Lilitia: Apologies for the double update, but this wasn't long enough to merit it's own day, but felt like it should be a separate entity to the previous chapter.

Book 2: Losing Ground. Epilogue - Set course for Yerta.

Once the confirmation of their new orders had come through, Ali returned to the bridge to update her crew. Suddenly she was almost floored by a sharp, severe pain in her head. She cried out as she caught herself on the back of her captain's chair with one hand, the other cradling her head as if she could make it stop. It left her almost as quickly, though the disorientation remained as she caught her breath.

"What just happened?" Pixie asked, her expression confused and her tone worried.

"I'm fineā€¦ I think," Ali tried to reassure her crew, though if she were honest she was far more worried about what it meant.

She glanced at Rila, who was stood up at her station - clearly ready to offer assistance if required - and her tentacles were floating around her head as she tried to determine what had just happened. After a moment Rila clicked her tongue as if to say she couldn't be sure what it was either. Check the reports from Yerta. Now. Ali ordered as she took her seat.

Rila didn't argue but just took her seat again and carried out the order. Ali could feel that she kept glancing her way as if to ask if she was really okay, but Ali ignored her second in command. Rila knew about Ali's heritage - unlike the rest of her bridge crew - and because she was jetran she had a good understanding of different telepathic cultures. She had suspicions that anyone would in the circumstances. But Ali couldn't confirm or deny them without further information and that was just what they were searching for.

Ali herself had turned to the computer housed within her chair to check her own news feeds.

It was one of the longest waits that Ali thought she'd endured. She kept telling herself that she was wrong, that she was paranoid and it was simply coincidence. It hadn't been so intense when the first bomb went off and that had left an imprint of loss in her. This hadn't been anything like that. Though the logical part of her mind kept reminding her that this time it could be two tetnar cut from her, ones that hadn't been developed - or possibly fully - anywhere near as long. She did her level best to ignore that voice until she knew what had happened.

"Captain, the intel is patchy and still being confirmed, but there are reports of an explosion on Yerta in roughly the same area as the previous bomb," Rila broke the silence with an even tone but quiet voice, and Ali was glad she was sat down as the world lurched beneath her feet. "It's unclear just how bad, but civilians and relief efforts were caught in the blast."

The entire bridge had stopped when Rila dropped the news, no one but Ali and Pixie had expected it. Even they hadn't quite expected Touchard's threats to be so prompt. Ali took a steadying breath as she tried not to panic about what the pain in her mind had really meant. There were alternative explanations and nothing was set in stone yet. It couldn't be. "Captain?"

Ali considered their options. As far as she was concerned their priority was to offer assistance, and if it turned out that there were already plenty of ships and people attending to the scene - and she couldn't get the reports she needed - they could work out their next move from there. Even if it was to head to HQ as they were supposed to be doing. "Ed, set course for Yerta."

Lilitia: And that's a wrap for Book 2! I am currently working on Book 3 - currently got 34k words of draft 1 written, which is about halfway through my outline - and plan on uploading it here once it's been finalised and edited.

Thank you for reading this far, it's definitely appreciated, and if you have any comments don't hesitate to leave them.