“There is no such thing as a bond that cannot be undone; if something came from two separate things, there is always a process to make them separate again.”
- - Anonymous
The alliance between the Delpha Coalition of Planets and the Tybusen Intergalactic Allied Federation has stood for over thirty years, starting from the TIAF's first emergence in the First Gigaquadrant in 2768 and enduring much of the intergalactic turmoil since that fateful meeting. For a long time, the TIAF-DCP alliance had represented a constant in TIAF diplomacy, an ally that the TIAF could always lean on, a relationship just as fundamental to TIAF foreign policy as the TIAF's rivalry with the Levisala.
Yet, alliances rarely last forever. Many in the Federation have deluded themselves into thinking that the TIAF-DCP alliance is among those rare few eternal alliances, but in truth the TIAF and DCP had begun to drift down separate paths the moment they had met, with hidden resentment for the DCP scattered throughout the Federation, waiting for the right spark...
The Gap in the Veil Edit
It was a fairly average Nuevena in the TIAF Delpha Province. Commerce ships from the Draconid Imperium, the DCP, and France flitted about from planet to planet, trading their wares in Delpha's grand spaceports, and politicians from the Heartlands were making campaign stops in key Delpha planets to drum up party support and hopefully sway independent voters. The only thing that seemed out of the ordinary was a disturbing news report regarding the results of a research study at the Aquellon Nanotechnology Institute that seemed to confirm the findings of an earlier Draconid study: that the DCP had in fact been performing a massive nanoespionage operation on the universe, the TIAF included. Few people actually believed the study, though - why would the DCP need such a program anyways? Many people were calling the once-respected researchers quacks, and the Institute had been receiving many angry letters demanding that they retract such "sensationalism" and "yellow journalism".
Andrew Ylands, the TIAF ambassador to the DCP, didn't believe the findings himself but it had aroused his suspicions. He above all knew that the DCP was rather blatantly a police state and nanoespionage was certainly not above the Coalition, yet without evidence from the Coalition itself the study looked very much like an attempt by Draconid scientists to sling mud at the Coalition's reputation. Ylands was in his office at New Raysong in Delpha, making some final preparations with his secretary to return to the embassy at Mirenton.
Ylands - Maria, could you notify the Mirenton staff that I may be fifteen to twenty minutes late? I've had to sort through emails from all kinds of people involved in this ANI imbroglio and my inbox is flooded.
Maria - Yes, sir.
Ylands had been pestered numerous times by officials at the Institute to use his position as DCP ambassador to get to the bottom of the matter. While he was annoyed by their persistence, Ylands did have a curiosity of his own that he wanted to satisfy and had decided he would investigate. Not on the behalf of the Institute, but rather out of a sense of duty.
Ylands - Maria, when did you say that the transport convoy would arrive?
Maria - At 9:30 AM sharp, sir. But there's been somewhat of a change of plans.
Ylands - Hmm?
Maria - Commander Lorrelas recently arrived in the area in preparation for naval exercises with the Coalition navy and he wanted to speak to you before you left for Mirenton.
Ylands - Excellent.
Ylands and Lorrelas were old friends, Ylands having served in the military alongside Lorrelas since the Golden Age before he retired to become a diplomat. Ylands had not told anyone about the true intent of his visit to the Mirenton embassy, but he felt that Lorrelas was someone he could safely confide in, no matter if Lorrelas had a fairly rosy view of the Coalition. Ylands stepped into his shuttle, which lifted off into orbit of New Raysong. A large TIAF battlefleet, supervised by the USS Arizona, had arrived in the system, and Ylands could assume that this was the head fleet. Lorrelas invited him onboard the Arizona, and the two met in the transporter room.
Lorrelas - Andrew! Good to see you again! Glad I caught you before you left!
Ylands - Yeah... Gosh, it's been far too long since I was aboard this ship.
Lorrelas - It's been upgraded a little bit since you resigned. I think your old fighter is still in the Main Strike Fleet hangar bay, though.
Ylands - Where's Sammy and Natalie, anyways? Aren't they always at your side?
Lorrelas - Well, we're practicing the traditional naval order and such today. Natalie's over with the 1st Regiment and Sam's over commanding the 4th Regiment, but otherwise they'd be here.
Ylands - Well, that's good to hear.
Lorrelas - You should join us sometime during the exercises. It'll be like old times.
Ylands - Old times. Speaking of that...
Lorrelas perked up his ears as Ylands began to redirect the conversation. He had a feeling he knew where this was going.
Lorrelas - Maybe we should step into a more private area.
Lorrelas and Ylands made their way down to the Main Strike Fleet hangar, where only members of the MSF and authorized guests were permitted.
Lorrelas - So...
Ylands - Do you remember way back in 1764 SY, when we were on that expedition to the Milky Way...
Lorrelas - Spodedamnit, I knew that you were going to start talking about that research study.
Lorrelas gave a lighthearted sigh of exasperation. He wasn't inclined to believe the rumor circulating about the DCP, especially with the possibility of political motivations involved. Despite his nonchalant attitude, however, he did have a level of intrigue.
Ylands - Well, think about it, James, I think we all know the DCP is a surveillance state. So what's stopping them from trying to keep an eye on the entire universe?
Lorrelas - Well, come on. If they knew us so well they would know we don't really hide too much from them. You're just being a bit paranoid.
Ylands - Maybe I am, but it still doesn't sit well with me that there's been a possibility the DCP has breached our trust since our first meeting.
Lorrelas - I would feel the same way. But they're our friends. Why should we be worried?
Ylands - Have you seen what the DCP has been up to lately? Aggressive actions in the Orion Spur, total disregard for France's sovereignty, there's even rumors the Coalition's setting its eyes on Cyrannus...
Ylands paused for a moment, now consumed with concern.
Ylands - ...I don't know, James, do you think... do you think we might be next?
Lorrelas was briefly taken aback by Ylands' suggestion, but quickly shook it off.
Lorrelas - Perhaps, if this whole thing turns out to be real, it could be a prelude to war. But they wouldn't be that desperate now, would they?
Ylands - I don't know. It doesn't look good. I wouldn't be surprised if those DCP fleets you'll be practicing with end up on the opposite side of the battlefield from us someday.
Lorrelas - Come on, now, don't get too conspiracy theorist on me. Maybe all of this diplomatic stuff is weighing on you? Maybe you should take a break.
Ylands gave his friend a vindictive aside glance.
Ylands - I'm not going to stand idly by if the Coalition has been spying literally right under our noses, whether or not it's true or not.
Lorrelas - Well, what are you gonna do then?
Ylands - Listen... I haven't told anyone else this, but the real reason I've decided to go to Mirenton today? I'm going to get to the bottom of this.
Lorrelas - You- You don't mean-
Ylands - I'm going to do it. And if they have nothing to hide, well, then they have nothing to hide. But if they do...
Both Ylands and Lorrelas were aware of the risks involved with what Ylands was planning.
Lorrelas - Well... I won't stop you. But I'm not going to help you with anything that breaches our allies' trust.
Ylands - Well, then I guess I'll have to get to the bottom of this myself. Oh, and...
Lorrelas - Hmm?
Ylands - ...If you don't hear back from me, I think you'll be able to figure out why.
Lorrelas nodded in agreement, with a hint of worry in his expression.
Lorrelas - You're gonna tell me what you find. Promise.
Ylands - Cross my heart and hope to die.
Ylands embraced his friend before giving the signal to beam back to his shuttle. Ylands gave a quick salute to his comrade, and Lorrelas reciprocated before Ylands disappeared from the hangar. Ylands rematerialized in the transporter room aboard the shuttle craft and gave the order to the shuttle captain to depart immediately.
Ylands - Mirenton awaits us. Spodespeed, captain.
Captain - Roger. Prepare for departure.
The shuttle jumped to the edge of the solar system, activating its hyperdrive as it entered interstellar space. Ylands began idly filing through some diplomatic cables as the shuttle approached the Maelstrom surrounding the heart of Coalition space, knowing very well that his work at the embassy today would not be one of a diplomat, but of a spy.