AN: You guys want something good, I'm going to have to work at it. Extending a one shot like this is going to be tough. I never had any intention until you guys went berserk and read my little story into the ground. So expect a slow chapter. I'll try to keep things faster later. But I have to build a bit first to make a proper story.

As always, Read and Review please.

Warning: Lots of OOC characters.


Dawnhammer

Chapter 2


Commander Sheppard watched as the three aliens debarked from their ship. By some accident of design, the quarantine bay they had hastily erected was dead across from the alien ships airlock. Sheppard had simply sealed the launch bay. Which was for the repair and maintenance of prowlers, a new idea by high-com. They wanted a ship that was cutting edge for battle, yet could deploy a small stealth vessel for infiltration. The bay itself was minimal entrance and exit design, making it a logical choice for the aliens ship. Not to mention the size. The alien ship practically squared away into the bay like it belonged there.

Behind Sheppard stood Lt. Pressly and Chief Engineer Adams, Dr. Chakwas the chief medical officer, along with a security team of 4 marines lead by SSgt Parker. A sheer mountain of a Norwegian.

"Astrid?" by her order the A.I. did not show itself but did speak to her quiet question. "All three are armed ma'am, and different species. All are wearing some form of body armor. The tall one in the middle," who was right now fiddling with a wrist mounted holographic device of some sort, "is using some sort of computer slash micro tool. I cant get much more from it."

Adams made the connection, "It's checking the atmosphere." Pressly looked concerned, and spoke in a quiet voice, "lets hope they breath oxygen."

Sheppard nodded, "Thank you Astrid. Gentlemen." she paused, "Staff Sergeant. No hostile movements, but keep ready." Sergeant Parker spoke an affirmative in his deep voice. "Yes ma'am."

OOOOO

"Atmo's good, fair to middlin oxy-nitro mix… it's fair, little lower oxygen then standard. No real contaminants or things that could hurt us. We can remove our hats Liara." By default with such an announcement, Garrus left out the tiny Quarian. "Tali, you confirm?" she hit her Omni-tool on the side and fiddled for a moment, Garrus assumed it had been damaged somehow recently, "Yes Specter. Looks good from here."

Garrus and Liara both removed their helmets, then turned towards the walls of the massive launch bay. He immediately noticed something.

"Alright, seems we have a welcoming committee…" his words trailed off as something weird registered finally on his brain.

Two looked like really pale pink Asari.

OOOOO

Sheppard tried to maintain her calm as Astrid whispered the relevant data. "She stands about the same height as you commander. Body mass is approximately 80% human norm. Quick medical scans indicate the exact same number of bones and their placement is the same as the human body, but slightly smaller at a guess. I have no other information commander." the good doctor seemed to be having a near meltdown.

Jane felt the same way. Blue skinned hairless human. That was all she had right now, in her shock.

And if she was reading their stances right. (at least she hoped). The reverse was true for the aliens vs. them.

The larger skinny one looked like an elite, but human sized and (somewhat) shaped. Knees worked the same way as a humans. vs. the multi joint system the Elites used. The smallish alien, who remained fully encased in (her? The small bumps in front seemed to indicate female) suit. Walked with a denigrated stance.

And that blue woman walked with a light grace that seemed to flow naturally, like a high society woman from earth.

By their position the near Elite was in charge, and as he approached Sheppard reached out and tapped the hastily erected shield, making it flare from its invisible state.

OOOOO

Now that was interesting, internal containment fields. Garrus stopped about an arm length away from the invisible barrier. He watched as one of the different species, who looked very similar to the pink Asari, but slightly bulkier and with grey head fur. Maybe it was a variant of the krogan sized armored one in the back. Were they related somehow? The grey furred semi/asari (?) tapped and fiddled with the holopanel in front of it. It then spoke, it's attention on the Pink Asari, It's voice similar, but a lot deeper then what an asari's was. They must use the same vocal patterns Garrus realized.

The pink skinned, red furred asari nodded in response, never taking her eyes off him, which flashed a lovely shade that he had no words for. Then she spoke, her voice almost exactly matching the timbre of an Asari. Save that it was a few points lower on the scale.

OOOOO

"I think we're good commander."

"Doctor?" Jane's voice seemed to snap the doctor out of her trance and into action. Her medical scanners reaching out and giving them a much better resolution scan then the standard ones mounted throughout the ship. It only took her a few short moments. "I think we are safe commander, as long as everyone does the usual decon procedures."

Shepard nodded, then reached out and deactivated the field. She waited for it to fizzle with a pop. Then she took one step forward into the bay. Bringing herself face to mandible with the near elite.

OOOOO

These near Asari were smart, and not just in their shipbuilding. They had just scanned his little group, and Garrus was impressed with their decisive decision. It was common enough knowledge in most council space that first contact was a safe routine medically (though some had to remain suited outside of their home environs). The various microbes and other bugs wouldn't have had time to adapt yet, 'Give it a hundred years though,' Garrus shuddered mentally at the thought. 'And that's why we have decon procedures on every ship, at the snarcing airlock.'

His attention though was once again brought back to the near Asari.

From what he could see this red furred one was armed and walked with a stance he saw on those who fought in a lot of ground combat. The other grey furred pink asari however was a scientist through and through. She fidgeted and gawked.

It was the other aliens though that had Garrus on edge. And told of the importance of the one in front of him.

They got nervous, and all of them had their attention on him. Stances shifted and weapons, (well he assumed they were weapons, he wasn't about to test that theory though, but if it looks like a gun and is held like a gun…) were held in tighter grips.

He spoke quietly to the two behind him as this red furred near Asari stopped within arms reach. "Don't do anything sudden. The ones in back are about ready to shoot me." a pair of nervous agreements came up. But were totally trusting in him.

Spirits above how did he earn such trust.

OOOOO

The buzzing command and two acknowledgments were easy enough to follow. Jane didn't even have to look in order to give the command. "Sergeant, gentlemen. Relax. That's an order." a slight rustling reached her ears as the men shifted stance.

She would not have a Harvest on her hands. Technically she shouldn't even be here. A diplomatic team should be handling this. But with a recent battle, a light frigate that looked like it was ready to fall apart if you sneezed hard on it, and now a set of three widely different aliens on her deck. Jane was in the spotlight.

She indicated herself, "Commander Jane Sheppard."

The alien got the idea, and indicated himself, before buzzing a multi-phrase word set. Sheppard hoped it was it's name

And with the unusual first contact greetings over she simply saluted the alien.

Who returned with an arm across his chest, hand open to tap the breast plate twice.

Jane brought up her holopad and began using a pictogram set to explain what was going to happen. These had been designed by the finest minds on earth to relay concepts and ideas. The near elite had his tool out in seconds and relayed a similar set of images afterwards.

This was going to be a long day. But productive.

OOOOO

Five hours later had her on the holo with Admiral Hackett. "Sir I've forwarded all the data to Helena for you. Astrid is having a tough time building a translation matrix, so no real words were exchanged today. The aliens seem content to stay in their ship for now. Though it seems they are in desperate need of repairs. Your orders sir?"

"Hold for now. I've been in contact with earth-com. New orders should come down soon. Good job Commander."

OOOOO

Another hour after that had her in medical. "How's our Captain, doctor?" the good doctor smiled lightly at Jane before speaking, "Alert commander, he's just woken up, and I gave him the bad news, I hope you have some good news for him?" "In a way."

Jane walked into the medical wings recuperation room. When Anderson had been thrown by that first impact, he had landed hard. His neck had been broken in four places, shearing his spinal cord. Thankfully that wasn't the death sentence it would have been even a twenty years ago. With neural regeneration tech it would be a year before he walked properly again, shorter to actually move, all the injury had done was add time to the healing process.

She found him lying in alert in the recovery bed. His eyes tracked in on her. "Jane! Good to see you. How are our new guests?" "Interesting sir, have you reviewed the video?" "Yes, I have. This big armored one. It's in charge?" "Yes sir, though don't ask me to pronounce his name." a chuckle came out of the captain, "I wont then."

He changed the subject. "How's the Dawnhammer?"

The commanders face went hard, and began her report "Sir, We have sustained damage to the forward.." an alert ping came in, silencing the commander as Astrid's voice interrupted them. "Captain? Commander? New orders in from Earth. expedite."

The African looked at Jane standing next to the bed "Astrid. I Captain David Anderson do hereby relieve myself of duty for medical reasons, and transfer command of the UNSC Dawnhammer to my second in command, commander Jane Sheppard, until I am declared medically fit or am returned to duty by higher orders." he paused for a moment, and saw the stiff stance of his first officer. "Jane she's all yours, try to return her in one piece. I don't want to have to explain another lost ship." the inside joke brought a smirk to Jane's face, and caused her to relax a bit, "That only happened once sir." she saluted the captain, then turned to carry out whatever orders earthcom had cooked up.

OOOOO

The new orders came from the top. The very top. Lord Admiral Terrance Hood kind of top.

Expedite: Return to Earth, disregard Cole Protocol, all speed.

With all that had happened just recently Shepard was very nervous about things. She had contacted Hackett, who verified the orders very reluctantly. There were reasons the Cole protocol was in place. Good reasons. Granted, she had violated them already, but it was that or watch the ship as it went dark. And from their sensor readings… and now detailed scans… they wouldn't have lasted long. That small scout frigate would have died a slow painful death. And the Dawnhammer's new guests with it.

Standing behind the helm she gave the order. "Earthcom. micro jump."

Astrid popped up on her avatar pedestal. "Aye commander. Generators ready. Drive ready. Calculating… have to compensate for the artifacts gravity pulses. Hmm, that might be why Admiral Hackett landed so far out. Calculations complete. Ready Mr. Moreau." "Aye ma'am. Ready on your word commander."

"Jump."

OOOOO

Garrus knew Tali as fairly excitable. But whatever system of movement these pink Asari used had thrown her into a whirlwinds of astro-science. If it wasn't for his own technical background she would have lost him in the first five words. As it was he got to twenty.

"Okay… let me put this in terms I think I understand. They used a massive electro gravitic pulse…"

"Right!" "followed by a shift in light-matter conversion…" "yes! Then using some form of decaying micro dark matter pulses, jumped the ship! We are now nearly 30 million kilometers from the sun! We used to be more then thirty standard AU from it! And its on the other side of us!" that was pretty clear. The secondary backup generator (tiny at best) had finally been repaired by the suited Quarian. Giving them just enough power to run the bare essentials and little else. When they were in the process of turning off the nav sensors they had found the discrepancy. As the "jump" had taken place right after they had come back online.

One thing about uncontrolled shutdowns… they never shut things off completely sometimes.

But in this case Garrus was going to let it slide.

"A jump drive…" "That doesn't require a mass relay."

No Garrus wasn't going to begrudge the shutdown.

OOOOO

When Liara had rebooted the nav system at Garrus's request, she had figured out something. The readings indicated multiple planets. But the jump across the system had given them a huge cross range to work with. There were eight or eleven planets, (depending on your definition of planet) and they had just cozied up to the third one. They were now just passing its massive moon, and on course with what appered to be a set of stations in orbit around the planet. Readings were fuzzier then a Jakaw. The only way they knew they were stations was the massive planer polarized gravitic fields around them, against the backdrop of the planets point spherical field.

The thing was… this wasn't the garden world they had seen on scanners. So maybe the inner planet had better facilities? Solar power would most certainly be more readily available.

Garrus agreed with that sentiment. These near Asari seemed to take a very direct route in both engineering and thinking. The two were huddling over the scanner station discussing theories when a crewmember placed to watch the door so to speak entered.

Apparently the near Asari wished to talk again.

OOOOO

Garrus stared out the window in a state that could only be described as awe. The largish observation bay window giving a great view. And screwing with what remained of his sanity.

Item one: There were two garden worlds in this system. He had "asked" via the pictogram tools, and received the answer. For a very long time, these near Asari had been planting the forth world. Garden world was indeed an appropriate term. As this one was far more heavily populated going by the lights of the dark side.

Item two: Was the impossibility hanging in orbit in front of him. A massive station, with only one purpose. The entire damn thing was a mass driver of incredible size. Anchored by a large ring, the tower shape served no other purpose. In fact it would hinder the motion of the station. And a short distance away he could see another one! And even farther, a half completed version…

And this ship itself, this dreadnought, which he had thought was so powerful, was dwarfed by one about two to three times it size. Flying in escort, along with several other gargantuan ships.

And it seemed to be their destination, this massive structure.

Which had another version of these near asari dreadnaughts docked to it. And it was dwarfed by the sheer… size… of… the…

OOOOO

Sheppard watched for what little she could see with the near elite. He (assigned for convenience, she had no clue what sex the alien was) seemed… stunned for lack of better words.

She hoped the cabal of A.I.'s here at Earth would be good enough to decipher their language. She had forbidden Astrid from trying to hack the aliens computers. Of course being an AI….

Well, it would have been successful. If it wasn't for the decentralization of their computers. Nothing was connected to the main comm. Nothing was connected anywhere. Even the tool the creature carried was silent. Granted storage must be limited. Astrid was confounded to no end. Served the A.I. right.

But then came the wham line.

Astrid had gone over the battles data. And the usual hacks had been attempted. Standard stuff. Nothing she couldn't handle.

All of it had come from the big ship. Nothing from the small one. Two and two made four. They had made a ship un-hackable in the most direct yet subtle way possible. Of course the small ship now nestled in their bay had been designed for stealth too. Astrid had run multiple simulations, and it would have held up well even to human standards. Able to loiter close enough to do some serious elint work. But to make the ship silent like that… it didn't make sense.

Humanity though had a few tricks waiting up their sleeves, at least for anything trying to stealth it nowadays. Covenant infiltration ships had finally been made by their gravimetric signatures late in the war. The results were about 50-50 or a little better, but that was better then the near zero percent from before. Even humanities own prowlers could be detected this way, with a slightly lower chance. Hostile hacking was taken care of through buffer systems with heavy encryption gear for those ships without an A.I.

Sheppard was also absolutely certain they could detect such a ship at close range. And Astrid was just about certain they could find it at longer range visually too. One reason the prowlers had always been painted black.

Who thought bright purple was a good color for a stealth ship?

At least some answers would hopefully come from the bits and pieces of the larger ship.

And maybe this stunned looking near Elite had some answers as well.

Sheppard hoped, because Earth was one step away from all out war if the call-up was to be believed.

OOOOO

WE are ready.

Begin reconnaissance. The calculations are in your favor.

The calculations may be flawed. We find your attempted assurance squared and cubed.

The calculations were made in perfection. Accept the inevitable.

Beginning reconnaissance. Our victory is assured.

OOOOO

Hackett stared out the window of his command ship, the Battlecruiser Everest. The Navel Intelligence branch had finally arrived, and were sifting through the site. The lights of the ships drive systems flickering in and out of view. Taking every piece of that unknown squidship they could find and shuttling it back to Mars.

He still didn't trust the rat bastards though, never have and never will. The Paragonsky thing was just the head of the systematic issues from giving a group dedicated to secrets too much power. Yes, you do need to fight back. But any war should be conducted in the open. Not behind a cloak of lies and deceit.

Hackett was convinced the Covenant war would have gone better as well if they hadn't farted around dumping countless resources into ground forces. Battles that had been won on the ground had invariably been lost in the sky. It didn't matter if the ground was held at that point.

He shook himself mentaly, no sense in hindsight. Now he watched as those shifty ONI bastards combed the area. As much as he hated to admit they had the expertise to put things back together. Whether or not they had been responsible for some shady dealings.

But that didn't mean he wouldn't keep a hawks eye on them.

Hackett turned back to the replay of the Dawnhammer's battle. Trying to learn everything he could. Know thy enemy, study him, know him better then you know yourself. Sun Tzu still applied, and those liquid metal projectiles gave him the shivers. Dawnhammer was a prototype test bed. The first true shielded human ship. And she had been pounded by the squidships weapons.

No other ship in the fleet had shields that would help, save a few with early gravimetric screens (which were useless against plasma weapons, though they might help with the crazy gun). On the plus side, Mac cannons had nearly all the upgrades that had been applied to the Dawnhammer, mostly due to the better control systems which were easier to install. Just a matter of switching the superconducting coil timing systems out. Providing a major increase in efficiency for relatively little effort. Mass also seemed to be on the human side, if he read the differential weight readings correctly. The squid ship outweighed a human vessel of comparable size. Armor was some super dense material that had the engineers buzzing, not to mention their shields operated off a different theory altogether.

"Admiral?"

Hackett turned away to focus on the young lieutenant dressed smartly in the black of ONI. Another thing he had recommended to Hood that'd be changed. No need for them to have different uniforms. "Yes lieutenant?"

"Preliminary survey is complete sir. You will want to read this." she handed over a data pad which he began to scan through as he picked up his coffee.

It got halfway to his lips, then reversed course and was set back down.

OOOOO

Sheppard saluted then stood at attention. she had been immediately called in for debriefing, forcing her to leave Pressley in charge for now.

Five people sat behind a half moon desk made of titanium-3. Its top surface a polished black glass. Multiple holo-projectors throughout the room could display anything anywhere around her. Currently dark.

The only light was the soft blue from a number of small reference lights for zero gee orientation.

"Commander, we have reviewed your report." the deep rough voice of the man in the center, dressed impeccably in his white uniform, rolled through the dark room. "We have a few questions for you." Sheppard didn't move or speak. The military protocol was specific on that, and she was in deep. Deeper then Akuze if her instincts were anything to go by.

A young man dressed in the black of ONI leaned forward, Commanders insignia glinted on his lapels. He was of average height and sported brown hair neatly combed into place, "Commander, you said that the first shot disabled your shields correct?" "Yes sir." "How? Are they not supposed to handle that sort of impact?"

Sheppard thought back through her conversations with engineer Adams. "Commander, while testing the shields in initial phases they held up to even greater impacts in megatons then what hit the Dawnhammer. However those impacts were at much slower velocities with larger masses. Engineer Adams reported to me that the buffer systems to absorb and dissipate such a shock were overloaded." Jane looked to a corner projector. "Shield schematic number 528-23-Bravo please." one of the multiple A.I.'s pulled the buffer system up. "The buffer system is supposed to be capable of handling the impact, but our systems to handle the kinetic shock were overloaded. Zoom section 12." one of the cutouts was magnified "Thank you. The incoming shock spike blew out here. This subsystem was overloaded. The impulse too sharp by 30% This threw engineer Adams a curveball. As he was one of the men who helped integrate the system."

"Why did this happen commander? Wasn't this particular system taken directly from the Covenant? Thier shield had handled many of our best weapons." this from a white coated female admiral from Alpha Centauri.

Sheppard nodded, "It was. Though it is an older system with many drawbacks apparently. Though engeneer Adams has given several ideas on how to improve our systems."

Shepard called for several simple schematics, "The capacitance of covenant shield systems over time was our first clue, during the war we noticed a five fold increase in effective resistance of their shields. This was due to their retuning of their shields to projectile weapons. But later on we found this on Akuze. Captured covenant vessel bravo please, section…"

"Stop!" the ONI commander was red in the face, and halfway out of his chair, "How do you know that commander?!"

Jane gave him a flat look. Then looked to the Lord Admiral who spoke in a very quiet voice. "Commander Sheppard had been on Akuze when it fell, Commander Haddock. She was the only survivor besides Spartan 212. They were the ones to capture that ship. That's why she's is cleared N7 by me personally."


AN: Cliffhanger?! Oh man Ace what are you doing? "well… they kinda threw me for a loop when they liked the story. I am now scrambling like a wet cat to put together something halfway decent." what about space battles? "and ground battles and this and that and lore tuning… I'm working on it!" (ace goes and hides in corner with computer. Typing madly.)