Valiant Class Destroyer-Carrier
again why we came out this way?"
Albert sighed to himself. He had lost count of how many times he had been asked this question over the past several weeks, as the jumpship carrying him and the Star League ambassadors made its way east. Every jump took them farther into the Periphery, farther from the glowing lights that were the war-fires of the Inner Sphere...and closer to Albert's home.
"Because," Albert said with a deliberately even tone, as he kept looking out the window, "the Veiled Republic has long wished to make contact with the new Star League. We are on our way to make that happen." He was staring at a wall of inky blackness in the near distance...the Widow's Veil. He doubted that this Spheroid he had been saddled with had even noticed it, let alone knew where they were.
"You speak so formally, mein herr," the Spheroid observed with a grin. Albert kept his thoughts to himself. The man was a Lyran, one of the infamous social generals, who had been "retired" from military duty and "dispatched" to the Star League as a diplomat. He was living proof, Albert thought, of an old maxim: that no one with a silver tongue should ever wear a uniform.
A cheerful voice interrupted Albert's reverie. "Are we there yet?" The other ambassador had entered, and joined Albert at the window with a smile and a pat on the back. The Kuritan was much more pleasant to deal with than his Lyran counterpart...much less full of himself, and much more patient.
"Almost," Albert replied, and nodded out the window into the darkness of the nebula.
The Kuritan raised an eyebrow, and leaned forward to look out in all directions at the immense blackness. "What's this? Did some baka forget to pay the light bill?"
Albert smiled, "That is the Widow's Veil. It is a dark nebula, an old stellar nursery. Prior to the Exodus, it marked the edge of known space in this direction."
The Kuritan raised an eyebrow. "And after the Exodus?"
Albert smiled knowingly. "That changed."
The Kuritan looked at Albert, and nodded slowly as he considered the reply. The Lyran chuckled. "But what's so verdammt important about it?"
Albert turned and looked the older man right in the face, the directness in his voice an indication that he was finally about to lose patience. "To you, nothing. To me, it is the path home." He paused, wishing he hadn't been so abrupt; both men were looking at him in surprise. He composed himself, then looked at the Kuritan. "To you, it is important, as there is a nation not so far outside your borders. A nation that...well, you shall see." Albert turned back to the window, leaving the men to think.
After a moment, the Kuritan spoke. "You know, you never really have told us much about yourself." He paused as Albert glanced at him, and held his gaze. "We have time." And the Kuritan smiled. "Besides, it's not like you didn't just let at least one cat out of the bag, eh?"
Albert considered a moment, then sat. He paused, as if considering where to start. Then finally, he just started talking. "C'est la. It is no secret that I am from the Veiled Republic. I have already told you at least the start of our history; we have spent the large part of three centuries in isolation, and now we are trying to reach out. I am what is called a Pioneer, one sent to contact other nations. I am a diplomat, though not all Pioneers are so overt. We gather information, and based on that, our government decides whether to make contact, or remain isolated." He paused. "We have been watching the Inner Sphere for most of this century. Only now, with the new Star League, have we decided to make contact."
The Lyran seemed fascinated for the first time. He began to ask, "How have you been watching..." but a klaxon that interrupted his question.
The announcement came to make ready to jump, and Albert grinned slyly as they all buckled in for the ride. "Ask Wolf's Dragoons." A low rumbling hum slowly vibrated through the vessel, and Albert's grin widened. "Here we go!"
Suddenly, almost without a break in perception, they were elsewhere. Albert was on his feet almost immediately, looking out the window like a child looking into a candy store. The Lyran shook his head as he slowly unstrapped himself. "No matter how many times I do that, I'll never get used to it." He joined Albert, and the now silently serious Kuritan at the window, and exclaimed aloud. "Lieber Gott!"
Outside was a streaming sea of stars, leading from the Widow's Veil out into deep space along the galactic arm. In the near distance floated a jump station, bustling with activity. Anchored next to it, was a long, flat vessel with a large triangle of engines, bristling with guns...
"A warship!?" The Lyran couldn't believe his eyes.
"A warship," the Kuritan said with deadly seriousness.
Albert just laughed, and slapped the two men on the back, a gesture of true happiness at being back home. "Welcome, my friends, to the Veiled Republic!"
AeroTech 2 Vessel Technical Readout