rounds had ripped into a weak point in the light power armor. The Krogan roared in rage and fired his shotgun again. The second blast nearly hit Anders. He was already side-stepping to avoid it.

The relaxing of fire allowed the other mercs to begin returning fire from cover. Anders' Marines immediately moved for cover themselves. One dragged their wounded comrade out of the door to get him to safety.

Lucy had no choice. She pulled her lightsaber and activated it. The brilliant blue blade was visible outside of her cloaking field. It moved in a blur to bat away the incoming fire.

And then the Krogan went flying. It was the kind of fight which seemed absurd, since one combatant in it was invisible. His eyes rolled around, searching for the enemy who had knocked him wide, but instead the cloaked figure of Fei’nur struck again, and this time with a point-blank round, shrapnel pounding into the ground, firing until the Krogan knocked her away.

He rose, tracking with his gun through the streaks in the blood on the floor. But Fei’nur was moving lightly already, and this time when her gun spoke, he staggered and fell from a burst of rounds carrying into his armoured head. An invisible dash past fire as they cleaned up what remained of the merc squad, and she was standing over him, and fired twice, thrice, four times. His body heaved and moved no more, a mangled mass of gunfire wounds.

It was then that Fei’nur dropped to her knees in the gore, and very, very gently, with a shaking hand, she touched one of the shattered little bodies. “To Death I dedicate this day, and you, little ones, I beg, Gods of the silent wastes, take these kills as theirs and honour them with all the comrades I have known.” She rose with a face as taut and pinched as death, and did not speak much again in their mission.

Already the comm units of the mercs were ringing with demands for a report. Anders glanced from the dead bodies of the Dilgar infants and fetuses to Lucy, who was trying not to throw up at the sight of the carnage. "There's no way to fool them, is there?"

"I don't know enough about their comm protocols, and even then I can't guarantee I'd get the proper checkphrase."

"Then we're made."

"Yeah." She looked at the intact tubes. "And if we run, they'll just destroy the rest."

"They're just embryos, right?" one of the Marines said. "Our orders don't include standing our ground against an entire city's worth of mercs."

"You're right about that, Marine," Anders said. "But this isn't a matter of choice. This is genocide. They're killing them to kill them." After exchanging nods with Lucy Anders looked to his Lieutenant. "Lieutenant Sanger, I want all access ways watched, now. We're holding here until further orders." While the Marines worked to implement his command, he hit the comm key on his omnitool. "Anders to Aurora. Captain, things down here are FUBAR, and more FUBAR than you could ever believe…"




Seeing the images from Tira hit home to the Aurora officers what this entire conflict was about. Every face around the conference table was turning pale. "That's…that's inexcusable," was all Leo managed.

"Maybe we should just blow the crap out of them now and get it over with," Locarno said, his voice strained with rage. "Who needs allies like these murdering psychopaths?"

Julia had to admit that Locarno's option was tempting, more than it should be. The sheer specieist destructiveness of the act was direct testimony to the genocidal intent on display here. "Transmit that to Defense Command and to Councilman Mutombo's Office with a full content warning. If anything, it will keep the ISA's diplomatic corps from trying to spin this."

"They'll simply claim it's faked," Jarod pointed out. "Even with the authenticator coding in the recording."

"Let them claim whatever they want. The Alliance, our Alliance, needs to know what's happening here." Julia shook her head. "The important thing is what to do with Anders' team."

"The Brakiri do not have energy shield technology yet," Meridina said. "Transporting them out should be quite simple. Although perhaps not the best option for the Dilgar."

"Once Anders and Lucero are gone, they'll just start killing the rest of the Dilgar," Richmond pointed out.

"But they'll be overrun unless we support them," said Locarno.

"And if we do that, the Brakiri probably open fire," Julia finished for all of them. She leaned forward and rested her forehead on her open hand. The options in front of her all had pitfalls, and the unavoidable truth was that the situation was escalating.

A tone filled the room. "Captain." Lieutenant Takawira's voice came from the bridge. "Captain Tabir is signaling."

"Put him in here," Julia said. She drew in a breath and readied herself, casting away the visible fatigue and uncertainty that was evident in the prior moment. She turned her chair to face the wall monitor behind her. Tabir's face appeared on the screen. "Captain Tabir. What can I do for you?" she asked diplomatically.

"Correct a misunderstanding." Tabir was still trying to show the business charm like before, but there was visible strain to it. Meridina was quick to inform the others of the anger she sensed in him through a mental projection. "It seems you ignored my prior request to keep your forces out of the city. Now we have had a misunderstanding and my forces have taken losses. My ground commanders are quite ready to destroy the building they've occupied in retaliation, but I am restraining them for the moment.."

Julia's mind raced as she put together her reply. She struggled to keep her face impassive as she did so, not an easy thing given what she was feeling toward Tabir. "We were conducting a reconnaissance only," she said, "but my commanders on the scene detected a loss of life signs from the building. They investigated and found your forces slaughtering a chamber full of unborn Dilgar."

"Yes, their super-soldier program," Tabir said. "The Dilgar are known to have been experimenting with genetic augmentation during the war. Given the decades since we expected them to have made some progress. Our forces were ordered to destroy them to remove the threat. We have already reported our success to Brakir. Or rather, partial success I should say."

We need to have Lucy and Anders get a genetic sample was Julia's thought, the charge immediately sending her heart hammering. Am I getting played? "I would like to verify that they are from such a program and not a general re-population effort," she said.

"Be my guest. Although your people have an imperfect understanding of Dilgar genetics and physiology, and I must say your most likely source for that data is going to be understandably suspect. I assure you, Captain, I did not approve this solution until my experts were certain of the nature of the embryos in question. Now, I believe we should settle this unfortunate impasse." Tabir grinned widely. "I am quite willing to accept that this was an honest mistake on the part of the Alliance forces. We Brakiri recognize that the Allied Systems have a strong ethical code that requires you to act against genocide, and we appreciate this code. But I can only be so generous. If your forces do not withdraw I will not be able to restrain my ground commanders, and the structure will be destroyed by bombardment. For the safety of your forces you must withdraw them, and this time, keep them out. You have one hour to withdraw your people. Tabir out." The Brakiri commander disappeared from the screen.

For a moment Julia remained silent.

"He believes his charge," Meridina said. "Mostly. Although he does not care if it is true."

"If it's true, we might be getting played for suckers," Angel pointed out. There was deep uncertainty showing in her face. "I mean, could this be a con? Something to turn us against the ISA?"

"There was sincerity in Shai'jhur," Meridina said.

"Yes, but she could be really good at faking it," Angel said. "Your senses aren't completely perfect, are they?"

"You are correct. They are not infallible," Meridina conceded. "But I am not so inexperienced to be fooled easily. I am confident that my reading was accurate."

"Yeah, but confidence is something you're supposed to have to make your powers work," Angel said. "So that's not entirely convincing."

"I don't believe him," Cat announced.

Everyone looked toward her. She was still pale from the recording, but the assertive way she'd spoken was a bit of a surprise.

"I think he's a lying, genocidal bastard," she declared, "and that we should continue to help Shai'jhur."

"Cat." Angel gave her a sympathetic look. "I know you're bonding with Tra'dur, but it's not always that simple."

"It is. I've talked to her. I've listened to her. All she wants to do is write science papers, visit places, and attend the Vulcan Science Academy."

"Maybe that's true for her," Angel said. "But it doesn't mean her mother's not playing us for saps."

"She's not. I'm sure she's not."

"But you can't be sure," Angel insisted. "And are you really believing this? Or is it just because you think the Doctor would believe the Dilgar?"

Angel immediately regretted the accusation given the look of sheer betrayal on her sister's face. She managed to say, "I'm sorry" a moment before Cat stood from the table and walked to the corner. A quiet sniffle came from the corner a moment after she arrived there.

"Trust but verify," Julia said. "Have Lucero and Anders recover genetic samples."

"Tabir is right, though," Richmond said. She looked at Leo for confirmation. "We don't know enough about Dilgar genetic structure to confirm augmentation."

"I've got genetic samples from at least one Dilgar who is clearly unaugmented," Leo answered. "The tissues I scooped out of Tra'dur are in Science Lab 3 so we can examine the Rohrican spore, but we can just as easily examine the genetic structure too."

"That's not going to be enough," Jarod said.

"No. It's a start though. I can send the data on all samples to Doctor Franklin and ask for his help."

"Do you think the Earth Alliance will give us an honest answer?" Meridina asked.

Leo met her eyes. "I don't know if they would. But I trust that Doctor Franklin would."

"Do it," Julia said. "And we're running out of time. I want options."

"Our impasse remains the same." Meridina shook her head. "If we withdraw, they kill the remaining children."

"And if we don't, they kill them anyway, plus our people, when they bomb the building," Jarod added. "And stopping them from that will require us to openly engage the Brakiri."

The next line came from Angel. "Setting off a possible war with the InterStellar Alliance, for people who might be screwing with us."

Julia listened to them and turned the options over in her head again. At the same time, her heart already knew something about this situation.

In the end, that helped determine her decision.

Julia brought her omnitool into view and tapped a key on the blue light construct around her left forearm. "Andreys to Bridge. Get me Captain Tabir."

"Yes Captain."

A few moments later Tabir appeared on the monitor. "Yes, Captain?"

Julia didn't bother with a diplomatic smile this time. "Captain, I'm going to put this bluntly. There is no law in the Multiverse that allows anyone to kill cloned children, even genetically augmented ones. Even the Federation, which bans most forms of genetic alteration, would not commit what your people have done. So I'm not going to standby and let you continue this culling. My people will move in and protect the facilities where the Dilgar children are being grown. Your people will withdraw from them immediately. If you fail to comply, the Aurora and her squadron will open fire. Is that clear?"

For the first time the business-like facade of Tabir failed. He scowled at her. "You sanctimonious fool. Don't you realize the Dilgar are playing you?! That this has probably been their plan all along, to turn us against each other!"

"We're already vetting their claims, and we'll investigate the charge that the children are bred super-soldiers ourselves. And we don't need the Dilgar to do it. But for the time being, stand your mercs down. The killing stops here."

"I need time…"

"It takes one call, Captain, and you can make it over this open channel," Julia countered. "So make it. Now."

Tabir's scowl turned into a hostile snarl. For one moment it looked like he would defy Julia. To test her resolve and see if she was bluffing. But as the snarl faded slightly it was clear that Tabir was reconsidering any such thoughts. There was too much resolve in the face he was glaring at. He finally stabbed his finger at a key nearby. "This is Tabir. Halt all operations against the Dilgar cloning facilities."

"What?!" a disbelieving voice said on the other end.

"Do it now, or you won't get paid!" Tabir growled. "And suspend all plans to attack the Alliance team. Otherwise I'll turn you over to their captain myself. Yatiri out." He released the button he'd been holding and looked back to the screen. "This is pointless on your part anyway. The Earthforce ship is on our side and the Drazi reinforcements will be here soon. Face the facts, Human. There's nothing you can do to stop this, here or at Rohric. The Dilgar should have stayed dead and soon they will be. Tabir out."

The signal cut. Julia let out a breath and turned to the others. "You heard it too?" she asked.

"They know about Shai'jhur's planet," Jarod said.

"Th' timin' sounds fishy if ye ask me," Scotty said. "Decades o' nothin', they learn everythin' now?"

Julia nodded. "And it begs the question of how the Brakiri and Drazi learned about the supply network from Tira in the first place." She shook her head. "I'll put it in the report. We need to get people down there."

"I'll assemble security teams immediately," Richmond said, standing up.

"And send down the other Marines too. I'm going to call up Captain Ming-Chung and the other commanders we have with us to see who they can spare," Julia said. "In the meantime, you're all dismissed."

Everyone stood up and left. Angel glanced toward her sister, but Cat refused to look at her. She remained standing in the corner until everyone was gone, at which point she went out the door.

Along with her thoughts, Julia looked out the transtanium windows of the conference lounge to consider the deceptively peaceful ocean planet below. It seemed that every step they took, every decision, inched them closer to war.

But what else could she do? Even if Shai'jhur was a master actress and was playing her, even if the Dilgar on Tira really were creating a population of super-soldiers… the acts of the ISA races were just wrong. They were out for blood, to kill an entire species, and she couldn't stand by and let that happen.

A saying Julia had learned in school came to her lips. "'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing'," she whispered to herself, as if the words would fortify her in the decisions she'd made. They did, to a degree. But there was no avoiding the fact that her decisions were putting them on a course she didn't want to take.

She just had to hope that, in the end, her decisions would prove the right ones.




Tra’dur had recovered, awake and alert, within a few hours. The abrupt blackout has been related to the allergic response in the brain, and alleviated as quickly as it was relieved. Leo had still insisted on her remaining under careful observation based on Surgeon-Commander Nah’dur’s notes and the lights were kept down to a bare minimum to avoid irritation of a partially inflamed optic nerve. Resting with a bare minimum of stimulation, just an earpiece playing some books on tape Cat had downloaded to the hospital bed for her, she was bundled up and quiet during the ship’s night period.

The door to sickbay hissed open quietly, as a grey-clad figure padded silently over to her bed. “Tra’dur…?” echoed out in the hushed hisses and growls of a Dilgar trying to keep her voice down.

“Fei’nur…?” It was just as hushed as the young woman blinked wide eyes and loosed the earpiece from her ear. “I had heard you had been in action on the surface, but not much more.”

“You don’t want to know more, Fei’nur…” She stepped closer, and glanced about for any observers, before leaning down to enfold the young Dilgar in a firm embrace. “Gods, but you do not wish to know more.”

Tra’dur leaned into the hug and the steady, ready affection of her mother’s oldest retainer. It was hard just to call Fei’nur a subordinate by this point, she was something more, the woman who had always been there since they were young. And Tra’dur knew and felt the warmth in her of family, of the one half of a family she’d never have. For all the Clan of Jhur was a warm and welcoming extension of her mother’s line, it was Fei’nur who stood in for having a house of Dur other than her own sisters. So, for a time, she just snuggled.

The massive woman who’d fought for so hard, so long, to keep her and all her sisters safe silently held her close for several long minutes. “We will need you in the trials to come, rest yourself well, Tra’dur.”

“I know. I won’t even move. I’ve been following the Doctor’s instructions. He went ahead and used my sister’s method to remove the spores from the lesions in the other parts of my body as well, so … Until the next time we’re back on Rohric, I’ll get to be well. Thank you for coming, Fei’nur. It was nice to see a familiar face.”

“Always, Tra’dur. I won’t let the animals get you. Any of you.”

“Fei’nur…” Tra’dur sighed gently. “Well. You should get back to the Magaratha. You need sleep after a mission like that, and I am truly fine here.”

“You had better! We’ll see you back aboard soon enough, I hope. I don’t like trusting you to the ani-humans.”




When the call came, Julia considered that it had been too much to hope that she got even a moderate night's sleep given the events of the day.

This was why she decided to sleep on the couch in her ready office.

She rose from said couch the moment the tone woke her up. In one motion she grabbed her uniform jacket from the nearby hook. She didn't bother to put it on before leaving, so it was loose as she walked out onto the bridge with brisk urgency. She closed the jacket in the moments before she made it to the command chair, where Lieutenant Takawira was standing. "Report."

"Seven ships coming in, Captain," the Zimbabwean officer replied. "They are approaching at Warp 8."

Julia wondered what that meant. Warp drive was still slowly percolating into the E5B1 galaxy. Could this be unexpected reinforcements? But why wouldn't they jump directly to us? "What can you tell us about them?"

Ensign Tagas, the Dorei man at sensors, looked up from his board. "Sensors are giving me data now. It looks like they have deflector shields raised already. I'm showing an intermix ratio close to the others, but not quite. Give me a moment while I check recognition tables." Julia said nothing during that moment. "The intermix ratio is in Federation records. Old Romulan drives, from before they switched to quantum singularity power plants."

"Most likely Dilgar then."

"Yes. I'm getting profiles now, checking against recognition charts…" Tagas looked up. "Sir, these ships… they're from a dead species."

Julia wondered what he meant by that. "As in?"

"According to our recognition charts from the InterStellar Alliance… those are Markab ships, Captain."

"But they're extinct," Julia said. "Someone else must be aboard them." As soon as she said those words, she figured it out.

Tagas confirmed it a moment later.




"Markab ships, Warmaster? Your reinforcements are Markab ships?"

Julia was in her office again, looking at the image of Shai'jhur over on the Magaratha. The Dilgar leader was just finishing a coughing fit.

"Of course they are, Captain Andreys. As we have previously discussed, the Dilgar remain lawfully at war with the races of the League… And the Markab, Mentab, and Earth Alliance.

Julia sucked in her breath. "So, when the Markab…"

"Yes, when the plague exterminated the Markab--Gods, but I wish we’d had the chance to help, we knew so much, we might have undone some damage by then--I had absolutely no choice. I salvaged one hundred and thirty-nine jump-capable warships from Markab space without being detected. In fact, I consider it to have been a very great feat which would keep my people a spacefaring nation for decades longer. To be blunt, Captain, the Markab had no use of them. They’re some of my newest and best heavy cruisers, so of course they were in our refit program."

"You realize how this will look?" Julia asked. "It reinforces the ghoulish view of the Dilgar that the other species have."

Calm Shai’jhur actually let a sharp passion fall into her voice as she answered. "Please, Captain. Give me peace. There were innocent Dilgar who needed to survive, and I did what I must. Perhaps I am a tomb-robber, but I am not a mass murderer and I am not a tyrant. My people are free, and they deserved to live. For the sake of the Gods, every species within a thousand lightyears was salvaging Markab ships. They had a fleet of more than a thousand ships, and countless armed transports as well. The Dilgar are hardly the only ones."

Julia sighed. "Somehow I doubt they will care." She shook her head. "Either way, the Drazi second wave will be more manageable now. Although the matter of the Huáscar being on their side is still going to pose problems."

Is there anything you can do about the Huáscar, Captain Andreys? Captain Varma saved twenty million people from genocide. She deserves to do more than rot in an EA prison for the deed. Kaveri has been… holding up as well as can be expected, that considered, but it is a hardship, and a danger. If Major Foster engages us…

"Unfortunately, Foster's been keeping an anti-beaming shield up, so I can't just transport over boarding parties. We'd have to engage. And there's no telling what he might do if we start a fight. According to his record, Foster fought on Clark's side in the Earth Civil War, and the Nightwatch rated his loyalty as high. He might very well kill Captain Varma rather than let a rescue attempt prevail."

"He will not speak with you?"

"He's refused all attempts at communication since our last," Julia confirmed. "I'd love to get Captain Varma out, trust me, and I'll make sure the Alliance knows what she did. And Sheridan will know too. But I can't safely get her out, and trying will only blow this situation up. For the time being, I'm afraid we have to trust that Foster won't want to outright kill his commander arbitrarily."

Kaveri will keep praying, and so will I. Thank you for making any effort, Captain.” Shai’jhur reached up and rubbed her head. “We should both go back to sleep, I imagine. However, I will give you the warning in advance that I also salvaged a large number of Cascor ships which were marooned in deep space by Warmaster Jha’dur during the war. We mostly use them for spare parts, though, and I did that even before Omelos was lost.”

"Right. Thank you for the head's up." Julia nodded. "I'll keep you informed of any developments from the Alliance, Warmaster. Hopefully we'll hear something back soon."

“There is one thing I can do which might be sincerely constructive. Or, rather, what Kaveri can do. She would like to make an all-frequencies broadcast now that our cover is completely blown, with an appeal containing special information she believes would seriously impact any effort by the Earth Alliance to side with the former League powers politically. I have my fleet at Rohric on full alert, but instead of abandoning hope, I think this is the best aid we can provide to the cause of a pacific settlement.”

"What information?" Julia asked, wondering just what Varma was holding back, and if it might fix this situation.

“As it turns out, Captain, the Varmas aren’t the only people in the Earth Alliance to think that the death of a species is a moral crime…”
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:34 am

Julia's the best! And... yes, fetuses. I love it.
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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:46 am

The next morning, Shai’jhur was slumped back in her chair at the desk in her Admiral’s office, idly picking through her breakfast of seedcake wafer piled with cheese, eggs and sausage. It was a guilty pleasure for a Warmaster, and hardly Jha’dur’s stealing the Emperor’s Chef (who ran a restaurant on Far Outer these days for the fleet’s officers, the sole survivor of the Vendetta). She rubbed her eyes and drank tea.

“Warmaster.” For such a large woman, Fei’nur was quiet, as she slipped into her superior’s office. “Are we… forgive me, I will wait until you have finished.”

“No, you’re the one who just came from the front and seeing something horrible. Do you have an appetite? Do you want the rest, in fact?” Shai’jhur glanced up, nursing her mug.

“No time for rest, Warmaster, there never has been, these years. I… there were humans down there, Warmaster. The Supreme Warmaster was right.” She shuddered visibly.

“Mercenaries. Hirelings. Held in contempt by the ideological founders of liberty in human ideology,” she translated a few bars of a song:

“No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”


“Of course, the Alliance will hold them in contempt and crush them too. I mean, they are in a massive war with other humans as we speak, Fei’nur.” Shai’jhur curled her lips to show her teeth. “You know I have spent decades preparing for this. We are few, they are many, they are the objective. It would have been the Earth Alliance, if the multiverse hadn’t come. We never had an option except to charm the humans, not since Omelos.”

“That … doesn’t … None of that changes… this is why we fought the war, Warmaster… things just like… what happened.” Fei’nur was still repressing a boiling fury and hollow coldness inside her

Shai’jhur quietly finished her food, staring ahead and occasionally taking a drink. Then she looked up again. “We fought the war to survive, Fei’nur. Humans are not animals. We did that to our enemies just like they have done to us. It is tooth and claw… unless someone chooses to be different. That’s the whole point of the dharma that Kaveri taught me, that I taught our people. The explanation for why. These Nazis they fight are proof that the Alliance is sincere, even if the humans in this universe are in the main irredeemable. But both are also proof that humans can be good or ill, just like we can be. Didn’t they fight at your side against the monsters who were killing children, Fei’nur?”

“Not as eagerly as I would have liked. One called them embryos, Warmaster. As if they were not helpless babies, when we are already so few... “ Her hands worked, flexing into fists, as if she wanted to throttle her foes if they would be so kind as to present themselves to her.

“There are human cultures which permit the termination of the unborn, they call it abortion, which they see as permissible, to differentiate it from murder,” Shai’jhur explained. “The one who spoke so… may have struggled to see the difference, to understand that even by that definition, this was still a crime against a people, as a whole. Did he obey his orders, or did the human commander punish him or not?”

“He obeyed orders, they all did. Humans tend to be a disciplined people, their militaries, or so I have seen. Or so I had before Huáscar’s crew mutinied. I have trouble reconciling the image of the stoic humans who crushed us, and… this.”

“Kaveri has been taking it very hard. It’s a sign of the divisions of their civil war. But I… I have faith, I really do, Fei’nur. So we’re going to hold the course. We are going to grow back strong again, in this Alliance--someday there will be billions of Dilgar again, I promise. Can you stay committed to it, because you know it’s the only option as much as I do? Can you be polite to them, and respect their rights, even if you can never stop thinking of them as animals?”

“I know my duties to my Warmaster, I swear it. Our people come above everything. No matter what I must do.”

“Including if what you must do means making friends with some of those Alliancers? The Gersallians, the Dorei, just as much as the humans? Could you call them comrades, could you battle at their side against these Nazis, against another foe?”

“If it is for the survival of our people, Warmaster, I can do anything. I proved that on Balos, didn’t I?” Old pain suffused her voice when she spoke of that tunnel-riddled hell of a planet.

“I’m sorry, Fei’nur,” Shai’jhur looked away and sighed. “I often think of old friends these days. They’re all dead, except you. All we lost? The families, the blood, the clans, the customs and traditions, the music, the food. I understand very well Warmaster Jha’dur’s fear that we would lose ourselves. Become furry humans. But I dance this dance… Trying to make them care about us enough to save our blood and species when we are too weak to save ourselves. And sometimes it does make my stomach churn.”

A shrug, a wry, distant look. “Or maybe it’s just the chains of leadership. I never wanted this. I wanted my ranch to be free of the spores! A place for old comrades to celebrate those incredible victories in the days when we thought we could do it all, when we did more than we even believed we could. You know, just sit back and remember the proud days when we were all what we wanted to be, as officers, as Dilgar. And instead it’s just you and me, side by side, and if the spores were gone, we’d all be dead. So we cough them up and are thankful for it… Gods. Have you gotten tired, Fei’nur? Have I deceived you? Is our time passed..? Have I led us astray?”

“Warmaster, I have been tired for a very long time, and I am not the Supreme Warmaster. I… am not what she was. I don’t think about such things, I’m not a strategist, or a philosopher. We’d all be dead if not for you, and that’s enough for me to be willing to die for you, ma’am.”

“Sometimes I want to sing the old songs and hold my head high again, Fei’nur. I’m hardly immune to the feeling of bitterness. But it’s exactly for the same reason I’m pursuing this course. We’re in it together--I want there to be another generation of kits. And again, and again, unto the end of the universe. And I simply don’t see another way except reform--and Alliance.”

“Not since Third Balos, Warmaster, not since that terrible day… I hate it sometimes, Warmaster but it’s the only way. Was… that all? I need to re-take my station.” Visibly uncomfortable, Fei’nur had enough of politics - and painful old memories - for the day.

“All right.” She glanced at her desk. “We’ve mobilized everything. Everything is in readiness. Now we just have to wait, and try to find a little trust. Take your station, Battle Captain.”

“Thank you, Warmaster. I am, as always, steadfast at your side.”

“I know, Fei’nur, and I would never doubt it. You are the last of your breed, and the best.” Despite her certainty that this was the best course, in that moment Shai’jhur did feel very tired, and very old. All that was bright and good of us is still here. If the humans don’t let us down...




Ordinarily Caterina woke up alone when the time came, given Violeta's duty schedule and her own. This morning proved different when she woke to find Violeta sitting at the small table in her quarters, a prepared breakfast waiting for Cat. It wasn't just any breakfast, but a plate of breakfast taquitos and marshmallow cereal. Cat had no doubt the taquitos were egg and cheese-filled, a favorite breakfast comfort food just as the cereal was. She went to the table still in her "Geek Princess" pajamas. Violeta was wearing a black-and-purple shirt that went down to her hips, the purple lettering on the front declaring "I Beta-Tested Ultimate Fantasy: Worlds of Adventure and all I got was this stupid T-shirt!" Below the shirt her legs were bare, all the way to her feet. She watched quietly while Cat started on her breakfast. It was soon clear that the meal wasn't replicated either, but cooked by Hargert and his staff in the kitchen. "I thought you needed a comfort breakfast," Violeta said. "Given the way you were sobbing when you got back last night."

Cat swallowed a piece of taquito. "I was probably overreacting," she said. "It's just… I can't believe she said that."

"Who and what?"

"Angel. She… she's suspicious of the Dilgar. And because I'm not and I want to help them… she said I was just doing it because I was trying to act like the Doctor and it just… why would she say something like that?"

Violeta shook her head. "I think we're both adjusting to what you've been like since you traveled with the Doctor. You've… well, you've been a little different since you got back."

"I know," Cat said. "But am I really that different?"

Violeta seemed pained for a moment. "Well, I… I don't want you to take this the wrong way, Cat, okay?"

"Mmhmm," Cat answered through a mouthful of food.

"Sometimes… I wonder." Uncertainty showed in Violeta's purple eyes. "I wonder that if the Doctor came back around and offered to take you away again… if you'd say yes. If you'd leave me to go running off with him again."

Cat had to swallow. Once she did a guilty look came to her face, a look that was all the answer Violeta needed. "I… I suppose you're right to wonder," Cat admitted. "The Doctor showed me so many places, so many things I never imagined. I do wish I could see more. But I would also want you to come with me."

"But I can't," Violeta said. "This is my place, Cat."

"I know." There was worry in Cat's tone at that admission. After all, if their desires and obligations could cause them to separate like that, what could it mean for their relationship in the long-term? She'd never thought of Violeta has her soul mate for life, but if that came about Cat was more than willing to spend her life with Violeta. There was enough love there, it seemed.

That was the key word, wasn't it? Seemed.

And yet, despite those doubts, Violeta was still ready to take the extra time to get Cat a nice breakfast from Hargert, even in the morning.

"I don't think I'll be traveling with the Doctor again anyway," Cat said. "Even if we do run into him again."

"But that's because he wouldn't let you, isn't it?" asked Violeta.

Cat sighed and nodded. "Yeah. And I wish I could say I'd say no if he offered. I don't want to hurt your feelings, Vee."

The use of the pet name brought a sad little smile to Violeta's face. "I know you don't. And I know you can't help but be the enthusiastic scientist and explorer that you are, Cat. I don't want to take that away from you. I just… I don't know. I wish I could understand why it feels like something's been off since you got back."

"I'm not sure either."

"Are you going to talk to Angel?" Violeta asked. "Let her know how she hurt your feelings?"

"I think she does know. And I think she's sorry too. I just… I'll talk to her later." Cat reached forward, prompting Violeta to do the same and take her hand. "Thank you for breakfast, Vee. It's wonderful. But I'd better hurry up if I'm going to be there for the staff meeting."

"Of course," Violeta answered. "And I'll see you on the bridge later during the watch change."



Hargert's people provided breakfast pastries and coffee for Julia and her officers. It was clear from the images that his counterpart on the Shenzhou provided the same for Captain Ming-Chung and her officers, with Commander Imra from the Heerman aboard Shenzhou as well. "There's still no telling when the Drazi reinforcements will get here," Jarod said. "I've consulted intelligence sources but that's gotten me nowhere."

"Our intel assets aren't exactly paying attention to the ISA races," Julia said. "Or even the Earth Alliance, and they're the ones who've given us the most reason to be worried."

"I am just as concerned about the Huáscar," Ming-Chung said. "If they were to join the battle, we will be hard-pressed even if the other League races remain uninvolved."

"If it comes to that, we'll try to deal with them. The Magaratha also has a lot of firepower that can help us out."

"Speaking of the Dilgar, why aren't they involved in this meeting?" asked Leo.

"Too many captains to easily discuss matters," Julia said. "I told Shai'jhur I'd share the pertinent information with her afterwards, just as she'll inform me of what her captains have discussed."

"And the fact that she might have hidden genetic augmentation plans from us?"

To Angel's remark Julia shook her head. "That alone? No. I'm not convinced the Brakiri charge is accurate anyway."

"Nor am I," said Li. "These people have allowed their hate to get the better of them."

"Although we must not lose sight of the fact that their hate was earned," Imra added. Julia and the others noted that she was still wearing sunglasses, even in the artificial lighting of the Shenzhou conference lounge. "We cannot simply ignore their worries if we wish to negotiate."

"The problem is they don't want to negotiate on this," Jarod said. "They want to kill off the Dilgar and be done with it."

"Then we must assure them it is safe to leave the Dilgar alone."

"A tall order, since that requires that they accept the right of the Dilgar to exist." Julia replied, a little frustrated that Commander Imra’s facial expression was inscrutable under those sunglasses. But she’d worn them even during the stand-off with the Aururians, and Julia assumed she had some kind of medical exemption to wear them, so she wasn’t going to press the point.

Captain,” Imra replied after a moment, “Perhaps we should focus on the structural mechanism. It would, if anything, be easier to convince people of the Dilgar good intentions if they really become member applicants. They’d be opening their entire territory to monitoring, their government to human rights audits. It’s boring and it’s not a breakthrough, but once we get real power-brokers involved in the talks, it might be enough."

“I think she’s right,” Li added. “Look back home to Earth and our time. The Dayton Accords were a bunch of technical minutiae but at the end of the day the verification and compliance measures worked. Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks lived in peace for longer than two decades in Bosnia the last time I checked. And we’re not asking for Brakiri and Dilgar to be next-door neighbors, either. Actually, it seems the real hard nut to crack would be the Drazi, period. If there’s another Drazi fleet coming in that could be the biggest threat to finding a peace.

"I've already submitted their application to the Council. Right now I'm waiting to hear if Councilman Mutombo submitted it to the Admissions Committee." Julia sipped at coffee for a moment. It helped with how tired she felt. "What about the ground teams? What's their status?"

"We have dispatched units to the locations where the Dilgar cloning tanks were still intact," Meridina replied. "Security teams and Marines from the Shenzhou and our allied ships are working with our people. All the facilities are now employing defensive shields to withstand limited bombardment."

"But they don't have the power sources available to protect against a determined orbital bombardment," Jarod said. "So we'll have to keep providing protection from up here."

"We will, for as long as we can," said Julia.

"I take it that the Dilgar are not joining those teams?" Li asked.

"Warmaster Shai'jhur agreed with me that it might not be advisable to have armed Dilgar on Tira. At least, not more than there are already," Julia noted wryly. "Whatever you want to say about her, she's proved adept at recognizing that we have to take the lead in this situation. Given the stakes for her people, that's got to be tough."

"Perhaps we should prepare a plan to evacuate the Dilgar from Rohric," Commander Otiros suggested. "That may be the best solution to ensure their survival and the easing of the other species' worries."

"While I'm sure the Dilgar there might appreciate no longer dealing with those spores, that would require finding them a suitable garden world," Jarod pointed out. "And it would take us months to evacuate twenty million people. Months that we probably don't have."

"Yes. I sadly suspect the Drazi will not give us the time to evacuate them." Meridina shook her head. "And it was made quite clear that they know about Rohric as well."

"Which is something I find damn suspicious," Julia declared. "The timing of all of this is off to me. This Dilgar ring suddenly gets exposed, and then somehow the Dilgar are completely compromised?"

"Mister Gagnor was quite careful when I encountered him with Robert on Kalnit Station," said Meridina. "It is interesting that he got caught regardless."

"Could Lyta Alexander have been involved in compromising him?" Richmond asked. "She is stated to be quite a powerful telepath."

"I am not certain. Her priorities seem to be her planned war with the Psi Corps, not this affair."

"Either way, I want everyone on their toes. There's something going on here that I don't like. Now, when it comes to our tactical dispositions…"




On the planet below the mercenaries were getting restless. It was known they had lost comrades to the Alliance teams. More than that, their Brakiri employers had backed down to the Alliance commander when pressed, and so the Alliance was getting its own toe-holds on Tira. For the mercenaries of species native to Universe E5B1, that was distressing and infuriating. The Human mercs of E5B1 seemed especially upset, which given the Clarkist viewpoints of many of them was not too surprising.

But there were mercs who were less concerned with it. These were those mercs the Brakiri hired from other universes. There weren't many, since the Brakiri knew that they wouldn't have the same hatred of the Dilgar that native mercs would possess, but given their dislike of Centauri mercs and the numbers they wanted, the Brakiri couldn't be picky. Some of their hires came from the Universe D3R1, from the Arcturan Free States. Attempts at hiring the services of Inner Sphere mercenaries had faltered on logistics issues - too costly for the mercs' supply lines - but more flexible were mercenaries from the M4P2 universe. The Brakiri force thus included squads from all of the major merc outfits of that universe. The technically-adept Salarians and Asari of Eclipse, the vicious Blood Pack and its aggressive Krogan and Vorcha, and the well-organized Human, Turian, and Batarians of the Blue Suns were all represented.

Two of the mercenaries from that galaxy were not among those three outfits, however. They were hired freelancers, here to do a job and get paid. The Brakiri reflected their view of such freelance mercs by assigning them to the edge of the jungle where Dilgar resistance had, until recently, continued. Now there was a deceptive quiet that gave the two beings time to think. Thinking was something both were prone to; it came with their ages, ages long enough that one, were he to have come from this galaxy and not his own, would have been centuries old in Valen's time.

"Still quiet," said Urdnot Wrex. The Krogan Battlemaster was in a set of red combat armor that matched the color of the carapace protecting the top of his head. The armor was not immaculate in appearance, smeared with the mud and dirt of the defensive position - what the Human mercs were calling "foxholes" - that he shared with his comrade. His shotgun was slung on the small of his back while an M-15 Vindicator assault rifle was laying nearby with his other kit. "They're definitely holding back."

"I would be too," said his compatriot, the older of the two. Nakmor Drack had a paler complexion and his carapace's green color matched some of the local flora. His eyes were a dark green in color compared to Wrex's red. His combat armor was a light beige color, with a Claymore shotgun matching Wrex's attached to his back. "They've got reinforcements in orbit. No point in hitting prepared positions when you've got that advantage."

"Right." There was a dissatisfied tone to Wrex's voice.

"What's the matter, whelp? Afraid you're going to lose your edge in this hole, get a little slower than you already are?" There was a teasing tone in Drack's voice. Both were centuries old, but Drack had centuries on Wrex.

"I'm still more spry than a fossil like you, Drack," the younger Krogan retorted playfully. "You still carrying around those guns from the Rebellion?"

"Nah. Sold them off centuries ago." A bemused glint showed in the green eyes of Drack. "So when do you think we're getting relieved?"

"As soon as they realize the Dilgar aren't hitting us anymore," Wrex guessed. "Then that pissant Brakiri will put us wherever he thinks we're most likely to get killed."

"Damn Brakiri," grumbled Drack in agreement. "If the money weren't so good, I'd never give those types a minute of my time."

"The money is real good, yeah." Wrex chuckled. "Which is why they're working so hard to get us killed. Although what I want to know is why you need more money. You should have earned enough in your lifetime to retire from this crap, Drack."

"Look who's talking," Drack retorted. "You may be a whelp compared to me, but you've had centuries to get rich too. Yet here you are."

"I've got my reasons."

"As do I."

"Yeah." A dangerous look came to the red-eyed Krogan. "Maybe it'll make this job easier to stomach."

Drack picked up his main weapon. The M-8 Avenger was a common weapon in their home galaxy, with a full automatic fire mode. He checked the cooling systems on it for an idle second before saying, "Job feels like it's going sour, doesn't it? Worried you'll end up in an Alliance prison?"

"Not that." Wrex shook his head. "You've heard about what they've got the rear squads doing?"

Drack's eyes never left his weapon. "Some things, yeah."

"I don't sign up for crap like that," Wrex said.

"Probably why they don't have us doing it." Drack chuckled darkly. "And maybe that's the real reason the Brakiri are trying to get us killed. But there's no getting out of it now."

"No," Wrex muttered, his tone now as dangerous as his look. "There isn't."




After a night of tense waiting and preparing defenses, Lucy and Anders beamed up to the Aurora after an exchange of personnel. They walked out into the corridor together. "I keep my gear in my quarters," she said. "So I don't need to go to the armory."

"Right."

There was an uneasy silence. "We did the right thing," Lucy said.

"We violated orders too." Anders sighed and nodded. "But yeah. The right thing." He looked to her. "You're pretty good with that lightsaber. But can that armor deal with a grenade? Or a crew-served weapon? I imagine even you can be caught by surprise."

"Possibly." Lucy grinned slightly. "But not very likely. And the armor is tougher than you imagine. The Gersallians have a long history of needing to protect their knights."

"I noticed you've been tweaking with your suits," Lucy said.

"I'm a combat engineer, Lieutenant. Using standard kit would be a sign of laziness or no damn imagination."

To that, Lucy had to chuckle. At the same time, she knew she was ignoring the unspoken tension. "We probably made the situation worse, yeah. But it really was stopping murder."

Anders nodded quietly. "It was. It's not the first atrocity I've seen. I've been at the front against the Nazis for most of the war, I've seen my share of mass graves and bayoneted babies." A tired, haunted look crossed his face.

"God…"

"God's got nothing to do with it," Anders said. "It's the other guy helping with that."

"No argument there," Lucy said. "I just hope something good comes out of all this."

"All you can do sometimes. All you can do…"




The second day of the standoff was more tense than the first. Julia could feel it in her crew in a way that didn't require life force powers or telepathy. It wasn't that they mistrusted her choices either, that much was sure by the proud looks she received. The wounded Marine from the strike team was talking in the medbay, as were other Marines rotating back, and everyone knew what was going on down on Tira. Whatever happened, Julia could feel assured that her crew were behind her on this standoff.

At lunch Hargert had the sausage stew out in tubs. Other healthy fare were mixed liberally with popular comfort foods - hand-pressed seemai strips for the Dorei, liyume for the Gersallians, steamed tikchp for the Alakin - in a way certain to boost morale. Julia was finished with her bowl of stew and a roast beef sandwich when Hargert walked up to her. "You're treating us today, Hargert," she said.

"You and the crew deserve it, Captain," he replied. A determined look set into the old German cook's face. "Nie wieder."

Julia understood what he was getting at and nodded. "Yeah." She left the Lookout.

When she emerged from the turbolift onto the bridge, the main staff was on duty entirely. Meridina vacated the command chair for her. "I hope your lunch was enjoyable, Captain," she said.

"Hargert is pulling out all of the stops today." Julia settled into her chair.

"It was nice of you to let us all go first," Locarno said. "Although knowing Hargert, your meal was just as fresh."

"The burden of command," Julia replied with a small smile. "No status changes?"

"None," Meridina confirmed. "The Brakiri are not interfering with our ground teams as of now."

"Although they are moving their mercs to surround the buildings," Cat added.

"I expected that." Julia crossed her arms. "Now we get back to the hard part."

"Waiting until something happens, you mean?" Jarod asked drolly.

"Didn't think it had to be said, Commander," she replied.

Jarod grinned at her and nodded. As he turned his head forward again, a tone sounded from Jarod's board. "I've got a jump point opening."

Julia's posture lost all ease. "On screen."

The holo-viewscreen activated to show a blue jump point opening in nearby space. The vessels that emerged from it initially were blue and gold in coloration. The designs were long and, while not sleek, contained rounded lines that ended in sharper edges at some points. After they emerged from the jump point a much larger ship emerged. It was tall rather than wide or thin, a central body topped by a long fin with two fins of equal size and prominence flowing from beneath the central section. Julia didn't recall the other ships before, but she'd seen this one a number of times.

Cat read out what she was seeing. "Seven Abbai cruisers of the Kishara-class and a single Minbari Sharlin-class, Captain. They appear to be traveling together."

"Hail them."

The holo-viewscreen shifted to show a Minbari-styled chamber. But the figure on the screen wasn't Minbari but Human, a woman who looked to be in her mid to upper thirties with blond hair and blue eyes. Julia recognized her immediately. "Director Holloran," she said.

Tessa Holloran, the Director of Covert Intelligence for the InterStellar Alliance and former "Number One" of the Martian Resistance, nodded. "Captain Andreys. It's been a while. I see you've gotten yourself into trouble out here."

"Some, I suppose," Julia conceded.

"President Sheridan has sent me to mediate this dispute between your Alliance and our own," Holloran continued. "I hear you caused a mutiny on an Earthforce ship too. Ordinarily I might find that amusing, but it's not going to make keeping the peace any easier."

"I suppose not." Julia clasped her hands behind her back. "We're ready to host negotiations."

"And the Minbari would prefer you do it too," said Holloran. "There's bound to be a lot of shouting and this is a Religious Caste-controlled ship, I don't think they'll appreciate it."

"Will the other races agree? Or Major Foster?"

"I imagine a man of Foster's background will take a Human-crewed ship over a Minbari one, regardless of who the Humans are. As for the other races…" Holloran grinned. "Let's just say I've come prepared to win their cooperation. And since we're on a deadline to prevent war from breaking out, I'd like to get started as quickly as possible."

"We're ready when you are, Director."

"I'll give you a final time in one hour. Expect it to be within five." Holloran reached forward and her image disappeared.

Julia let out a breath and cradled her head in her hand. She sent a forlorn glance toward the always-stoic Meridina. "Tell Leo I'm going to need aspirin," she mumbled. "A lot of aspirin."

Meridina replied with a small, understanding smile.




The footsteps in the corridor in front of Zhengli’s cell fell more softly than Goodman’s or her usual guards. There was still a steady military rhythm, but the boots sounded a gentler cadence. Then, they stopped before the door to her cell, and there was a light, muted knock. “Captain?” It was the voice of her ship’s Military Department Telepath, Elia Saumarez.

“Miss Saumarez. Come in, if you’d like?” She gave a smile, and tried to calm her thoughts - agitation and bitterness, she thought, would be like a bitter brew for the woman before her. “My apologies for you being caught up in the middle of this.”

“Thank you, Captain.” She keyed the cell open, and stepped in, after setting a fifteen minute timer, flexing her gloved hands as she looked to where Zhengli sat, in her crisp Psi-corps uniform and with the appearance of a dark, lithe caucasian of Franco-Welsh heritage. “It is an uncomfortable position for a telepath, I will not deny it.”

“Well, I would say being in the Military Department is probably uncomfortable before one adds any… late unpleasantness to the mixture, or so I would think, Miss Saumarez.”

“To an extent. I remember visiting West Point once on an investigative detail. Seeing the buildings on their ramparts at the Hudson, the great dining hall with the mural of War, the playing fields where they raise our Earthforce officers up. Captain, I..” She laughed softly. “I always wanted to be a starship officer.”

“I wish you could have gotten closer to it than this.” Zhengli helplessly shrugged. “But you are talking to the, what was it Captain Ivanova called me… polezniye duraki. Or that is the plural, it has been several years, and I have never been a Russian expert.”

“Hardly appropriate, regardless, Captain. You were utterly decisive in working to defend the Dilgar… Who really do look like they’re staring a genocide down the face. Apparently the League has found out about their other world, too.”

“Well, that was of an old argument about Psi Corps. I…” She let her face fall into her hands. “What can I do for you, Miss Saumarez?” Her voice was tired and muffled as it came through her hands, as the weight of her situation pressed on her.

“Old argument about Psi-corps?” The dusky-skinned woman looked archly at her. “Would you tell me?”

“I presume her dislike for the Corps is… at least a little legendary? We got into a shouting match - off duty, at least, thank the Almighty - when I heard that she threw someone from the Commercial Corps out a window while stationed at Io, and that then-Captain Sheridan had gotten her off of the charges.”

“...Wait,” the woman blinked, sincerely confused. “You got in a fight with Captain Ivanova over telepaths? On our side? I confess, Captain, I had seen as you enlightened, but that’s quite the depth. Thank you.”

“I prefer to think of myself to be more of a student of history. How Earthgov treats you - telepaths… it… frightens me, Miss Saumarez. It frightens me very deeply. I see parallels and unheeded lessons that chill me to the bone.”

“Parallels?” She glanced around and shivered, a little, with Zhengli’s tone. The door beeped with the fifteen minute unlock, but she ignored it and let it unlock, taking no action.

“Earthgov’s marked you with those badges and those gloves, taken all your rights away, separated you from society and treats you more like wiretap devices than people… and when I see that little Psi badge on your coat, a horrified part of me sees a yellow Star of David, and I see the Nuremberg Laws in the Metasensory Regulation Act… and that strikes irons into my soul.”

The telepath’s face melted, gloved right hand balling into a fist she clapped into the wall. “I… I want to thank you for saying that, Captain. It takes great courage to admit that your people are wrong. The Corps, you know, it gives us purpose, without it we might be gone simply because how would we find the will to live without the community it offers? I feel a lot of sympathy for the Dilgar right now, I admit.”

“You know what the old veterans said, when the boneheads were slaughtering us? At least the Dilgar had a good reason. Well, now they are trying to be what we wanted them to be, and I was not going to let them be murdered. Granted, look where that has gotten me...”

“...In the same place as Inmate Number 4859, Captain?” A look of composure had settled back onto her face.

“I would not call myself so worthy, Miss Saumarez. You should be going, lest they arrest you as well.”

“Major Foster wants me to accompany him to the Aurora for the negotiations. Do you have a message for me to pass to the Dilgar? Your mother is, I understand, on their flagship.”

“You shouldn’t put yourself in that much danger, but if you want to re-assure them that I am thus far, held in good conditions, and that this action is not taken with the blessing of Earthgov… that should be enough, I hope.”

“Danger? Danger? What Witold Pilecki did…” She stamped her foot and bit her lip and brown eyes stared sharply at Zhengli. “I’m with you, Captain. I’ll pass any message you want me to and I’ll tell Goodman I’m helping him get you the ship back. You just better have a plan to find me a place to live, because when the Corps finds out they will make an example of me. Ma’am.”

“Well, the UAS might be such a place, Miss Saumarez. I am given to understand the feeling of alien minds can be… difficult, else the Dilgar might see you as a heroine.”

“Well, either way, good enough for me. I wanted to be a starship officer, here’s my chance.” She smiled grimly, looking about as pale as she could. “Morally, if not in point of law. All right. I’ve got to go, Captain.”

“Be careful. I do not want dead heroines. We will get only a single attempt at this.”

“Understood, Captain. One attempt. We’ll make it stick.”




Shai’jhur carefully had the broadcast room put together to look like it was a conference room in a nondescript, drab human building. It was linked into the transmitters of the Magaratha, and from there it would go through the Aurora, and then through the Allied System interuniversal network and rebroadcast throughout E5B1. Pretty much any civilian source with a retransmitter and many military ones for crew off-duty use would pick it up.

There were some touches like a glass of water on the lectern, which was simple and unadorned to avoid creating explicit affiliation identifiers beyond a hastily prepared version of the old UN roundel for human rights which had long been deprecated here, but was useful enough as a symbol.

Shai’jhur walked with Kaveri to the room as the Dilgar comms techs confirmed the linkage, and paused at the entrance. “All right, Kaveri. I thank you for reaching out to do this, more than words can express. The fact that you have chosen of your own volition to share our fate is not something that we will forget.” She glanced around the air, as if the words were meant for more than one, but there was still a confident smile on her lips.

“I accepted that fate a very long time ago, my friend.” Moving to sit, she took an audible deep breath, folding her hands before her, and gave a nod, waiting for the ready light to blink on.

“Sentinents of the galaxy; my name is Kaveri Varma, A Captain of Earthforce, now retired, and I come to you with a plea, and a call for action. Thirty-one years ago, the Dilgar War was brought to an end, when the Liberation Navy destroyed the last forces of the Dilgar Imperium capable of effective resistance. The Earth Alliance restrained our allies, then, and refused to let them give in to their darker natures and destroy the Dilgar as a species. When the sun of Omelos killed all the Dilgar we had herded there, to allow them to reform, away from the temptation of war, some of the victims of the Dilgar cheered. This, I do not hold against them. The old Imperium was a creature of blood and death, and it carved a swathe across the galaxy.” She took a sip of water, before going on.

“Not all the Dilgar died on Omelos. On two worlds, small groups survived, and on their own, they began the process of reform I, and others in the Earth Alliance, dreamed they would. Indeed, they have petitioned for membership in the United Alliance of Systems, knowing this will involve audit and oversight of the truthfulness and depth of their reforms. At this very moment, a force of Hyach, Brakiri, Hurr and Drazi ships hold a blockade over one of these two worlds, restrained only by a rag-tag squadron of ships who stand valiantly against them. In the name of shared sentience, I call upon the races of this galaxy to stand against this crime, against this murder of helpless children. I call upon humanity to do what it did once, and stand against the death of the Dilgar - to honour the ties of shared blood and sacrifice!”

“Yes, shared blood and sacrifice! At our darkest hour! There is a world in human space where tens of thousands of Dilgar live still, rescued by elements of Earthgov who foresaw that the reforms of Omelos might not find fertile ground, of those who wished to live free! When my daughter bid farewell to all she knew, to stand and die on the Line, there were Dilgar who stood with her - the last six pilots of the Imperium, who wished to repay the debt they owed to humanity, to leave our hidden refuge and die along with the blood which had saved them. Five of them perished with our tens of thousands, but today, there is a Dilgar man who breathes and holds a Line Medal, the same of my daughter; who came through that terrible hell and who fought with us in our darkest hour. My daughter’s crew has not only mutinied against their captain, they state any attempt to stop this holocaust will be cause for them to open fire! This is not Earthforce, this is not what humanity should be! In the name of the Almighty, stop, set down your work, look around you! We should be the promise of what humans can be, what this new alliance should be! Do not stand by and let a slaughter ensue! Do not let the helpless burn for old scars, old wounds! Stop the killings, or we shall be what Deathwalker wished us to be, a mirror of what the Imperium was! Do not let Earthgov stand by and disavow what is coming to pass here! Let every good soul cry out and stop this from coming to pass! I have always stood for Dharma, and if my government will not stand, if it will let the colony it saved be an aberration in its’ course, I shall stand, and shed my blood in defence of righteousness and the innocent. Thank you all for listening. Please… do not let this evil deed come to pass, I beg of you all.”

The recording stopped. Shai’jhur quietly walked into the room. She smiled to Kaveri, and stepped around, her feet trodding lightly, before she paused behind the woman. “Thank you. It was a very long time ago that you taught me that there were orders that should not be obeyed, half by your example and half by what came after. And I was slow, and, to some extent shirked the responsibility by hiding from it, volunteering for dangerous duty instead. But, you know, today you have reiterated that. Stood against your own people for the sake of it. It’s that flaming spirit to which I owe so much.”

“To thine own self be true, I believe, is the quote; and you have certainly come around, Shai’jhur.” The aging woman smiled back. “I could come up with a large list, but I rather intend not to leave… if you will have me. You seem as if you could use my help, and there will be nothing left for me after that.”

“I wasn’t joking when I spoke with Julia yesterday. As far as I’m concerned you’re a Citizen of the Union now, Kaveri.”

“Then it seems I am, and here I shall stay, Shai’jhur. Who would have thought, all those years ago…”

“Something of a marvel.” Shai’jhur extended her hand. “Come on. I’ve got to get ready for the conference. And, with any luck, I’ll soon get to meet Zheng-li…”

Kaveri took the hand, and nodded in agreement. “With luck.”




The summit meeting was being held in Conference Room 1. Julia brought a sizable Alliance contingent; Meridina, Jarod, Lucy, Captain Ming-Chung, and Commanders Imra and Shaham. Holloran attended with an Abbai matriarch and a Minbari religious caste member. Shai'jhur brought some of her officers, including Tra'dur and her sister Nah'dur, and Kaveri Varma attended as well. A scowling Major Foster had a black-clad woman with a Psi Corps in on her breast as her only marking. He shot daggers at Kaveri when she sat beside Shai'jhur. The fact his entourage wasn't larger made Julia wonder if he had to leave his other loyalists behind to keep control of the Huáscar. Tabir attended with a few Brakiri and a pale-green scaled Drazi in an ostentatious uniform had been introduced as Captain Tarinak. A pair of Hyach represented that species and its small contribution to the situation.

Each side took a table. The Abbai and Minbari sat with Holloran at the lead table. Julia and her people attended the one to Holloran's right, and to their right the Dilgar sat. Opposite them, to Holloran's left, was the Brakiri and the Drazi tables, with the Hyach sitting on their own. Tellingly, so did Foster, who was still silent. The tension in the room was unmistakable. Kaveri's announcement about the Dilgar colony in the Earth Alliance now placed a clear rift between the Drazi and Brakiri and their erstwhile ally in Major Foster. Julia hoped, perhaps in vain, that his own government's role in saving the Dilgar from extinction might persuade him to at least remain neutral in the coming argument.

"Alright." Holloran looked over everyone. "A week ago we were all friends. Now you want to kill each other. Why?"

"The Dilgar are a threat to our very existence!" Tarinak shouted. "We all remember the crimes they committed against our people! We will not tolerate their continued existence, we cannot. We will not be their victims again!"

The heat of the Drazi outburst was then cooled by Tabir's quiet tone. "I share my Drazi colleague's concern," he cooed. "When we arrived, we found the Dilgar performing a large-scale program of breeding genetically-augmented clones. What else could they be planning but an eventual war against the InterStellar Alliance?" Tabir leveled a look at Julia and her people. "Some people have misinterpreted our deactivation of this dangerous program, unfortunately."

"You were killing children!" Lucy shouted, furious. "You're out to commit genocide!"

"Even your own people hold that the embryos and fetuses that have not fully developed are not considered fully alive," Tabir noted. "You cannot claim we are conducting a campaign of genocide. We have not harmed the civilian population of Tira. Although I will add that the Brakiri Syndicracy is asserting a claim on this system."

"Oh?" That was from Holloran.

"Yes. Our space is not far from here, and we are the first to take possession."

"There are several League species closer than you," Julia pointed out. "The Gaim, the Llort, the Yolu… and the Hyach, Ipsha and Abbai all have outposts closer to this space than the Brakiri. Don't they get a say?"

"We will negotiate with them through the auspices of the Alliance," Tabir answered.

"And you ignore the fact that Tira is already settled."

Tabir smirked at that. "Not legally. Our treaty with the Dilgar specifically forbade them from settling worlds outside of their solar system. The colony on Tira is illegal."

“You have signed no treaty with the Dilgar!” Shai’jhur’s declaration was flat and emphatic, a rising point on the end. “I was lawfully appointed by Supreme Warmaster Gar’shan the day before the Battle of Omelos, as all our records broadly confirm. Not like that would even matter, for the Surgeon General could hardly overrule Supreme Warmaster Jha’dur. Those treaties were signed by an illegal government. The end of the Dilgar War is here. With me.”

Tabir didn't miss a beat. "If that is all true, then the war continues. And we are under no obligation to sign a peace treaty with the successor of butchers."

"And it means that the Allied Systems have joined the war on the Dilgar side," Major Foster said, now suddenly involved in the conversation. "The InterStellar Alliance will have to act against them as well, and their illegal occupation of territory on Earth's frontiers."

"We'll be the judge of that," Holloran said.

"Of course you will." There was a dangerous edge to Foster's voice. "But everyone knows Sheridan is an ally and supporter of all of these aliens. Do you think he'll oppose their wishes?" He glanced toward the Drazi. "I can say, with near-certainty, that Earth will stand with our old allies against the Dilgar and whomever protects them."

"You're assuming a lot of authority for a Major in acting command," Julia noted.

"Little more than you assumed, Captain, when you committed your Alliance to war alongside the Dilgar," Foster retorted.

"Why should we trust you?" Tarinak grumbled. "Your people preserved the Dilgar as well!"

“It is precisely for that reason that I would not care to speculate on the real intentions of the Earth Alliance government,” Shai’jhur said, consciously ignoring Foster and his proclaimed authority. “Of course, if you want to resume hostilities, I recall the human diplomats of the time explicitly warned the League that genocide against the Dilgar was forbidden, immoral, unconscionable to human interests and beliefs. I have spent three decades teaching that to my people. We retreated to our borders, abandoned all systems we conquered. Do any of you want Rohric? Tira is linked naturally to our space and its discovery was pure fortune. It’s also a swamp, ninety-five percent water. We are asking only for what we hold, within the auspices of Allied System membership. Nothing more.”

Tarinak jumped from his chair. "The Drazi Freehold will not stand for the Dilgar to become part of the Allied Systems, we will see your worlds burn first!" That last line was directed to Julia.

"You're being unreasonable," Julia replied. "We…"

"Enough!" All eyes turned toward Holloran after that shout. "Let me remind you all that I'm not a diplomat, and I don't give a damn about putting up with your petty bickering. We're here to stop a war, and if any of you really wanted a war we wouldn't be talking!" After a moment the Mars-born woman took a breath and continued. "We're recessing for an hour. I'm told the ship's lounge is providing refreshments. Help yourselves."




The ship's security staff were in place to keep everyone moving forward to the Lookout. By the time they arrived Hargert was already bringing out the first trays of food on anti-grav serving tables. In his own stab at diplomacy, they were filled with Drazi and Brakiri finger foods.

Some were getting bites to eat. Others were speaking quietly in corners. Julia found herself approaching Holloran. "If you're not a diplomat, why did Sheridan send you?" Julia asked.

"Because he needs Delenn to help him hold the Council in check," Holloran replied. "Otherwise she'd be out here."

"It's that bad?"

"It's going haywire. ISN's been reporting the Dilgar colony non-stop. When they're not talking about that, they're talking about the Dilgar petitioning your Alliance for membership. You're not making a lot of friends on Earth, Captain," Holloran said darkly. Then she smiled a little. "Which means that Mars is falling in love with you, by the way."

Julia gave a short, bemused laugh at that. "I'm glad someone loves me. I'm going to have Senator Pensley demanding my head on a platter. Quite possibly literally."

"Right." Holloran's look turned pensive. "This entire thing is suspicious as hell."

"Which part?"

"All of it. The sudden discovery of the Dilgar network. Gagnor is compromised when he's been operating quietly for years without a single problem. Then suddenly the Brakiri and Drazi know about Rohric, even though Gagnor wouldn't have known." Holloran's voice had an edge to it. "Call me paranoid, but I think we're being played."

"You think someone gave Gagnor up to the Drazi and Brakiri? And then found Rohric on their own?" Julia frowned. "Who?"

"I'd like to know. So would Sheridan and Delenn. There are a number of powers that might want to set our Alliances at odds. Like the Centauri, if they want revenge for the bombing of Centauri Prime. Durla's been amassing a lot of power lately. And there's the Drakh as well."

"I heard about them. The Shadows' old servants?"

"Yes. They still cause trouble at the edges of Alliance territory. They might be pushing their masters' old 'progress through conflict' idea." Holloran shrugged. "Hell, for I know it could even be a faction on Earth who were hoping you'd get dragged in. A lot of the power players on Earth would love to see your people driven from our galaxy, or at least compelled by the InterStellar Alliance to withdraw from Darglan space."

"And that's just the powers in your home universe." Julia shook her head. "It could be someone on our end. A Dominion infiltrator who's evaded detection. Or maybe one of the Gersallian Dissenter factions that went radical." Her mind also went to the report about the Cylons getting their hands on a Nazi shield-disruptor torpedo. Could the Cylons be causing this?

"I'd keep my eyes open, if I were you," Holloran warned.

Julia nodded. "Thanks. We'd better split up, though, or the others will think you're playing favorites."

To that Holloran grinned. "Maybe I am. Martians have our own worries about genocide." At that point she walked away.

Julia considered what Holloran had just told her. Her own suspicions were confirmed. Someone was fueling this situation, and with an agenda she knew nothing about. She had a bad feeling things were going to get even worse.

And then they did.

Suddenly, in a single blur, a green disruptor beam exploded out of nothingness against the wall. People spun out of the way, diving for the floor as a few screamed in shock. The target was Shai’jhur, standing by the bar and trying to engage the Abbai representative, and Julia gaped in horror, for the searing flash suggested a disintegrate setting.

The Warmaster flung her arms up, and the beam caught on the jacket of her uniform, which glowed green as it did. Below the green glow, the blue of the uniform and the medals that she wore vanished in a cloud of neutrinos, but instead of the Dilgar woman following her uniform into oblivion, a black mesh interweave was revealed instead.

Julia recognized it immediately. Anti-disruptor absorption mesh! They must have gotten it from the Ferengi, too.

A moment later, the weapon appeared--flying through the air. There was a cough of pain and a shout from nowhere, and Lucy started, as if only she were following an invisible fight as her lightsaber glowed hot and ready.

Shai’jhur, her fur singed, collapsed to the deck, drawing only ragged breaths. And then from nowhere, a gun fired, but this time Lucy leapt into action, charging the invisible figure. Her sapphire blade intercepted the spark of blue energy and batted it to the ceiling. A second shot met the same fate. Lucy felt a tingle of recognition that she pushed away, not needing to deal with it at this critical moment, while seeking out her invisible opponent through the Flow of Life. With immense focus she reached forward without a sympathetic grasp from one of her occupied hands. Another weapon, a familiar one, flew in the air beside her and hit the ground. "I can see you!" she shouted. "Surrender!"

The invisible foe did not. She sensed her foe shifting, trying to get distance, but she was moving too quickly. She slashed through the air and knew her lightsaber brushed against someone. She sensed instinctive pain at the burning of flesh. It wasn't a critical wound, but it was bad.

Nearby a table was knocked over. There was more than one cloaked attacker here. Indeed, more than one cloaked figure.

It was Meridina who acted next. After a moment's concentration she reached her hands up. An object, a sleek gray device that a number of those present also recognized, came out of the air in front of Lucy.

Lucy found herself facing a black clad foe. Her lightsaber had burned a wound on her opponent's shoulder, charred flesh visible through the gap. She brought her lightsaber to attack again.

Her opponent raised his arms. As he did, silver material suddenly surged from the back of his wrists. The material glistened in the air and a slight metallic sound came as it hardened… and sharpened. The figure now had two long blades of silver material attached to his wrists.

"You," Lucy said. "What are you doing here?"

The brown-haired man smiled in reply. "What do you think?" asked James Hawk, in a rhetorical way. "I'm here to kill bad guys."


To Be Continued...
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Thu Jan 11, 2018 2:28 am

Steve, Christ the warmaster's perpetual quoting of oh so profound human crap is getting tiresome. Next it'll be warmaster the ship is damaged, oh I guess we'll have to call BICYCLE REPAIR MAN as the humans call it in their televised motion picture series Monty Python.
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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:53 pm

So the Avenger crew are the one playing everyone? Hah, nice.
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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Fri Jan 12, 2018 1:32 am

I wasn't sure what "world in human/EA space we Dilgar settled in" the warmaster (or her human BFF?) was referring to, whether she was referring to the two previously mentioned worlds of Tira and Rhoric, or if there's a third world. Despite the length of the spiel nonetheless it's kinda ambiguous.

Upon asking Steve via IM, he clarifies that yes there IS a third world.

So maybe the warmaster can clarify it with ANOTHER PROFOUND HUMAN SAYING! Like, "as you human say 'third time's the charm." Or "remember the tale of the three pigs and the big bad wolf? It is a popular human tale that Kaveri told me when we were marooned. The third world is like the third pig who built its house with bricks, not straw or sticks." :P

Sorry but the warmaster's constant human saying references have tired me out. :P
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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:33 pm

This is the first true multi-part episode in two seasons, so I am going to again do what I did with "The Human Condition Part 2" back in Season 1. Namely, for atmosphere and that TV show feel... a "Last time on" bit! Imagine the opening and closing bits being narrated by Majel Barret Roddenberry for that extra nostalgic feel. ;)



Last time on Undiscovered Frontier...
A tone from Jarod's control board interrupted Julia. Jarod turned his attention back to the board. "I'm getting a distress signal from Alliance bands," he said. "It's coming from the colony on Gamma 12 in Universe E5B1."

"I don't recognize those vessels," Julia said.

"Those are Dilgar ships."
The woman spoke. "I am Warmaster Shai’jhur. I have arrived here to ask for your help."

***

"To put it bluntly, Captain Andreys, my people are going to be slaughtered without your assistance.”

"A force of Brakiri and Hyach ships has seized Tira. The Drazi are sending a fleet to exterminate the population. I request the aid of the Alliance in protecting my people."

***

Captain Andreys,” Captain Ming-Chung greeted her, the urgency tight in her voice. “The lady to my left is Captain Kaveri Varma, Earthforce Retired."

***

"If we sent a signal ahead, maybe we could warn them to stop?" Cat asked.

Kaveri answered, “My daughter, Zheng-li, may be in position to buy you a little time. She is the captain of a new Earthforce destroyer on patrol in the coreward League.”
Zhengli Varma replied bluntly, "The surface of this planet is under the protection of Earthforce. We will not permit genocide."

***

Julia watched the screen as it resolved on the battle raging before their improvised squadron of Alliance and Dilgar ships. Before them was a Warlock class destroyer, her deflector shields failing as they came in. She now stood, wreathed in the massive ring of hundreds of simultaneous explosions as her interceptor grid worked to keep her covered, as the hammer-blows of heavy hits tore into her armor. Julia watched the ship shudder from stem to stern and knew they were just in time.

"That’s the Huáscar, Zhengli’s ship," Kaveri’s voice said.

It was as simple as that. The Huáscar could be destroyed at any moment, and it was clear the Drazi were coming on for them. There was no time to talk. "Tactical, lock weapons. Commander Meridina, signal the squadron to open fire."

Within seconds the forward pulse plasma cannons of the Aurora were thundering their sapphire fury at the nearest, largest Drazi Sunhawk.

***

"You should leave. When the rest of our fleet arrives, the Dilgar will die. And so will anyone who stands with them." There was an audible cut to the line signifying the Drazi had cut the channel to the Aurora.
A man in an Earthforce uniform with a sandy blonde high and tight haircut and blue eyes appeared. He spoke in an English midlands accent. “This is Major Foster, Acting Commander of the EAS Huáscar. The Captain with whom you were speaking has been removed from command and confined to the brig. You have engaged and attacked the Drazi Freehold’s fleet while violating Brakiri territory. I expect that you will withdraw and allow ISA member nations to handle this matter amongst themselves. You have forty-eight hours to comply.”

"This isn't recognized Brakiri territory,," Julia retorted. "And you heard the Drazi. This isn't a peacekeeping mission, they're here to commit genocide. How can you side with them?"

***

“Captain?” It was Lieutenant Johnathan Goodman, the Security Officer for the Huáscar, a big, easygoing man from Belize. “We’re arranging to have your regular meals brought down.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant. This will all end badly, mark my words. Earthforce does not want to sully itself in this. We will not come off well.”

“You know Foster’s politics. The entire crew is on pins and needles right now.”

***

One of the guards slid Zhengli’s food into the cell. As she did, the woman whispered softly: “You did right, Captain, but I don’t how we’re going to get past those Nightwatch goons.”

“We’ll find a way."

“Aye Aye, Captain..”
They heard smashing glass and laughter before long. Lucy brought the Marines into a chamber occupied by mercenaries. Most were Brakiri, but there were members of other species too.

The chamber had originally been laid out with about two thousand humanoid-sized clear tubes with equipment in them, each supporting a Dilgar infant being gestated. As it stood down, three-quarters of them were smashed, wrecked, deactivated. As they stood there, the Brakiri standing to the side and watching with sneers and smirks, the mercenaries were using fire-axes seized from the facility to smash open more of the cloning tanks, throwing the infants onto the ground.

Anders' reaction was a quiet, "Open fire."
"I'm not going to standby and let you continue this culling," Julia said to the Brakiri captain. "My people will move in and protect the facilities where the Dilgar children are being grown. Your people will withdraw from them immediately. If you fail to comply, the Aurora and her squadron will open fire. Is that clear?"

For the first time the business-like facade of Tabir failed. He scowled at her. "You sanctimonious fool. Don't you realize the Dilgar are playing you?! That this has probably been their plan all along, to turn us against each other!"
Holloran's look turned pensive. "This entire thing is suspicious as hell."

"Which part?"

"All of it. The sudden discovery of the Dilgar network. Then suddenly the Brakiri and Drazi know about Rohric." Holloran's voice had an edge to it. "Call me paranoid, but I think we're being played."

Suddenly, in a single blur, a green disruptor beam exploded out of nothingness against the wall. People spun out of the way, diving for the floor as a few screamed in shock. The target was Shai’jhur, standing by the bar and trying to engage the Abbai representative, and Julia gaped in horror, for the searing flash suggested a disintegrate setting.

The Warmaster flung her arms up, and the beam caught on the jacket of her uniform, which glowed green as it did. Below the green glow, the blue of the uniform and the medals that she wore vanished in a cloud of neutrinos, but instead of the Dilgar woman following her uniform into oblivion, a black mesh interweave was revealed instead.

Julia recognized it immediately. Anti-disruptor absorption mesh! They must have gotten it from the Ferengi, too.

Shai’jhur, her fur singed, collapsed to the deck, drawing only ragged breaths.
"I can see you!" Lucy shouted. "Surrender!"

Lucy found herself facing a black clad foe. Her lightsaber had burned a wound on her opponent's shoulder, charred flesh visible through the gap. She brought her lightsaber to attack again.

Her opponent raised his arms. As he did, silver material suddenly surged from the back of his wrists. The material glistened in the air and a slight metallic sound came as it hardened… and sharpened. The figure now had two long blades of silver material attached to his wrists.

"You," Lucy said. "What are you doing here?"

The brown-haired man smiled in reply. "What do you think?" asked James Hawk. "I'm here to kill bad guys."

And now, the conclusion...


Teaser


The sudden attack in the Aurora lounge took everyone off guard. The moment Shai'jhur went down Julia's hand was already going toward her omnitool. It lit up around her left forearm and allowed her to key the intraship communications system. "Andreys to Security, I need a full tactical response and medical team to the Lookout!" She went over to Shai'jhur. Kaveri was kneeling beside her, horror written over the older woman's face. Nah'dur came up and knelt beside her mother. "Let me see!" she hissed.

By this point Lucy was in action. Julia looked up in time to see the dark clad figure she was fighting shimmer into appearance. Even as the metal blades formed from the back of his wrists, Julia recognized his face.

Lucy's voice filled the room. "What are you doing here?"

And James Hawk answered, "What do you think? I'm here to kill bad guys." The interuniversal rogue and vigilante lunged forward, his wrist blades - formed from the Darglan-made nanites that infused and enhanced his body - whistling in the air.

Technical augmentation met metaphysical augmentation, and the latter won. Lucy met Hawk's enhanced speed with her own. The blue of her lightsaber blade came up to parry Hawk's wrist blades. The Darglan nanites didn't fail right away to the lightsaber, but the metal they were forming immediately turned red. Hawk withdraw his arms and moved for another attack.

Meridina struck before he could. In one motion she lashed out with power and sent Hawk flying into the wall. While he tried to stand and recover she focused on him and intoned "SLEEP". The Psi Corps telepath from the Huáscar widened her eyes at sensing the power behind the mental compulsion.

Hawk sneered as he got back to his feet. "Sorry, lady," he said. "That won't work this time."

Meridina blinked. "I see," she said. Telepathically she communicated her findings to the others. His mind has been hardened against compulsions. Someone has trained him how to resist telepathic commands.

Lucy nodded and kept her lightsaber in a defensive position. Meridina stepped up beside her and ignited her lightsaber as well.

The bizarre shadow-puppet fight continued between the two cloaked rivals, Hawk’s comrade and Shai’jhur’s defender. The smoke from the smoke grenades that had been loosed to complicate the picture was beginning to spread extensively through the Lookout, as shadowy forms revealed by the particulate matter whirled the air particles in their wake.

Unable to target each other except by the flash of weapons or the feel of breath or movement, and with the Surgeon-Commander and Kaveri having rapidly dragged Shai’jhur out of the lounge, the assailant was trying to finish off the other cloaked foe. It was a half comedic fight of whirling blades that were invisible, slashes and feints and blood dripping on the carpet from people who could not be seen, and could not see each other.

Hawk noticed Nah'dur and Kaveri pulling Shai'jhur through the starboard door to the Lookout and threw his hand forward. Slivers of nanite material hardened into metal zipped out. Meridina caught them with her life force while Lucy advanced. Hawk got his left hand blade in place just in time to catch her attack. He counter-attacked with his right hand, but Lucy's lightsaber caught it in a fluid movement. Hawk had to withdraw it as it started to glow red. "That's a fun new toy," he said to her.

"You're insane," Lucy shot back. "You really infiltrated the ship and thought you'd get away?"

Hawk smirked confidently. "I got away before, didn't I?" With his speed he kicked at Lucy. She saw it coming and moved just quickly enough to avoid a kick that, given its power, would have easily broken her jaw. She swept her lightsaber at his knee and barely missed.

Hawk's evasion turned into a roll of necessity when Meridina's lightsaber caught him. She moved in on his right while Lucy kept to his left, pinning him up against the Aurora's Memorial Wall. "Why are you attacking us now?" Meridina asked.

"Not you," Hawk said. "Her."

Even with his newfound mental protections, both picked up the image in his head. "You want to kill Warmaster Shai'jhur?" Lucy asked. "Why?"

"Well, for one, the title's kind of a giveaway on what she's about, isn't it?" Hawk's blades came up again. This time he advanced on Meridina, who quietly parried his attacks despite the smoke obscuring them. Lucy went in for a swipe at him this time, but Hawk again rolled away. The smoke was not thick enough to obscure the lightsabers, allowing them to be spotted easily, unlike Hawk's own weapons.

In the meantime, the strange shadow-fight continued. There was a simple reason for it: The first to drop their cloak would be at a massive disadvantage, neither one of the still-cloaked fighters did. Julia couldn’t tell who was winning, or even who was fighting, though she assumed that it must be Fei’nur, the ominous Dilgar commando who had always been at Shai’jhur’s side in the meetings before and clearly had her own cloak.

People were scrambling and fleeing as chairs and tables went flying across the room without apparent cause. As they did, the lounge opened up enough, and heavy gunfire cracked the air, aiming for a twirling figure outlined in the smoke which now wreathed and choked the entirety of the Lounge. As it did, the cloak flickered and vanished, and revealed with a hole in her side dripping blood, but lunging up with wrist blades and a ferocious expression, was Hawk's ally Helen. The large woman was built like an Amazon of legend, tall as well as muscled. She flung herself for cover as the gun spoke again.

Hawk fell back toward her position. It was fairly close to the port side door. Meridina was moving toward the same while Lucy remained to her right. Julia imagined Fei'nur would take their cue and watch Lucy's right, boxing the two in. "Your friend is wounded," Meridina stated. "Surrender and we can provide medical…"

There was a sharp laugh in reply. Even through the smoke, both could already sense the wound healing abnormally fast. The Darglan nanites within Helen were rebuilding the damaged tissues cell by cell and stopping the blood loss. What had been life-threatening a moment ago was quickly only becoming critical.

All three sensed the attack that came next. Meridina and Lucy with their talents, Fei'nur from the sense that one fighter had for another. Hawk and Helen came out of the smoke, blades swinging defiantly. Meridina parried Hawk's strikes. Lucy, sensing the sheer rage building in Helen, let her come forward by giving not quite a meter in space. Not enough to risk Helen getting away.

More than enough to give Fei'nur room to tackle her now-visible foe.

While Helen went flying through the smoke, Lucy brought her lightsaber blade up and readied to fight either foe. She wasn't needed; Meridina was aptly handling Hawk and, despite the healing, Helen was weakened enough from her wound that Fei'nur was now easily overpowering her. A solid blow sent Helen flying into the bar. A sharp snap of bone and a cry made the extent of her injury clear in the second before Helen hit the ground. Only now did Lucy move in. Not with her lightsaber, but with her life force. She summoned the energy within her and directed it at Helen, pinning her to the ground. "She's down!" Lucy directed a glare toward the direction of Fei'nur, invisible to the eye but not to the Flow of Life. "She's down, she's a prisoner," Lucy repeated, sensing the killing intent in the Dilgar woman.

But they attacked the Warmaster…! Still… she… fought with us. The Warmaster would not wish me to be cause of a conflict with these people. Grudgingly, Fei’nur forced herself to relax and re-sheath her knives.

That left Hawk. Meridina waited patiently to see what he would do. His confident look was replaced with an angry snarl. "What are you doing protecting that monster anyway?" he demanded. "I thought you Knights were supposed to protect the innocent."

"To my knowledge and experience, Shai'jhur is not a monster."

"What, because she says so?" He laughed bitterly before lunging at Meridina again. This time his crossed blades met her lightsaber. They pressed against each other. Within two seconds his blades were glowing red. "You're on the wrong side!"

"You ruined an entire world," Meridina reminded him. "Your judgement is suspect."

A moment later the standoff between their weapons ended. Hawk's blades lost. The lightsaber finished melting the nanite-forged material until it fell away. Hawk stepped back, desperately trying to reform his weapons, but Meridina was too quick. Given a moment free from his speedy blade attacks, she concentrated with her power and gripped him, slamming him into the wall by the port door. He struggled in her grip but couldn't move. Meridina was too powerful for him.

The smoke was clearing with the aid of the ventilation systems for the Aurora. Julia looked around at the mess of their reception. Many of the diplomats and delegates had fled. Jarod was kneeling beside Tessa Holloran. The ISA Director of Covert Intelligence was still on the ground. After a tense second of worry Julia could see she was moving, but slowly. Fei'nur and Helen had slammed into her during the fight.

The doors to the Lookout opened and security teams marched in, pulse rifles raised. Lieutenant Commander Phryne Richmond, their Melbourne-native chief, had her own. "Secure the prisoners!" she barked in a fine Australian accent. Four of her people did so. Restraint cuffs were locked around the wrists of Hawk and Helen.

Julia had her own worry. "What happened to Shai'jhur?" she asked.

"Doctor Gillam's teams are already taking her to medbay," Richmond replied. "She's still alive."

A mutter of "Dammit" came from the wall. Security were placing leg-cuffs around Hawk's ankles to fully restrain him. He was snarling in frustration.

If Julia looked in a mirror, she'd realize her expression almost matched his.



Undiscovered Frontier
"Yesterday's Enemies, Part 2"




The Lookout was a mess. Set up for a reception for the diplomatic teams meeting over the fate of the Dilgar of Tira and Rohric, the crew lounge of the Starship Aurora was a mess of toppled anti-grav serving tables and chairs. Most of the attendees were now in the corridors outside being escorted into spare quarters nearby until matters could be dealt with.

Captain Julia Andreys surveyed the damage with her peer, Captain Li Ming-Chung of the Starship Shenzhou. The Chinese woman's dark hair was disheveled from her part in helping deal with the chaos, but she seemed otherwise intact. She certainly acted like it. "That was the renegade from the vessel Avenger?" she asked Julia. "The same people who bombarded the 19th Century Earth of Universe C1P2?"

Julia nodded. "It was. His girlfriend was commanding the Avenger in that fight."

"Then their ship may be nearby." Li frowned. "It will take both of our vessels together to have a chance against it."

"Which means that the Drazi and the Huáscar get to fight the Dilgar without distraction." Julia thought back to their prior battle with Hawk and his people, over Earth of C1P2. "We did beat them before, but it was with superior tactics. And given what we think they're doing to themselves…"

"I recall the report," Li said. "The Darglan brainwave infuser devices. They are overusing them."

"That's what Leo says." Julia sighed. "Damn. And we were wondering just who was stoking things around here. With their access to Darglan technology, I can buy Hawk and his people being the ones to betray Rohric to the Drazi and Brakiri. They may even have helped them find Tira."

"Why? What do they gain?"

"Beating the 'bad guys'," Julia said, sighing. "What else?" Her eyes scanned the room until she found who she was looking for. The Brikari captain Tabir was standing with his fellows in a corner. She approached. "Captain Tabir," she said.

"Captain." He smiled thinly at her. "Quite the rush of excitement. Although I had anticipated far better security by your people than you've now evidenced."

"These rogues have access to the best Darglan technology," Julia answered. "I'll make sure my security people find ways to prevent them from doing this again."

"I see. But I was not simply referring to the shooters. There was also the matter of the other cloaked fighter. The one using a concealment field based off technology native to our universe."

Julia considered pointing out that, by definition, that's what Darglan technology was, but she understood the context. "I see what you mean."

"I hope our future meetings are more secure. Perhaps we should hold them on my vessel? Or on Tira."

"I can assure you that we don't need to worry about this problem now. Measures will be taken now that we know the extent of the threat." Julia smiled thinly. "Speaking of said threat, I am wondering how they came aboard. The Abbai and Minbari allowed themselves to be beamed, but you and the Hyach and the Drazi all insisted on shuttles. Since our sensors show no sign of transporter activity, the infiltrators had to have come by ship."

Tabir's look was smug. "Are you accusing us of being responsible for this attack? During a diplomatic summit sanctioned by President Sheridan? I trust you have proof?"

Julia felt an irrational temptation to say yes, she damn well knew they brought Hawk aboard. Either the Brakiri themselves or the Drazi. With Darglan-tech cloaking for shuttle-sized ships, Hawk and Helen could have easily evaded notice in warping in and boarding the Drazi or Brakiri before the meeting. But that was not how diplomacy was played. What she knew was different from what she could prove, which was very little at the moment. "I was wondering if they may have slipped aboard one of your shuttles before you left," Julia lied. "After all, your internal sensors would do even worse against their Darglan-made personal cloaks than our own do."

"A plausible theory, I suppose. But I can assure you that the Brakiri shuttles were not boarded in this fashion."

"If you say so, I'll trust your judgement, Captain." Another lie, which was sadly a part of diplomacy.

"Do you intend to resume the negotiations?" Tabir asked. "If not, I wish to return to my ship."

As much as Julia wanted to get the diplomatic wheels turning, with Shai'jhur in the medbay and this new complication it simply wasn't possible. "My security people will clear you once statements are completed and arrangements for your return to our shuttle bay can be completed. The talks will be resumed when possible."

"Of course. Until later, Captain." With that same slimy smile that made Julia wish she could punch him, or even worse, have Angel punch him, Tabir walked away.

Julia sought out Commander Richmond. She was busy getting statements from the Abbai. The finned humanoids, both female, were gracious enough, and Julia let them finish their answers before saying, "Commander, if you have a moment?"

Richmond gestured for them to go and turned to face Julia. She was not as tall as Julia. While Julia had a fairly normal tone to her Caucasian complexion, Phryne Richmond's skin was almost porcelain in its coloring. Her green eyes were striking, like emeralds, while Julia's tended toward an aquamarine coloring. A head of dark hair was cut short, almost to a bowl cut. In some ways Commander Richmond looked like she would be at home in a period piece set in the 1920s, although her Alliance Stellar Navy uniform, with the olive brown of security as the trim color at the level of her shoulders and along her cuffs, was nothing like what a flapper would be wearing. Two gold strips and one black strip with a gold border were fixed to her collar, identifying her rank as the four gold strips on Julia's collar identified Julia's. "Yes, Captain?" she asked.

"Find out anything more?"

"We have no indication of how they got aboard, if that's what you're wondering," Richmond said. "My best guess is that they came on with the Drazi or the Brakiri. Internal sensors are all functioning properly and show no sign of a transport."

"But they couldn't see them through their cloaks," Julia noted.

"Unfortunately not. Just as they don't see our people when they're using them. Our friends are using our own technology against us."

"You don't know the half of it," Julia murmured. She remembered the fight with the Avenger, and how Hawk escaped. "You've made sure that their cells are isolated?"

"Of course," Richmond said. "While I wasn't here the last time, Commander Meridina's notes on Hawk's escape were most thorough. The brig was refit to surround each cell with a forcefield cube. Hawk's nanites won't be able to drill through and access systems this time."

"Good. I'd like to be there when you question them. With Commander Meridina."

"Of course. I have just a couple more statements to finish, Captain, then we'll be ready." Richmond's green eyes glistened. "We'll see if a taste of their future will make them cooperative."

Remembering the last time they interrogated Hawk in the brig, Julia sighed. "Don't count on it."




The excitement had been quite a surprise for Yonatan Shaham. He mused that he would never have to worry about such things on the Eagle. Nor did he envy his father for having to handle these sort of things as Captain of the Alliance's Enterprise.

Although even hosting diplomats is preferable to how life was before all of this, he pondered. Twenty months of living as commander of the Eagle and resident of New Liberty Colony didn't compare to the twenty-five years he lived on the vessel Tikvah, one of a dwindling population of surviving Jews trying to stay one step ahead of a triumphant, interstellar Nazi German Reich. Their vessel's name proved to have been fortunate in the end. Though Tikvah herself was gone, crippled and then destroyed by being rammed into the Nazi SS-crewed dreadnought Adolf Eichmann, her population of five thousand - the last Jews native to Universe S4W8 - were still alive and residing on the New Liberty Colony of Universe H1E4. Their largest surviving ship, the Eagle, was herself now part of the New Liberty militia force, dividing time between helping the Alliance's war effort against the Nazi Reich and providing security for the colony's solar system.

This situation… this was something different. And Yoni was excited to be a part of it, even with the boredom of diplomacy. Not just from helping the Aurora's crew - assisting those who saved his people was a choice he would always make - but from the chance to participate in making history for an entire galaxy.

And that didn't count standing against a genocide in process.

From what he could tell, security was in the process of sending everyone off to be returned to their ships. He was therefore surprised at seeing the blue-uniformed Earthforce commander approach. He recognized Major Foster from the earlier talks. Foster was the First Officer of the Earthforce destroyer Huáscar, which he had seized from its Captain after she intervened in the planned Drazi attack to annihilate the Dilgar population on Tira. It perplexed Yoni that Foster was doing such a thing. His commander had thwarted genocide, but he was declaring his intention to side with the Drazi and fire on the Aurora and her ships (including Yoni's own Eagle) if they interfered. He couldn't quite keep the disgust he felt at Foster's choices from showing on his face.

If Foster noticed it, he didn't mention it. The Earthforce officer spoke with an English accent, one from the Midlands of that country. "I recognize you," he said. "ISN did a story about you and your ship. Yonatan Shaham of the Eagle."

Yoni nodded. He remembered having to ferry that blond-haired reporter woman around, at the request (order) of Governor Rankin. It had been irritating with the woman constantly demanding access to his bridge even during combat alerts. "You have the advantage of me, Major," he replied.

"I suppose I do," Foster replied. The innate hostility he'd shown toward Captain Andreys wasn't visible now. "I'm part Jewish on my mother's side, actually."

Yoni blinked at that. He was still getting used to the idea of people who could be part Jewish. The idea of non-Jews being willing to have families with Jews was something he could never have imagined growing up. "I see," Yoni replied after remembering himself.

"What are you doing here, Commander?" asked Foster.

"I beg your pardon?"

"What are you doing here, helping these people protect the Dilgar?" Foster asked, this time with some heat in his voice. "The Dilgar are monsters. They made even the Nazis look humane with the way they treated other species. I don't see how you can defend them, given how close your people came to extermination."

Yoni's eyes focused on Foster. He tried to imagine what this man thought, about his people, about right or wrong. "That is why we must," Yoni said. "Genocide is wrong."

"Not in all cases," Foster said. "Sometimes it can be the only way. Some species are simply too aggressive to be allowed to survive. They're threats to everything we are, everything we hold dear."

Yoni thought back to what he had heard about this universe. "You refer to their war on the rest of this galaxy. Or perhaps another war you remember?"

That caused a glower to form on Foster's face. "You've heard of the Minbari War, then."

"Something, yes. They brought Humanity in this universe to the brink of annihilation before showing mercy."

A scowl formed on Foster's face. "'Mercy'. That's what people say. I think they got tired of having our people fight them to the death. Why annihilate when you can enslave, and do it with subtlety?"

"I do not follow."

"They left Earth prostrate. Reliant upon their aid and good grace. Then they encouraged us to trust them. After all of the good men and women they killed." Foster seemed to catch his excess zeal and restrain himself. "Some of us weren't fooled. We learned the lesson of the war. Humans have to stick together. We can't rely on aliens, even those we thought were our allies. And we have to be ready to do anything to survive."

"Including genocide?" asked Yoni.

"If it's them or us," Foster answered. His face was stony in its resolve. "We can't be squeamish. Not when it comes to the survival of Humanity."

"The Nazi say things like that," Yoni remarked. "That life is only about survival, and survival is for the fittest. But that is not how I wish my life to be led."

At that Foster openly scowled at him. "So you're one of those sentimentalists. I'm surprised. I would think someone with your background would understand what I was saying. Or are you telling me you wouldn't wipe the Nazi Reich out to save your people from the same fate?"

Yonatan didn't answer right away. He couldn't. Growing up, yes, there had been that dark section of his heart. The idea of wiping the Germans from the face of existence so his people could stop running, could stop dying. As he'd grown older and the rest of the fleet had been picked off, one by one, those thoughts had persisted. Even when he learned they were wrong.

Those thoughts made him see Foster in a new light. Foster had felt the same things. The difference between them was that Foster hadn't recognized those dark feelings as wrong. Yoni's dark dreams were Foster's earnest ones; annihilate the enemy before he annihilated you.

"Do you believe the Dilgar are such an enemy?" Yonatan asked. "They deserve to be wiped out?"

"I think they could become one," Foster remarked. "We already have enough threats to the existence of the Human species."

Incredulous at such an argument, Yonatan pointed out the obvious. "The Human species is the most plentiful in the Multiverse."

To that Foster laughed harshly. "And how many of them are already bonded to aliens? The Humans of the Federation are subjects of the alien majority who sacrifice them to alien interests. The Maquis prove that. The Allied Systems? The Gersallians and the Dorei will be running that show, given their widespread use of telepaths without protections for the Human majority. The Inner Sphere are backwards feudalists that the aliens can crush at leisure. Earth in M4P2 is already subject to the rule of the Asari and their puppets." Another laugh was bitter. "And so are we, now. Sheridan's selling us down river for his Minbari wife and alien friends."

The tirade caused Yoni to shake his head. "You've allowed hate to root into your soul, like a poison. You ask me why I protect people who once committed the same crimes as the Nazis? I suggest you look in a mirror, Major, and that you consider yourself. Because whatever the Dilgar did, you are far closer to the Nazis than they are now."

"You don't get to judge me!" Foster barked. "The Minbari slaughtered my parents and my brother! I watched their ships annihilate everything we could muster! We came to the precipice of extermination!"

"Indeed? I have been there with my people as well, Major," Yoni answered quietly. He looked at Foster and felt guilt. He could remember similar feelings of hate against those trying to exterminate his people. Could he have let it turn him into this? A man more than ready to permit genocide? It was with this thought still in his mind and heart that Yoni added, "And yet, we still have our souls."

At that, Yoni did the only thing he could do. He turned and walked away.




Julia and Meridina entered the brig in the company of Commander Richmond. Given what happened the last time, no chances were being taken. Six security personnel were on duty inside the Brig and another six were outside, ready to help the moment anything happened.

The brig was a large chamber with about twenty cells, arranged along each wall save for the wall with the door. Along the walls to the right and left - bow and stern, given the place of the door - six cells were lined up. The port side wall across from the door was where eight more cells existed. A central pit area near the door was for the brig control, where security officers observing the brig could monitor their prisoners and the brig systems.

The cells with Hawk and Helen were on the port wall. One cell separated them from each other. Each had the appearance of only having one forcefield-sealed side - the entranceway - but in truth each cell was contained by a forcefield cube that would be revealed if someone tried to go through the wall. The measure was a complicated technical problem, and one that increased the energy demands of the brig. Hawk himself had proven the necessity of it during their first encounter due to how he escaped from the brig.

Now he was sitting quietly on the bench of his cell. His compatriot Helen was pacing her cell like a great cat, an angry snarl on her face. Her dark combat suit had a massive hole on the right side of the belly that revealed fair skin that was faintly pinkish, all that remained of the wound Fei'nur had caused with her gunshot. Muscle rippled there. Helen looked like she could challenge Angel in terms of building muscle, and she matched Julia in height easily. Her gray, East Asian eyes flashed with anger when she looked toward them.

Despite everything, there was a confident gleam to Hawk's brown eyes when he looked to them. "Ah. The cheerleader. Well, not that anymore, I see. You get to be in charge now." He glanced toward Meridina. "Fun new toys you and the other one have now. Laser swords."

"What are you up to, Hawk?" Julia asked. "Why are you here?"

"Why am I here? We're here to do what we always do," Hawk answered. "Kill bad guys."

"You mean you're after the Dilgar."

"You are aware that they will be exterminated by the Drazi, correct?" asked Meridina.

"Not all," Hawk said. "I told the Drazi to leave some alive. Just where they can't hurt anyone. That species is one I wouldn't trust with any kind of advanced technology." He crossed his arms. "What confuses me is why do-gooders like you people are protecting the scum."

"They asked us to stop the Drazi from committing genocide," Julia said. "We barely got here in time."

"The Dilgar deserve what they get," growled Helen. "After everything they did, they don't deserve to live."

"That is a rather extreme position, and one based on hate and fear," Meridina noted. "Certainly beings like yourselves, who insist that you are thwarting evil beings, should recognize that."

"Helen's always been in favor of permanent solutions," Hawk remarked. "And the fact is the Dilgar are rotten to the core, and always have been. It's hard to stick around with a species that sees everyone else as an animal to be tortured and enslaved at their whim." Hawk kept his eyes locked on Julia. "Even your new buddy the Warmaster is a piece of crap. You didn't think the title was just for show, did you?"

"It's a rank of political and military power for them," Julia pointed out.

"And how do you think she earned it?" Hawk spat. "She earned it fighting in Jha'dur's fleet, that's how. Helping that evil maniac bomb planets and infect entire worlds with plagues."

"Do you have proof she took part?"

"We can show she was in the fleet," Hawk said. "Besides, she's also a rapist piece of crap too."

To that charge Julia furrowed her brow. She glanced to Meridina, who nodded. "He believes the charge."

"What, you didn't know?" Helen cackled. "Boy, that's rich. You naive idiots will believe anyone, won't you?"

"You say she's a rapist. How do you know?"

"It's in the Earthforce records," Hawk said. "We hacked into them while setting up this op. It's how we know Warmaster Shai'jhur deserves a pulse blast to the brain, not a damned medal or whatever it is you want to give her."

"Who did she assault, then?" Meridina asked.

"That Hindu woman sitting with her at the talks," Helen said.

Julia visibly started at that remark. "You mean Captain Varma."

"Kaveri Varma? Yup." Hawk nodded. He nodded to the security desk. "Check our omnitools. I had the records loaded on mine. Earthforce investigated Varma when she was rescued from that island. They found the evidence. Shai'jhur raped her while they were stranded."

Julia exchanged an uneasy look with Meridina. Behind them Richmond activated the systems to scan their omnitools. She swallowed when she saw the results. "Captain," she called out.

Julia turned and approached the security desk. Richmond helpfully displayed the results for her. The Earthforce physicians who examined Varma after her rescue found indications of Dilgar microbes on her body and in her system and other signs of sexual contact. A report from the debriefers came to the conclusion that the Dilgar then-Lieutenant Kaveri Varma had been marooned with had overpowered and assaulted her and essentially used her as a slave for both fishing and personal pleasure. "'Lieutenant Varma has not responded to requests for further detail on the attack'," Julia read. "'We believe this is due to her strict adherence to conservative cultural and religious beliefs. Recommend investigation end at this point for sake of the victim and further close observation at initial future postings for psychiatric reasons.'"

"See?" Hawk said. "Did you think we went to all of this trouble just because the Drazi have a bug up their ass about the Dilgar? Nope. It's that stuff that convinced us. You want to talk about the Dilgar not being evil anymore, but you're setting up a rapist to take over."

"Why would Varma be sitting with her then?' Julia demanded from him.

"Abused people do things like that sometimes. Thirty years of Stockholm Syndrome, maybe? All I know is what was done to her."

"So if it wasn't Shai'jhur begging us to save her people from genocide, you expect me to believe you'd leave this situation alone?" Julia demanded.

"We wouldn't be helping the Drazi fight Rohric, that's for sure," Hawk said. "Tira? They're run by people who think the old Imperium just needed to be more democratic toward other Dilgar. You didn't think they were producing clone babies by the million because they like kids, did you? It's a forced repopulation measure. And they damn well would have tried something eventually." A harsh laugh came from the renegade. "Face the facts, blondie. You're on the wrong side of this thing. And you need to get righteous soon, or our ship's going to blow holes into all of your pretty little ships before we wipe the floor with the Dilgar."

The threat reminded Julia of what they were dealing with, in more ways than one. Hawk and his followers were compromised, she remembered. They were frying their brains with the Darglan brainwave infusers from the Facility they'd taken over. She would have to bring that up.

But for now… she needed to find out the truth of this. It didn't change the facts of genocide, as far as Julia was concerned. But if Shai'jhur was a predator…

She motioned to the door. Richmond and Meridina joined her in the corridor outside. "Do you believe it?" she asked them.

"The records seem convincing," Meridina noted. "But the Earthforce analysts could be wrong."

"I'm not sure we can take that possibility at face value," Richmond said. "We need to investigate further."

"You do that. Meanwhile…" Julia turned to leave. "Meridina and I will confirm what happened."

"How do you intend to?" Richmond asked. "Even if she is cooperative, Captain Varma may mislead you consciously or subconsciously out of shame or loyalty to Shai'jhur. Her testimony by itself will be insufficient given the Earthforce findings."

"There is still a way to confirm the truth from her," Meridina said. The look on her face was uncomfortable. "But it is not an easy choice for us to make. Or, rather, for me to take."

Julia nodded grimly. She knew precisely what Meridina had in mind.




On the bridge of the Aurora Jarod was sitting in the command chair. Lt. Sabiha Neyzi, a young Turkish woman and operation officer, was manning his usual station with professional quiet. From the command chair all he saw of her was her dark hair pulled back into a bun. The helm was manned by Nick Locarno for the moment, although his watch would shortly end and Violeta Arterria would take over.

Jarod glanced over to science, where Lieutenant Amira al-Rashad was observing the sensor systems' data. "Nothing new?"

"No sir," the Arab woman replied. "No new vessels have arrived through the jumpgate or any other method."

"What's the status on the Huáscar?"

"Her repairs are continuing. It looks like their shield systems are fully restored, although there may still be some damage from their fight with the Drazi that aren't showing up on sensors. For that matter, the intact Drazi Sunhawks all seem to have finished repairs. The ones still damaged have pulled back toward the jumpgate."

"Of course they have," Jarod murmured.

"This is quite the situation, isn't it?" Locarno asked. "Especially with that lunatic Hawk and his crew mixed up in this."

"That's the worst news we've had, I think," Jarod said. "I wouldn't be surprised if everyone he's got working with him is frying their brains trying to learn everything from the Darglan technology. There's no telling what the brain damage they're suffering will do to them, psychologically or physiologically."

"Well, it certainly doesn't seem to make them more sociable," Locarno remarked. "I'm more worried about what's going to happen when that ship of theirs shows up. If the Earthforce dreadnought sides with the Drazi too…"

"...then we're in a lot of trouble," Jarod agreed. He hoped it wouldn't come to that.

But, given the way these things usually went… it probably would.




Julia didn't want to wait. She knew it could be cruel to Kaveri to bring up the past, and that it might bring back old painful memories, but she had to know what her version of events were. Otherwise… otherwise it meant she really was supporting a monster. A monster trying to keep her people from being genocided, but still…

"It might be best to seek further analysis of the Earthforce records," Meridina suggested as they walked toward the entrance to medbay.

"It would take time to find the officers who debriefed her. If they're still alive." Julia shook her head. "No, this is something we need to deal with now."

"You are worried that you have supported the wrong side?"

"No, genocide's still wrong," Julia said. "But I want to make sure I'm not helping a rapist become the undisputed leader of her species."

Once in the medbay they found Nasri treating one of the servers from the Lookout. "Smoke inhalation," she confirmed. "He will be fine."

"We need to see Kaveri Varma," Julia said. "It's important."

"She is in the critical care ward with Shai'jhur," Nasri replied. "I will go get her."

"Is Doctor Gillam in his office?"

"No. He is with the patient, the radiation dose she received..." Nasri immediately understood. "I will inform him you need to borrow it."

"Thank you."

Julia and Meridina went to Leo's office. It was comfortably furnished. Leo had a copy of his medical doctorate on one wall, along with an image of him as a child with his late parents. Another image on a side desk was of everyone together in the early post-Facility days, celebrating the second anniversary of the New Liberty Colony.

The retired Earthforce captain stepped in, her face pinched and pale. “The doctor said you needed to speak to me urgently Captain, Commander…?” Her eyes glanced between the two of them, and there was a guarded look in her gaze.

Meridina gave Julia a concerned look. She sensed the severe strain on Kaveri's emotions. The subject was bound to make it worse.

"This is a… delicate matter," Julia said. "And I'm sorry if it dredges up painful memories. Would you like to have a seat?"

“That is not exactly the best opening to any conversation… very well, however.” She moved to sit, her eyes narrowing, as if she could somehow sense the direction of this conversation.

Julia swallowed as she struggled, even at the last minute, to choose her words carefully. "During our interrogation of the prisoners, they mentioned that they gained access to the Earthforce records on what happened to you. And they repeated the charge in those records. That you were assaulted by Shai'jhur during your time with her during the war." Julia kept her hands together in front of her, as if ready to take Kaveri's hand in support. "We need to know if this is true. And I'm sorry that we have to ask something so private."

Her face went blank, and her mental walls slammed up reflectively, anti-scanning training taking over. “No.” Her voice was flat and cold. “And your apology is not accepted, Captain.”

Meridina was quick to send her mental impressions to Julia. Including the mental walls. Julia nodded once. "I see," she said. Julia found that she wanted to believe Kaveri's denial, if only because Hawk's charge being true would make this entire situation even worse. But Kaveri's defensive reaction… she didn't know what to think, and it showed. And this situation was certainly too delicate to plunge ahead thoughtlessly. She looked to Meridina for help.

"I will not enter your mind if you do not wish it," Meridina assured her. "Gersal does not have your Psi Corps, but we have our own code of conduct for mindwalkers. Telepaths. I shall provide you the contact information to the Farisa Genut to issue complaints if you feel I have violated your mind."

“Almighty, you think I am afraid of the Corps?" Kaveri seemed incredulous of their words. "I am uneasy, yes, at the thought of being scanned, but I trust the motivations behind their actions more than your people’s, if only because of uncomfortable familiarity with them.” She grit her teeth. “You do not trust my denial, do you? You actually believe Shai’jhur could have done such a thing? Do not you understand the old Dilgar Imperium’s views of such things?” Hurt flashed in her eyes, and a defensive tone had crept into her voice.

The heat of Kaveri's denial was unavoidable. It didn't feel like a defensive protest to protect an abuser. At the same time… Julia shook her head, trying to get a feel for what her own instincts were telling her. "The Earthforce records insist you were raped. The evaluations all list your religious beliefs for why you refuse to talk about it. I don't want Shai'jhur to be guilty, but with the situation like it is, I have to know, Captain Varma. I have to know the truth of what happened to you on that island. Because Hawk? He believes it, which means his followers do, and Foster probably does as well, and the Drazi and Brakiri will damned well believe it. And that means this situation will become a shooting war, and if Hawk's ship shows up - and that is very likely - it's… well, it's a battlecruiser, Captain, a battlecruiser bristling with the most powerful weapons the Darglan ever developed. If it joins with Drazi reinforcements we will lose, and every Dilgar on Tira will die. Possibly followed by the ones on Rohric. I need to be able to show they're wrong, or if not, that Shai'jhur isn't the same as she was thirty years go."

“She is exactly the same as she was thirty years ago! Perhaps older, more worn-down by the weight of the crushing duty that pulverized Jha’dur before her, but her heart is the same! She tries to follow Dharma, as she did before she even knew the word! It…” Her gaze fell, and her tone shifted to grow more quiet. “It… was consensual. That is why there are the laboratory results supporting the charge. I let Intelligence believe it for the sake of my career, and for my little Zhengli’s sake.”

Julia bowed her head in reaction. She felt horrible, like she had just violated Kaveri as well… which was quite accurate in one sense. She felt Meridina's mind gently brush her own. Their contact allowed her to understand that the mental walls kept Meridina from confirming the truth of Kaveri's words. Only a deliberate telepathic scan could confirm the truth. There was a hesitation in Meridina's thoughts on that. She did not want to do this.

“What more do you want, Captain?”

"We need to be able to say you're not lying. That you're not covering for Shai'jhur," Julia said. "We need to know for sure." She didn't need to say how. Kaveri would know the one certain way.

“Very well, Captain.” Her shoulders sagged, and the woman let out a deep sigh. “I have avoided this, avoided any duty that would require this, ever since then…” It took a moment’s effort, and a soft humming sound as she centred herself, and willed her mental blocks away.

It was with great trepidation that Meridina pulled up a chair to sit in front of Kaveri. She closed her eyes and focused upon the woman. Felt her instinctive anger and displeasure at the situation, her continued worry over the ones she loved, for wounded Shai'jhur and imprisoned Zhengli, and most importantly… her determination to protect them.

There was only a moment's instinctive resistance, like skin resisting a needle, before the mind of Kaveri Varma opened to Meridina. Meridina's training, her personal discipline, ignored the memories that drifted past her. She focused on that critical moment in the life of Kaveri Varma. The escape from the dying Denali. The island. "Human… can you fish?" Days and nights spent working together, her and this alien woman who coughed up blood every so often, who's frail form belied a power of will, an understanding of the universe that Kaveri came to realize was the same as her own. From that a bond grew. An impossible one. Love in defiance of a universe torn by war to the knife between their respective species.

Meridina felt the immense closeness Kaveri felt toward Shai'jhur. She had been willing. Shai'jhur had been. They had learned something together, shared something on that island, and they shared it still. Meridina felt an affection that she had never felt before in another being.

With careful deference to the tender memories she had accessed, Meridina pulled her mind out from Kaveri's. To her surprise, tears had formed on her eyes in sympathy for Kaveri's tears. "It was real," Meridina said in a low voice. Not "she's telling the truth". Not "she's not delusional". Those three simple words. "It was real."

Julia nodded. "Thank you."

"I shall provide you contact information for the Farisa Genut on Gersal," Meridina said to Kaveri. "I ask that you inform them if I have caused you any harm or discomfort."

There was a flash of skepticism, that of a woman from the Earth Alliance, who had known all she had, but it faded, and she nodded. “It was… something that apparently had to be done.”

"I'm sorry it came to this," Julia said. "I understand if you can't accept my apology. It's still there."

“Words cannot make up for actions, I fear. Shai’jhur and I have both learned this lesson very well indeed. May I return to her now, Captain?”

Julia nodded quietly. "Yes," she said hoarsely.

She nodded and stood, making a namaste gesture in valediction, before turning silently to return to the Dilgar Warmaster’s side. She paused at the door. “Zhengli remains in danger, Captain. I would again ask if there was anything you can do, or else…I fear for what may come next.”

"I'll do whatever I can. I'm just not sure of what will help her." After watching Kaveri go, clearly distraught at that reply, Julia mumbled, "We just did something horrible."

"Sadly necessary, but yes," Meridina agreed. "I will report this to the Farisa Genut."

"If they find you having acted badly, what will happen?"

"At the most extreme, they would assign a farisa to accompany me and keep my mental gifts suppressed, or require me to take drugs to suppress my mindwalking. The latter would also disrupt my ability to access my swevyra."

"Would they…?"

"The situation provides enough amelioration that I may be simply required to provide compensation to Captain Varma. Perhaps an oath to refrain from all use of mindwalking until the Farisa Genut determines I am not a danger to others." Meridina was still shaken. "Power is linked to responsibility, as you know. The greater the power, the greater the responsibility, lest society be unbalanced. Farisa on Gersal accept the need for the Genut on these grounds, just as those with swevyra accept the need to answer to the Order of Swenya."

"At least they don't force you to walk around wearing black uniforms and gloves," Julia murmured. "Did you see that telepath from the Huáscar?"

"I saw and felt," Meridina confirmed. "I would invite her to come to Gersal if I thought it would not endanger her or our purpose here." Meridina rose from her chair. "We should speak to the others about our interrogation of Hawk and his compatriot. And make preparations."

"For the arrival of the Avenger, yes." Julia sighed. If they were lucky, maybe the fighting on S4W8 had let off enough that Maran could send reinforcements.

The thought made her snort in derision. They were never going to be that lucky...




The Aurora and Koenig command officers met once more in the conference lounge off of the main bridge. Everyone listened to Julia and Meridina relay what happened after the attack.

"So great. The nuts with the Darglan battlecruiser are back," Angel muttered. "This entire situation is beyond screwed up."

"I think it was that way when we caught the mercs slaughtering babies," Lucy remarked darkly. "This is just further evidence of the screwed up-ness of the problem."

"We have to assume the Avenger is going to show up. Suggestions?"

"The last time we fought, we were able to use our speed and tactics to beat them," Jarod said. "But now we can't leave orbital space."

"Can't we?" Locarno clearly had a thought on that point. "If they're gunning for us again, it might actually be best for us to run. Then we draw them away from the other ships."

"That means we leave the Shenzhou and Shai'jhur's ships to fight dozens of Drazi ships and an advanced, deflector shield-protected Earthforce warship," Jarod reminded him. "The Shenzhou's not built to fight the same enemies we are. Shields and technology might let them mow through the Drazi, but the Huáscar may be too much for them. Even if the Magaratha is helping."

"Besides, we might need the Shenzhou's help to fight the Avenger," Julia said. "I'm not sure we can take our last victory for granted against them. They've had over fifteen months to train and learn new tactics. Or download them into their brains, given how much they're using that Darglan infuser technology."

"I'll keep all departments on combat standby," Jarod promised.

"The flight wing is on ready status. All pilots are prepared to launch within five minutes of the order," added Lieutenant Commander Patrice Laurent. The Aurora's Wing Command Officer, or CAG as some called him, looked to Julia with his light brown eyes. He and his sister were among many they had helped out in the days that they, like Hawk, operated out of a Darglan Facility. The two had been rescued from a beleaguered jail in their native Central African Republic, and both leapt at the chance to leave their divided homeland behind and see their families settle on New Liberty. Given that Patrice was now the commander of eighty-eight starfighters and his sister Madeleine captained the Starship Challenger, another Discovery-class starship like Li Ming-Chung's Shenzhou, their decision had clearly paid off. "I am worried about our new pilots. Virtually all of them are without prior combat experience. I have paired them in wings with combat veterans where possible, but the veterans are not happy with the arrangement either…"

"I understand, Commander," Julia said. "I would have preferred giving the new pilots more time before their first combat op too, but I'm not sure they'll get it."

"If a fight breaks out in orbital space, my Marines on the planet will probably get attacked as well." Major Gabriel Anders was sitting between Lt. Commander Richmond and Lt. Commander Laurent. The Commander of the Aurora's Marine Troops had both Caucasian and Cherokee background to him, with a tint to his otherwise fair complexion and dark hair. "I'd like to give our positions in those warehouses extra supplies while we can."

"I imagine the Brakiri will react badly if we are clearly digging in," Meridina noted. "It may be best to show caution in such reinforcement."

"We wouldn't be down there if the Brakiri weren't having their mercs slaughter the children the Dilgar were growing in their facilities," Julia pointed out. "If they don't like it, Tabir can bring it up with me. You'll get your supplies, Major."

"Thank you, Captain."

"Hopefully the mercenaries will remain quiescent until we resolve the situation," Richmond said.

"I hope so too," Julia murmured. "If there's nothing else, let's get to work."
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:18 pm

Ship's Log: ASV Aurora; 5 April 2643. Captain Julia Andreys recording. The deadlock over Tira continues. And there is a new urgency to this situation now that we know that James Hawk and his renegades are helping the effort against the Dilgar. Hawk and his accomplice remain in the brig under heavy guard, but I fully expect their ship, the Avenger, to show up. If it does, and the Drazi reinforcements come with it… then we may not be able to protect the planet.

The good news is that Warmaster Shai'jhur survived the attack. As a reformer with legitimacy from the prior government, she may be the only hope for the Dilgar to make a final peace with their old enemies, and with the charge against her being wrong, we actually have a shot at making it happen.



The emergency ward in the medbay was quiet save for the silent recognition beeps from the biobed display Leo was examining. The occupant, Shai'jhur, was awake and quiet. Kaveri Varma was holding her hand quietly. Leo could tell that Kaveri was not in the best of moods after she returned from her conversation with Julia two days before. But he was more concerned with treating Shai'jhur than finding out what had happened.

Finally he let out a contented sigh. "It looks like your disruptor absorbing mesh worked like a charm," he said. "The radiation dose will take some time to deal with, but at your age I wouldn’t anticipate untreatable complications within your natural lifespan."

“You mean at sixty-three I can’t have children anyway,” Shai’jhur answered dryly. “Still, it was quite sufficient, you’re right. I’ve six daughters besides,” and two of them were in the room, Tra’dur and Nah’dur. “So it’s hardly a loss. Fei’nur’s quite pleased she procured it and made me wear it. Thank you, Doctor.”

"You're welcome." Leo tapped a final key to confirm his latest update to her medical status. "How are you feeling? This tells me how your body is doing, but it can't tell me for sure if you feel any discomfort."

“I’m ready to assume my duties,” she replied. “If anything the removal of the spores was a welcome side-effect. So, I will make do, as usual.”

"You can resume duties tomorrow," Leo answered. "Today you're remaining for observation."

“Doctor Gillam, I am a Head of State. At any moment, hostilities may commence which will decide the survival of my people. Your advice is well-intentioned, and doubtless best. But the noose is around our necks, and I need to be returning to the Magaratha.

"Which means your people need to make sure you're fully healthy. You might not be in critical condition, but you don't just get up and walk away from a disruptor shot like that in a single day," Leo insisted. "For today, if anything critical happens, you can deal with it from here. Tomorrow, you should be good to go."

Shai’jhur shook her head. “Doctor, I have dealt with worse. Ultimately treating my health tenderly is a luxury I simply do not have.”

Leo thought it over. He looked to Nah'dur after a moment. "Doctor, she's normally your patient I'm guessing. What do you think?"

“...I wish,” Nah’dur answered. “Unfortunately, I only passed my Surgeon-Commander’s boards three months ago. Nineteen years old, the youngest recorded, I might add! At any rate, I do have my mother’s medical files and she is a terrifically resilient woman. Nothing she’s dealt with here is going to be the same as the brutal old discipline of the Imperium’s Navy. Realistically, radiation symptoms have no good cure except anti-nausea drugs and repairs to cellular reproduction mechanisms. The first controls the short term impact, the second the long-term. I agree that she should avoid strenuous activity and I have nothing against Battlemaster Or’kun, but if she encounters anything in the Magaratha which stresses her she is, bluntly, no safer in your medbay.”

The door to the emergency ward slid open. Julia walked in, looking fairly refreshed given the events of the prior day. Her blond hair was pulled back into a ponytail at the back of her head. "Good morning Doctor. Warmaster." She nodded to them.

"Captain." Leo smiled thinly. "We were just debating whether or not the Warmaster could be released from the medbay."

"I'm assuming you'd rather keep her for longer observation?"

"She got shot by a disruptor. So, yes."

Julia nodded in understanding. She smiled thinly at Shai'jhur and those with her. "Leo is being protective of his patients as always. Under normal circumstances I would encourage you to listen to him. But I think we need to get negotiations going again, and soon. There's no telling when Hawk's ship is going to show up."

“Do negotiations even have a point at this juncture? I would prefer to make myself available for discussions with your Ministries. The sooner we are an applicant to Alliance membership the sooner this business can be referred to the offices of the Foreign Ministry and at that point the ISA will have no choice but to negotiate in good faith. Brokered talks will just lead, I fear, to delays as our enemies prepare a powerful attack to finish us once and for all.”

"Your application is still being processed in the Council," Julia said. "And with President Morgan out of communication and Admiral Maran at the front, I haven't been able to get anyone involved yet. I'm going to try again today to reach Secretary Onaram. But until we have confirmation of any kind of response from Portland, attending meetings with Director Holloran is our best bet."

“Of course I will defer to you on the matter. However, the full extent of my remaining warp-drive forces, another seven Markab cruisers, will arrive soon as well, and I must be prepared for hostilities. Our fighters are of Centauri make and will be a cruel surprise for the enemy. Realistically, these Avenger foes of yours will force us to fight: From what I understand, their technology rivals the Tal-kona’sha, so it will be no easy task as well.”

"Their ship is the same model as the Aurora," Julia replied. "But with the best weapons the Darglan adapted before they were forced to withdraw from interuniversal society. In all likelihood, it's going to take the Aurora and the Shenzhou together just to meet them evenly. And that's not counting if Foster brings in the Huáscar."

“We can likely deal with the Huáscar if we must. The Magaratha and the battlecruisers also have anti-beaming shields that we’d not revealed yet. They’ll hold up to a few shots. The power cores and equipment came off of Klingon L-24 ‘Ever Victorious’ battleships. The Magaratha has two such cores.”

"Since we don't know how many Drazi will be here, or if the Brakiri will join the fight, I hope it doesn't come to that."

“Such as it is.” Shai’jhur hesitated for a moment, then looked sharply to Julia. “Captain Andreys, I confess that I am concerned with the content of the conversation you had with Captain Varma.”

Julia sighed. Her expression betrayed her own discomfort with the situation. "Given the allegations, I had to be able to report to my superiors that the Earthforce report was wrong. Otherwise it would have undermined your position with the Alliance. I can't apologize enough for putting Captain Varma through that."

“Miscegenation was bald-faced illegal in the Imperium, Captain,” Shai’jhur replied, her expression hooded. “It was considered, I suppose, a kind of bestiality with more or less explicit treasonous overtones.”

"Earthforce didn't understand that, apparently." Julia thought about that. "You said Jha'dur required honesty. I can't imagine it was easy to deal with things on your end either."

“I didn’t continue that story mostly to keep Kaveri’s privacy… I… It’s ironically true. I told Jha’dur everything.” She took a breath, and with her eyes fixed on the walls, began.




The conversation had already gone on for the better part of the day. Whether or not the food and water had been drugged was impossible to tell (certainly Jha’dur would use something too subtle), and whether or not there were Mha’dorn agents sensing her depended on politics beyond her power or right to understand. Regardless of it, Shai’jhur knew she was reaching a point that would decide her future, but her governing assessment, and lesson from the experience of her peers in First Strike, told her that there was no going back. She was noble born, but Rohric born too. She would pay truth’s wage, and not regret having done it. “So, Warmaster, both Kaveri and myself began to adapt to the notion that we would, respectively, never seen another Human or another Dilgar again. Again, the probable outcome of socializing with her promised to be greater than any other.”

The auburn-haired figure before her leaned back in her chair, a frown visible on her face. “And so…you made the decision that a human would be a good choice for your… companion, from a lack of choice, I presume, for your sake. Do go on.” Her pitiless gaze had transfixed Shai’jhur, placing her on conversational death ground.

“I am a realistic woman, Warmaster. Both Dilgar and humans are species which require groups to maintain their sanity--social species--and the humans are, like us, nonetheless warriors. Yes, it was not a path I would have walked without the prospect of an eternity of isolation, but the prospect existed, so I walked it. She was agreeable, and I was agreeable. Faced with the prospect of loneliness, our conversations covered personal topics… Until such time as they ceased to be only conversations. Though it shames me to confess it, I gave in to impulse and became intimate with Kaveri.”

She could see her Warmaster’s face lose expression, lips curling up a hint in disgust. “I see. What impulse drove you to do such a thing, Battle Captain? You are Dilgar.” There was a pause, discipline seeming to reassert itself over disgust. “This is nonetheless useful information for me. You will explain everything that occurred between you two, in exacting detail. You will spare nothing. Is this understood?”

“Of course, Warmaster,” Shai’jhur replied. “I will spare nothing. In my loneliness, I felt a warrior’s soul in Kaveri. Whatever the nature of her people, the honour of a ‘kshatriya’ had transcended it. I, of course, was the dominant partner, but she was willing from the first…” With calm precision, she continued into the details, even the explicit details, phrased in the biological terms that Jha’dur expected.

When the tale was done, she finished softly. “And, of course,we agreed that, as warriors born and bred, we would face each other without hesitation or pity on the field of battle if our nations required it, no matter the feelings that had passed between us before. So with that, and my wishes for her health as long as she did not face us on the field, I departed for the shuttle, and left her behind, by the terms of the agreement we had struck.” Shai’jhur looked levelly across the table with her hands folded.

The woman known as Deathwalker had listened for hours, taking notes in a neat hand, when she chose to, and gave a solitary nod of her head. “You are perhaps mentally unbalanced, certainly perverted by Dilgar standards, and assuredly wildly socially unpalatable. You are also a quick, independent thinking fleet officer who shows a great deal of promise for the future of the Imperium, Battle Captain. Now, why are you not afraid of the outcome of this debriefing? It is a reasonable fear to have, with my reputation.”

“Warmaster, I have told the truth to you, and you will judge me according to the truth that I told. Whatever that judgement is, I have faith it will be just, and I don’t fear my own just ending, whatever it may be.”

“Very well, Battlemaster.” There was not a flicker of emotion in her Warmaster’s voice as she pronounced her apparent judgement of Shai’jhur. “Report to the shuttle bay. You are to report to the northern polar shipyards. Further orders will follow. Speaking any word of this conversation, or what has caused it, will be cause for severe punishment. And, I will be watching your personal conduct. Your settling down and bearing kits for the future of our species would be a wise decision.” The emphasis she placed on ‘severe’ brought a spine-tingling promise, at whatever Warmaster Jha’dur considered severe.

“I will do my duty,” Shai’jhur answered with stiff formality. “Until Death, Warmaster.” She rose, and saluted.

“Dismissed. We fight to save the Dilgar, Battlemaster. Remember that above all.”

As Shai'jhur left, she swore she could see Jha'dur reach for a magazine out of the corner of her eye, of all things.



Shai’jhur finished and with the help of her daughters, rose from her medbay bed. She still smelled of smokey, singed fur. “So, that’s the tale of the Warmaster and myself. In reviewing the records, I later discovered she had issued a directive that if a human named Lieutenant Kaveri Varma were ever taken prisoner, she was to be immediately summarily executed. That was, I think, by Jha’dur’s standards intended as a kindness both to her and to me.”

"Given her reputation, summary execution does sound kind," Julia noted.

“It is for the best that all of her age and kind are gone, except perhaps her brother. I regret the absence of Warmaster Dar’sen, who even the Drazi admitted fought a clean war, though. Of course, his opponent, wise and honourable in his own right, vanished in his effort to help the humans in the Minbari War, and what his fate is, none can say. If Stro’kath were here, I would think peace to have a chance … But all those old names have fallen down into death, and only those who remember legends remain.”

A tone came from Julia's omnitool, joined by a blue light over the back of her hand. She tapped it. "Andreys here."

"Captain, Director Holloran is hailing. She has the other species ready to start another meeting," Meridina said from the Bridge.

Julia gave Shai'jhur a careful look. "I'll be there shortly to confirm a meeting time. Andreys out." Once the call was over she said, "It won't go anywhere, I'm sure. But until I get anything from Portland, there's no reason not to see where this leads."

“I will negotiate in good faith. But our terms remain simple. We want to join the Alliance. As a sovereign nation we are interested only in securing the peace which would allow us to do so.”

"Fair enough. I'll go talk to Holloran." At that Julia left, more optimistic about the talks than Shai'jhur was, but knowing they had to make the effort regardless.





It was about midday when there was a sharp rapping on the door of Zhengli’s cell. Unlike previous visits there was something imposing in it. “Captain Varma?” Of course: It was Foster.

“I see I am still the Captain, Major Foster.” Zhengli stood, folding her hands behind her back and giving a steady, level look to her cell door. “If you surrender immediately, I will recommend leniency during your court-martial.”

“You have been lawfully relieved of command,” Foster replied, cuttingly. “That was confirmed by Geneva. I am using your rank as a courtesy, not to imply you have any authority over the Huáscar. I have come to deliver you the option, communicated to me by Geneva, that we can transport you to Minister Holloran’s custody, presumably to then be released, in response to the political problems your mother has caused. Needless to say, charges might follow if you ever returned to Earth space.”

“My mother? What are you talking about, Major?” She had a hint of honest confusion in her voice, as she wracked her memories to think of what this could be about. “You expect me to believe that Earthforce Command has endorsed mutiny against a ship’s captain after the civil war? You would have code-locked communications for me as proof, if this were the case. Are you not finding as sympathetic an audience as you wished, Major?” Her eyes flared with anger at her one-time subordinate.

“Your mother made a live broadcast containing classified information from the comms room of a Dilgar warship,” he sneered. “It has caused no small difficulties for the government, so of course my actions have been proved correct, as I knew they always would be.”

“I see the Senate’s dislike of inconvenient facts remains as true as it always has been, Major. Very well, if that is how you wish to phrase the matter. As the Captain of the Huáscar, I demand a formal Court of Inquiry over my relief.”

“You idiot, you are being given a chance to flee to your mother and the Alliance. Don’t you have any kind of sense at all? You’re finished, and if you embarrass the Senate more than your mother already has, you might be more than finished.”

“You do not understand the soul of a Kshatriya at all, do you, Major Foster? I stood on the Line, a year before I should have passed out of West Point, I saw the sky filled with death, saw my vision fade and the chill seep into my bones in the vacuum of our shattered cruiser, and you seek to threaten me? I pity you, I truly do, for you do not understand the virtue of dharmayuddha.” She shook her head, with a soft sigh. “I know my duties, but it seems you have lost your way. I repeat my demand for a Court.”

“And you will doubtless get it, when this situation has been dealt with. Of course, we are likely to be at war with the Alliance soon enough, and who knows what will happen to you after that. These lunatics are willing to turn the entire galaxy against them just for the sake of the Dilgar, and think nothing of it. I imagine,” he smiled thinly, “You’d rather fancy being with them, considering that they like aliens more than their fellow humans. You do have one last chance. If you insist on a Court, you will remain confined and the consequences are not up to me.”

“Then I shall see you in the next cycle, Major. You’ve doomed yourself by your hasty action, or are you saying you consulted with the Joint Chiefs before my relief, and they concurred? I never barred you from using the Gold Channel to consult with any superior. You are facing the airlock under Ten Eighty-Eight. I again urge you to return command of the ship to me, that I may recommend leniency for you and especially those who have followed you in this course of action.”

“No wonder your family has fallen to what it is, Captain. You keep quoting regulations and have no understanding of politics.” He coughed, and folded his hands behind his back. “That will be all. You’ve made your decision.”

“I have no fear of gaining veeraswarga, Major.”

“You’re a religious lunatic, I’m sure that will reflect well.” With that he spun on heel and stalked out, the cell door slamming shut behind him.

We are both convinced of the righteousness of our cause, but only one of us upholds Dharma… With a quiet sigh, Zhengli folded her legs under her once again, and let her eyes flutter closed, resuming her attempt to centre herself. You told the galaxy about New Eden, mother… Earthgov will be furious of that alone. I pity the governor, he’s going to be facing a firestorm of opinion with the next transport.




Shai’jhur had returned, officially without Fei’nur present… As a practical matter, the truth of that would be irrelevant if the peace was held. If there was another attack, then the details of her observance or lack thereof hardly mattered. With a single staff officer at her side, she was once again on the Aurora, once again in the conference room, once again facing a mass of alien representatives who wanted her dead.

"How do you expect us to feel secure when the Dilgar are allowed to bring invisible assassins with them?!" Tarinak was protesting. "The venue of this meeting must be moved, and moved to where all delegates can enjoy security."

"Which rules out virtually every ship in this system," Julia pointed out. "And Tira itself certainly wouldn't work."

"The Brakiri submit that the Orsala be chosen," Tabir said, referring to the Minbari ship. "The Minbari were not involved in the war with the Dilgar, and they should have the technology to keep anyone from using invisibility devices of any sort."

Julia wasn't so sure of that. The Minbari were certainly advanced, one of the more advanced species in the Multiverse, but if the Avenger crew had any more operatives here, or had shared their technology with the Drazi, then she would be betting their safety against the Minbari having the means to defeat Darglan technology. It was a bet she wasn't sure about taking.

A thought came to her. She almost nodded to the Earthforce table but stopped herself. She gave a quick, furtive look to Shai'jhur. Meridina, is Fei'nur here? She thought, hoping that the power behind the thought would keep Foster's telepath from hearing. Did Shai'jhur slip her in again?

Meridina gave her an uncertain look. I feel her in the vicinity. But I am not sure where at the moment. Her mind is very disciplined and mindwalking is not exact with such.

Julia frowned at that. If Meridina had problems, Saumarez would too. Her idea to have Saumarez provide a guarantee wouldn't work.

Holloran looked toward Julia and Shai'jhur. "Do you have any objections? I won't bother the Minbari if both sides won't accept it."

Julia glanced Shai'jhur's way.

“The Minbari attacked the Dilgar Imperium without provocation,” Shai’jhur replied. “I have irrefutable evidence of it salvaged from the wreck of the Vendetta at Third Balos. Nonetheless, in the interest of galactic peace, I will accept a Minbari ship as the grounds of the talks.”

"Then I have none," Julia said.

To that Tabir smirked. "You have become her follower, I see."

Julia gave him an intent, quiet look. "If the leader of the Drazi Freehold was present, Captain, would you presume to make a decision he might not approve?"

"He probably would," Foster muttered from his table.

"Well. I guess I'll call an end to this meeting then," said Holloran. "I'll return to the Orsala and ask the Minbari to arrange a meeting. Until then, there's no point in remaining here. I'm dismissing the meeting."

Duly dismissed, the others stood and made to leave as if they were eager to do so. Holloran let them go and quietly stepped up to Julia. "You know they're just trying to buy time, right?" she asked pointedly. "Once the Drazi reinforcements arrive they won't be up to talking."

"We need time too," Julia said. "As things stand, they see no reason to listen to Shai'jhur's offers because they don't know if I'm going to be ordered out or if the Alliance is going to support Shai'jhur. If I can get an announcement from Portland…"

"I'm told President Morgan is unavailable. Even Ambassador Mayan hasn't been able to reach him. Even your Foreign Secretary is unavailable."

"I know. They're dealing with other matters beyond the purview of a starship captain," Julia answered. "I'm hoping that Admiral Maran will get away from the battlefield long enough to give me some indication of how the Alliance government is dealing with this. But until I hear something from Portland, we're stuck in this situation."

"I hope that they get back to you soon," Holloran said. "Otherwise the shooting is going to begin."

"I hope so too," Julia sighed. She looked over to where Shai'jhur was walking up.

“Miss Holloran,” Shai’jhur looked up. “Technically the InterStellar Alliance can put an end to this matter with the White Star Fleet. What do you desire from our people?”

"Sure, Sheridan could send the White Stars in," Holloran agreed. "But that takes time. Ever since the Centauri left the Alliance we've had to spread them out to protect Alliance space. And I don't have to point out that if he does it wrong, he turns every species that fought your people against him."

"He could send them to keep the peace between your Alliance and ours," Julia pointed out. "That's him doing his job."

"And I'm sure he's got the White Stars moving to do just that, but it's still going to take time." Holloran glanced toward Shai'jhur. "As for what I want? I want people to stop shooting each other so Mars can assert its rights without having Earth play the security card. That means no renewal of the Dilgar War."

“For what it is worth, I feel myself in a very similar position. The Imperium threw the refuse of Omelos at us as forced colonists and told us to deal with it. We Rohricans decided freedom was worth the spores and we liked to keep it that way. I remain convinced that our peace is best achieved in the format of our government joining the Alliance, Miss Holloran. We will be giving up an independent foreign policy which could lead to decisions threatening ISA members, and placing ourselves under the jurisdiction of the Alliance courts, I think you will have far more security that way then you would even if you militarily occupied Tira and Rohric.”

"I agree with you on that for certain," said Holloran, the experienced guerrilla fighter. "Funny. Your people will be better off giving away some of your independence. Mine will be if we get more."

“I would support it, if I could do anything productive,” Shai’jhur grinned. “But I can’t help but feel an endorsement from the Dilgar is presently the opposite of productive, and will be for some time. Thank you, Miss Holloran. We will meet again on the Orsala.

"I'll let you now when we're ready for you. Warmaster, Captain." She left with the Minbari and Abbai aides assigned to her accompanying her.

Julia watched her go. "Fruitless, as expected," she said. "Right now all we can do is buy time, and hope our response gets here first."




Meridina was in meditation when the call came through the IU transceiver. She stood, still in her plain brown meditation robe over a cream-white sleeveless vest and knee-length leggings, and directed her attention to the wall. A holo-screen came to life. The image projected was from Gersal. The distant spires of Jantarihal were visible behind the thin face and quiet demeanor of her old mentor, Mastrash Ledosh. He nodded. "Meridina. I received your message. Is all well?"

"It would be a lie to say so, Mastrash," Meridina admitted. "The species here are willing to commit genocide over their fears and hatred of a past foe."

"I have heard something of it from the Foreign Office."

"If so, why have we not received instructions? Or orders?"

"It is not my place to know," Ledosh pointed out. "From my knowledge, little can be truly decided until the President finishes his work and Secretary Onaram returns to Portland." Ledosh considered her. "Something else troubles you, Meridina. I can see that."

"To verify testimony, I had to mentally scan the mind of a Human woman."

"You have done this often. Why does it trouble you?"

"Because she did not truly want me in her mind. She only agreed out of perceived necessity," Meridina replied. "To confirm for us that she was not a victim of assault by the Dilgar leader."

"I see. Did you direct her to the Genut?"

"I did, yes. I have the feeling she is uncertain about them. She is used to the Psi Corps of this universe's Earth."

"Ah. And they are most unkind beings. Or so the swevyra'se aiding the Byron Free Colony's efforts have informed me." Ledosh placed his hands together at the table. "Although I have the feeling that you are troubled by more than this, Meridina."

There was no hiding things from Ledosh. Meridina sighed and nodded. "The feelings I felt in Kaveri Varma. I have never imagined such feelings. Her bond to Shai'jhur is unbreakable. And feeling it… it has left me… unbalanced? I do not know."

"Love is inherently unbalanced," Ledosh pointed out. "It is about taking another soul, another being, and placing them above others in your feelings and considerations."

"I have read Swenya's writings on the subject," Meridina said. "And I have felt physical affections in others. But this was beyond such a thing. Swenya's writings did nothing to prepare me for that sense."

"And this troubles you?"

"I… I do not know," she admitted. "I recognize that for a swevyra'se, such affections can be dangerous. Their loss can cause resentment that fuels darkness. Even so… there is a spiritual side to these things. WIth the right person."

"There are those who say such, yes. But if I may, Meridina?"

"Yes, Mastrash?"

A small smile came to Ledosh's face. "Your destiny is outside of the Order. The concerns you may have had when you counted yourself as one of our knights are no longer those you must consider. Live your life as you please, Meridina, trusting in your swevyra and your own judgement. You do not need to get my approval to consider these things."

Meridina listened to him speak and could only nod. "I understand, Mastrash. I am sorry for interrupting you in your duties."

"It is no trouble. You have merely pulled me away from an onerous work of translating pieces from a book into modern vernacular."

Meridina blinked at that. "I never imagined you would take such a task on yourself, Mastrash. Surely there are translation experts in the Order who can assist?"

"This is a private project. I would prefer to not bother our experts. Their time is valuable." Ledosh nodded once. "I want you to know that your accomplishments and advancement are being noticed. Your father is quite proud of your promotion, I think, though he does not say so."

Meridina noted the sudden conversation shift. She said nothing about it, however, choosing to let Ledosh have his way. "He once told me I should be commanding the Aurora," Meridina said. "I hope I live up to all of your expectations."

"I imagine you will."

"Before you go, Mastrash, how goes Gina's training? She did quite well on New Caprica. I can't imagine her taking much longer to earn a chance to undergo the trials..."




Science Lab 1 was different from 2. The displays weren't meant for showing data of large physics-related experiments or starmaps. There was no large holotank. Rather the lab was built around workstations tied to the powerful simulation computers of the Lab, which were themselves tied into the Aurora's powerful computer cores.

Cat was sitting at one of the work stations. The image showed a model of the colony on Tira, or rather the barrages that kept the seas from consuming the Dilgar settlement and adjoining jungle. The sensor data was real-time, courtesy of the Aurora's powerful sensor suites and the defensive sensors set up by the Marines on the planet. The videos were showing armed humanoids marching along the access catwalks that lined the barrage gates. The one image zoomed in on an object planted at the center of a closed gate. The gray object was shaped with four arms and a wide circle. A digital display and small access controls showed on it.

Cat turned upon hearing the door open. "Tra'dur? Can I do something for you?"

“You’ve already done a lot for me, Cat. Thanks for calling the medbay when I collapsed. My sister says I’m going to enjoy the next few months as probably the healthiest I’ve ever felt…” She was smiling.

"Oh, thank you." Cat smiled back and nodded. "I'm glad you're going to feel better."

I’m glad to be feeling better, as well… What are you up to, Cat’Delgado?” She asked, in that particular Dilgar way of compounding names, though she got the multiple syllables of the surname right enough.

"Oh. Jarod asked me to look into the situation with the colony's barrage," Cat said. She raised her hand toward the screen. "With the water levels where they are, if the mercs blow the gates the entire colony goes under. We're trying to figure out ways to prevent that."

“Can we detect the chemical traces of the explosions on the mitre gates from orbit, Cat’Delgado?” She asked, taking a console by Cat’s side. It was impressive how quickly she went to familiarize herself and work from an Alliance standard console.

"That's going to take work," Cat said. Her expression turned thoughtful. "I'm not sure. It depends on the construction of the bombs." She looked up. Now excitement showed. "But we don't have to."

"No?"

"No. We can send the sensors down to our Marines that are protecting those clone tanks," Cat said. An excited look appeared on her face, joined by a grin at having figured it out. "It'll have to be a high resolution materials scanner. Even if it doesn't tell us what the explosives are made of exactly, it might let us rule some materials out."

“Hmm, yes. We can in fact aid this process. I’ll pull the Tiran files on where the intakes to the filtration systems are from the buildings nearest the waterfront. If the Marines can point the sensors at the filters, they should get a much higher concentration density than is floating around the regular air, and that would make the detection much easier.”

"Then all we need to do is figure out if there's a way to counteract the explosives quickly." Cat grinned at her. "So let's get those files and see what we can do."




Twilight was approaching for the Tira colony. With the sun starting to set, Urdnot Wrex finished his daily check of his firearms.

"Another day and we're still here." An amused laugh came from the old Krogan sharing the foxhole with him. "Our paymasters are going to be disappointed."

"They get what they paid for," Wrex answered, smirking. "If they wanted mercs who got killed easily, they shouldn't have hired us."

There was a crackle over the comms that brought their attention. "Urdnot here," Wrex said, anticipating someone calling.

"Standby, Urdnot. Communication from Colonel Greden impending." The voice was clearly not Brakiri. It sounded Salarian, in fact.

"They might be having those Eclipse mercs handling their comms too," Drack pointed out.

"Then I hope they're not surprised when they see the invoice. I remember a pirate warlord in the Terminus Systems who had a heart attack at seeing one of their invoices."

"They probably took him for everything he had."

"I don't know what the Brakiri thought they'd earn on this job, but I'm betting their accountants won't be happy when it's over." Wrex got that dangerous glint in his red eyes again. "This whole situation gives me a sense… like I've seen all of this before."

"Dangerous thoughts again, whelp?"

"I'm a thinker, fossil," Wrex retorted pleasantly. "One of us has to be."

At that, Drack laughed. "And beggars can't be choosers."

"All of this talk about the Dilgar. I've heard those words before."

"We all have, whelp," Drack said darkly. "But let's face it. We've already picked our side here. You sign the contract, you take your chances. If you don't like it, well, I hope you kept enough to meet the severance penalty."

The gentle teasing was the same, but nonetheless Wrex gave Drack a more hostile look this time. Drack spelling the situation out wasn't necessary. At this rate, though, Wrex was mostly hoping that the Brakiri or their allies would say something, do something, that would let them walk away from the contract. He simply did not like what was going on here.

A moment later a Brakiri officer in a fine suit appeared over Wrex's forearm, the incoming call activating automatically on his omnitool. Colonel Greden immediately commenced speaking. "Ah, Mister Urdnot, Mister Nakmor. We thank you for keeping your position so well. We have something a little more befitting your experience, however."

"Oh yeah?"

Wrex's disinterest didn't seem to faze Greden. "The Allied Systems' Marines are posing a direct challenge to our control of this colony. They are preventing us from fulfilling the directive laid out by the Syndicracy on Brakir, the elimination of the Dilgar super-soldier program, through their foolish insistence that it is genocide to destroy the fruits of that program. We want our best in a position to strike their forces should it prove necessary, or to block any effort by the Alliance to seize the barrage gates. We are re-assigning you to a position at Point Tachan. Commander Weyrloc is awaiting your arrival. Proceed there as soon as your relief arrives. Greden out."

Wrex was already frowning. "They want us with those Blood Pack idiots."

Drack chuckled at that. "We're getting assigned to Weyrloc Tral? That's rich. I once fought off his entire platoon on Beyak in the Spinward Traverse."

"I can't imagine he'll be delighted to see us," Wrex noted. He started collecting gear for stowing. "And he can damn well wait, too. I'm not leaving anything of mine to whatever chumps the Brakiri pick to take our place."

Drack humphed. "This is why I keep my gear stowed, whelp. I like to be able to move fast."

Wrex ignored that. Better to let Drack have his occasional remarks than to get angry over them. He liked the old Krogan too much to want to kill him.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:42 am

The dialog is better now!

Also, I appreciate how much you guys are doing the tightrope act with regards to the really sensitive and intimate details this episode touches.

Who does the Krogan merc bits? I hope there's a payoff, these guys are the unsung stars here. And... Krogans WERE genocide victims in the past, right?
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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve » Sun Jan 14, 2018 5:04 pm

Julia entered the Lookout the following morning for breakfast. Even without gifts like Meridina's, she knew her crew was feeling tense and worried about how things were going. They were on the verge of a conflict with species that were supposed to be prospective allies.

Hargert was quick to provide a stack of pancakes with blueberries mixed in with eggs and toast. A glass of white milk was provided with it. "A simple breakfast meal, to keep the spirits up," he said to her with a wink before returning to his kitchen.

It was good. Very good, so good that Julia would regret not finishing it.

She'd managed her fifth or sixth bite when her omnitool sounded. She dropped her syrup-coated fork and tapped the blue light over the back of her hand. ""Andreys here."

"Captain, we have received a signal from Portland," Meridina said. "Admiral Maran is waiting to speak to you. He has instructed me to connect to the Magaratha as well."

Julia jumped to her feet. Without a thought, she left her breakfast behind. "Get everyone to the conference lounge, now," she said into the omnitool as she raced to the Lookout's port door.

Hargert watched her go while laying a plate of waffles and eggs for another crewmember at the Lookout bar. He let out a little sigh. "Such is the way it is," he lamented on his way to her abandoned meal.




Scotty was the last of the command crew to show up at the conference lounge, arriving at the six minute mark after being called. Traveling the length and height of the Aurora from Main Engineering took most of that time. He found his usual seat beside Jarod on Julia's right.

The screen split into several images. One had Shai'jhur, Kaveri, Fei'nur, and Nah'dur. Another showed Li and her crew on the Shenzhou, and yet another Commander Imra over on the Heerman. The last was the one Julia had been waiting for. Admiral Maran was at his office. For all his control, there was no betraying the fact he was tired.

"It's good to see you all," he said. His lilt was not quite so pronounced as Meridina's. "I have spent the night reading your reports with Secretary Onaram. It made for interesting reading over the stimulants required to keep us awake. Captain Andreys, Captain Ming-Chung, Commander Imra, Commander Apley… you have all performed admirably in the circumstances. Preventing genocide is one of the core duties of the officers of this Alliance."

Julia nodded and said "Thank you," as did the others.

"Warmaster Shai'jhur." Maran's eyes shifted slightly. He was clearly looking at the monitor showing her, a visual communication being routed through the Aurora's IU transceiver. "I am sorry if we kept you waiting. The Nazi counter-attack at Argolis was serious enough that I had to lead a relief force to keep our positions there intact. Although even if I hadn't been at Argolis, President Morgan and Secretary Onaram have been occupied with sensitive diplomatic matters that left them out of communication. Due to changes to that, they have been able to consult the reports from Tira, including your application sent to Councilman Mutombo."

“I am pleased. With any luck, Admiral Maran,” she answered with a twinkle in her eye, “The Councilman is the sort of man who does not mind reading constitutional law in the information we provided. It is a completely indigenous Dilgar innovation based on our own customs of courts and Councils and I understand it may take effort to review.”

Maran nodded once. "Your application has been submitted to the Admissions Committee of the Alliance Council. This has been announced this morning in a press release by Councilman Mutombo that has already received some diplomatic attention in your home universe. The Earth Alliance and Minbari ambassadors are currently in meetings with Secretary Onaram. The Drazi are already recalling their diplomatic staff in protest. The poor Secretary has had quite the return to the capital, I'm afraid to say. But he and the President have approved what I am about to say." Maran's look was somber. "The United Alliance of Systems disapproves of genocide. Captains, Commander, your orders are to remain at Tira and protect it from any attempts to attack the colony. You are authorized to open fire on any vessel that attempts hostilities against the Dilgar."

Admiral Maran,” Shai’jhur dipped her head. “I will conform my operations to Captain Andreys’ intent, should the situation require it.

"I expected as much. I'm afraid we won't be able to send you any reinforcements for the next few days. The Reich counter-offensive drew in all of our available reserves across the Alliance fleets." Maran's expression was apologetic. "I'm sorry the news isn't better, Captain. You're in a tight situation there. If our attempts to get through to President Luchenko succeeds you may have the Huáscar back on your side…"

When Maran paused for a moment, another voice began to speak. “You do not understand the political situation in Geneva, Admiral. I do not blame you for this, but Major Foster would not be holding so firmly to his actions if he did not have at least some support. She will stonewall you until the situation is resolved, one way or another. The wounds left by the Minbari on Earth’s psyche still bleed.” Kaveri spoke, with a subdued tone, her gaze dull. “They are seeking to pay as small a political price as they can, now. Everything comes to politics in Earthgov, in the end, not principles. Not anymore.

"They have their own reasons for supporting a conflict with us," Li said from the feed coming from the Shenzhou. "We've had several problems with Earthforce or Earth-backed teams trying to slip into Alliance territory to excavate around old Darglan space. Undoubtedly they believe this might give them a chance to drive us out of the area, should a general war erupt."

IPX believes any ruins with strange technology should be immediately dug up. You should have seen how quickly they were robbing the graves of…” She glanced to Shai’jhur and paled a hint. “... Markab.”

"We have considered the possibility," Maran said.

"So we can't expect reinforcements anytime soon?" Julia asked. "From any source?"

"I'm sorry, but no. Not with the state the front is in. I'm sorry. Make do the best you can. You beat the Avenger before, hopefully working together you can do so again." Maran checked something off the screen. "I'm afraid I'm due for strategy meetings. We'll keep doing what we can to help you, I promise you that. Maran out." His image disappeared from its place among the others.

Shai’jhur looked around. A thin smile touched her lips. “Well, four Alliance ships, four of your member nations, and one from your allies. Twenty-four of mine have shields, the twenty-six survivors of Tira do not. Avenger and Huáscar yes or no, we will do fine with what is here, but if the Drazi come as reinforcements, please do remember that while they may treat you leniently, they have already shown us the death-banner, apportioned the blood, and made the ceremonial hail: There is No Quarter from our enemies. They have made mark on us for Death.

Julia wetted her lips and remembered what that bloody term meant to the Texans ‘down south’, visions of the Alamo and Deguello. “Don’t worry, Warmaster. This is the same for all of us."

"And knowing what Hawk's people are capable of, or Foster, it may be the same for us too," Angel added.

"We must stand together, certainly," Li agreed over the link.

"We'll see what diplomacy gets us later today," Julia said. "In the meantime, everyone remain on standby, and keep an eye on the long range sensors just in case the Avenger shows up."




After the meeting, Leo went by the medbay long enough to verify the cases for the day. Doctor Lani Walker, a younger doctor from the Tohono O'odham tribe in Arizona and Sonora, provided the paperwork. She also gave him the results of the scans he'd requested from Doctor Hreept the prior day. Leo looked over the results and frowned. "Just what I thought," he murmured.

"What is it, Doctor?" Walker asked.

"A suspicion that's proved true," he said. He finished signing off on the results and transmitted them to the central systems, but he didn't return the digital reader. "I need to show this to someone. Mind watching things for a little longer?"

A gentle smile on her face was joined by a shake of the head. "Of course not, Doctor."

"Thanks." With the reader in hand, Leo departed the medbay.

His next step was a part of the ship he rarely saw and never enjoyed. Indeed, he seemed to surprise the officers on duty when he entered the brig. They stood and he waved them down. "Don't worry", he said. "I'm not here for you. I need to see them."

His arrival had drawn the attention of Hawk. Helen remained laying on the bed in her cell, apparently asleep. "Well, this is interesting," Hawk said. "I guess that medical scan yesterday found something."

"More like it confirmed something," Leo said.

"Well, I'm a captive audience Doc," Hawk remarked. "Spit it out."

"A few quick questions first," Leo said. He activated the digital reader to take notes while his omnitool recorded the interview. "I need to know if you're experiencing any neurological symptoms."

"What?" Hawk asked, as if the question was surprising.

"Neurological symptoms," Leo repeated. "Headaches, blackouts, seizures."

"My head's fine," he insisted, ignoring the headache in the center of his forehead.

Leo's expression made his skepticism of the answer clear. "Actually…" Leo tapped his omnitool and used it to display two holographic, three dimensional models of brains. One had various basic colors on it. The other was more chaotic and wild in where the colors were present. "This is your brain." Leo indicated the second. "And this is my brain."

"All I see are weird colors."

"What you're seeing is that your brain isn't operating normally," Leo said. "The neurons aren't firing properly. Your neurotransmitter levels are elevated beyond normal for Human beings, and it's causing damage to your brain cells. In short, Mister Hawk, your brain is being overloaded and is burning out." Another tap added a third brain with a similar pattern to Hawk's. "So is your friend's." Leo indicated Helen's cell.

Hawk crossed his arms. "Alright, let's say I believe that's what your light show says," Hawk said. "What's causing it?"

"Given my medical records from our days in a Darglan Facility, I'd say it's your use, and abuse, of the Darglan brainwave infuser technology," said Leo. "You do know you're only supposed to use that thing twice a year, at most?"

"How we do things isn't any of your damn business," Hawk snarled. "Especially since we need those infusions to keep up with you people. You're just trying to get an advantage over us."

"I'm not," Leo said. "I'm trying to keep you from frying your brain until you drive yourself into becoming a psychotic maniac. Or a drooling vegetable."

"This is just out of the kindness of your heart, then?"

"I swore an oath as a physician," Leo said. "It requires me to try and help you."

"Is that why you're helping a piece of crap like Shai'jhur?"

"She's my patient. And she's not guilty of what you think she is."

"Oh, right." Hawk guffawed. "Her dear Human friend vouched for her. You've heard of Stockholm Syndrome, right?"

"Among many things. But that doesn't mean she's lying. In fact, we confirmed she's telling the truth with a telepathic deep scan." Leo set his arm down. The omnitool, and its brain displays, disappeared. "Whatever you want to say about Shai'jhur, even if you think she's not the reformer she claims to be, she's not a rapist. And maybe you need to be more careful about jumping to conclusions."

At that Hawk jumped to his feet. He stormed toward Leo with such speed that Leo was certain that Hawk would plow into the forcefield. Instead the agitated vigilante stopped just shy of it. "Did you see what the Dilgar did to their victims in the war?!" Hawk demanded. "The butchered populations?! The camps?! The experiments?! The Valley of Bones on Balos!? And you're still going to defend them?!"

"The people who committed those crimes are gone," Leo pointed out. "You don't get to punish an entire species for the sins of a few of its members! Or would you have us slaughter every German for the crimes of the Nazis?"

"If you're talking about those jerks from the S4W8 universe, yeah, you probably should!" Hawk countered. "Because they're all part of it! They all benefit!"

"But didn't you tell Captain Andreys you told the Drazi not to kill them all?" Leo asked. "Did you change your mind? Have you decided genocide is the answer after all? Or are you so pissed off that you'll say anything just to continue the argument?"

Hawk snarled in frustration and rage. He clenched his fists. But he said nothing.

Leo considered him quietly. The lights of the brig reflected on the surface of his dark skin. "Maybe it's not even the brain damage," Leo said. "Maybe you've got a personality disorder already. Or maybe you're just pissed off at the world and this is how you deal with it. You treat every problem like a nail that needs a hammer. And with that Darglan ship, you've got a big damn hammer. Either way, in the long run, you're not doing any good. All you're doing is taking out your frustrations on convenient targets."

"You know jack crap about me!" Hawk thundered. "And you know crap about what suffering is out there! You know crap about it all because you're busy flying around in your pretty little ship patching up little boo-boos while the bastards of the Multiverse get to keep hurting people!"

"I know enough," Leo retorted. "You don't think I know what it's like? I've seen the victims too. I've treated them. Have you ever had to tell a concentration camp survivor that her Nazi rapist impregnated her? Or operate on a girl barely in her teens because she'll die without a new heart, but her body is so weak from what the Nazis did to her that the surgery nearly kills her? Or try to get a Goa'uld out of its host's body before it can kill her out of spite? Ever remove the control hardware Batarian slavers implant in their victims to control them? I have. I know there are monsters out there and God save me from ever having them in my medbay because I might just dope them up and let nature take its course!" Leo drew in a breath to reign in his own temper. "So yeah, I know all too well what kind of suffering these people cause. I'm the one who patches up their victims, just as I might have to patch them up too."

"That's the difference between us," Hawk said. "I wouldn't even let them get to you. I'd gut the bastards long before they got to your beds."

"Yeah. Because that's all you care to do. 'Kill bad guys'. And look at where that's gotten you." Leo didn't mean their surroundings, either, and the glint in his eye and the tone in his voice made that clear. "Killing the bad guys feels good, I'm sure. But you'll never kill all of them. And the way things are going, you and your friends are going to burn your brains out trying. Assuming you don't get yourselves killed when the bad guy you're after turns out to be stronger or smarter than you gave them credit for. And if you care about your friend here at all, or any of the others working with you in your Facility or on your ship, you'll do what I suggest. You'll stop using those damn infusers."

A thoughtful look on Hawk's face gave Leo hope that he might have gotten through to him, at least a little. But all too quickly, defiance and anger returned to those features. Hawk returned to the cot in his cell and sat down, glaring at him. Sighing, Leo turned and left.




The bridge of the Aurora was quiet. It tended to be more quiet these days. The others were adjusting to Julia's command style with only occasional grumbling, which she tolerated because, when it came down to it, many were her friends and she wasn't a total disciplinarian (not to mention that certain five letter word Tom Barnes would have used).

The quiet had its advantages. It helped with thinking, certainly. But among the disadvantages was allowing the tension of a crisis to get on nerves. Including Julia's.

Julia glanced toward sensors, where Cat was busy working. She was in her uniform skirt, as usual. "Nothing yet?" Julia asked.

"Still nothing," Cat said.

"Right." Her attention returned to the front of the bridge. Locarno and Jarod were working quietly. Given that everything in space was in constant motion, manning the helm was a full time occupation in order to make sure the ship was not drifting away from a planet or other vessels. In much the same way, Jarod (or one of his subordinates) was needed to keep a constant eye on the ship's systems and to be prepared to deal with anything from cyber-attack to raising the shields at a moment's notice.

At Tactical, Angel was keeping an eye on the Drazi. She would warn if they were assuming a hostile stance.

This ponderings about the roles her friends and subordinates played on the quiet bridge were a nice, temporary distraction from the gravity of their situation. Said distraction went away when a warbling tone came from the operations station. "The Orsala is hailing," Jarod said. "It's Director Holloran."

"Put her on."

The holo-viewscreen activated to display the blond Mars-native woman on the screen. "I wanted you to know that the Minbari are arranging our next meeting for tonight. At about 2000 hours your time."

"That's pretty late," Julia noted.

"Yes, well, they needed time to get security measures in place and to prepare one of their meditation rooms for the meeting." Holloran smiled wryly at that. "I think the Captain is hoping that a peaceful setting will encourage peace in the talks."

"I admit I'm hoping that the announcement from Portland will get the Brakiri to think again about this," Julia said. "They won't be happy, but risking their growing commerce with the rest of the Multiverse should dissuade them."

"Don't be so sure. In fact, right now I'm not sure the announcement has done you any favors," Holloran warned. "According to my last update from Tuzanor, the Allied Systems announcement has the Alliance Council in an uproar. The Drazi are actually calling for Sheridan to deploy the White Star Fleet against your Alliance, and are threatening to withdraw from our Alliance if Sheridan accepts the Dilgar application."

"That's insane," Julia muttered. "They can't really believe that we'd let the Dilgar become anything like their old selves. We'd come down on Shai'jhur or her replacement like a ton of bricks."

"The Drazi have an old grudge with the Dilgar that predated the war. As far as they're concerned, this is an unwelcome complication that undermines their expansion plans," Holloran pointed out. "I'm more worried about Earth. My sources indicate that Earthforce is quietly preparing to mobilize the fleet. And Earth's delegation to Tuzanor has been meeting with the Drazi, Brakiri, and Hyach representatives today."

"They're fueling the fire," Jarod remarked. "They want this to become a shooting war."

"The old Clarkists certainly do. And the rest of the Loyalists probably see it as a means to consolidate control over the colonies that are pressing for more autonomy." An angry look came over her face. Mars would be included in that. "Plus IPX would love a chance to drive you out of old Darglan space. They're itching for a chance to strip the Darglan worlds of anything they can find."

"I'm aware of that," Julia sighed. "Dammit. I was hoping that they'd back down once it was clear my government was backing me."

"Don't give up on peace yet. The Minbari, the Abbai, and the Gaim are all against turning this into a war. Sheridan might be able to use their influence to get the Council to agree to a peace treaty with Shai'jhur built around Allied Systems oversight of Tira and Rohric. But it's going to take time, and if anyone starts shooting here…"

"Yeah. I can figure where that will go." A thought came to Julia. "What about the Narn? They've rebuilt a lot of their fleet, right? If they weigh in on either side, that might make the difference."

"They're rebuilt enough of it that they could sway things if they weigh in. But I wouldn't bank on them. The Kha'Ri have no love for the Dilgar either. And they've worked with the Drazi before." Holloran shook her head. "Honestly, Captain, our best bet is to keep the talks from collapsing. We need to buy time for the diplomats on Tuzanor…"

"Captain, Director… sorry for the interruption." Cat's voice filled the bridge, although her eyes were still on her screens. "But I have a ship on long range sensors."

Julia kept looking forward. Her face seemed more resigned than anything. The other shoe was dropping. "Is it them?"

"The warp signature's a match," Cat said, nodding. "It's the Avenger. They're coming in at about about Warp 9."

"If I remember the warp scales correctly, that's pretty fast," Holloran said.

"Not for us," Julia answered. "The Darglan built warp drives that allow for high cruise speeds. That's actually below our own."

"They are not in a hurry this time," Meridina noted. "Even though they must know that we have their leaders."

"They may know the Drazi are sending another fleet."

Julia nodded in agreement with Holloran. "It wouldn't surprise me. Lieutenant, what's their ETA?"

"Approximately thirty minutes," Cat replied.

"Well, we'll know whether or not we're in a shooting war then. Carry on, everyone." Julia settled into her seat, anticipating the next half an hour to feel like a half a day in comparison.




The call woke Yonatan Shaham from the nap he'd been enjoying in his quarters. He quickly pulled his uniform jacket back on. Thanks to the design of the Eagle, built in Kameli yards over a decade before, the captain's quarters and office were on the same deck as the main bridge. It was only a ten second walk from the door to his office to the control bridge for the light attack ship.

The Eagle had changed much in the ten years since Yoni's father, Arik Shaham, had first escorted his then-teenage son onto the bridge of the Tikvah's most powerful escort ship. Back then the control stations had been mostly physical switches and keys, kept working through sheer determination and constant jury-rigging, with the air always seeming stale due to a fault in the air processors. But two months in the New Liberty-run shipyard at Abdis H1E4 had changed everything. Now the Eagle's crew enjoyed Darglan-tech touchscreen and hardlight controls. The air was just as good as being on a planet. And the old control couches and chairs had been replaced by the same harness-equipped chairs seen on the rest of the Alliance fleet. The same refits had seen the Eagle fitted with new pulse phaser cannons of the same power capacity as those on the Alliance Trigger-class. The torpedo launchers were now compatible with Alliance-standard solar torpedoes. Virtually every system had enjoyed some sort of upgrade, and with replicators equipped the Eagle went from being utterly dependent upon support from other ships to being capable of extended cruises.

The crew even reflected this change. While the majority were still the Jews from Tikvah, roughly one out of four personnel were drawn from the New Liberty population as a whole. Among them was his new First Officer and Ship Operations Officer, Lieutenant Commander Othello Freeman, a former African-American slave from Alabama on Earth C1P2. The tall man kept his hair combed and his face shaved and looked imposing in the same black uniform with command red shoulders that Yonatan was wearing. The torch insignia on his collar was blue, marking his rank just as Yoni's silver torch marked his. Their uniforms were otherwise nearly the same as those in the Alliance Stellar Navy, although the branch color took up the entirety of the shoulders.

Othello noted his arrival and nodded. "Commander," he said, his voice accented with a drawl common to people of his background. He spoke with a deliberate tone regardless of the drawl, ensuring that the auto-translators had no issues for non-English speakers. "The renegade ship's about t' drop from warp, sir."

"Thank you, Commander Freeman." Yonatan took his chair and checked the harness. Othello returned to Ops, displacing Ensign Yeol Levi to head to another post. At the helm, Ensign Benyamin Amsalem was ready to commence maneuvers. Lieutenant Rebekah Shameel, a Mizrahi Jew who immigrated from the Earth of H1E4, sat at the weapons station.

In keeping with the practice learned over their years on the run from the Reich, Yonatan tapped a key on his chair and opened the dedicated intercom from the bridge to the ship's engineering spaces. "Potential hostile coming in," he said. "Do we have combat power?

The response came from a fellow Tikvahite. Lieutenant Miryam Levitsky, the ship's chief engineer, answered, "Yes, Yoni, we do. You are clear to engage."

"Thank you, Miri," he answered. Removing his finger shut the intercom off.

Moments later the new holo-viewscreen of the Eagle changed to show the arriving ship. Yonatan was struck by the resemblance of this Darglan-built vessel, the Avenger, to the Aurora herself, or his father's ship the ASV Enterprise. But where those ships had long, graceful lines, with their weapons installed in ways that minimized their interference with the ship's profile, the Avenger was anything but graceful. Visible weapon emplacements spotted the ship's dark hull. The lines gave her the look of a predator, sleek and angry, looking for prey to devour.

"Their shields are not up," Rebekah reported. Her olive complexion and dark hair gave her a striking look. Deep brown eyes looked over the tactical display. "Their targeting systems are not locking on."

"So they're not here for combat. Yet."

Othello was frowning at the ship. "So they're the ones…" he muttered.

Yonatan almost asked what he meant, but stopped himself. He recalled the reports now. The Avenger was responsible for the devastation of Othello's Earth. Millions of dead from its attack and the near-collapse of civilization afterward. And now they were here.

"Steady, Othello," he said gently. "Are they hailing?"

"There is an open communication from the vessel now. I am putting them on."

The holo-viewscreen changed to show a number of images. One was of the Aurora bridge, where Captain Andreys was standing and looking at the screen intently. Another showed Director Holloran on the Orsala. The final image was of a severe looking young woman with brown hair to her shoulders and a thin face. She was wearing a gray suit of some sort. "I am Tina Carmine, currently in charge of the Avenger. We're here to support the Drazi Freehold in eliminating the threat of the Dilgar, and ensure the punishment of Dilgar war criminals."

"I'm Captain Julia Andreys of the Alliance Starship Aurora. Avenger, you have no standing here. You don't represent any government or people. And you're all wanted for the bombardment of Earth C1P2 and the mass death inflicted on that world."

Another image joined, that of a scale-faced Drazi. Yoni recognized him as Tarinak. "The Avenger vessel has been authorized by the Drazi Freehold to join our forces in thwarting the revival of the Dilgar. Any attack on them will be taken as an act of war against the Drazi Freehold and we will respond."

Tabir's image appeared as well. "The Brakiri Syndicracy recognizes the Avenger and its crew as legitimate privateers in service to the Drazi Freehold. We too will consider any fire against them as hostile."

There was no image to join the next voice. "Earth concurs with our allies," Major Foster said simply.

Julia nodded. "The Alliance does not recognize the Avenger crew as a legitimate private military force. But in the interests of peace, we accept their claimed status with your forces. We expect the Avenger to conform to the current truce."

"I will remind you, Captain Andreys, that the deadline for your withdrawal is nearly up," Foster said. "I will suspend enforcement in the face of the upcoming meeting on the Orsala, but I fully expect your squadron to begin withdrawing soon."

"Your charity is noted, Major." Julia's tone was professional, but none could fail to hear the ice in it. "We'll keep it in mind when this situation is resolved, and if any findings of genocide and the abetting thereof are given. We'll be on the Orsala when scheduled. Aurora out."

The communication ended only partially. Yonatan quickly noted that Julia remained linked to him. Li appeared on the screen as well, sitting on the bridge of the Shenzhou. "A nice reminder that he could face the gallows for what he's doing here," Li stated to Julia. "Not that I expect us to be able to follow through on that."

"Maybe, maybe not," Julia conceded. "Given the situation, I think it best if you two remain on your ships instead of attending the new meeting."

"I agree," said Yonatan. "These Avenger people are too volatile to take the risk."

"Agreed." Li nodded. "We'll do what we can to protect your ship while you're on the Orsala, Captain."

"Good. I'll relay the same to Commander Imra and the other ships in the force. Aurora out."

The communication ended. The holo-viewscreen shifted to show multiple ships in the orbit of the water world below. "This situation will not end well," Benyamin murmured.

"Perhaps, perhaps not. I have faith that the Lord of Hosts will recognize our cause and aid us," Yonatan said, repeating the sort of exhortation his father used to make. "All we can do is our duty. The Almighty will judge whether we succeed."




Late that evening, there was another tap on the door, much softer than Foster’s announcing his presence. It was Lieutenant James Reichert, a soft-spoken and lithe helm officer whose expression was nonetheless usually one of savage intensity.

“Lieutenant... ?” Zhengli stood to greet her latest ‘guest’, blinking in a hint of confusion. “What is it?”

“Captain, Lieutenant Goodman was going to act. However, everyone has started debating what to do now that the government has essentially confirmed Major Foster’s actions. We’re certain they were illegal, and you acted according to the law, but clearly something’s happening back in Geneva.” He took a breath. “We need to act soon. Major Foster is exceeding his orders even in the Pronouncement he read. Huáscar is supposed to remain neutral and observe developments at Tira. He’s been openly coordinating with the crew of that pirate warship, the Avenger.

“It is politics. The bane of the Earth Alliance since the founding. We are heading down a dark path, Lieutenant. When Sheridan revolted, I held my oaths. In urging you to act, as reluctantly as I do, I believe I do the same. Huáscar should not be a name spoken in the same breath, and with far more venom, than St. Louis. We have to act, and if we cannot go home again… that is a price righteousness demands.”

“...I understand perfectly, Captain. Please understand that Foster is going to alter the guard arrangements, so you’re not going to have any more communication with us, and I need to leave very soon. Some of us have already done things that leave us committed, and I don’t think the rest of us are so craven we’re going to let the others down.”

“I will stand with you all to the end, Lieutenant, wherever we end up. May fortune smile upon us all, for the sake of what we do.”

“Well,” he ran a hand through his dark hair. “I don’t think it’s going to end quietly now, Captain. I don’t think we have that choice.”

“I remember how to use a sidearm, Lieutenant. If order is to be overthrown by craven political calculus… then I cannot stand by and let it happen. It is the soul of Earthforce we are fighting for, and may they some-day remember it. Go, or they will be suspicious once the new rotation checks the logs.”

“I understand, Captain. We’ll obey.” He snapped to attention and saluted. “They won’t dishonour Huáscar, whatever happens, they won’t dishonour Earthforce. We won’t let them. Good luck, Captain.” He spun on heel, and after that, it was silence in the cell block.

Zhengli Varma whispered a soft prayer for their success, and that they might come out the other side alive, her loyalists, as she settled down to wait once more.




Even in the middle of a crisis paperwork still had to be done. Julia was attending to just that in her ready office off the bridge, trying to ignore the menacing Drazi Sunhawk that was visible out of her window. While the ship was not in of itself a threat to her own, the intent of the ship was menace enough. Joined with the aggressive Avenger crew? That was even worse.

She was finishing a requisition report when there was a chime at the door. "Come in," she called out.

Cat entered, wearing her uniform with the skirt instead of pants as she usually did. Behind her was the Dilgar science officer, Tra'dur. "What can I do for you, Lieutenant Delgado, Combat Expert Tra'dur?" Julia asked them.

“Captain, Lieutenant Delgado and myself have developed a plan for disabling the explosives set at the mitre gates on the city's barrage.” She nodded to Caterina. “Cat’Delgado, please, go ahead.”

"We're going to set up sensors as close as we can to the gates," Cat explained. "If we can get the right readings, we'll know what kind of explosives they're using and can find a way to counteract them."

Julia's eyes went from Cat, and her visible enthusiasm, to Tra'dur, who tried to hide the same but couldn't quite manage it. "It's a good idea. I'll have the Marines do the scans right away."

"I'm not sure they have the training for what we're doing," Cat said. "This is delicate equipment. It has to be assembled just right, and the readings carefully analyzed."

To that Julia folded her hands on the desk. "So what you're saying is that you want to beam down."

"Yes."

"You want me to send my science officer into a potential combat zone."

A year ago that might have deterred Cat. Short of a scientific discovery to be had, she was rarely eager for such missions. But now Julia could see no sign of such a sentiment now. Another sign of the change that the Doctor had caused in her. "You don't really need me up here for this situation. Down there I could save Tira."

"True," Julia conceded. "But you're late on your field mission exercise evaluations, and…" Julia shook her head in exasperation. Her voice lost the authority she'd been using before when she added, "This is bad, Cat. Those mercs could kill you."

"The Daleks could have too. And the Nazis."

"Touchè." Julia considered herself and felt a bit of reproach. Was she being reluctant to send qualified personnel because she didn't want to risk her science officer? Or was it because she didn't want to send her friend's little sister into a firing zone? We're all in a firing zone anyway, I suppose. "Alright. I'll have Commander Richmond assign you a security team. And I'm sending Lucy with you to help you with the technical side of things."

Cat smiled and nodded. "I'll be ready."

"You're going in full action uniform with ground operations kit, Lieutenant," Julia ordered. "Anything less is unacceptable, understood?"

"Understood, Captain," Cat replied. "I'll get ready immediately and report to the armory."

"Report to Transporter Station 3 in one hour. We should have a security team for you then. You're both dismissed."

Cat and Tra'dur left the ready office. When they were gone Julia briefly set her face in her hands and sighed into her palms. "Angel will kill me," she muttered.




A question forming in Cat's mind finally came out after they stepped into the turbolift. "Deck 4," she said, before turning to Tra'dur. "The way you pronounce my name. 'Cat'Delgado'. Is that a social convention for Dilgar?"

“Yes, Cat’Delgado, it is. Amongst the Dilgar only close relatives--I mean to the second degree at most--and lovers and mates may call each other by their prenomen.”

"So you might call your mother 'Shai', and your sister 'Nah', but you call Fei'nur by her full name?"

“..Well, as it happens, Fei’nur almost raised us by herself, so sometimes as a girl I’d only use her prenomen. But she’s pretty traditional and I would never do that in public these days. However, you’ve got the right of it: Say Battlemaster Or’kun on the Magaratha I’d always call Or’kun, yes.” She was smiling with a fond memory. “Even though you’re human, I didn’t want to be presumptuous.”

"Oh, it's fine," Cat said. Ahead of them the lift door opened. Cat led her out onto Deck 4. She took the usual right outside of the lift entryway. "I just figured that might be a mouthful. Our family names are a lot longer than yours, I mean. In Human society we usually use the last name for formality. That's why Julia, I mean the Captain, called me 'Lieutenant Delgado' instead of 'Lieutenant Caterina Delgado'."

“Yeah, mother uses the human method in English. I just felt a bit nervous about following her lead so readily. Cat. Perhaps because it’s short, so it sounds like a Dilgar prenomen. I’d… I tried to use it before, and I’d like to fit in more, here, really. I mean everyone’s been so kind to me, especially yourself and Commander Scott.”

"Well, you can call me Cat in private, if you want," said Caterina. "And if he says you can, we all call Commander Scott 'Scotty'. It's an old nickname from his comrades when he was in Starfleet decades ago." They arrived at the door to her quarters. The ship automatically recognized her and let her in. Inside she found Violeta sitting on the couch, in her uniform pants and the burgundy red undershirt of her duty uniform. "Oh, Vee! Getting ready for duty?"

"Yeah." She grinned. "I left my spare uniforms in your closet." Violeta noticed Tra'dur and stood. "Oh, hey. You're the Dilgar officer assigned to the ship, right?"

“Yes, Ensign. I’m Combat Master Tra’dur, a pleasure to be at your service.”

"Ensign Violeta Arterria, navigation officer." Violeta grinned at Cat. "Well, soon to be Lieutenant Arterria."

Cat's eyes widened. A grin crossed her face. "You got the promotion?"

Violeta nodded eagerly. "Commander Locarno gave me the notice this morning. The promotion board approved it. I'll be Lieutenant junior grade on the first of next month."

"That's wonderful!" Cat went up and embraced her girlfriend tightly. She gave her a congratulatory kiss on the lips. "That's so great! You've earned it!"

"Thank you," Violeta said. She glanced back to Tra'dur before meeting Cat's eyes again. "So, what's going on?"

"Oh. Oh, right." Cat chuckled nervously. "Uh, I'm here to get into my action uniform. We're beaming down to install sensors in the Marine posts."

Violeta's expression turned to concern. "Are you going to be okay?"

"Oh, we'll have a bunch of Marines with us, and Lucy, and they're sending a security team with us too. I'm sure we'll be safe. Well, as safe as we can be right now, I guess…"

It was clear Violeta was still worried for Cat's safety, but she didn't say anything. "Okay. Well, be safe… and I'd better finish getting ready, my first watch of the day begins in forty minutes and I've still got to grab a bite to eat."

"Oh." Cat winced. "I'm sorry for keeping you. Have a good watch."

"And you be careful." Violeta went to the chair over which her black uniform jacket - with the red trim the same color as her shirt - was laid. She picked it up and began pulling it on while walking out of the door.

Tra’dur coughed gently. “I didn’t want to interrupt with your mate. Thank you for introducing me. Is she a different breed of human?”

"Hrm? Oh, the purple hair and eyes?" Cat giggled as she walked into her bedroom. Tra'dur remained at the door while she went for her closet and the action uniforms there. "They're cosmetic genetic alterations for coloration. It's pretty common in the Sirian League." She pulled one of the uniforms out. The action uniform was a multi-piece set, made of specialized material and backed by an interior ceramic plating to protect from weapons fire and with prepared pockets and a belt with a pulse pistol holster. Its design would also help in more extreme temperatures and could easily be fitted to an environmental suit. She laid it out on her bed. "I'll be out in a minute, just let me change."

“Oh, of course.” Tra’dur fiddled with her weapons and checked the fit on the slim vest under her uniform jacket, folding her hands as she waited.

When Caterina emerged, she was putting her pulse pistol into the holster on her hip. The uniform nevertheless looked mostly like the one she'd been wearing before save for the pockets on the side and on the pants. The twin gold strips of her rank insignia were even in the same place on her collar. "Alright, I'm ready, let's head to the armory so we can get field gear."

“Lead on, Cat.” The lithe little auburn-haired Dilgar woman in her grandiloquent uniform swung in on the human science officer’s side without a moment’s hesitation. Utterly confident, there was something of a leader in her scientist’s mind, too.




The drive through the Dilgar colony city was quiet for Wrex and Drack. The mercs on the streets had no trouble keeping the frightened Dilgar pacified. Pockets of them could be seen on the street, watching the anti-grav truck carrying the two in silence. At one corner Wrex watched with smoldering silence as a group of mercs were busy curb-stomping a single Dilgar, laughing all the while. The Dilgar was silent: even the meanest civilian Dilgar knew enough to expect no mercy from aliens. His disgust was evident to his older compatriot, who remained quiet regardless.

Soon they were driving past a gray-toned structure. Like many of those present, it was made in part with materials salvaged from Dilgar ships used for the colony mission, the rest being made of basic raw materials like concrete. The tetracolor and torch of the Allied Systems fluttered on the flag that topped the three story structure. Wrex made out power-armored Marines watching one of the entrances with weapons ready. "Looks like they'll be throwing us into a frontal assault," he remarked.

Drack laughed at that. "Knowing Weyrloc Tral, he'll throw bodies at them until he runs out of bodies. Or ammunition blocks, if we're really lucky."

"Nobody is that lucky," Wrex grunted.

Pulling away from the building, the truck came to a stop in front of their destination. The two Krogan jumped down from the anti-grav truck and stomped their way into the positions held by the Blood Pack. On their way they moved through a half dozen red-armored Krogan and twelve Vorcha. The latter had a particularly fearsome appearance for humanoids, with growling voices coming from mouths marked by visibly long, sharp teeth. The Vorcha were the cannon fodder of the Blood Pack, although they were tough for such fodder given that, like the Krogan, Vorcha enjoyed a regenerative physiology that let them heal from even severe injuries.

The building in question had been a residence for a Dilgar family. Now the banner of Clan Weyrloc was hanging from the roof. Given the state of their furnishings, Wrex suspected they wouldn't be back whatever happened.

Inside they found that one of the living areas was now serving as a makeshift command post. A Ferengi-made holographic interface was sitting on a table in the middle. The hologram it was showing, depicting one of the structures occupied by the Alliance forces, wavered. It shut down completely when a fist slammed into the table and smashed it. "Blasted machines," growled an angry Krogan voice. The Krogan in question had dark green coloring on his carapace, his skin a beige tone, and his armor the same blood red as his followers. Red eyes a shade darker than Wrex's shifted and took them in. "So the Brakiri sent me the has-beens," he muttered. "Nakmor Drack. Urdnot Wrex. I'm surprised either of you had the brains or the quad to take work like this."

"Still sore over the last time, Tral?" asked Drack, who grinned in amusement at the memory.

"You did me a favor, Drack," replied the Weyrloc leader. "Those were my weakest recruits."

"Of course they were." Drack let the lie stand. The Weyrloc had pride, not to mention their delusions of being the most powerful Krogan clan.

"So, you two are here, and you're assigned to the main strike team," Tral said. "Word is we'll be going for those Alliance people soon. Our employers want to send a message. No prisoners."

"I heard we were just going to shell the buildings to rubble," Wrex said.

To that Tral laughed. "The Brakiri consider us cheaper than the munitions. So we're going in. And we kill everything we see. Do you think you two fossils can manage that?"

"No surrenders. Kill everything." Drack snorted. "Sounds like a Weyrloc plan to me."

"If you survive, there'll be a bonus, I'm told," Tral continued. He snorted. "Then we can blow the dam gates and get off this rock."

"So it's coming to that, huh?" Wrex asked.

"What, you feel sorry for 'em?" Tral asked. "Way I hear it, the Dilgar pissed off every species around in this universe. Just collect your pay and forget about it. Now get the hell out of here while I get this damned system fixed. The next time I see a Ferengi, I'm ripping off those stupid ears."

The two stepped out of the room. "So they're going to do it," Drack said.

"Yeah."

"Anything we can do about it?"

To that Wrex shrugged. "Probably not. Don't mean I have to like it. And the next time a Brakiri offers me a job…"

"...we'll both tell them to piss off," Drack finished for him.




Sharon Farallon, the Huáscar’s Chief Engineer and a short, brown and mousy woman who could nonetheless take down a man three times larger than herself at arm wrestling, had been the most enthusiastic in regaining control of the ship from the XO. She had also been the one made the most uncomfortable by the directives from Geneva which seemed to confirm Foster’s actions. She was sitting across from Lieutenant Goodman, or more properly was braced against the wall, glancing to Reichert occasionally and keeping her eyes away from Officer Saumarez.

“Guys, this is going to be mutiny now if we go ahead with it. Before, yeah, it would have been legal, but they’re addressing Major Foster as the commander.”

Reichert held his hands behind his back like he was at parade rest. “Lieutenant Commander Farallon, I seem to recall they said obedience to unlawful orders is not an excuse when they were hanging those Nazi bastards at Nuremberg. And a couple of other times after that, too.”

Sharon grimaced. “Look, you know that don’t actually give a rat’s ass about that back in Geneva. The Russians have half taken over the Earth Alliance and they only ever apply those rules to the losing side. We’re going to be in more shit than you can realize if we act against Foster. Possibly the Death of Personality if we get people killed…”

“I thought you were on Sheridan’s side, too, Sharon,” Johnathan Goodman spoke in his soft rumble.

She shot him a look. “We all were here, except Officer Saumarez. But the war’s supposed to be over.

“We’ll have a ship, we hardly have to surrender!” Reichert almost shouted. “Look, Foster’s still violating orders. He’s exchanging communication with these pirates who showed up, and the government sure as hell never sanctioned that. At worst we’ll be in the same place he was and he got his actions confirmed by the government.”

“If I go back now, Commander Farallon, I am going to cease to exist,” Elia spoke very softly. “The fact we haven’t acted doesn’t matter.”

“You have a legal obligation to prevent genocide, Sharon,” Lt. Reichert spoke again. “You know that’s exactly what they’re planning. It’s a secret open enough to drive a shuttle through.”

“And we’ll never see our families again..!”

“And the Dilgar won’t have any families because the Drazi killed their babies by bashing them against a wall!”

Sharon swallowed. “They’re also a bunch of aliens.”

“And one of them is sitting on an Earth Alliance planet right now with a Line Medal around his neck, and a memorial in the town square with the other five inset into it. Who the hell else helped us during the Earth-Minbari War, Sharon?”

“The Drazi said they did!” She flushed.

“Stro’kath’s fleet is a ghost, nobody knows what happened to it.”

Lieutenant Goodman squeezed his hands, a cold sweat on his dark face. “Okay, the way I see it is, that’s a higher order, preventing genocide. If Foster disobeys it, we gotta take him down. We don’t have time to ask Geneva, the Dilgar could all be dead by then. But that’s like an order from God,” he continued, lapsing more into his caribbean accent. “Y’gotta follow it, if you care about your soul.”

Sharon sighed and looked at the terrified but resolute Elia across from her. “All right, if we get into..”

Lt. Goodman’s comm trilled. The others went dead silent as he picked it up. “Yes… Yes, Captain, what do you..? Oh, of course, Captain, I understand. Uh, negotiate? Captain? I’m just a Lieutenant, I can… Yes, Sir, I understand. Right away Sir.” He deactivated the comm and stared at the others.

“What the hell was that, Johnathan?” Sharon asked.

“Major Foster wants me to go to the Minbari cruiser to represent Earth in the talks.”

“Goddamnit, that means he’s onto us, it has to,” she snarled.

“Maybe,” Lt. Reichert answered. “But he has to go. And I’ve got a solution for that.”

“Look, we’re not doing anything unless we absolutely have to, do you understand? Lieutenant Reichert, do you understand me!?” Sharon was outright shouting, now, Elia wincing away from her.

“Understood, Sir,” he said, very, very softly.




With the Avenger on the scene, it went against Julia's instincts to beam over to the Orsala for continuing talks that were unlikely to go anywhere. She didn't trust the Avenger crew given what she knew about their condition, or even without that, their sheer aggressiveness. The idea of a shooting war breaking out with her off the ship…

Taking her First Officer with her? That was almost insurmountable a hurdle.

"If I didn't know better, I'd say you didn't trust me," Jarod remarked while escorting Julia and Meridina to the Transporter Station.

Julia gave him a guilty look. "It's the principle of the thing," she said. "I shouldn't be away during a crisis."

"The Brakiri and Drazi leaders will be away as well," said Meridina. "And there will be someone from the Avenger present."

"That doesn't make me feel any better," Julia answered. "Especially since we don't know anything about their command structure. This 'Tina Carmine' may not even be Hawk's usual third-in-command. Besides, they don't strike me as the type to care about diplomatic rules. Attacking while we're on the Orsala is something I can see them thinking of as clever."

"A good point, but if they are here as allies of the Drazi, one suspects the Drazi are requiring them to conform to diplomatic niceties. Otherwise they will look bad as well."

"That assumes the Drazi care," Jarod said. "Remember, these are the same people who launched raiding attacks on their weakest neighbors. They were even willing to attack Sheridan's White Stars when the ISA was initially founded." Given they were nearing their destination, Jarod stopped. "Either way, I'll have the crew on standby should anything happen."

"That's all I can ask."

"Good luck." Jarod smiled slightly and nodded before stepping away. They both heard him murmur, "We'll all need it" as he stepped away.




Julia and Meridina met Shai'jhur in Transporter Station 1. She had that same quiet aide with her. Julia wondered where Fei'nur was currently. Shai'jhur had already been shot once and Fei'nur seemed the type to never risk it again.

Julia motioned to the pad and said, "After you, Warmaster."

Shai’jhur stepped onto the pad with a wry look. “I never get more used to this, of course. Carry on, Captain.”

"One moment." Julia turned back to Jarod. "I shouldn't have to say that if it comes down to me or the ship, the ship comes first. But I will anyway because it feels like the right thing to say."

"Somehow I suspect that the Orsala is a lot safer than the Aurora right now anyway," replied Jarod. "But understood."

Satisfied, Julia nodded to him and he left. She and Meridina joined Shai'jhur on the pad. "Transport when ready."

A Dorei woman was at the transporter controls nodded. "I'm receiving the coordinates from the Orsala now. Confirming."

The transporter beam whisked them away from the Aurora to the Minbari ship. They arrived near the launch bay for the ship's shuttles and fliers. A Minbari male in white and light beige robes with a bone crest that Julia associated with the religious caste met them at the entrance. "Greetings, and welcome to the Orsala," he said. "Please follow me."

While walking through the ship Julia and Meridina took in the internal design of Minbari ships. They favored purples and blue lighting and coloring, occasionally green, for their interior halls, which were primarily darker hues around the lights. The diversity in color was greater than the azure corridors of the Aurora.

The Warmaster’s expression was dour in the extreme, as if she would rather be anywhere else in the world. Her yellow eyes flashed from corridor wall to corridor wall.

They arrived in a room with a series of rounded tables closely matching the makeup of how things had been on the Aurora. Tarinak was present, as was Tabir, and Holloran and the lead Abbai delegate, Forna, were near their table. Foster was not present. An Earthforce lieutenant was near that table instead, a big, black-skinned man with an easygoing expression, sitting quietly and, Julia thought, a little uncomfortably.

There was a new position as well, a table with just one figure beside it. He was in a gray jumpsuit of sorts, a thin young man with combed black hair. This was apparently a concession to the formality of the situation, as he looked anything but comfortable in the surroundings, and more to the point, not at all caring about the weight of them. The only thing on his face was obvious, evident boredom, boredom which turned into clear hostility when he looked toward Julia. He snarled in open contempt and crossed his arms. Julia ignored him with just as much contempt. They didn't send the current commander of the Avenger, she noted to herself. A whisper in her mind indicated Meridina had picked up that thought as well. Seeing no point in talking, Julia found her table with Meridina and sat down. Shai'jhur took her seat just as quietly.

As everyone began to filter into their seats, Julia noticed that Foster still hadn't shown up. A vague suspicion formed in her mind. Yoni Shaham had mentioned their discussion, and Foster's remarks about the Minbari, so he might be delaying his arrival to mess with them. But given the situation, Julia didn't like this one bit.

“The Captain of the Huáscar will of course arrive shortly, as well as the ranking officer of the pirate?” Shai’jhur said airily, refusing to sit.

"We're not pirates, you damned butcher," the gray-suited man barked. "You're the damn pirate, and we're going to make you pay!"

The Brakiri shot an angry look toward that table. "I'm afraid that with your capture of their commanders, the Drazi associates are a little uncertain of their command structure," Tabir noted. "They are a very… informal group, you see."

"And yet they fly around with one of the most powerful, advanced battlecruisers in the Multiverse," Julia noted wryly. She glanced toward the man. "Where is Miss Carmine?"

"She couldn't come," he said sullenly. "I'm Andy. Andy Lattrel. I'm going to be dealing with you." His voice made it clear that his idea of "dealing" with them would involve shooting.

The look on the Brakiri was one of open contempt. He does not approve of the Drazi choice of allies, Meridina relayed to Julia telepathically.

The Brakiri are businessmen, that kind of bluntness is too much, I guess.

Shai’jhur would have none of it. “You may think you will be dealing with me, but all you will be doing is conveying a message to your commanders. I have read Verne, I know your literature, and I can name your game, you cur! Don’t think me a naive alien, I know you break the laws of your own race! Your Darglan Nautile flies no flag and conducts a war of revenge under the colour of no law, Sir. Tell your commanders that they are Hostis humani generis and I will put them to death if I catch them! If you want to enforce the law of nations, live by it!”

Before any retort could come from Andy Lattrel, Holloran smacked her hand on her table. "The next person to issue a threat gets my boot up their ass." The look on the Director's face made it clear that, as the Director of Covert Intelligence for the InterStellar Alliance, she was not a diplomat, nor did she believe she had to be.

Shai’jhur ground her teeth. “Very well. Where is the Earth representative, Major Foster?”

“I’m Lieutenant Johnathan Goodman, Earthforce. I was sent by Major Foster to represent our interests. He will not be coming aboard.”

“And I will not negotiate with subordinates,” Shai’jhur answered immediately in a show of anger and contempt. “I have endured enough humiliation, we will not also have a farce of talks without the ranking personnel of each power present.”

"Call up Foster," Holloran said to Goodman. "Tell him to get over here now, or his lack of cooperation will be made clear to both Earthdome and Tuzanor."

Goodman wryly twisted his face into a grimace and reached for his commlink. The conversation was brief. “I’m sorry, Director, but he won’t come.”

A cold feeling went down Julia's spine at hearing that.

As Goodman spoke, Shai’jhur stepped over to Julia and spoke softly. “This is a ruse d’guerre, as you humans would say. Get back to your ship.” Her eyes snapped to Holloran. “Director, call me back when the principals are all actually present, and I will come, even if it is the middle of the night.”

Julia and Meridina exchanged worried looks as they stood up. Meridina's hand quietly reached for her omnitool.

Shai’jhur pulled out her own commlink.

There was a tone from another table. Lattrel was activating a multidevice. "They're leaving!" he shouted. "Go now!"

Two to beam up, immediately!” Shai’jhur shouted in Dilgar. The two Dilgar disappeared into the amber glow and sparkling tones of a Klingon transporter model at least a half-century old, but perfectly serviceable for the circumstances.

"Emergency transport, now!" Meridina shouted.

Holloran watched in stunned silence at their sudden departure. As her head turned to face Lattrel, he too vanished in a flash of light.

"Director." The voice of the Minbari captain came over the air. "The independent cruiser has opened fire. The Drazi are moving to engage."

"Damn," Holloran muttered.
"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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