Heavy spoilers for Lost Fleet update ahead! Unless you completed it OR aren't bothered by spoiling the update, DON'T OPEN THE SPOILER.
-Don't you see? That's Coalition markings! COALITION HAS FOUND US!
Inside the cockpit of the Stranger, I mentally braced for the flash of blinding light as the Ion Cannons turn my beloved spaceship and me along with it into a rapidly expanding cloud of atoms, ions and sub-atomic particles.
Okay, the Emergency Warp Drive could potentially get me out of here, but I don't really trust that certain piece of technology. These aren't given to the Fighter Corps and Navy grunts for a reason, after all. While I was ultimately expendable, the intel I am expected to obtain during my travels is not, so the main point of EWD installed in my ship is to bring the Stranger back to base intact. My own survival is just a random bonus.
Well, looks like this is it. I have finally found my end in the deep reaches of space.
Dammit, get those Ion Cannons firing already. Don't drag a cat by its tail, fire. DO IT FA...
-Stand down! Open fire only in self-defense! - the first fighter pilot said. I rolled my eyes and sighed in relief.
-The IFF code doesn't belong to the Coalition - the third pilot of the "welcoming group" joined in. Of course those aren't Coalition IFF codes. Normally Stranger transmits IFF codes of Ageira Technologies, one of Siriusian corporations. Makes it much easier to not get gawked at in space by the passerbys. Of course, I still do get gawked in space by the passerbys since, well, Stranger is still a Coalition-made ship and still bears the red star markings.
I had been offered to repaint Stranger several times in the past. Each time, I insisted that the red stars should stay.
-Unknown ship. This is Marine Nationale patrol, Lieutenant-de-vaisseau Sorette. Identify yourself and state your intentions - the first fighter pilot said into the commlink.
-Coalition Intelligence Directorate. My callsign is Ajay. My intentions were to explore this area of space - I said. - The hostilities between Eastern Coalition and Western Alliance have ceased due to the Earth Peace treaty.
-We know nothing of the treaty you speak of. We lost contact with other human factions ever since we appeared here - Sorette said. - Why should we believe you?
I let out a small laugh.
-Heh heh heh, for the life of me, I can't think of any reason why would you believe me - I said. - I could have pointed out that I wouldn't be alone if it was an actual search-and-destroy mission. I could have cloaked up and escaped to warn my fellows if I stumbled upon you and the Coalition still had the intent to continue hostilities. But if you really don't want to believe me, then you would just say that I'm going to infiltrate your space. I can understand why you wouldn't believe me, I know how that war started - I added. I also knew why that war started, but at this moment this was irrelevant.
-Blast me off the face of the universe, demand me to leave, it's up to you - I concluded. - But I have one more thing to tell you.
-Speak up, Coalitioner - the MN patrol leader said.
-Considering whom have I met on my way along that spatial freak show you have passing as a front yard, a lone and relatively harmless Coalition scout is the least of your problems - I coldly said.
-Are you speaking about the unknown alien lifeforms encountered in this area of space?
-Yes - I said. - Both the Coalition and Alliance had their own experience with them.
There was a pause.
-Coalition pilot, we will have to apprehend you. The command wants to learn more about these aliens. We guarantee that no harm will be done to you if you won't resist.
I shrugged and entered formation with the patrol.
-So this is how you Coalitioners ended up looking like - the young woman sitting at the table pointed at the chair opposite of her. On the table rested, among other things, my holster containing my pistol, my thermal flask and my bag with my portable sensor suite. - I am Arles Station's intelligence liason, Aspirant Amelie Lacroix. Take a seat.
I calmly walked up to the table and seated myself. After I landed on Arles Station and exited my ship, I got scanned for various items. The only two metallic things I was allowed to keep on myself were my belt buckle and my jacket's buttons, rank pins and a Coalition insignia. Not quite the wisest decision, actually. I once saw Lieutenant Makarov, one of Black Guard volunteers aboard DS17, practicising throwing that Coalition insignia like a shuriken. He explained that all Black Guard Eliminators sharpen the edges of that insignia.
After that, I was led through some corridors and towards this room. It reminded me a bit about Canteen's office aboard Coalition HQ. Not so big, rather neat and spartan. Contrasting my poorly maintained, dusty, filled with emply soda bottles room aboard DS17.
Hey, when I'll get back, I'll totally do a clean-up. If I'll get back.
I was really worried at this point, but not for myself. Whatever those assholes are doing to the Stranger now?
-So, among your belongings you had on yourself when you stepped off your ship, here are your pistol, your thermal flask and your personal surveillance suite - the girl spoke again, snapping me out of my stupor. - You will have them returned to you when we will determine you trustworthy. So... You spoke of the aliens that they are a bigger deal than you.
-Well... - I shrugged. - They are the reason why this peace treaty was signed. They are the reason why Coalition didn't enjoy its victory for long.
-We tried to contact them. They reacted with attacking everything that moves. Not unlike the Coalition Black Guard from the stories - she remarked, and I barelly supressed a chuckle. - We still don't know who they are or what do they want - she finished.
-Well, we call them Nomads. They are... essentially, they are an artificial slave race created by an alien empire of Dom'Kavash. They are hardcoded to watch over the galaxy and eliminate other races that get way too nosy. In short, they are biological defense system which is programmed to want every single one of us dead - I summarized. - By any means necessary.
My female colleauge from the Renaissance - as I have learned the French faction was called - appeared shocked as I kept on.
-The more important, what I have seen in Luyten and Epsilon Indi were one of the weakest types of Nomad ships. They can deploy much more powerful ships. And if that isn't enough, they are capable to bring civilizations down from inside. They are capable of infecting and controlling humans. The process ain't pretty, so take my word for it. The assholes are intelligent enough for that.
This time I chuckled, looking at my vis-a-vis's face. Yeah miss, if you thought you're safe from shock content when you're just sitting in a nice room inside a nice station managing or writing reports, then you haven't been paying attention!
And that is just a tip of the iceberg. If I'd have to tell about Ancients, the Dom'Kavash, the other Great Doms and about what is going on in the Inner Core, the girl's mind would probably have exploded.
She tugged at the collar of her uniform nervously, no doubt to try and compose herself.
-The wider situation with the Nomads is slightly more complicated - I added. - But as far as you guys are concerned, the situation is this.
-And it checks out - she confirmed. - My fellows have reported of similar incidents. We have maintained secrecy of this... Now. We have been isolated from the rest of the mankind since our sleepership was launched. You mentioned that Western Alliance is still out there?
-They got fractured along the way - I nodded. - They currently control Sirius sector, and managed to reclaim Sol System after the Nomads forced us to evacuate as well - I motioned to the Coalition insignia on my own jacket. - Sick irony, huh?
-Now, something I should have started with - she adopted a stern tone which just screamed "Ajay I am one thousand percent done with your crap". - Who are you and what are you doing here?
-Ivan K██████. Starshyi Leitenant of Eastern Coalition Intelligence Directorate. My primary duties are reconaissance, deep space exploration and basic intelligence analysis. And also something I should have started with.
the Renaissance Intelligence girl raised her eyebrow and I nodded in the direction of my bag.
-My sensor suite contains a subspace communications module. It is currently attached to a microphone and is locked in a transmission mode - I say with a grin on my face. - It's been livestreaming our little talk to my boss and to the Coalition servers. So now it's pointless for you guys to kill me. The dead men might tell no tales, but I have already told mine.
If looks could kill, I'd be dead infinity times over. Like, the hatred in that gal's slare was even more intense than in that of my own reflection in a mirror.
-But as I said, the Coalition no longer seeks hostility towards the Western Alliance - I continue. - Besides, we ended up far enough from this place. Sorry for the bug, but I'm one cautious asshole.
-Yes, I have just recieved the confirmation. There is outgoing subspace traffic in this room - she said. - I've told my boss to punt this upstairs so we can look forward to establishing diplomatic connections. If your boss is listening, let that be a signal for him that he's gotta do the same.
-I'll message him in case he didn't get the hint - I reassured. - So. should I leave this area of space?
-Actually... - Aspirant Lacroix said. - We have discovered a strange structure in our space. We suppose it belongs to the Nomads. My boss wants to meet you on Strasbourg Station in Burgundy System. The jumpgate is one tradelane away from here, then go along the trade lanes. Monsieur Lebelle awaits for you in the bar, he has the details on this.
She put her elbows on the table and supported her chin,
-You can leave if you want, but... If what you say is right, if the Nomads are such a dire threat that Coalition and Alliance were forced into a ceasefire to oppose them, then this is important for the mankind as a whole...
-I understand. I'll head to Strasbourg Station as soon as I'll make sure nobody tampered with my ship.
-Oh come on, surely we have some standarts regarding hospitality? - Amelie asked, mocking offense.
-My ship is the most important thing in this flakking world to me. I'm not willing to take chances - I spoke quietly and left.
Thankfully, my ship was not tampered with as I ran extended scans of my ship. A wing of Renaissance fighters met me on the other side.
-Coalition pilot, we have been ordered to escort you to the Strasbourg Station - the leader, whom I recognised as Sorette, contacted me.
-Copy that - I replied.
The flight was pretty much uneventful as we passed other Rennaisance ships. I've been quietly taking notes of most things I saw, such as the ship types of the passerbys. I managed to record three types of fighters, a battleship type and a transport type.
Hey, I am Intelligence. Being a nosy little asshole was my job.
I landed on the Strasbourg Station, left the ship and was met by a security guard.
-You are Ajay? - he asked. - Monsieur Lebelle is waiting for you in the bar. Follow me.
-So it were you who scared Amelie out of her wits - the man who introduced himself as Jacques Lebelle from Marine Nationale Military Intelligence, motined at the seat near the table opposite of him. - take a seat.
-Thanks - I said and sat down. - So you say that you have something for me to take a look at? Why won't you send someone of your own guys?
-We don't know what exactly it is. But you... If you claim to be familiar with these... Nomads, then perhaps you can determine what it is?
He activaned a small portable holoscreen he held in his hands. on it, the map of Burgundy System appeared.
-This is the gate to Procyon system, that is where the unknown alien structure is. We need intel on this installation. If you will agree on this operation, I'll keep in touch as a tactical operator.
I shrugged. Really, that didn't sound so bad...
So here I was, in Procyon system, flying towards the waypoint Lebelle set for me.
Once I saw what exactly was at the waypoint, I simply groaned.
-Well, you guys are sooooo flakked - I finally said.
-So what is it? - Lebelle asked as I started avoiding fire of the Nomad Hive I've gotten too close to.
-A full Nomad Outpost - I said. - Aaand... a wing of Nomad bombers. Yep, you guys are flakked. Wait, I'm picking up something else - I said, turning away from the aforementioned Nomad bombers and towards the unknown object. - It's a Nomad Gate... Doesn't seem to be active. Perhaps it is incomplete...
-And we are doomed if it becomes complete?
-Perhaps not? - I wondered. - It is going to be an unpleasant neighbourship that's for sure, but... In the worst case scenario, I don't think your old Alliance buddies will refuse to bail you out. They have that one organisation called The Order which is, supposedly, working to fight the alien threats on behalf of the Mankind as a whole - I shrugged.
Of course I said "supposedly". What I discovered couple of years earlier still influenced my opinion on The Order, but... hey, they wouldn't be that flakking heartless to abandon all these people? If I got here then so can anyone.
I also wondered if I can get other people interested in helping these guys, some of my other regular Sirius contacts...
Wait wait wait a second, since when do I care?..
...Since I found out that the Renaissance is pretty much in the same situation as the Coalition.
Besides, Nomads - any hostile aliens period, perhaps excluding Ancients and even then as long as their drones haven't grown beyond their programming to begin expansion - are a threat that shouldn't be ignored and is best dealt with together.
Finally, regardless of all the numerous abhorrent qualities I possess (or claim to possess), I am not that flakking heartless either.
I think so, at least.
-If what you say is true, then I don't think they won't at least try to help us - Lebelle said. - Could you fly around the system? We need to at least approximate how well the Nomads patrol the system. Then try to approach the Outpost itself. I have no authority over you, but this intel might be crucial to our survival. And it might improve the image of the Coalition as a whole for us.
Again, I shrugged and said the same thing that got me into this in the first place.
-Why the flak not?
-Welcome back, Senior Lieutenant - Lebelle greeted me as I parked the Stranger on Strassbourg station and disembarked. A man in the Order uniform stood behind him. - I think it is the time to come clean. You see... I withheld the part of our background that we have already established contact with the Alliance, and the Order. So when Amelie informed me of you, I decided to test if what you say is true, and contacted my Order liason. As well as test the Order liason in question as well. Meet First Lieutenant Brown of the Order Military Intelligence.
-And you must be Ajay - the Order officer said and sighed. - I knew Colonel Zane granting you and your nosy boss access to Epsilon Eridani was going to be a big deal.
Tzeentch flakking damn it, they played me like a fiddle.
TO BE CONTINUED (hopefully).
1) It's because my actual char has Ageira affiliation which I never bothered to change.
2) Name and rank taken from World of Warships.
Okay, I'm back.
To clarify, as well as most entries of Ajay's Story 2.0 this takes part after Edison Trent's first return to Inner Core but before the last Crossfire mission, so naturally the Lost Fleet mission already happened and Edison Trent established contact with Rennaisance.
I don't know what is going to happen in further update(s), so I'm just running with assumption that while The Order is working together with Rennaisance, the majority of Rennaisance still believe they are isolated (and therefore don't know of the peace treaty) and the majority of ex-Alliance still don't know that Rennaisance exists. Hence why when Blackstar gets released, I might just delete this whole thing and retcon the events of this chapter out. I might delete this because I'm having second thoughts on this either anyway...
I'm still awaiting for the further extra CF content so I'll have something to wrap this up.
LATE P.S. The reference to Overwatch's Widowmaker was not intentional.
I originally planned to release it after the Lost Fleet was wrapped up, but quoth Grom Hellscream, I could wait no longer as this draft was burning a hole on my HDD.