Iniera walked through the ship, checking on the members of the Commission. While her team had sustained some injuries from the battle with the Tektors, Aurin was a remarkable healer. She was sure that she would be able to fix them up in no time. At the same time, diverging strategies for the war ahead fermented in the back of her mind. She walked without realizing to the cockpit of the ship, where Braxton was piloting.
"Yes?" Braxton asked as she sat down in the co-pilots seat, currently empty.
Iniera suddenly realized that she did not know why she had came. She felt out of place and uncomfortable, something that she felt a leader should never feel. She surprised even herself when her mouth blurted out the thing most prominently on her mind. "You really care about her, don't you?"
Braxton was taken aback. He was expecting something about the plan of action upon their return to Ether, reports of Trilden spies or the latest status report. Nothing like this. He blushed for a moment, but kept his concentration on piloting.
"Yes." He said after a while. Braxton glanced at her, trying to gauge her reaction or discern why she had asked him such a personal question. She looked sad, or perhaps just deep in thought.
"It's not wise, you know," she spoke somberly. "Especially with the war."
He sighed, looking out the windshield into the depths of space ahead of him. "I know."
Iniera looked at Braxton, making eye contact with him. Her piercing blue eyes still startled him, even though he had worked with her for years. "You know your duty," was all that she said before she abruptly rose from her seat and left.
Braxton continued to stare out the window, his thoughts drifting. He reached for a pocket in his uniform, retrieving an orb much like the one he had given Elena. Looking around the cabin first to ensure that no one was around, the brought it close and watched as a picture began to form inside.
There she was. She was sprawled out on her bed in a nightgown. It was dark there. She was sleeping. He smiled. Don't worry Elena. I'll come back for you.
He put the ship on autopilot for Ether and pocketed the orb, leaning back in his seat. Raymond entered the cabin next. "We're approaching Ether, sir."
"I know this, 148," he spoke in a monotone devoid of emotion. "I am piloting the ship."
The silhouette of their planet came into view. A red light began beeping on the radar. Raymond pointed it out. "What's that?"
Braxton looked closer, and flipped a couple of switches on the control panel. They were growing closer to the planet now.
The radar picture showed the outline of the planet, but with innumerable red dots overlapping it. "What are those, Braxton?"
The ship drew nearer. Braxton frowned, deep in thought, then his eyes gave away a sense of genuine fear.
"What's wrong, man?" Raymond asked, leaning over the control panel to see the radar better.
Braxton spoke slowly and deliberately. "Each one of those dots…is a Trilden frigate…orbiting the planet."
Raymond was speechless for minutes afterward.
Braxton broke the silence tensely as they drew nearer and nearer. "It was a trap. We should have seen this. Get Iniera in here."
Raymond frowned, then saluted. He said only two words as he looked out the window. "Some war."