CHAPTER 2

3rd Month – 16th Day– 2448 Galactic Standard Year (GSY)

Cruiser Teraana [In FTL Transit]

Tala woke up to the sound of the alarm on her omni-tool. She moaned as she brought up her forearm to see a blinking orange band around her wrist. She lightly tapped it and then stopped the alarm as the band winked out. She sat up and moved her legs off the side of her bed before yawning as she stretched out her arms. She then moved her shoulders around to remove the stiffness before checking the time.

4:30 in the morning. She mentally said to herself. Better get moving.

She stretched out her legs before standing up and leaving her cubicle through the curtain door. She stepped into the corridor between rows of curtains, and saw some quarians moving about. She greeted them as she made her way towards the door. She soon left the living quarters and headed for the ship's mess hall.

It took her a minute and several corridors to reach the mess hall. Even this early, there are already plenty of quarians in the room. Many of the quarians near the door noticed her presence and greeted her. She greeted them back as she headed for the counter and approached one of the mess attendants.

"Good morning, Captain." The mess attendant greeted her. "What would you have for today?"

"The usual, Resner." Tala said a bit groggily. She stifled a yawn before adding another order. "Also give me some Ehran tea along with it."

"Right away." The attendant said with a nod.

He turned to one of the supply crates along the back wall of the galley. He took out two tube-like packets from one of them before taking a sealed bottle from another. He then brought them to one of the scanner pads on the counter. The scanners immediately scanned them for contamination and logged their barcode.

"Here you go, Captain… Two Schamre root pastes and one Ehran tea."

"Thank you, Resner." Tala replied with a nod. Tala then typed in her code on a holo-interface by the scanner to register the transaction.

She took her meal and took a look around to find a seat. She saw a table open near along the wall and headed there. She then took her seat as placed down her food on the table. She then picked up the bottle of tea and removed the plug off the thin flexible tube on top. She connected it with her mask's induction port and then took a sip.

"Good morning, Tala." She heard someone cheerfully greeting her. She looked up to see her close friend, Aneya'Doras, taking her seat across the table.

"Morning, Aneya." Tala replied with a smile after removing the bottle's tube off her mask's induction port. "You're quite a bottle of sunshine this morning. Did something good happen?"

"You wouldn't believe what happened last night while you were asleep." Aneya said with some excitement. Tala lightly waved her hand for Aneya to continue. "Falas just confessed to Sayu!"

Aneya'Veras is one of Tala's closest friends aboard the ship and had met before Tala gained captaincy of the Teraana. She is one of cruiser's many maintenance engineers that kept the 300 year old quarian cruiser mostly intact. She also has a reputation of being the deeply connected to scuttlebutt of the Teraana, and a few other ships, which kept her updated in a different happenings.

"That timid marine confessed to Sayu?" Tala looked surprised as she said that. "How did Sayu took it?" She asked as she removed the cover off one of the food tube.

Aneya giggled before answering. "Haha! She stuttered and then babbled like a youngling. *giggled* I can bet one of my rations that they glowed red with all the blushing behind their masks."

"I wouldn't doubt it. We know that Sayu has a soft spot for him ever since they've been transferred here during Captain Ralo's time." Tala laughed a bit. "So… What happened then?" She connected the food tube to her mask's induction port and began sucking out the liquid-like texture of sterilized food mush.

"Sayu said that she would think about before walking away. But judging the way she said that, she is really surprised by his confession." Aneya said before continuing. "Falas looked a bit down after that."

"Have you seen either of them this morning?" Tala asked curiously as she placed the down the now empty and shriveled food tube on the table.

"No not yet." Aneya shook her head. "I haven't heard from the others yet. But no one seem to be worried."

"Better leave them be. I doubt we could do much about them anyway." Tala told her. "Anyways, how's the ship holding up?" Tala asked before sipping some tea.

"She's holding up quite nicely and no one reported atmospheric leaks." Aneya answered confidently. "Do you think we can find something in this next system? The last system was another bust."

"Can't promise anything, Aneya. The previous system is quite empty except for proto-planets which aren't that much of use." Tala told her. "Besides, we may have better luck with this system. Astrometrics reported that they've detected large readings of aksijona and okva on one of the planets there."

"That's a first. Most of the planets we've found are quite toxic or can't support life." Aneya said with a hint of surprise.

Most scientists, including quarians, all over known space agreed that the mass relays connected to most, if not all, habitable worlds in the galaxy. That's why most prospectors and explorers don't explore beyond, at most, 20 light-years from the relay due to cost in resources. The very few recorded deep space expeditions yielded very little result and found barren systems. Now with the Migrant Fleet's expedition, they've traveled further than any known being has gone before, and it seems their efforts about to bear fruit.

"The astrometrics are optimistic about this system, after seeing the readings myself I must say it's a good system." Tala said as she removed the cover of the other food tube. "At best, we can use it as a respite colony for the Fleet before moving further." She then proceeded on sucking out the contents of her last food tube.

"I can see that." Aneya replied with a nod. "It would be good to find some place for our people to settle while the rest of the ships continued exploring."

Tala finished emptying the contents of her last food tube and set it down before replying. "I concur. Plus we could use the resources there to make a decent shipyard to slowly replace our ships." She then sipped some more of her teat as she checked the time on her omni-tool.

Nearly time for my shift. Tala thought as she finished her tea. She then set it down and deactivated her omni-tool before looking at her friend. "Well I better cut our conversation short. Time for my command shift. We'll see each other later tonight?"

"Sure." Aneya nodded. "I'll be by the hangar bay along with the other."

"Got it. See you later and have a good day." Tala said as she stood up while picking up her empty food tubes and bottle.

"You too as well."

Tala headed for the nearest trash receptacle and disposed her food tubes and bottle into it. She then left the mess hall and headed for the bridge.


Later

Teraana Bridge

"We will be reaching the next system in less than 5 minutes, Captain." Ades announced from the helm of flight control station.

"Copy that, Ades." Tala replied crisply with a nod. "Continue on course."

They soon dropped out of FTL at the outer system with a weak Cherenkov flash. They immediately began scanning their surroundings.

"Report." Tala called out.

"We have empty space within a ten thousand liras radius. Except for a three free floating rocks." Veeron, the sensors operator, reported.

"All systems are optimal, Captain." Feena reported.

"Good. Veeran find us that planet that astrometrics tagged for investigation." Tala ordered. "Take us in, Ades."

"Affirmative, Captain." Ades replied.

The Teraana shuddered a bit as the engines propelled the cruiser at mid-sublight velocity. The sensors are hard at work at detecting the planet that is capable of supporting life. Unknown to them, their arrival didn't go unnoticed as they've triggered one of the hidden sensor probes floating in space.

The probe is disguised as a large floating hunk of space rock with its dimensions around tens of meters. It has long-range and short-range sensors protruding from its form that are designed to detect objects and signals at different spectrums. It quickly detected the flash of Cherenkov radiation that the Teraana FTL drop emitted, and then its onboard intelligence analyzed its findings. It made its analysis within a span of moments before it began relaying them to other probes and to its central command. It and the other probes proceeded to keep track of the unknown ship's movements and continued relaying their findings.

Revolving along the third orbit of the system's star is a desert world called Patagonia. It is dotted with large enclosed seas. If one looked closely with a globe of Earth at hand, one would describe it like Earth with water bodies and lands inverted with a number of differences. Large patches of green dotted around the coasts of the great seas.

It arid desert environment gave it less ecological development but allowed for few species of flora and fauna to thrive. The coastal regions provided the only source of ecological diversity, and it also made these regions one of the dangerous places.

It also contained vast deposits of minerals which prompted colonization over a decade ago, and various colonies are erected near them. Ice comets were towed and delivered to these colonies and then melted into large artificial reservoirs to provide a renewable source of water. Atmospheric barriers are projected around the colonies which shielded the inhabitants and agricultural facilities from the harsh conditions and provided a fairly Earth-like environment.

In orbit of Patagonia

Patagonia Orbital Station

Command Center

Patagonia Station served as the orbital dock and trading center for the colony. It is shaped like a mushroom top, over 3000 meters across, with four pairs of docking arms, extending over 1000 meters from the central structure.

The command center is pretty devoid of activity except for the few crew manning the consoles that handle the major operations of the station. They won't be expecting any shipments for more than three days.

"This is a bore." Rick Perez said to no one. He is in-charge of the sensors and keeping track of ships or various objects in the system.

The console then started pinging which indicated that the sensor net detected something. Rick found it odd as he brought up the sensor readings which showed the object to be at outer system. He then brought up the visual feed and saw a ship with a wheel-like structure at the bow and straight hull at the stern. He is surprised at what he saw and immediately called out to the others.

"I'm detecting an unknown ship at the outer system." Rick reported as he tracked the ship as it moves towards the inner system. "It's moving at mid-sublight and its heading our way."

"Calling Colonel Arman. We have an emergency." Charles Trevor from communications said into the intercom.

"I'm coming up. What's the situation?" Colonel Arman replied a moment later.

"Nothing yet. But Rick said that the unknown is heading our way." Trevor replied.

"Contact the magistrate. Tell them what's going on. Send out general quarters."

"On it, Colonel." Trevor replied and quickly sent a message to the Patagonia Magistracy at the planet below. He then activated the klaxons throughout the station as he spoke. "Attention all personnel. This is not a drill. I repeat. This is not a drill. We have unknown bogie heading our way. Secure all stations."

Across the orbital station, various personnel stopped what they were doing, and those resting in their quarters bolted out of their beds, and ran towards their designated stations. The station's defensive systems are then manned and activated before they rose out of the station's hull.

In less than two minutes, the door slid open and Colonel Frederick Arman, commanding officer of the orbital station, entered the command center. He looked around to see the bridge now fully manned. He reached for the holo-projector situated at the center of the circular room.

"Report."

"Unknown is still heading our way, Colonel." Rick reported as he monitored his sensor screen. "Still maintaining its course and speed."

"Did the ship's profile match anything in our database?" Frederick asked as he pulled out a visual feed of the unknown ship. One look at it is enough to make him raise an eyebrow.

It's a freaking junker. He thought as he continued looking at the feed. He then heard Rick's reply after running the ship's profile through the database.

"It doesn't match any known designs."

"Are you able to make a scan on this ship?"

"Only passive scans, Colonel. But from the looks of it, it's a real junker. Definitely not a hostile ship or capable of handling extended combat."

Frederick nodded in agreement. From the looks of it, this ship won't be causing much trouble. And being an unknown ship design makes this situation a first contact event.

"Contact the Magistracy, Trevor. Tell them we got a first contact situation."

"Affirmative, Colonel." Charles replied with a nod before contacting the Magistracy for the second time.

"Alright people. We got ourselves a first contact event here. We do this by the book." Frederick told them who nodded. He smiled at that as he proceeded to give the following orders. "Get the corvettes form a defensive wall between us and the unknown ship. Prepare our first contact package."


Quarian Cruiser Teraana

Bridge

"Captain, I'm picking heavy com traffic from the planet." Mari reported with a mixture of mild shock and surprise as they neared the planet.

"What!?" Tala nearly shouted with her eyes wide as plates. She was surprised to hear that there's someone in this system.

"I'm detecting several vessels heading our way." Veeron reported as he monitored the readings from his sensors. "Estimating them to be of frigate-type vessels. I'm also detecting seeing a large orbital platform behind them."

"Can you identify them?"

"Negative, Captain. I'm detecting a different transponder signal. Definitely not ours or any known Citadel signatures."

"Put them on the holo-projection." Tala ordered as she stood from the command chair and joined Kael at the holo-pedestal where it now showed several vessels forming a short wall before them. Behind them is a rather large circular station, wider than the Liveships, with four pairs of prongs around it. "Kael… Devor… Get the ship on combat ready. But don't target them just yet, this is a first contact situation."

"Already on it." Kael replied as he activated the intercom to alert the crew.

Devor nodded and proceeded to charge up their weapons at half-charge and have them pointed to the general direction of the unknown ships.

"Ades, ease us up to a full stop. Keep our distance." Tala commanded.

"Putting us at full stop." Ades said as he had the Teraana decelerate before stopping at twenty thousand liras from the frigate formation.

We should have anticipated about encountering an alien civilization here. Tala first thought as she watched the unknown ship formation and the large station behind them on the holo-projection. I do hope they aren't hostile. Because if they're not, we better warn the Fleet.

The standoff lasted for less than a minute before Veeron began receiving a signal to his console.

"Captain, I'm receiving a transmission from the station… It's a video file."

"Play it on the main screen." Tala ordered as she turned her head to the main screen by the front of the bridge.

Veeron nodded and inputted a few commands into his console. The main screen switched from the showing the ship formation to a fair-looking humanoid wearing a dark grey uniform. The thing that surprised them is that the humanoid looked quite similar to them without the gray skin tone and have different ears. Below him is a set of pictographs which began to move as he spoke.

"I am Frederick Arman." He then tapped himself, indicating his name. A pictograph of a humanoid tapping himself also moved accordingly. "I command this station." He pointed to markings on his left chest and then gestured the place around him. "Do you come in peace…?" He gestured to one set of pictographs showing two humanoid figures bowing to each other and shaking their hands. "or for conquest?" He then gestured to another set showing one of the figures armed with a blade and then stabbing the unarmed one. Yellow boxes, lightly flashing, then highlighted the two sets as they repeated their animations.

Tala, along with the others, didn't understand much of what seemed to be an officer except that he introduced himself. The flashing yellow boxes showed possibly their intentions are to the planet's inhabitants. The pictographs made it easy for them to choose with one showing two figures giving each other gestures of respect, and the other obviously about hostilities.

"Well that's very creative of them. Using animated pictographs as a means of first contact along with pre-recorded video." Kael remarked as the video replayed from the beginning.

"Then let's give them a reply before they decide that we're hostile." Tala replied with a nod. She then turned to Veeron, already ready to make a reply, and spoke. "Veeron, prepare a reply at the same format they used. Be sure to cut out that animation with two peaceful figures"

"Got it, Captain." Veeron replied with a nod.

Tala inputted commands into the pedestal which then showed a camera-like figure pointed at her. She the cleared her throat before speaking.

"I am Tala'Reem…"


[A/N]:

Here's the second chapter of Exiles of the Star (Version 2). I hope it was enjoyable for you readers. I also plan for a separate contact with the Citadel (not just turians) with the same human faction. But that's for later. Next would be about the initial meetings between Teraana and Patagonia, and the Migrant Fleet later on.

Leave comments and suggestion at the comments section, and PM me if you have some suggestion to use.