Part 50: Peace In Our Time
The Solar Alliance thanks our dignitaries from the People's Alliance for attending this vital meeting. I hope that this session will be a productive one. Now, let us begin.
Now then, we turn to the status of the liberated neutral worlds.
(Uh-oh, time to start paying attention again )
My counterpart has informed me that PACT no longer has an interest in a continued presence in the Neutral Rim.
We are willing to return to our pre-war boundaries, provided the Alliance demands no reparations from PACT. The Neutral Rim worlds will be permitted to exist as they have prior to the hostilities.
Well, that's a start. But the neutral worlds have been devastated by the war. If they are merely left to their own devices, they will doubtlessly become pirate havens. Not to mention the toll to civilian life would be grievous.
The Neutral Rim must remain unaligned with the galaxy's powers. That is the tenet of the Treaty of Vespa.
We merely wish to avoid a humanitarian disaster. The Alliance can provide developmental assistance to the poorest of the Neutral Rim worlds. Advisers can be left to ensure that free and fair elections will be conducted, as well as peacekeeping forces to control pirates and other criminal elements.
PACT will not allow the Alliance to turn the Neutral Rim into its backyard!
So you will let billions die in a war you began?
Independence cannot be won without sacrifice.
The starving children of Ongess did not make that choice.
Imperialist propaganda. You seek to leverage the suffering of the Neutral Rim for your purposes, nothing more. I recall your words above the skies of Ongess quite vividly, admiral.
I would not accuse me of being a liar if I were you.
Hmph. I see that this session shall not go anywhere. We are adjourned. *disconnects*
Well, that could have gone better. At least with everyone meeting via FTL comm, he couldnt take a swing at you or anything.
Bah. Fear not, captain. That boy is merely posturing to shore up support from the more hardline elements of PACT. Once my ships reach Cera, they will agree to some real concessions. Do not be concerned by their words. The Alliance has no intention of militarily occupying the Neutral Rim. The Progressives back home bleed their hearts out for every damned humanitarian cause in the galaxy. If I don't try to help the women and children now, you can goddamn wager the Progress Party will be running ads saying that I personally oversaw the execution of the war orphans of Ongess.
Well, I do appreciate the invitation, admiral.
Then I must return to work. Grey out.
Well, lunchtime, I guess.
Well look at you two, sharing a friendly meal. Has hell frozen over?
I was just discussing strategy with her! That's all! Its not like were friends!
Werent you just telling me at length about your cat picture collection ?
Hahaha! Well Icari, it's like you said. The Alliance ended up helping us after all. Right lieutenant?
And it looks like you managed to make a friend on top of that. I'm happy for you. I was getting tired of you looking so angry all the time.
Heh. Speak for yourself. Ah, it's like night and day! You were all dark and gloomy before the battle ... And now walking around the ship with nothing but a huge grin on your face It's like we were all worried about you for nothing! Ah, I guess all it took was a wink and smile from your favorite to make you happy again! I should have known better than to worry about a simpleton like you!
You were worried for me?
NEVER! W-well, only 'cause I didn't want to be bossed around by you unless you were at your best! There's no way I'd put my Phoenix under the command of someone who didn't have his marbles together.
Right. So what's this about a favorite?
Beh, your schoolboy crush on the chief's hardly a secret. Claudes running a lottery as to when you two will finally end up hitched. Heh, once I win that thing, I'm gonna be rich!
I wouldn't let the commander find out about that. Or Arcadius won't be your biggest fear.
Hah! No worries!
I-I apologize, captain! I-I was m-merely--
Careful, lieutenant. Betting on the captain's love life might warrant a court martial.
C-court martial ...
H-hey, he's just joking around, all right? You don't have to worry about your permanent record
Come in, Chigara.
Thank you, captain I-it's a little bit scary I feel like Im sneaking in after hours.
Arent you a veteren combat pilot?
That's mean, captain ...
Then, will it be the usual, captain?
I've already boiled the water.
It really feels like the war's almost over. Seemed like just yesterday we were fighting a one-ship war against all of PACT. Now we're surrounded by Alliance battleships and got Arcadius on the run. Heh. I guess that's a load off my shoulders though.
I'm glad. It was ... hard seeing you so troubled before.
Yeah, I'd say things turned out pretty well. Maybe we'll all be home by this time next year.
And then after that, what will you do, captain?
Huh Good question. I guess I never gave it much thought. Well, I can't captain a warship forever. Hopefully, when all of this is over, we can lay down our weapons and live in peace.
U-um ...! Im also thinking of staying on Cera! T-the pastry market on Tydaria's not really that great and since we're all headed there anyways, I thought ...
I see well Cera is a wonderful world. It is chilly in the winter and hot during the summer, dont hold that against it. I have fond memories of growing up there. It is still my home. A home I want to share.
A short time later
(That simulator cheats, theres no way wait, is that ?)
(Wait ... why am I hiding But what's Chigara doing in the captain's room so late )
Sola, listen to what I just saw!
I was just walkin' down the hallway, mindin' my own business, when I saw Chigara walk out of the captain's room! Crazy, ainit!?
Perhaps she had business to discuss with him. She is the ship's chief engineer.
No, no, no! There was definitely something suspicious going on! Listen, Sola, when a man and a woman are in the same room at this hour of the night, that can only mean one thing! She was doin' a lot more than teaching the capt'n about nuclear fusion, that's what!
Then why do you not ask her? She is your friend.
A-actually, I haven't been talking to her much recently. Ahh, I don't know what to do! Chigara's my friend, but lately, she's been getting awfully close to the capt'n! It kinda makes you think, doesn't it!?
We shouldnt meddle in the captain's relationships.
It still bothers me!
*crawls into bed, pulls sheet up over head*
Sola, listen to me--!
The next day
I'm almost done with this form. Just hang on a minute.
Actually, I didn't come to you about the paperwork.
Well, that's a first. What is it?
I've been researching some ... irregularities.
Irregularities? Of what kind?
There have been some strange coincidences since we left Cera. Do you remember when we performed an emergency warp out of the Mnemosyne Abyss?
How could I forget? We nearly got vaporized when the Ryuvian superdreadnought blew.
The emergency warp destination was generated by the computer when we first arrived at the Abyss. But, when we arrived at this random safe point, an entire PACT fleet was waiting for us.
Uhh ... I always just assumed they got lucky and we happened to be spotted by a PACT scout.
Next is Operation Wedding Crash. Despite our surprise appearance, Arcadius was not only completely prepared for our arrival with a holographic decoy of himself, but also had the Legion standing by to intercept us.
That's hardly surprising. Wouldn't Arcadius use cheap tricks like that? And since he was there, it's only natural the Legion would be parked nearby too.
But why would a race of what we now know to be disposable clones bother with a hologram?
Better safe than shot through the gut. I don't care if I had an army of clones, I'd still prefer my insides intact.
Finally, the ambush at Helion. Despite running in shadow mode, the enemy managed to effortlessly locate our position. Almost as if they knew all along where we were hiding.
Could it have been an equipment malfunction on our part? Maybe an energy fluctuation gave us away.
Captain, you are not seeing the obvious answer. We have a mole. Someone with inside knowledge of this ship's systems has been relaying our movements to PACT.
But who would do that!?
Captain, I strongly suggest we detain the chief engineer.
C-Chigara!? W-what'd she do!?
We have no reason to suspect her. She could have destroyed this ship a thousand times over if she wanted to. But she's always been here, protecting all of us. Doesn't that mean anything to you, Ava?
She. Is. One. Of. Them.
We still don't know anything about what happened at Diode.
The prisoner has already confessed as to the chief's identity!
No. We will not have a witch hunt on this ship, merely because a prisoner said so. The prototypes are cunning. Manipulative. It's only playing mind games with you. It means to cause division within our ranks. Spread fear and paranoia.
We are one family on this ship. We will not betray one another based on just coincidences and conjecture.
Your request is denied, commander.
You've been seeing her here at night, haven't you, Kayto.
I expected more from you, Ava. Dismissed.
O-oh, commander. I'm sorry, I didn't-
D-did I do something wrong, captain?
No, come right in.
don't mind her.