Rylan parted the curtains and stared out the window. "You could have told me just how powerful your family is."
"True, but it wouldn't have been fun otherwise," Annabelle answered as she crossed the room and leaned against the wall. She jabbed his stomach with her elbow and grinned. "Though I doubt you would have listened to me since you never shared that kind of information."
With a grunt, Rylan let the curtain fall. "You know I did what the situation required of me."
Annabelle flung the curtains apart and slid the door open. She took a deep breath of the air and beckoned Rylan to join her on the terrace. Without waiting to see if he obeyed, she strode out and leaned against the railing.
"Do you honestly think your family can shelter us?"
Annabelle smirked as her elbow flew into Rylan's side. "With the crystals you liberated from the storage assembly, Daddy's already one-upped the Captain's incomplete hard copy of the incident."
"That's not surprising considering it wasn't a complete report." Rylan rested against the rail. "I assume the other crystals will solidify our efforts."
Annabelle clapped her hands as her smile grew warm. "The video of the Captain confining us all to quarters didn't help him."
"That's why I arranged it," Rylan muttered. With a sigh, he leaned away from the banister and examined the balcony. He walked towards the pair of chairs and plopped into one. As he settled into it, Rylan used the carafe and filled a glass with water. "I'm glad your father has put it to such excellent use, I hope the rest of the crystals will prove just as useful for him."
She scampered to the other chair and helped herself to a drink. Anabelle clinked hers against Rylan's, muttering, "Why are you in such a foul mood?"
Rylan waved his glass towards the surrounding land. "While this is a beautiful sight, I'd like to establish my life here."
"Are you kidding me!?" Annabelle cried as she laid her cup down and pulled her chair in front of Rylan. "You spearheaded the return of the Larian storage assembly, you'll be able to do whatever you want."
"That flexibility will only exist while your parents can influence those in power."
"You worry too much," Annabelle said before sipping some water.
Rylan withdrew a crystal from his pocket and brandished it between them. "Didn't you receive one of these?"
"I've received nothing," Annabelle blurted, laying the cup on the table. She grabbed the stone and hurried to the wall and plugged it into a free data port. Annabelle glanced over her shoulder, pounding the terminal. "Who sent you this note?"
"It's from the Captain," Rylan answered. He downed his drink and clapped his hands, rising from the chair. "It is a two-part message." Rylan interlaced his fingers behind his back and sauntered over to Annabelle. "The first congratulates me on a game well played."
"Is that what he considers everything we went through?"
"That's what it sounds like," Rylan replied.
"And what's the second half of the missive?"
Rylan tapped the screen. "That we only won a battle, not a war."
Annabelle pounded the wall and rested her head on it. "Can't they leave us alone?"
"We've embarrassed some rather proud men," Rylan answered. He turned her around, lifting her chin with a finger. "No one enjoys suffering that, and whatever affected half the crew amplified that sour taste. The Captain is concocting something and while it'll take time to come to fruition, he'll never forget what occurred."
"You're a worrier," a somber voice replied.
"Daddy," Annabelle squealed as she ducked under Rylan's arms.
Rylan turned and walked toward his host. "Hello, Mr. Dunhall, please don't consider him so lightly. Not a single member of that crew is ignorant or foolish, and their guided by Cederic and the Captain, both of whom can create and execute long-term plans."
"My family has shepherded this world for a few generations, Rylan." Annabelle's father released his daughter and clapped the technician's shoulder. "I don't think we're in any danger and please call me Garvin."
Rylan shook his head and chewed on his lower lip. "If it weren't for Annabelle, we wouldn't have gotten off the ship."
Garvin looked back at his girl, muttering, "She did not tell me that."
"Because I didn't," Annabelle replied. "Rylan is trying to be modest."
"Nonsense," Rylan countered. "Annabelle's the reason I started preparing for our departure. If she hadn't forced me to consider the oddities, I would not have engineered our escape."
Garvin smiled, pulling his daughter into another embrace.
"I'm telling you this because I assumed the Captain's increasing agitation was nothing to worry about and almost regretted it." Rylan closed his eyes and sighed. "Garvin, what's the latest news from the government."
"You don't waste any time," Garvin said releasing his child. "Rylan, you and the rest of your team are being praised as heroes of your brief excursion."
"What does that mean for me?"
"Well, it means that you'll become a part of the union," Garvin paused, clapping Rylan's back. "And don't worry we'll find the perfect position for you."
"Are the authorities considering recolonizing the dead planets?"
"No," Garvin declared. "It's been decided that we'll create a new coalition away from those worlds."
Rylan looked up and groaned. "And what's your opinion on that expansion?"
"Something best examined after considering all possibilities."
Rylan withdrew the crystal and slipped it into Garvin's pocket. "You do not possess an endless amount of time to wait. Check the stone and keep the Captain under observation."
With a nod, Garvin patted his jacket. "Why don't you remain here with us?" He grabbed his daughter's hand and smirked. "I'm sure Annabelle would appreciate it."
Grinning, Rylan took hold of Annabelle's hands. "You could have invited me to stay."
With a wink, Annabelle wrapped her arms around Rylan's waist. "I refused to prompt that choice."
Rylan laughed and kissed Annabelle.
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A technician performs an update to the Tergaran platform that connects their world to the rest of the Empire. Once updated the platform is dead. Will they be able to connect to the Home World or will they be cut off from the rest of the Empire...