JULY 5

Area 51, Nevada

"So, what happens now?" asked President Whitmore, the ice cubes in his half empty celebratory glass of scotch rattling gently. Behind him the brightly lit hanger showed celebrations by the scientists and civilians that had been let onto the base.

"Now?" asked Shepard. "Well, today we celebrate our survival. In nine months we begin to recover from the massive loss of life. Over the next decade we begin to integrate Acrid technology with Earth's, and eventually, the Galaxy is our oyster."

"I meant with the aliens," said Whitmore. "You convinced me to let you save them, even brought representatives down to formally surrender, but now they're all up there, and we're down here."

"Ah, you mean, what do I plan to do with them?" asked Shepard.

"You called yourself the Emperor," said Whitmore. "Now, you've orchestrated the surrender of the aliens, and I noticed how they were deferring to you, and not just because you were the translator."

"I might have suggested that they let me act as an intermediary with Earth in a more permanent capacity," said Shepard with a sly grin.

"So, Emperor Shepard, where are you going to set up your Empire, and have I just traded one enemy for another?" asked Whitmore.

"Mars," said Winona, the third and final person in the dimly lit room. "It's the closest thing this solar system has to a second habitable planet. Get a thicker atmosphere, and it'll even get warm enough for liquid water most of the time. Throw in a couple of comets, and all you'd need is an active core to have a real habitable planet."

"Sounds ambitious," said Whitmore, before taking another sip of his scotch. "And what about you, Professor Black?"

"Well, as I said, I'm the duly appointed ambassador to the Aliens from Magical Britain and the ICW. Plus, I'll still have my duties as a Professor and mother," she said.

"And I thought your brother was ambitious. Ambassador, Professor, and Mother, you've set goals for yourself."

"Shepards are ambitious, Mr. President," said Shepard. "Of course, now that the crisis is over, she'll likely lose her status as ambassador, especially since I'm effectively the Emperor of Mars, conflict of interest and all, though instead she'll be a Princess of Mars."

"Sirius'll appreciate the already established uniform, but I doubt I'd where it outside of the bedroom," said Winona with a smirk.

"Uniform?" asked Whitmore. "Is this another cross-dimensional cultural reference?"

"They made a 'John Carter of Mars' movie a decade or so from now in our old universe," clarified Shepard. "Which reminds me, we need to check out Mars to make sure our alien space bat friend didn't throw another curve ball at us."

"Alien space bat?" asked Whitmore.

"Generic term for the near omniscient being that brought us from our world to yours," explained Winona. "If you'll remember, this invasion was his doing, since it was a movie in our world. Now that it's over, what will be the next curve ball he throws at us for his entertainment?"

"Perhaps it would be best to explore all the planets," suggest Whitmore. "Perhaps once we've reverse engineered the Acrid technology enough, mankind can explore our solar system."

"Well, it shouldn't be that long," offered Shepard. "Heck, I'll even give you a Troop Transport or two to help. I mean, if I wasn't stuck building a multi-species Empire on Mars from quite literally the ground up, I'd be out there in the Black, exploring the planets myself."

"Didn't you say you went to Venus?" asked Whitmore. "Can't you just teleport to the other planets?"

"At it's closest, Venus is twice as close as Mars at its closest, and even at it's most distant, Venus is still closer than the average distance between Mars and Earth. Plus, when I went to Venus, it was just barely past its closest approach, which is why it was even an option in the first place. The Moon, that's easy, even some of the Near Earth Asteroids I can do, but even at its closest, Venus is nearly a third closer to the Sun than the Earth is."

"Remember, Mr. President, space is big," reminded Winona. "Plus, I'm pretty sure he wanted to wait until he could do it publicly. Venus was about doing a job, getting something done, taking care of business. Exploring the planets? That's about making history."