"We already have everything set up and planned, we just need to find someone who is willing," a general in Alliance blues said to a room full of delegates.
"Willing? No one is going to willingly give up their child to be raised by turians!" someone off to the right of the general yelled out.
"The war has been over for two years now; if we want to join the other Council races we need to show that we are peaceful! The only way to do that is to work with the turians." the general was not only talking to the man that yelled out but to all the men and women who sat and remained quite in the large room.
The First Contact War had been over for two years after the asari and salarian races decided to step in and negotiate peace between the conflicting humans and turians. After 30 years of war, groups within the Alliance and turian Hierarchy wanted the war to come to an end, one of the humans in charge of peace negotiations was General Payne. He was what you called a lifer; born into the military and will die in the military. After about 20 years ofconstant fighting, gaining no ground and losing more soldiers than he cared to, the General had been ready to end the war. He finally got that chance before being reassigned to a new ship to go fight on the front lines of the war.
The general sat in the civilian wing of the station, enjoying a drink at the bar when he was approached by Rear Admiral Nagato. As she advanced towards the general, she smiled at him before asking. "Enjoying your shore leave, General?" The bar itself was of a darker setting that had a low hum of music in the background. He was sitting in the center of the room at the counter around the bartenders, in addition to the main bar there were tables and chairs filling the rest of the room. There were not many other patrons in the bar considering it was early in the day.
"If you could call it that. I'm just enjoying my off-duty drink before I find out what ship I'll be on next." He let outa small sigh that caught the admiral's attention. She lowered her eyes to the general as if studying him.
"General, how do you feel about this war? Give me your honest opinion."
"Admiral, please call me Henry. None of that 'General' bullshit tonight."
"Alright general, if you call me Lisa, I'll call you Henry." The rear admiral suggested with a smirk.
"Well Lisa, I think it is ridiculous. Two decades and nothing. We're not gaining any ground on the turians and vice versa for them. We're wasting lives, resources… And for what? Nothing. No matter how hard we fight them, we won't win. Same goes for them, both sides just don't realize it yet! And what makes matters worse is the other races of the Galaxy don't seem to care that a war is going on!" Henry didn't realize that his voice had raised a few decibelsabove normal and he was starting to turn a few heads.
"Well, general, if you feel that way, I might have something that interests you."
"Back to business already Lisa? Let's hear it then."
Lisa leaned in closer to the General and whispered, "I've been in contact with a group and they want the war to end just as bad as we do. They are coming up with multiple solutions to end the fighting, peaceful ways. If you want this war to end, like I do, help me."
All Henry could do was stare at the women. Was she crazy? What sort of group was this? How do I help? The next thing to come out of his mouth surprised him more than it did her. "What do you need?"
All the rear admiral could do was smile at his words. The twitches around her eyes made it clear she was surprised he was so easily persuaded. With that smile still on her face she told him what she needed. He was being reassigned to her ship. She made sure that he was to be on her vesselregardless if he agreed to help or not. "Henry, you've killed plenty of the enemy no one can doubt that. You have gained your rank by commanding your troops to and in the battlefield. You're well recognized by all Alliance military and highly effective at getting any job done, no matter the cost."
"You still have yet to tell me what you need Lisa, I already said I would help."
"Look, I'll say it as plainly as I can. I need you to be a spokesman against the war," she said with a straight face hoping he'd still help.
"Spokesman? I'm a soldier, you know that! I'm not good at talking, just killing." This women was crazy, she's asking me, a soldier who has done nothing but kill turians for the past 15 years, to stop and talk to people about not killing them? No one would take me seriously.
"Exactly, general! People need to see that if a war hardened solider like you is willing to stop and shake the enemy's hands... I should say talons, then anyone else can," As she argued, Lisa's eyes burned with an intense fire. "Especially if someone does it first and especially if that someone is you."
"Alright, admiral just tell me what to do."
As soon as those words left his mouth the smile returned to her face.
"Wonderful, Henry. Please board the SSV Aurora at 0700. I will debrief you there." And with that the rear admiral left leaving the general alone and with his thoughts.
What have I gotten myself into? I thought I was going back to the front lines, I guess not anymore. How the Admiral had gotten him stationed onto her ship was beyond him. The Aurora was a small little cruiser that wasn't meant to see the front lines. This just begged the question as to what she was in charge of. He hadn't even thought to ask. Looking back at it now he didn't know if that was such a good idea. Then he remembered the fire in her eyes and decided that he would go along with her anyway.
He was right on time as the decontamination chamber opened up to the bridge of the SSV Aurora. The admiral greeted Henry down in the CIC. "General, good to see you on time, welcome to the Aurora. I'm sure you're not used to this small of a ship but this girl is special. She doesn't ever see any fighting but she does just an equally important job." Her smile went from ear to ear as she spoke those last three words.
"And what would that be, admiral?" Henry asked with a straight face, not amused by her 'games'.
"We gather intelligence. We don't report in for months at a time, we sit out in open space just picking up information, listening in on other communication channels. This is how I found the group I'm working with to help end the war."
Henry sensed she was keeping the information about the group to herself, he found it very annoying of her "What kind of group is this?"
"All in good time, general. We haven't even left the station yet, let me give you the tour."
Henry was getting pissed off at this woman. He was a good soldier, did what was expected of him and followed bad orders even if he knew better, but this woman was making his blood boil. The admiral wasn't giving him any more information when he pressed for it and he was getting tired of it. When she had finished her tour he had asked about the group she worked with multiple times and she kept ignoring the question as if he never asked it.
If this woman didn't answer his questions he was going to lose his temper with her. Sure it was technically her ship but he would have liked her to treat him with the same respect he gave her.
"Admiral, you need to answer my question," the generals tone was starting to become more rude as she deflected his question "tell me about this group you have been working with, orI cannot help you," Henry finally said putting his foot down.
"Is that so general? We've left Arcturus and are currently headed to the mass relay," she was unfazed by his outburst "if you choose to no longer help my cause then so be it but you will not be returning to active duty or the front lines for quite some time," She stated with a flat tone, raising an eyebrow at him.
"I want this war to end!" he insisted. "I just want to know all the details. This is new to me, I'm a soldier! I follow orders and give them. But this shit… I don't know anything about gathering information," he admitted. He just wanted to know exactly what he'd gotten himself into.
"Alright general, you're right. You should know everything. As soon as we get through the relay I'll inform you of everything."
"Thank you Lisa, I hope you understand, I just want to be able to trust you."
"Of course I understand Henry," the tone in her voice told the general she genuinely understood.
"When will be through the relay?" the general asked, changing to a more comfortable subject.
"Should be anytime now, we left the station an hour or so ago. Speaking of mass relays I'd like to introduce my very loyal and trustworthy flight lieutenant Joshua Diaz." Lisa and Henry walked to the cockpit to meet the helmsman. As they approached a large, cushioned leather chair, it spun around revealing the dark haired pilot
"Admiral, we're about 10 minutes out from the relay. If I push her a little though I can get us there in two," the pilot said with a grin on his face.
"Why not? Go for it, let's show General Payne what the Auroracan do."
"Aye aye ma'am," the pilot replied as his chair turned around he started typing something into the controls.
"Lieutenant, this is our XO and he's agreed to help us."
Through the cockpit windows Henry could see the relay, he'd gone through them plenty of times to know how to stand and brace as the element zero in the core of the relay grabbed the ship and shot them forward. But he'd never actually seen the approach, what it looked like through the cockpit window. Already he was glad he decided to join them. Now that we are through the relay maybe she'd finally answer my questions "Where are we headed Lisa?"
"The Horsehead Nebula. We're going there to meet that group I was telling you about. They will board our ship and we will discuss certain matters when the meeting occurs."
"You didn't tell me anything about this group." Henry was annoyed the admiral was being purposely vague. She had agreed to let him in on every detail, yet still tried to keep him out of the loop with that vague wording of hers.
"Diaz how long till we reach the Exodus relay?" Lisa asked the pilot before answering Henry.
"Without pushing the ship? I'd say about 10 hours. With a little push maybe half that?"
Lisa turned back to Henry. "Why don't we go down and talk in more of a private setting?" Lisa suggested while throwing a glance over her shoulder to the pilot.
"Yes please. After you Admiral," he said to her stretching out his armto let her lead them. Henry followed her through the CIC, down the stairs to the crew deck and straight into the admiral's quarters. Henry was a little hesitant to go into her personal quarters at first, butLisa noticed and motioned him to follow. The door closed and locked behind them.
"Okay, general, ask away. Ask as many questions as you can fit into the next 9 hours."
"Alright, well… First off what's with this group? I need to know!" This was the one answer he needed to know before he could trust this woman he hardly knew.
The general saw Lisa biting her bottom lip, obviously trying to phrase her answer nicely so he wouldn't freak out
"I don't want to answer that one just yet, I think it would be best if I explained the mission to you first and my findings." It wasn't a straight answer, but at least she didn't refuse to answer altogether. The promise of information put him at ease, but he was anxious to get it.
"Alright so start at the beginning, what's the mission? What's so special about this ship? What have you found? What sort of information do you need and look for?" He had so many questions for her he didn't know which to ask first. She laughed at him once he was done spouting 20 questions in 20 seconds.
"Well I'll start with this ship. The SSV Aurora was designed with stealth in mind. She has a sleek design and is very quiet, she has new experimental technology. A stealth system was put in to hide heat emissions from the ship so we could slip past enemy frigates without being detected on scans. But of course we're not invisible, if you look out a window you could see us. Which now brings me to the mission." As she described her ship her eyes lit up with what might be joy? Maybe love of the ship? That's when Henry saw the color of her eyes. Green, like were so beautiful, he'd never seen eyes like that. Before he got too distracted by the color he asked her, "Okay so you have a stealth ship to look for information in enemy territory?"
"Not at first general, the first few times we took her out we never ventured farther than the Sol system or too far from Alliance territory. Since she's got experimental tech we didn't want to run the risk of the ship coming into contact with the enemy, at least not yet." Henry felt like she was going to tell him the vessel's entire history. To be honest he didn't give a damn about the ship'spast missions or the story she was telling.
"Lisa please, this sounds like a long story you're telling. Just get to the point and the main objective, my patience is wearing thin," he warned her. He needed answers to his questions from this morning. Had it really only been since the morning? Looking at a clock in her quarters it read 1100.
It's only been a few hours really? Damn this is going to be a long mission.
"Fine Henry, after a few months of test runs we go out of the Sol system not too far just beyond the relay," Henry noticed how much Lisa was at ease with telling her story "we were drifting along the outside of the local cluster with the stealth system on and we spotted a turian frigate on the scanners, jumped back through the relay before they looked out a window and saw us. We reported the frigate, and after that incident the ship was allowed to venture beyond the system and into other ones as well without being detected. The first time we went through the Exodus Relay the crew was a nervous wreck. This is not a ship for fighting and it's obvious. We didn't know what to find or expect beyond the relay. We did some scans of some nearby planets, we didn't find much but then we discovered the relay to the Horsehead Nebula."
The general tried to be patient, but knew he was failing miserably. It was obvious she just wanted to fill him in and make sure he knew every little detail, but it was rather frustrating. Although if he was honest, he couldn't really blame her. She was about to spill some of her largest secret to someone who was still a stranger to her. And she had no guarantee whatsoever that he could be trusted. Lisa took a sip of water from a nearby glass and continued her explanation "We got confirmation to go ahead and go through the nebula; I was excited and scared all at the same time. This was the furthest I or any of my crew had everbeen from Alliance Space. When we got through the relay we didn't see anything on the scanners or out any of the windows. We had our stealth systems engaged and drifted through the nebula until we found a system and planets to orbit. We are currently on our way there, to the Fortuna system. It has four planets, the one we're going to Maganlis is where we will meet the group."
"Is this where you tell me about them? I had to know your ship's history for this? Please talk faster, woman." Henry was getting more and more irritated with her by the second, he didn't mind history one bit, but this woman could talk about her ship all day. He wanted answers, not a history lesson.
"Yes general, I apologize I just want you to understand everything and everyone involved already." She gave him a pleading look with those jade eyes.
Damn, they really are beautiful.
"Of course, I'm sorry. Please continue"
"When we got in the Fortuna system we didn't know what we would find so we scanned the planets. Maganlis was the last we did. When we approached the planet, we saw we weren't alone. There was a ship orbiting the planet. We didn't pick it up on our radar so I assumed they had stealth systems they saw us before we could make a quick escape, they locked onto us and started to engage in got out of the way in the nick of time. But before we knew what was going on, the frigate was next to us. That's when we realized that they were turians." She paused for a minute to take another drink of water before she resumed, "At once we knew we were fucked. Everyone geared up as fast as they could and over the comm I heard Diaz say: 'we have an incoming transmission from the turians.' I ran up to the cockpit and told him to play it. What I heard, is something that I will remember for the rest of my life."
She stopped her story there, leaving Henry is suspense. "Well what did the transmission say? Couldn't have been bad if you're still alive talking about it."
She smiled at him and continued. "You're right, it wasn't bad. Even though the translation was rocky, we understood what the turians were saying. They apologized for attacking us, once they saw us high tail it out of there they realized we were a non-combatant ship, and thought we were civilian. They said that they were a private section of the military hired by someone high up in the Turian Hierarchy. They weren't there to attack but to help us. Not specifically this ship, but any human vessel it came upon, assuming it wasn't hostile first." Lisa stopped talking as the general's face contorted. He was confused… Angry, even, and it showed."Is something the matter, general?"
"This group we're going to meet, it's the same turians?" He couldn't believe it! Turians helping humanity! "What did they want? They had to have wanted something in return for help."
"Actually they didn't want anything but peaceful cooperation and I gave them that."
He noticed she stilldidn't answer his question about the group.
Well I'll probably hear the answer soon enough, hopefully
"What sort of cooperation did they want?"
"For the war to stop; whoever hired them, they couldn't tell me, was very muchagainst itand they had a lot of money to throw around. After communication via ships, I offered the turians to come aboard on the condition that there be no weapons from either species or any hostilities. Up close and in person to a turian without weapons and not trying to kill you is something to see, I'd never thought I'd live to see a turian not one foot away from me, let alone shaking his hand...talons whatever."
"So this group of turians, the ones we're going to meet, is friendly to humans? Even if they've lost someone in the war to a human?"
Friendly turians? This is crazy.
Somehow he knew this wasn't an Alliance mission but he saved that question for later.
"They may harbor some sort of bitterness but it never showed at the time, just pure curiosity as they boarded the ship. I gave them a tour and we talked. The person who hired them, he's a prominent figure in the Hierarchy, wants the war to end, but not everyone shares that sentiment. Anyways these guys have been feeding me information about the turian fleets; nothing toobig just enough to make it look like the missions aren't a failure to the Alliance. I've been working with them for three years, butI haven't seen them for almost 12 months."
"So the Alliance has no idea about this? This mission is really personal? Not something from higher up? You just do what you want?"
She couldn't help but laugh. "Heh, yeah pretty much, the Alliance can't track where I go and prior to meeting the group I was always away for months at a time on missions. Not checking in is pretty normal when you're ona stealth ship. Mind you the Alliance does require me to check in every now and then to make sure were alive."
"Alright Admiral, I'll trust you, for now. I don't trust the turians but I'll put my faith in you." Henry knew there was more she wasn't telling him but he couldn't be sure if that should affect his feelings. As quick as that thought came, it left. Why shouldn't he trust her? Just because they just met? She was an Alliance Marine, he knew of her and her new ship before last night, everyone did, not to mention she was his commanding officer after all.
"Thanks for believing in me; it means a lot, working with the enemy and all. You don't have to trust them but it means a lot to me that you would with me. Ha maybe now I won't feel like such a traitor to humanity."
Lisa's statement surprised the general. It was an odd thing to say. She quickly covered her mouth, as if she regretted saying it, but he couldn't pretend as if that remark had never been uttered.
"A traitor? Why would you feel like that? You're not giving them intelligence are you?" The general hadn't even thought about her giving out Alliance intelligence.
Could she? Is she?
"No! No no no no no!" she reacted, upset by the very suggestion. "I swear it's nothing like that. Not Alliance intelligence, but human intelligence."
"Human intelligence? What do you mean?"
"Just information on general stuff, likeculture, religion, history, ideology of humans, behavior. Nothing that would help them win or have an advantage over us in the war. This group is really curious about humans; they just want to learn about us."
All Henry could think was that this shit was crazy! He had no idea that this was what he was getting into when he agreed to help this a fellow Marine One look at the clock told him it was now 1500 hours. Three hours of talking and listening and he still felt like none of his questions got answered. If anything, he had more now than he did this morning.
Henry rubbed his eyes and looked at his commanding officer, "Well ma'am that's quite the story. Just one more question. Now, what's our mission when we arrive?"
She couldn't help but laugh out loud at that. After everythingshe told him, she forgot to debrief him for the mission. "Well now that I know you trust me and know the background of my ship and crew, I'll tell you about what to expect. I don't know exactly what they have in store for us whether it's military intelligence or a plan to end the war. The only contact we have are these 'missions.'"
"How long will we be on this job?"
"For an undetermined amount of time. The Alliance doesn't expect a report for at least a few months."
A few months? What the...there's got to be something going on here, some big intelligence exchange. There's no way intelligence exchanges last more than a day or two.
"Ma'am, permission to speak freely?"
Lisa couldn't help but laugh again, "Have we not been speaking freely this whole time? I wasn't aware this was a formal conversation, Henry."
He blushed out of embarrassment after realizing that most certainly wasn't, let alone a normal one. "Heh yeah I guess you're right. What does the Alliance think we're doing? Being gone for so long, isn't that strange?"
"No not really, the last tidbit of information I gave to the Alliance was really good and I told them I found something that would help me for another mission and I made a copy for myself. Of course that information was fabricated, nothing they would actually look into. But I told them getting itwas important and it might take some time."
Things were starting to become slightly clearer. Of course he had more to ask, but he settled for the answers he had. "Well admiral, thanks for answering some of my questions, I still have more but I'll save those for later. I need to get something to eat." His stomach rumbling, he stood and walked out the door and into the mess hall that was just off to the left of the admiral's quarters. As Henry rummaged through the fridge looking for something half decent to eat he heard the pilot Diaz over the comm saying, "Admiral we are approaching the mass relay in 90 seconds. Would you like to sit co-pilot?"
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Lisa run out of her room and up the stairs. He decided to follow her up to cockpit to see what all the fuss was about. He walked up the stairs to the CIC. He could feel the slight tug on the ship as it got closer to the relay.
"Stealth systems engaged, thrusters... check. Light is green, approaching the relay in 3...2...1.." Diaz said to no one in particular. Lisa was sitting in the co-pilots chair off to the right. As Henry walked into the cockpit he heard Lisa say, "Alright as soon as we know it's clear, I want the FTL engaged and head straight to Fortuna. As soon as that's clear, head straight to Maganlis."
That was fast, I thought Diaz said it would take 10 hours to get to the Nebula.
"How long should it take us to get there?" Henry asked and the pilot turned his chair around to face him and said "If it's all clear, which it should be… Approximately 10 minutes. Fortunately for us the relay shot us right next to the Fortuna system."
"How do we know it's clear to go in?" Henry wasn't used to stealth ships and wasn't sure how it all worked. He figured he might as well learn something.
"Our radars here," Lisa pointed to a screen that almost reminded him of old sonar in water fairing ships. "Aren't picking anything up in the vicinity of us, with our stealth engaged no one will see us on their radar either."
"So if those turians have stealth too how are we going to know that they are there and vice versa?"
"If it's clear, they'll be there. Trust me." Lisa sounded so sure that they'll be there, why not trust her, he can't go back now.
"Admiral the system is clear, heading to Maganlis. We should have a visual in about 30 seconds." It was apparent that they had made this trip enough times to know how long it takes to get to the planet, down to the minute. Or maybe it was because it was a bright yellow world that stood out.
"Why this one? It stands out, is it geologically ideal?"
"Hah! No, it's pretty much a toxic world. We had our first encounter here, there's nothing here of use to anyone, and no one else has come here while we are here." Lisa didn't even bother to look at him while addressing him. She couldn't take her eyes off the planet there was a smile starting to form at the corners of her mouth. She was getting excited and Henry couldn't figure out why. They were just friendly turians with information. He couldn't help but keep watching her as they got closer to the planet then all of a sudden her face lit up like bombs going off at night and a huge smile spread across her face. He finally looked up and out the window. Wow. He could feel his jaw drop a little before he realized it happened. The turian stealth ship was glorious, it wasn't small like the Aurora but it wasn't a frigate. It was right in the middle. He understood why Lisa was excited now.
"Incoming transmission from the turians" Diaz announced to the Captain and her XO.
Thanks for reading this chapter, I would like to thank The Outlander, trapped in wonderland and others for all your hard work beta-ing this story and advise that you have given me.