Freelancer is a trademark of Microsoft; no infringement is intended. The story begins in May, 808 AS, approximately eight years after the events of the game Freelancer.
Harris System, Border Worlds:
Captain Mike Arnold decided he hated boredom. And this is definitely boring. We've made six runs to Harris in the past two months, and they don't pay me well enough to keep coming back. "Leeds Jump Gate cleared," he hollered to his crew. "Initiating tradelane sequence." His ship, the Osla, was hauling Alien Organisms, Terraforming Gases, Oxygen, and other assorted garbage to Harris. I'm glad I'm not the captain of the other ship, at any rate.
Just off port, another ship called the Alice was carrying Toxic Wastes to the Planetform Station, in order to mutate the organisms to Harris's environment. Arnold had been with it for the past two months, carrying the same cargo, over and over. He looked at Harris up ahead. Looks habitable to me, he thought out of spite, and not for the first time. The Alice dropped out of the trade lane a little bit ahead of the Osla. Arnold sighed as he thought of yet another Gaian attack, but realized that they were at the end of the tradelane.
"All right, set a course –"
"Sir, something is wrong," said his helm officer as he repeated a few comands. "We're not dropping out of the tradelane."
"What?" Arnold exclaimed, turning sharply to the officer. "Why not?"
"I don't know!" he replied as he frantically tried to get the controls to respond.
"Abort trade lane!" ordered Arnold.
"I can't!" said the helmsman as he slammed his fist into the helm consol. "The tradelane isn't responding!"
Arnold knew this was bad. They were moving at superluminal velocities towards Harris. If they couldn't drop out of the tradelane… He didn't want to think of the explosion it would cause; it would vaporize nearly everything around Harris, including his ship and possibly the planet itself. He knew that nothing could be done, though; the tradelane was controlled remotely. Harris now loomed in front of him. So this is what Death looks like, he thought bitterly. A giant bleak rock.
On the bridge of the Alice, Captain Jake Renolds knew what was happening. Even as he was launched out of his chair he didn't need to be told what had happened. His comm. officer, though, told him anyway.
"Sir, the Olsa didn't drop out of the tradelane; they've hit the planet!"
"No shit!" yelled Renolds as he pulled himself up. Traveling at superluminal speeds, the transport had hit Harris with more force than a million Sunslayer missiles. The explosion it had created was huge; it engulfed the all of Harris, though it didn't seem to damage it, and still it grew. It broke free of the atmosphere and overcame the Planetform Station, vaporizing it instantly, and still it kept coming. It made it nearly to the first tradelane ring before dissipating. Unfortunately, a shockwave of debris propelled by the explosion was quickly approaching. "Brace for impact!" he yelled as he tried to grab his chair.
The shockwave hit the Alice dead on. She was tossed back thousands of kilometers, miraculously not hitting any asteroids. On board, Renolds was thrown across the bridge, landed head first, and faded into unconsciousness.
Planet Manhattan, New York System:
"Our patrols have indicated that the Rogue base was completely destroyed," said the man sitting at the bar. "I'll have the credits relayed into your account. Well done, Mr. Trent."
Edison Trent simply acknowledged his most recent employer with a simple nod before turning to the bar. "Liberty Ale, on the rocks" he said to the barwoman, who quickly served him his drink. At last, a successful mission. Maybe my luck has finally changed.
"Well, here's a face I haven't seen in a long while," said a familiar voice from behind him. Then again, maybe not. Trent sighed; that voice had never been good news. Trent turned around to see Jun'ko Zane, a face he hadn't seen in five years. He put a somewhat forced smile on his face.
"Juni. Haven't seen you for awhile. Been hiding under Harris for a few years? Chasing Nomads from here to –"
She cut him off. "Well, aren't we psychic today? I'm not sure if you've seen the news, but Harris is the reason I'm here." She sat down next to Trent. "Where were you? I've been waiting for you for hours."
Trent took a drink of his ale, idly wondering how she'd known that he was in Liberty. "Unlike some people, I actually work for a living. I haven't seen the news in weeks. Last I heard, Harris and a dead rock meant the same thing. So, are you going to fill me in, or do I have to guess?"
"Three hours ago, Harris was hit by a transport traveling at tradelane speeds. The transport was carrying terraforming supplies, which, due to superluminal physics – don't ask me to explain it – were greatly modified in quantity and spread over the planet. It sped up the terraforming process by many years."
"So what's the problem?" asked Trent, while popping some peanuts into his mouth. "Sounds like a good deal to me."
"I'm not finished. All of the ships in orbit were destroyed, as were the surface station and the orbiting platform. The death toll is already over twelve thousand, and is expected to rise. The only survivors who saw it were on a transport called the Alice."
"Oh, great," Trent said sarcastically. "Now the Nomads can control Liberty and have them execute the Harris survivors. Been there, done that."
"This isn't a joke," growled Juni. "The LSF is willing to pay you five thousand credits to investigate the matter. It shouldn't be too hard, just find out what caused the tradelane to malfunction."
"Sure, piece of cake. Just make sure big blue worms aren't involved somehow. I'm in, simply because I've hit a hard spot in luck. Bartender, buy this lady a drink, on me."
Juni looked at him. "A hard spot? Is that why you're flying a Starflier? Wait, let me guess: Hessians."
Trent looked at her, with mock graveness. "No, my Eagle had a sudden and rather violent encounter with an asteroid." He didn't elaborate. "Look, I need the money, and I need it now. Could you give me the information so I can get going?"
"Sure, we'll leave in an hour. I'll get prepped." She took her drink and left.
"We? You're going? Oh, great," Trent said to a retreating Juni.
New York System, Liberty Space:
"Freelancer Alpha One-One, this is Planet Manhattan; docking ring cleared. Good luck out there," said the same robotic voice that had uttered it so many times.
"Trent, this is Juni. Xenos have blocked all ways out of Liberty except through Kepler and Florida. We're going to go through Florida to get to Harris. I'm uploading the waypoint to the tradelane to the jump gate into your Neural Net."
Trent looked at the coordinates curiously. "I've never heard of Florida," he said, as he punched in coordinates to the waypoint. "Let me guess, a new Liberty system."
"Yes. It was discovered about a century ago. Ageira started on a jump gate almost immediately. They finished programming it about five years ago, and towed it out to the Jersey Debris Field. Where have you been?"
"Rheinland, taking jobs for the military, at least until a week ago." Trent engaged the tradelane and flew towards the Jersey Debris Field. This brings back memories. "I haven't been in Liberty since the day after I got the Lone Star. Has it really been eight years?"
Juni chuckled. "Time flies when you're having fun, eh?"
"I guess. Rheinland's doing pretty well, though. Seems like everyone there likes Chancellor Kästner well enough. And they don't particularly dislike the fact that I killed Niemann, either. Still, it doesn't feel the same. I liked being on the edge of my seat. Now it's just… boring." Something beeped on his consol as they exited the tradelane. "Looks like we have some friends. Juni, is that thing well-armed?"
"You bet it is. Looks like some Xenos ships. All right Trent, let's see if you're still good," Juni said over the comm.
"Right," he said, mostly to himself. There were three ships, Startrackers, coming from the Jersey Debris Field. If only I still had my Eagle. He powered up his three Justice Mk 2s. "I'll take on the center one first." He fired, taking down his foe's shields in just a few hits. They're still flying light, I see.
Then he was hit hard by the second ship. His shields were failing, and he had all three ships on his tail. "I got bogeys on me." He pulled up sharply, sending one ship right into a large piece of debris and getting the other two off his back. He pulled around and fired a few shots at his target, causing some minor hull damage before its shields came back on. Juni was on the other one tight.
"All right, my target is down a wing," said Juni. "Sure you don't want my help?"
"Me? No, I'm enjoying this too much," he said sarcastically. Trent let fire another volley, tearing his foes shields apart and cutting through its hull. It spun for a few seconds and then exploded. Trent pulled in a few goods and then went to face the final ship. He found it was already destroyed.
"Looks like you're growing a little rusty. They shouldn't have lasted half that long," said Juni. "Let's keep going, before their friends come looking for them."
With that, they moved on towards the jump gate.
Florida System, Liberty Space:
They emerged from the jump gate to find a quiet place. A tradelane ahead led to a watery planet. Beyond that, a large, ringed gas giant planet loomed. To the other side, a planet that looked reminiscent of Harris was in front of a large, green cloud.
"The planet up ahead is Miami. The gas giant is Tallahassee, and the last planet is Orlando. Miami is a resort for Spa and Cruise Lines, and Orlando is being terraformed by Planetform. We'll be heading towards Cape Canaveral, which is over Tallahassee."
"All right," Trent said, not the least bit interested, "since you obviously know your way around here, take point." They quickly entered the tradelane towards Miami. "So, how's the rest of the gang?" he asked.
"King got his own squadron. Orillion and the Osiris are holding the fort in that Nomad system next to New Madrid. Von Claussen hasn't been heard from since the Nomad incident. Many people think he's dead."
Juni chuckled. "No, he's far too resourceful. I think he's just hiding, probably helping the Bundschuh, and waiting for the right time to reappear."
They came out of the tradelane and went for another one just a little ways away. Tallahassee was soon looming in front of them, though it was still a good distance away.
"I haven't been to Hispania since it was founded," Trent said. "Have you?"
"Once. I don't know about Cataluña, but New Madrid is quite a bit better looking than it used to be. Tradelanes and jump gates are being built, the planets are getting cleaned up, and there's a lot of infrastructure being built. The Nomads seem to have left the jump hole in that system, though I've heard they're still in Cataluña's jump hole."
"Well, at least they're holding their own," said Trent. "I still can't believe that the Corsairs and the Outcasts put aside their conflict. It just isn't in their nature. I've heard rumors that an 'unknown hero' was responsible."
"Yeah, I heard the same thing. But what I heard was that this 'hero' is supposedly part of The Order, which doesn't make any sense. Who knows what happened."
They dropped out of the tradelane in front of Tallahassee, close to an orbiting mining station. IMG base, Cape Canaveral Mining Facility, his computer told him.
"Are we expecting an escort?" asked Trent when he saw some fighters coming out of the station.
"No," said Juni. "Cape Canaveral, this is Delta-One. What's going on over there?"
"Delta-One, we have several inbound Xenos ships. We advise you to leave the area at once."
"Acknowledged. Delta-One out. Well, Trent, looks like we're going to see some fireworks."
Trent looked over at the incoming ships. "There sure are a lot of them. I count at least twenty. Why are they being so bold?" Trent didn't like this. He started up his cruise engines, and none too soon. The Xenos ships opened fire on him and Juni as soon as they were in range, completely ignoring the IMG ships. "I think we're very popular today, Juni. Let's get out of here before they ask for our autographs."
"I couldn't agree more. I'm uploading coordinates for the Harris Jump Hole in the Okeechobee Nebula. Let's go." They moved toward the large, blue cloud. The Xenos ships broke off, leaving Trent and Juni riding alone.
Harris System, Border Worlds:
Well, this is one place I missed, thought Trent. This system just looks… good. He could see the Florida Jump Gate off in the distance, already complete on this end.
"All right Trent, we're going to go to the Ageira station set up to investigate. The Alice is docked there. I'm uploading a waypoint."
Trent locked in on it and set a course. He took a look at Harris, and found that it looked no different than it always had: bleak and red. Still, he didn't doubt Juni when she said that it was more habitable. After some time had passed, Trent said, "So, why is the LSF interested in this? I mean, Planetform isn't exactly a Liberty company."
"If they can't find out what happened, they may pull out their operations in Liberty," she explained. "With both Orlando and California Minor involved, that could be a big blow to our economy. So we were ordered to investigate how the tradelane malfunctioned."
"Makes sense. Liberty's invested, what, six hundred million into Cal Minor alone?"
"Sounds about right. Our population can't hold out indefinitely on our planets, and Liberty chose a poor spot in making their colony. We don't have anywhere to expand."
"And yet you're by far the best House off? Slightly ironic, wouldn't you say?" Trent noticed the station attached to a tradelane ring not far off. "Okay, we're here. Station," Trent looked at his computer, "Gibb, we are requesting to dock."
"Roger. Please proceed to dock two."
Investigation Site Gibb, Harris System:
"Investigator Baylar, Ageira Technologies. I am in charge of the investigation of the Harris Incident. Good to see you again, Trent."
Trent remembered Baylar. They had worked together a few years earlier when investigating a friendly-fire incident. "Same here, Baylar. This is Jun'ko Zane, Liberty Security Force." They shook hands. "So, what have you found?"
Baylar looked hesitant. "We no longer suspect this to be an, ah, accident."
Trent and Juni both were surprised; this was unexpected. It was Juni spoke who first. "You're saying this was deliberate? What evidence do you have?"
"The cause of the malfunction, which was a short circuit in the tradelane ring communication device, was caused by a computer virus, and a very well made one at that. It was transmitted through the ship identification system from a transmission wave. We suspect, for obvious reasons, that it was Gaians. The odd part is, though, we don't think they have the know-how to make the virus. We've ruled out Lane Hackers, because there is no incentive involved on their part. It's possible, too, that the Orrids are involved."
Trent looked skeptical. "Orrids? Aren't they former Outcasts who still sell Cardamine? What possible reason could they have to want to do this?"
"I don't know. However, we do know that the virus was transmitted from the Delta-45 system, where many suspect is a major Orrid base. Also, many of them are former Lane Hackers, so they could engineer such a virus."
"Delta-45," Trent repeated. He turned to Juni. "Well, why don't we pay it a visit? I know the way. Maybe we'll find something there."
Delta-45 System, Fringe Worlds:
"Now this is a system I remember," Trent said.
"Really?" said Juni. "I've never been in the Fringe Worlds."
"This 'asteroid' field we're in? It'smade up almost entirely of diamonds. I actually discovered a huge diamond in that cloud over there. It's even called 'Trent's Core.'"
She scoffed. "Show-off. Anyway, that cloud is where most people think the Orrid base is, according to this information. Let's check it out."
They set course for the hydrogen cloud, which a good hour away. "So, did that lead I gave you ever pan out?" He was referring to the last time he'd spoken to Juni five years ago while she was trying to catch a major Outcast drug lord.
"With Gomez? It was the break we needed. Thanks to you, we were able to put him away, though we lost a few men apprehending him."
"As I said, he's a dangerous SOB. What'd he get?"
"Several hundred life sentences," she said dejectedly.
"Why Jun'ko, do I detect a slight desire for Liberty to have the death sentence?"
"Shut up, Eddie."
The search of the hydrogen cloud took several hours. Trent fell asleep more than once, nearly ramming Juni's ship on one occasion. Long range sensors weren't picking up any metal in the cloud, and as thoroughly as they'd scanned it, that likely meant that there was nothing here. It's as dead as the last time I was here. "Juni we're wasting our time," he said at last. "There isn't any –" he was cut off by a violent shake of the ship, nearly throwing him from his chair. What the bloody hell? This wasn't here last time. A huge storm that reminded Trent of a typhoon loomed in from of him. He checked his navmap, and this was exactly where Trent's Core was supposed to be.
After several hectic minutes of navigating, Trent found his way into the eye. There was the six-hundred plus kilometer sphere of a diamond with his namesake.
"It's beautiful." Trent hadn't even realized Juni had been with him.
"Isn't it? Probably worth a cool billion. Too bad it won't fit in my cargo hold. Hang on, I'll try to find a way out of here." He made several adjustments, and navigated both of them out of the storm.
"What was that?"
"Some sort of storm, I guess," said Trent. "At any rate, there isn't anything here. We've reached a dead end."
Juni sighed. "All right. The other two clouds have been searched more thoroughly, so I suppose the rumors are just that. Guess it wasn't much of a mission, but I'll see to it that the funds are transferred to you. Try and stay around Liberty; something tells me this isn't over."
A/N: Well, here it is at long last. My first fanfic. I'm not one big on reviews; they're fine, but not that importent. Leave one if you want, though, I'll probably read it. Just so everyone knows, I'm making a mod that's set just after the end of this fic by the same name. A mod set a bit before this fic by the name of FL2Systems which gives a bit of background to the story was released on The Lancers Reactor, but since it went down, it's no longer posted there. It is, however, posted on The StarPort.