Author's Note: I've gotten halfway through season 1, so you can probably tell based on which characters I don't have in here.
Ivanova stood off to the side, examining the ship. Her original escorts had both gone back into the elevator once they were in transit, but the other soldier nearby was keeping a wary eye on her. Aside from the two aliens, the rest of the crew was human, all of them wearing the same uniform. She'd already catalogued the differences and similarities between them. Then she'd gone over the next week's duty rotation.
Which meant she'd been bored out of her mind for the last twenty minutes, and they wouldn't be docked for almost that long. "Mr. Vakarian, perhaps we could exchange some basic information before we dock," she said. His hand twitched towards his back and the bulky-looking gun attached to his armor.
"I suppose," he answered warily, turning towards her as he continued to track their progress on his hologram map. "What did you have in mind?"
"We could start with the alien races aboard. Counting humans, there are five major races that make up the Council, plus another dozen in the League of Non-Aligned Worlds." She took two steps before throttling her urge to pace up and down. It wasn't helping the techs who were already paying more attention to her than her monitors.
"That's certainly a lot. My race are called turians. We're one of only two dextro species known to the Citadel," he said.
Ivanova frowned. "Dextro? I'm not sure I follow."
"Chirality. Humans are levo, turians are dextro. Our DNA and amino acids bond opposite of how yours do." His mandibles flexed in a way that left Ivanova feeling slightly queasy. "You mean there's no dextro species on your station?"
"Honestly, I don't know. Not among the Council, although I can't speak for the Vorlons. I would have to ask Doctor Franklin."
"Right. Well, turians have been players on the galactic stage for about fifteen Earth centuries." She blanched. "Heh. I have a feeling our histories are going to be very different," Garrus said.
"Still, the fact that you've been in space since the ninth century is impressive," she said.
He stopped, pulling up his hologram wrist computer. "By the earth calendar, it's currently the year 2186."
"On my calendar, it's 2260."
They both fell silent. "We're going to have a lot of stuff to pick up," Garrus muttered.
Before Ivanova could think of a suitable reply, the elevator opened. Vega, and an older woman stepped out. "Garrus Vakarian," she started.
There is a woman who knows how to chide like an expert, Ivanova thought.
"I only just found out that we're en route to an alien space station, with alien species we have probably never met before, where Commander Shepard is being taken for treatment. Is that correct?" Stepping up next to him, she glared upwards, arms crossed on her chest.
"I sent you a message with the details," he protested.
"My time over the last two hours has been spent setting Donnelly's broken leg, a result of our unannounced detour to wherever the hell we are." One finger jabbed at his armor. "As the medical officer here, I am quarantining this ship until I have a chance to run some tests and work out disease vectors."
His jaw and mandibles drooped. "But, Shepard –"
"But nothing! You already risked our entire crew by letting one of them on board!"
"Hold on a minute," Ivanova protested.
"And that's not mentioning that potential risk that we pose to them. From what little Vega has told me, these humans seem to think Earth is still Reaper free. At the very least they've been out of contact since the First Contact war!"
"Today's date is October Sixteenth, twenty-two sixty," Ivanova said loudly.
The doctor stopped and turned to look at her. "I'm sorry, what was that? Twenty-two … are you serious?"
"As a heart attack. I'm Russian, it's a requirement."
Traynor tapped at her console, replacing the image of Babylon 5 and the ship traffic around it with something resembling a strange squid. "By comparison, this is the Normandy, next to it." The ship they were on was not even the length of one tentacle. "You're saying, these things have never been to Earth."
She stepped up, staring at the glowing image. Something about it chilled her down to the bone. "No. Definitely not. If these had appeared anywhere in this quadrant of the galaxy, we would have heard about it."
"Doctor Chakwas, I realize this sounds a little far-fetched, but it would seem we've somehow slipped into some kind of alternate universe," Traynor said.
Liara emerged from the elevator halfway through the sentence. "She's right. Glyph checked ten common pulsars. Seven of them have slightly different frequencies. Wherever we are, it is unlikely we'll ever see the Citadel, or our homes, again."
Ivanova looked slowly around the bridge, seeing the despair etched on each face. Whatever had happened in their universe, it was bad. "If there is anything that we can do to help you, ask. Some of us know what it's like to be unable to go home again."
On her hand, her communicator chirruped. "Garibaldi to Ivanova, please respond."
"Ivanova here. Give us priority docking. Sheridan has their captain on the White Star, I'll be escorting their ship's doctor to medical."
She could picture the look on his face during that pregnant pause. "Challenge: Bugs."
"Response: Lola." And next time, I get to pick the challenges. "I'm fine, Garibaldi. Their ship doesn't have the right communication equipment."
"Fine. You're on bay 2. Fill me in when you get here. Garibaldi out." It didn't come with a sense of reassurance.
"Friend of yours?" Garrus asked.
Ivanova nodded. "Garibaldi is the station's chief of security. Given recent history around here, he's naturally concerned when a warship shows up and doesn't respond to communication."
"He sounds good," Vega said. "So, let's all get ready to go, huh?"
Nodding, Ivanova started to walk towards the elevator, only to have Vega and Chakwas walk the other direction, up the neck of the ship. Turning rapidly on one foot, she followed them up to the airlock behind the pilot station.
"Garrus, I will be accompanying them," the female-shaped robot said, echoed by a speaker next to the holomap.
"Are you sure about that, EDI?" he asked.
"My body can be more easily sterilized, and given my human shape I will stand out less than yourself or Liara. In addition, it will allow me to better connect with their communication systems." Chakwas and Vega exchanged a look before shrugging.
"You'll still stand out. We don't have humanoid robots, let alone intelligent ones," Ivanova said. "But why not. The more the merrier."
There was a faint shudder as the Normandy set down on the landing bay. "I am not the robot. It is an extension. I am the AI of the Normandy," EDI explained.
"A ship that can think for itself. Marvelous," Ivanova grumbled.
They went through the decontamination cycle in the airlock, and waited while one of the dockworkers set up a mobile set of stairs to the airlock. By the time they reached the bottom, Garibaldi was waiting for them. "Susan, everything good?" He glanced at the two humans and one robot accompanying her. "This is it?"
"For the moment. Doctor Chakwas," she said, extending a hand for Garibaldi to shake. "I want to ensure that it's safe for the aliens on board, that they're not going to catch anything or spread anything. Last thing this station needs is an epidemic."
"Yeah, we've already had one of those. It didn't end well. Follow me, we'll head straight to medical." Without another word, Garibaldi turned away, and they fell in behind him.
Vega's eyes were scanning everywhere as they exited, keeping track of the new alien species. Most of them were humanoid, moreso than on the Citadel, unless you counted volus and elcor as humanoid. Most of them also seemed to be fairly normal – moving cargo, talking in small, mixed groups.
Two corridors later, they met up with a group made mostly of aliens with one human at their head – and Shepard carried on a stretcher. "I'm Captain Sheridan," he said, mouth quirking as Chakwas pushed past him to begin scanning with her omni-tool. "Welcome to Babylon 5. She appears to be stable, but she's still badly in need of rest and medical treatment."
"She's lost a fair bit of blood, and I'm going to have to replace almost a tenth of her cybernetics," Chakwas said. "But you're right, she is stable."
"Good. Garibaldi, Ivanova, make sure they get to medical without any more complications. I'll check in later, and hopefully we can figure out just what is going on around here," Sheridan said. At the next corridor, he went one way and they went another.
Twice along the way, Garibaldi gave out orders through his comp to station security, keeping their path clear. There was one fellow who reminded Vega of a batarian who didn't seem particularly happy to be shoved off, but at the moment it was less important than ensuring Shepard's safety. He didn't trust these pale aliens, even if they had worked to stabilize Shepard.
For that matter, how do we know they didn't bring us to this universe? He shoved the thought out of his head as the next set of doors opened for them. "I'm Doctor Franklin. Captain Sheridan gave me some information. Bring her in here, into the iso-unit," he ordered the stretcher bearers.
"Franklin, I'm Doctor Chakwas. She needs blood, anything compatible with B negative, at least one unit but two would be better." They were already at work removing the blood-stained undersuit as they spewed medical jargon like thresher maw spit.
"EDI, I'm going to post outside the door, keep out everyone who doesn't belong here," he said. Intent on examining one of the medical consoles, she just nodded.
The passageway was surprisingly sparse, very few of the station residents on the move and most of them took one look at the armor and found a different route to their destination. By his guess, it was nearing half an hour before someone finally approached Vega. He was human, though his suit and his manner fairly screamed 'used aircar salesman.'
"Excuse me, I need to get in to medical," he said.
Vega just stared down at him, doing his best to imitate Shepard's get-the-fuck-out-of-my-face-Jilani look. "It's secured. Find another clinic, mister."
"Morden, it's Mister Morden." His smile oozed across his cheeks. "Surely there's something you want, so that I can get what I want?" He lifted one hand, showing a positively superficial cut across his palm.
"The only thing I want is for you to go away and find another doctor. This is too small to be the only medical clinic on the station. I don't care about what you have to sell me, I don't care if you're the head of the holy order of Vecna." Vega motioned back down the passageway. "Beat it, while you can still walk to the next clinic."
"Well, if that's the way you feel," Morden said. One hand started to reach inside his suit jacket. In the next two point five seconds, his larynx was crushed with a quick jab, he was spun around to face the wall, the hand inside his jacket was pinned to the wall above his head, and he found his lower rib cage to be grabbed by a very strong, very large hand.
"Right now, you can't talk," Vega said. "You can't scream or make much noise at all. If I squeeze this rib hard enough," he punctuated it with a quick squeeze, enough to make it crack, "it'll puncture your lung. By the time you can talk again, your lung will be half full of your own blood. I think that would be a painful way to die. Got it?"
Very slowly, Morden nodded his head. Vega didn't so much as let go as hurl him down the hallway, sliding him a good thirty feet on the metal floors. Rising up onto one elbow, he stared back at the burly marine, and snapped his fingers.
Blue light coruscated around Vega as something slammed into his shield from the side. A quick jab knocked back his opponent, momentarily rippling their stealth field. Enough time for him to pull his M-76 Revenant from his back and open fire. Whatever the thing was that attacked him screamed as a dozen rounds blew holes clear through its body, and divots in the floor and wall behind it. The stealth field failed as it collapsed, thrashing on the floor.
Garibaldi and Ivanova burst out of medical, pistols drawn, just in time to see Vega snap off another burst as Morden scrambled out of sight down another corridor. "You let him bring an assault rifle on board?" Garibaldi snapped, reaching out with his hand to shove the muzzle down. "He's gone, put that thing away before you cause a hull breach!"
"Look, my bullets didn't even penetrate the floor," Vega said, pointing at the cluster of dents. "The guy who ran off was controlling that thing."
Ivanova shook her head, stepping back inside. Two Minbari exited a moment later with her, helping to pick up the gruesome black corpse and carry it back inside medical. "Garibaldi to security, I need four bodies on medbay one. No one in unless it's got my direct approval." He stared at the puddle of fluids on the ground. "Come on. Inside."
They waited while Franklin dismissed all of the nurses and staff, leaving only the three Normandy crew and the three Babylon crew. "That thing is a Shadow," Garibaldi said. "Morden wasn't controlling it, he was serving it. They've been manipulating people behind the scenes, started a major war between two of the other major powers and they've got their hooks into the leaders on Earth."
Chakwas frowned. "Sounds like indoctrination to me. How do they do it?"
"They find out what you want, then make sure you get it in a way that leaves you vulnerable," Ivanova said. "We know Morden's one of their agents, we've been watching him closely. We're part of an alliance dedicated to fighting the Shadows."
"Not the same," Vega said. "You saw what a Reaper looks like. Our universe, they show up every fifty thousand years, take every space faring species, and using some kind of mind-altering field. People affected start helping them. At the end, they've taken every member of the species and used nanites to dissolve them, then use that goo to build more of themselves."
Franklin shook his head. "I'm sorry, other universe? That's preposterous."
"It's the truth," Chakwas said. "Or at least, the best explanation we have so far. We just fled Earth, where a mere two dozen of those was sufficient to take out half the population in a matter of months."
"We don't even know if the final push worked," Vega said. "Until Lola wakes up, we won't know, either."
"That still leaves the question of what we do with you," Ivanova said. "Your FTL alone is enough that Earth will try to order us to seize your vessel. Obviously, their goals are opposed to ours." She turned to Garibaldi. "I'm going to find Ambassador Kosh. If the Vorlon will cover for them, Earth won't do anything openly."
She strode out the doors. "So, you're from another universe," Franklin repeated.
"That is the theory with the most support at present. Our calendars are different, and several pulsars and quasars have differing frequencies than we would expect. In addition, the technological levels between your station and our ship are striking, as are the inhabitants themselves." EDI paused to glance over at Shepard. "It would seem that no matter the universe, heroes are still needed."
"You can say that again," Garibaldi muttered. "What's her status, doc?"
"Well," both Chakwas and Franklin said. After a moment, he ceded to her with a hand wave. "She's stable. Most of her injuries were superficial – first degree burns, numerous bullet wounds, and a great deal of fatigue. All the holes are patched up and she's gotten her blood levels back up. Right now she's sedated to keep her resting. I think we can stop the sedation in four hours or so, and let her wake up naturally."
"Right. I'll stay here and keep Shepard safe until she wakes up," Vega said, moving to sit down.
Chakwas grabbed him by the arm before he could sit down. "The hell you are. In the last forty-eight hours, you've spent at least thirty of them in active combat, and you've had less than eight hours of sleep. Shepard's going to be out for a while, so you're going back to the ship to sleep." He opened his mouth to protest, only for her to cut him off again. "EDI doesn't need to sleep, she can keep the Commander safe. Or I can relieve you of duty."
Both massive shoulders slumped. "You play dirty, doctor," he grumbled. "Fine."
"C'mon, I'll take you back," Garibaldi said. "I wouldn't say no to a tour, either."
"Not until I have chance to run some culture samples and compare ambient bacteria and viruses from this station against our ship," Chakwas said. "Until then, you'll just have to wait."
"I hate waiting," Garibaldi said.
Inside medbay, Franklin leaned against the wall and studied EDI for a moment. "Are you sentient?"
"That would naturally depend on your definition of the term. I am capable of passing every version of Turing test, and technically I violate the Citadel laws against the creation of artificial intelligence, but I do not believe the Reapers consider me any more sentient than your communicator." EDI pointed at it with a finger, and it beeped in response.
"But if you're fully intelligent, you're a person too. Doesn't it bother you the way they treated you?"
She said nothing for a minute, moving over to one of the monitors. "Allow me to give a little exposition. This is part of my video memories, during our last push through London. At this point, the Reapers had been in control of the city for over three months."
He stared in horror at the destruction. At least every other building was collapsed, so damaged he couldn't even tell what they used to be. Dead bodies – and worse, pieces of bodies, lay everywhere in the rubble. The view bobbed as she walked down the street, a pistol in each hand. From the buildings around her came a veritable horde of half-cybernetic creatures. Some of them used to be human, some he couldn't tell. The soldiers around her opened fire along with her, humans and aliens alike standing shoulder to shoulder as they fought for their very survival. One by one, they failed, and fell, bodies left behind.
"Shut it off," he said. He turned his face to the wall, pressing his forehead against the cool metal and squeezing his eyes shut.
"Lieutenant Vega was on the surface twice as long as I. He was at Shepard's side almost to the end. Whatever I saw, he saw worse. Doctor Chakwas spent those two days covered in other beings' blood as she fought to get as many of them as possible back to the firing line."
"Enough!" Franklin cried. "You've been through hell, I can see that well enough."
One hand rested on his shoulder, surprisingly warm and comforting. "I believe the human expression is, I am willing to cut them a little slack. If Doctor Chakwas had not suggested my staying here, I would have."
He nodded, standing up straight and smiling as her hand fell away. "It's been a long day for me, too. I've got some data disks in there with medical texts, if you want something to read."
"Thank you, but I have already decoded your stations communications protocols. I am currently browsing seven different channels." EDI walked to the chair next to Shepard's bed, and after staring down at her for a moment, sat. "I will be fine, doctor."
"Was that a joke?"
A faint smile tugged at her lips. "Very nearly."
Zathras clung to the support beam. The sudden loss of air pressure had lifted him off the floor, and almost out into space, but he'd managed to grab on before being launched away. Of course, he still had to get to the control equipment, which was now nearly eighty feet below him.
He wanted to take a deep breath, or say something, but that was rather hard with no air. The lack of oxygen was already clawing painfully inside his chest, and he had to keep blinking to stop his eyes from drying out. Bracing himself, he let go and dropped. This was going to hurt when he landed.
A stray round from the combat outside slammed into the Citadel, causing the station to shudder and shift. Suddenly, Zathras wasn't on target for the walkway – he was beside the upload station.
Had there been air, the snap of his legs shattering would have echoed in the room as he bounced off the side of the equipment, plunging towards the brilliant white beam of light. He had just enough time to think, Uh-oh, before his wholly organic body plunged into the light.
Since the impact also dented a panel, the Catalyst had point six seven seconds to identify the otherwise undetectable intruder and begin organizing countermeasures. Then it stopped, and screamed in pain. Green light shot out from the Citadel, washing over the Reapers in space and their husk troops on the surface. As it passed, each one shuddered and writhed as their synthetic components were transformed into organic structures.
Some of the Reapers continued to struggle, the titanic forms of their original races bursting forth from the Leviathan shell and expiring in the vacuum of space. Others remained quiescent, aside from the occasional tremor. On the surface, the transformed husks touched their bodies and hunted for reflective surfaces, unable to believe their sudden change in destiny.
The green light washed over the galaxy, one sector at a time, relays shattering into pieces as the energy tore through the galaxy. Ships were thrown out at their destinations.
At Eden Prime, two more Reapers were transformed. Only remnants of the fleet were here, most of them having turned tail and fled the moment they appeared. On Rannoch, the green wave bathed the planet, transforming the geth as it passed, leaving a very confused new race standing beside their one-time creators.
In the ruins of London, Harbinger opened his eyes.