7: Sundown (1/3)

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March 24, 2180 (New Era Calendar)/
Antilla System, Hillhouse Compound, Antilla Prime

Prime Minister Septem Eslos rubbed at his temples, exhaustion from a long day of litigations starting to seep in. The twin-faced chronometer on his desk showed Antilla Prime Local Time and its relation to Galactic Standard Time, set to the time from humanity's birth world of Terra. He glared at it, disbelieving it was as late -- early -- as it was. The numbers started to blur together on him and he blinked twice to clear his vision.

He'd been the Prime Minister of Antilla for just over a decade and at war for most of those ten years. Sometime before that, his wife died giving birth to his children, Antes and Indelli. No, the time had not been good to Septem Eslos. And now, the pressure to end the war with the Patriots mounted.

His Parliament proved to be useless. Hoping to appease Stenbach with the aim of gaining access to his mining platforms, they refused to grant him the ability to act unilaterally. Had that happened, Septem may have ended the Patriots' insurrection when it started. Instead, the Patriots only grew in size, strength and influence. Worse, the populace had grown tired of the war, and members of Parliament scouring to gain favor for their own political ends, appeased them.

In his hand, Septem held a datapad with a petition brought forth by these ambitious members of Parliament on behalf of their constituents who believed that Antilla must request assistance from the Alliance in order to end the Patriot threat once and for all. Part of Septem empathized with them, sure. Their homes, lives, and futures were in constant flux due to the war with the Patriots. But if Parliament could get it together and do the right thing, none of this would matter. A big if if there ever was one.

Septem knew he had a bigger problem on his hands, however. Even if he'd been given the pass from Parliament, the Patriot Fleet had disappeared. Reconnaissance teams reported their disappearance weeks ago. This scared Septem more than anything. It meant that Stenbach was up to something and experience told him that the leader of the Patriots was never up to anything good.

Sensing the need to calm down, he placed the datapad down and stood from his desk, stretching his back as he reached for the sky. He marched to the double glass doors that opened out to an expansive second-story patio and looked out over a sprawling silver lake.

Hillhouse, the Prime Minister's residential complex, rested atop a hill surrounded on three sides by immaculately maintained green grass. Behind it, a silver lake fed into by numerous streams where Septem often went for a swim at the beginning of his first term as Prime Minister. Nearing the conclusion of his second term, he rarely enjoyed a dip in the lake, but often came out on the patio to take in its peaceful -- almost serene -- beauty. It also reminded him of simpler times. He thought of Antes and Indelli as small children, diving into the water and for the briefest of moments he could hear their laughter. He caught a vision of his wife, a beacon of light in his memory and smiled to himself. If only you were still with me, Sarah. If only I had half of your strength. Then maybe this war wouldn't have lasted nearly as long.

An alert from inside jolted Septem from his reverie.

He hustled inside to check the commlink on his desk. An alert hovered above the holographic projector in red light.

A priority-one communique?

All sorts of questions and concerns filled Septem's mind and the moment the hologram transformed into the face of Commander Myles Warren, those concerns festered instantly into outright alarm. Commander Warren's visage betrayed that worry. Septem heard the sounds of plasma torches cutting through alloy and shouts in the distance. Tell tale signs of an active flight deck if Septem ever recognized them. Still, the sight of his old friend afforded him a genuine smile—reasons for doing so coming few and far between in recent memory

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