The USF Chronicles are the official lore of Infinite Fleet, documenting the important historical events and character journeys dating up to the start of the main game.
A Citadel is not measured by its population or geography. It isn’t measured by its breadth or military. And neither is it measured by its economic output or its citizens’ prosperity. In Chase’s mind, these were all antiquated appraisal tools trying to quantify the preceding citizenries of human history: tribes, countries, and early interplanetary alliances.
In the end, Citadels were always measured by their choices.
And there were few Citadel leaders more decisive in their choices than Ruolan Trung, the Servetus Citadel Leader. Chase had come across Trung in his studies both in her capacity as a strategist and as a diplomat, and he had come to revere her equally in both regards. She was raised during the AI War as a guerilla fighter on what was then the outskirts of the Eden Citadel (but was now Servetus territory), and was a gifted variant. It was no surprise then that Servetus had expanded exponentially under her eleven year reign.
“The recent census puts Servetus’ population at a little over nine million,” said Rainer, sitting in Chase’s co-pilot seat. “Divided more or less evenly among humans, saplings, and synthetics; mostly concentrated on Kalmar, their capital planet.”
Kalmar was in the same system as New Geneva, their orbits sometimes carrying the planets as close as 50 million kilometers to each other.
“Is that where we’re headed now?” asked Chase over comms.
Lee was piloting a small vessel lent to them from Eden’s Embassy, trailing just behind them at Chase’s starboard quarter. With Rainer added to their ranks, the Eclipse’s two-person capacity was insufficient for the three of them.
“No,” said Lee. “Servetus’ command is on a covert space station near Kalmar, hidden somewhere in the surrounding asteroid belt. We’ll have to find it.”
“And how do you plan on doing that?” said Rainer. “Neither of our vessels have advanced tracking capabilities.”
“Let them find us,” said Lee, deactivating his vessel’s stealth systems.
Chase followed suit, inputting code into the Eclipse’s console, directing it to deactivate its otherwise persistent stealth capabilities. After several hours' travel, they were well within the guarded domain surrounding Kalmar.
Almost immediately Chase’s HUD flashed red with high priority requests for his vessel’s call sign and affiliation. Before he could answer, Lee replied to both requests with a single word: Pathfinder.
A Servetus Centurion dropped out of Godspeed into their view a few minutes later and instructed them to dock in its hangar. While Chase felt like they were once again voluntarily surrendering themselves to the enemy’s clutches, he reminded himself that their presence was purely diplomatic.
Before they departed New Geneva, Chase and Lee had discussed possible courses of action to satisfy Ducom’s request of disrupting Servetus. Lee advocated for a diplomatic approach, while Chase suggested they pursue more abstract options. Both strategies required more intel and an audience with Trung.
As they docked their vessels in the Centurion, Lee connected to Chase’s comms, speaking in a hushed tone.
“Remember, we’re here for intel,” he said. “Follow my lead.”
“Understood, sir,” said Chase.
Chase felt the familiar lurching sensation as the Centurion entered Godspeed. A dozen Servetus guards approached them as they exited their vessels. Chase and Rainer were asked for identification, Lee’s notoriety ostensibly excepting him. After surrendering their weapons, they were escorted wordlessly through the Centurion’s corridors. The vessel’s architecture was jagged and highlighted in black and amber colorations. It felt like they were walking through the inner workings of a hostile, poisonous insect.
Reality stretched back out around them as the Centurion dropped back out of Godspeed; a short trip. The mechanical shudder of hydraulic clamps echoing through the vessel as they docked to an unknown structure. The Servetus guards guided them into a metallic room devoid of any furnishing aside from two opposed entryways and a sheet of glass which divided the room into two even halves.
All of the guards exited the room apart from two who remained posted on either side of the door they had entered. Rainer approached the glass, running a finger experimentally along its surface.
“Immutium reinforced,” she said. “Do they think we’re assassins?”
“If they did we wouldn’t have got this far,” said Lee.
“We’re here diplomatically,” said Chase. “They have no reason to believe otherwise.
“Yet even a diplomat can be an assassin,” said a voice, slightly distorted by unseen speakers in the room.
The door on the opposite side of the room slid open with a hiss and four figures entered through it. The voice belonged to a woman with long, bright red hair, adorned in black body armor under a loosely buttoned amber blouse - Ruolan Trung.
“And an assassin, a diplomat,” said Trung, striding towards the glass confidently. “Equally dangerous in my experience.”
Trung’s escorts stood near the back of the room, similarly dressed in a combination of body armor and formalwear. Likely bodyguards, advisors, or both.
“Leader Trung,” said Lee. “Thank you for seeing us. It is an honor to be-”
“Skip the pleasantries, Pathfinder,” said Trung. “They don’t suit you.”
Lee glanced at Rainer, who shrugged.
“Very well,” said Lee. “Why have you severed communications with Eden?”
Trung looked to her advisors, who whispered something indiscernible.
“What interest does the USF have in it?” she said.
“I thought we were skipping the pleasantries,” said Lee cooly. “We both know all the USF wants to keep this region stable.”
“And safely out of its enemies’ grasp,” said Trung, smirking. ”Tell me Commander, are we enemies?”
“That depends on why you severed communications with Eden.”
Trung conferred with her advisors again. Chase didn’t like the direction Lee was taking the negotiation. As Lee had said, they were here to gather intel, not to rile an ambivalent, militaristic Citadel.
Trung turned back to them. “We’re conferring with a third party who asked that we pause our diplomatic ties with Eden until our negotiations are concluded.”
“Third party,” repeated Lee. “Nexus?”
“A third party,” reaffirmed Trung.
“What would it take to bring these negotiations to a close?”
“Nothing the USF has to offer.”
“Even your safety?”
She regarded Lee harshly, but didn’t answer.
Lee took a step forward. “All of this,” he gestured around them, “swelling your ranks, building war vessels, it’s smart. The galaxy is unstable, and I respect your desire to protect your people, but allying with Nexus isn’t the answer.”
“We can determine our own answers, thank you,” said Trung, turning to leave. She addressed the guards. “Return them to their vessels and see to it they depart our domain.”
The guards moved to escort them out of the room. Lee stood his ground.
“What is it you want, Trung?” he asked, expression darkening. “I know you don’t deal with the USF because of its Foundational Law. But you aren’t dealing with the USF. You’re dealing with me.”
Trung seemed to open up, almost excited by Lee’s candid demeanor.
“You have my attention, Commander Lee,” she said.
“Name your terms.”
“Say we wanted excellium, vessels, or even influence.”
The last word hung in the air. Chase and Rainer both looked at Lee, and then to each other. Lee was walking a fine line.
“I said, name your terms,” said Lee.
“Commander-” said Rainer.
“We’re not here to offer you weapons or influence,” said Chase, voice assertive. Lee eyed him, but let him speak. “Despite what my colleague has suggested.”
“Then there is nothing left for us to discuss,” said Trung.
“You refuse to ally with Eden because they didn’t protect you during the AI War, correct?”
Trung grit her teeth. “They didn’t protect anyone.”
“Neither did Nexus,” said Chase. “And neither did we. Calling it the ‘AI War’ is generous. It was a slaughter. Everyone did what they had to. A standing navy wouldn’t have changed that.”
“So what do you propose?” said Trung, voice rising. “We join the USF, pay our dues, and hope that when the time comes, your leadership will save us?”
“No,” said Chase. “When the time comes, Eden will need your leadership to save them.”
Everyone stared at Chase, but no one spoke. Eden’s policy of not holding a military presence of any kind was seen as utopian to some, and a dangerous omission to others. Chase understood the motivation behind the decision, but knew it was misguided in the face of the impending alien threat.
“You resent Eden for abandoning you,” said Chase softly. “So be better: don’t abandon them.”
Trung and her advisors exchanged uncertain glances, as did Chase, Rainer, and Lee. The outcome of their mission hung delicately in the air.
A siren wailed suddenly, loud and intrusive. The kind reserved for emergencies.
The guards behind them drew their weapons. One of Trung’s advisors consulted a tablet, eyes widening. The advisor showed Trung the tablet. ‘They found something’ was all Chase was able to lipread. Trung’s serious demeanor returned, all traces of contemplation gone.
“Detain them immediately,” she said.