Ch. 3: Searching for the Diamond in the Ruff.

Aria put on her last glove, pulling it tight for dramatic affect. These gloves were much shorter than her original ones and were a pearly white; in fact, this outfit was completely different in its color scheme. The appearance of her top and pants were still the same, but the hue was that of a deep royal-blue. She now wore pointed-toe, white boots, which barely went past her ankles. Blue-colored swirls marked her white helmet in an elegant way; and the same swirls were also on her gloves and boots. Overall, she liked the new outfit, and vaguely wondered who had put it together. A blue belt now held her Martian-style death ray gun; thankfully, she knew how to use it.

She stood motionlessly in the center of her temporary room, pondering if she should look out of her window. The fear of seeing her destroyed planet weighed heavily on her heart, so she was tempted to wait until she got to the bridge to see. She just didn't want Commander X-2 to see her have an emotional breakdown. It wouldn't be professional for a commander to show such a sign of weakness. She didn't want the commander to think she was weak. After inhaling deeply, she straightened her figured and decided to wait until she got to the bridge; she would be strong regardless of the sight that might meet her.

With determined eyes, she stepped out of her room and into the hallway. The empty hallway. She let her eyes slip back into their original state; one of sadness and concern. Solemnly, she walked down the dark and silent hall, passing numerous doors as she went; but just from a glance, she knew none of them led to the bridge. Although she was thankful for the absence of life in the passageway, she still found it disconcerting. There was always someone going by her on her ship. Centurions were just too efficient to waste time with an idle walk. She couldn't understand how Commander X-2 could stand to be around such lifeless creatures. They certainty weren't much for conversation.

She shook her head, realizing she had no ground to assume things about the commander. He could very well prefer the silence and solitude. Hopefully, she could become better acquainted with him- on a professional level. Although, there was no need to be unfriendly, she might be working along side him for a while. She would definitely choose the commander's company over a centurion's. A small smile passed over her invisible lips as she approached the door that hid the main bridge.

The door opened before her, revealing the darkly colored bridge, which was full of centurions; and in the center of the room sat Commander X-2. Confidently, she strode into the room with her head held high. The centurions paid her little notice, but once she approached the helm, the commander immediately became aware of her presence. Commander X-2 stood with a firm, but yet somehow sincere, sentiment shining in his eyes.

"Commander Aria, now that you are here, we may begin." He motioned for her to follow as he made his way over to the magnificent window that was positioned at the head of the room.

With cautious steps, she did as instructed and took her place beside the Martian Commander. Do to their proximity with the planet, the surrounding space was barely visible through the thick sheet of glass; most of the picture consisted of the devastated biosphere. All seemed quiet; but that only reminded her of the calm that comes before the storm. She just had to remember that the storm had already come and passed. The domineering spaceship refused to shudder as it entered Mercury's thin atmosphere; she couldn't even feel them being pulled down by the planet's weak gravitational pull. Such factors could be felt, no matter how minor, in her own spaceship. For a moment, she allowed herself to marvel at the ingenuity of the Martian spacecraft. Too bad she never got the blueprints for their newer models. Suddenly, the vessel touched down, with the slightest or rumbles.

"Come commander, we will now commence our search of the surface." Once again, he indicated for her to follow.

Wordlessly, she trailed after the tense commander; yet again, his posture his stern and powerful. She felt a sudden admiration for the stubborn Martian; she could tell that he was still tired. She could conceal such exhausted from her crew as well as he could; but there was no hiding it from a fellow commander. Within a few moments, they had reached the loading and unloading dock of the ship. Silently, she watched huge metal doors slid down; Commander X-2 continued to lead her to those opening doors.

The commander stopped at the base of the door, which caused Aria to stop, "Are you quite ready, commander?"

She looked at him as he spoke, then cast her gaze over the dismal world in front of them, "Yes," she nodded her head, "lets go."

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the commander nod to her reply before stepping over the door's threshold. Once again, she silently pursued him, and notice that centurions were following close behind. Ignoring them, she held her breath as she descended the sloping metal platform that went down to the ground. The further she went down, the further her heart sank; the ravaged ground seemed to send out a plea of help to her. It only took a few seconds to reach the ground, but it felt like an unpleasant eternity.

"Since our numbers are short, we shall assist in the search for any survivors."

The commander's odd accent woke Aria up from her nightmarish thoughts; quickly, she blinked away her uneasiness, "Right."

Commander X-2 gave her a weary glance, "Are you certain you are up for this?"

Her commander's personality immediately took over, "Of course." She straightened her posture and forced her eyes to show strength, instead of weakness.

He nodded, though he didn't look convinced, "We shall venture to one of the fall-out shelters." He motioned for her to take the led, "If you could take us to one."

She nodded and started walking through the rummage. With a slight frown, she noticed one centurion was accompanying them. She wished that the Martian military didn't reply so heavily on machines. Perhaps they just didn't those as competent as Commander X-2. Slightly, she blushed; she didn't know if the commander was competent, he could be the son of the previous commander for all she knew. Instantly, she felt ashamed for thinking such a thing. Pensively, she decided to wait until seeing him in action to form an opinion. An opinion of his capabilities, that it; he had certainly been nice and courteous to her, which she was thankful for.

As she came out of her thoughts concerning the commander, she noticed that they had reached one of the many fallout shelters. Warily, she entered the structure, completely forgetting about the presence of Commander X-2 or the centurion. Upon a quick inspection, she noticed something odd; the building appeared as if it had been blown up from the inside. Her eyes narrowed; the Mercurians that had sought shelter here were given little protection. She couldn't dwell on the sight of their mangled bodies for long; she gave them just enough attention to determine if they were dead. Most of them were, but with time, she realized that they all were. Throughout their investigation, no one had spoken, so the commander's voice startled her slightly when he unexpectedly spoke.

"Perhaps we should try elsewhere." He placed his hand gently on her shoulder.

She stifled a gasp at the sudden contact, and gave a thoughtful look to his hand, "I agree, there is no one here." She cleared her throat in an attempt to conceal a soft sob.

If the commander heard the cry of distress, he didn't let on that he did, "Move out."

She could tell by his voice that he wasn't facing her; more than likely, he was addressing the silent centurion. More or less, she ignored her two companions and left the shamble of a building. They continued their search; and as they moved further and further away from the Martian ship, the less they found. That is, the bodies became more and more disheveled. With that, her heart fell more and more. The land was also becoming more disastrous, and it took some delicate footwork to make it around all the ruble. Commander X-2 had no problems keeping up with her pace; nor did the centurion, but that was only because it floated above the ground.

"What is the problem?"

Arian stopped short, thinking that the commander was asking her a question, but it was directing toward the machine. She gave a curious look to the centurion, who just stared blankly at Commander X-2. To see the commander's reaction to the silence, she cast her gaze over to him and saw that he was tapping his foot impatiently. After another moment, he crossed his arm over his chest and glared intensely at the disobedient machine.

Giving a frustrated sigh, he approached the centurion and poked it unceremoniously on its metal chest, "Answer me now."

Aria stepped beside him, "Maybe the nearest control tower has suffered some damage. It looks like he's powered down."

The commander gave a closer look at the robot, "It would appear so," he turned to face her, "do you wish to continue on without it?"

She glanced at the devastated land that laid in front of them, and then back at the centurion before resting her eyes on the commander, "Yes, we can manage without it."

Without saying anything else, both of the commanders continued their trek through the demolished world, hopping to find some kind of life.

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