Shane Valorin waited politely on the teleporter deck, tapping his fingers patiently on his trousers. He would have thought that the Captain would want to hurry in this situation. A majority of his crew were injured–both from battle and chemical imbalance. The ship was an overcooked bratwurst in the way it looked and, worse than all this, the morale of the entire fleet was at a dangerous low.

And yet the Captain was holding a friendly conversation with the teleporter Petty Chief, a chameleon-like Reen. The two were laughing at jokes and the Captain was clapping him on the shoulder proudly.

Shane shrugged. Oh well, at least he's trying to keep them honest. His tapping pace quickened. At least I hope that's what he's doing. He checked his watch, now impatient, soon realizing how pointless that was, They weren't trying to keep an appointment or anything.

The Captain finally nodded his appreciation–or whatever–to the Petty Chief, and trotted up to the teleporter deck. Nodding smugly with chagrined eyes to Shane, the man took the pod directly to his right. "You should be staying here," he muttered.

Shane, as usual, ignored the side comment.

Smiling openly an instant later, the Captain nodded again at the Reen. "Whenever you're ready Chief."

Shane lay his fingers to rest. A second later, the teleporter energy cloud zapped him from the chamber to the shiny deck of an immense hangar bay on the Palle base. The first thing Shane noticed about the gigantic open space was its disc-like shape, which, as Shane could remember, followed the Palle's common design and architecture. There were absolutely no dividing walls or cargo doors or anything in this bay, and one could follow the extensive geometric pattern of black lines and indented shapes all the way from one end of the scuffed metal floor to the other. At the center of the giant circle was an amazingly huge, multi-layer generator which, according to what Shane had reviewed, powered the network of track that the thirty-or-so rotating docking rings spun on. That way, the hangar could fit an entire armada of small starships inside its belly. And there was still enough space left to store over two thousand crates–cylinder, circle and disc in shape of course–full of cargo and supplies ranging from the simple like foodstuffs for the mess hall to the valuable and dangerous like Uranium and Duranium.

However, considering the scope of the emergency happening, it was no surprise to Shane that most of the everyday crates were being quickly replaced by more, marked with the Palle Medical Token. Beds had been laid out around the innermost circle, transforming a portion of the hangar into a triage center for the extensive amount of wounded and marred Alliance patients. Most of them were already and it had only been ten minutes since the first ship had docked. The doctors were rushing from bed to bed, completely overwhelmed. The bay's walls echoed a flourish of desperate and anguished shouts as the doctors reset broken bones. Some were even operating on patients right in the middle of the hangar, under protective, sanitized plas-steel covers. A morgue for those less fortunate officers had been established in a far off section. The entry and exit doors swished open as carts and medics sped in and out of them. They never seemed to stay closed for than a split-second.

The entire bay summed up in one word was chaos: a reflection of the war that Shane and the Alliance fleet had just come back from fighting. It seemed there was no escape from....

Shane blinked once, casting out that thought. That's how the military people thought: the lunatics. And those were the last people in the universe Shane would ever want to be.

The Captain immediately started, moving practically at a jog, forcing Shane, reluctantly, to try and keep up with him. And Shane didn't like rushing. He found himself nervously eyeing everything around him. And his fingers were back to beating the sides of his trousers again. Distracted, Shane suddenly saw that the distance between him and the Captain had lengthened in the last few seconds. Fearing he might lose him in the crowd of ahead, Shane stepped up his pace, jogging fully to catch up. But in his rush, he got distracted again, the drive to hurry almost sweeping him away from reality, and he nearly bumped into the Captain, skidding to a stop just behind his back. The sound of his boots skidding across part of the deck caused the Captain to stop abruptly, much to his severe disdain.

Upon seeing the alert look on Shane's face, the Captain haughtily asked, "What is it?"

Shane tried looking him in the eye, but found he couldn't. So instead of attempting it again and trying the Captain's patience, his eyes darted to the floor and the geometric patterns painted on it. "Oh, nothing; I—w-was just catching up to you, that's all," he stuttered, afraid to look around, much less up.

Rolling his eyes in a ridiculous fashion, the Captain continued on without another word–Shane making sure to stay with him–into the triage and its enormous crowd of beds, people, screams and sounds...Shane tried hard to keep his eyes locked on the back of the Captains dove-white uniform; the ripped and bloodied dove-white uniform. At the same time, he kept his mind fastened onto trying to figure out where the Captain was going. Soon enough the man was chasing one of the tall Palle doctors around, asking him where the base Leader was. After following the busy Palle around for a few minutes, he finally got one sentence out of him:

"I do not know." He rushed off.

The Captain sighed roughly. His exchanged irritable glances with the clueless Shane, palms balling in and out of fists. Briefly coughing, he suddenly bolted into action, proceeding deeper into the crowd. Shane gulped and followed. The irritated Captain was now asking the same question any Palle man or woman he saw wearing any uniform other than a medical tunic. Some didn't know, and most didn't care and ignored the human. Yet he continued to ask.

As time flew by, Shane grew more and more flustered in the crowd, eyes darting furiously around. So far everyone had basically ignored him too. That relieved only slightly though. There might have been some that didn't....

Shane blinked again. He felt terribly claustrophobic all of a sudden, even though he didn't suffer from that really. He needed to get out of this crowd, and fast. He found his way almost the instant later, while he was surveying again. Thin-headed Ikorian Alliance Captain Wessler was passing by the triage at a brisk pace, alongside a much taller Palle man–they never seemed to do anything small–in a military uniform. It could have been the base Leader, it could have be anybody. Shane didn't care though. They had to get out of this crowd.

So he called out to his Captain and pointed at Wessler. Excited, the Captain barged back through the mess of the triage, Shane following, relieved. They reached Wessler and the tall Palle man in no time.

"Who are you?" Wessler asked incriminating, rather rudely too.

The Captain practically ignored him, talking to the Palle. "Are you the base Leader?"

The Palle curtly nodded. "Yes. My name is Det, I am Leader"

"Good," he smiled for a moment, happy. He stuck out his hand powerfully. "I'm Captain Charles Valorin of the cruiser Shepard." They shook hands in two chops. "I'm sorry I surprised you, but I've been looking all over for you, Sir. We need to talk about what we do next." He turned slightly to face Captain Wessler and stuck out his hand.

"My misunderstanding?" the Palle asked.

The two Captains shook briskly.

The Captain then turned back to Shane reaching out his hand for something. "Gimme the datapad," he ordered.

"My misunderstanding?" the Palle asked again.

"What?" the Captain asked as Shane gave him the pad.

"What did you say?" the Palle asked in simpler terms.

Puling the pad in front of him, the Captain answered, "We need to talk about what's next for us. Where do we go from here, Leader?" He activated the datapad. "The Order just ran us out of the Haas'Bool system, and I know they'll–"

Before he could stop himself, Shane muttered the word "Umm," intending to correct the Captain's pronunciation of Haas'Pool. He then cut the sentence short quickly.

Nevertheless, the Captain swung his head around, glaring at him. "I'm busy. Shut up." Turning to Wessler and the Palle, he briefly gestured back to Shane. "That's my son, Shane. He's my aid. Only thing he can do to help." He snickered. "A damn pacifist. Never picked up a gun before in his life."