Wild Birds

Summary: The Silvana gets some very unexpected new "crew members."

Warnings: none

Disclaimer: I do not own Last Exile, no money is being made from this use.

A Pair of Cuckoos

"Lavie?" Alex asked as he knocked on her door. He stepped back as Alvis opened it just enough to peek out at him apprehensively. Considering everything that had happened since she had come aboard the Silvana he hadn't had much time to get to know the girl he was technically guardian of now. "Am I really that frightening to children?" He asked himself, trying not to frown as he knelt down to be eye level with her. She opened the door farther. "Do you know where Lavie is?"

"She went to check on Claus, and Mr. Brom, but she's been gone for a while." Alvis answered quietly.

Alex nodded sighing, if she'd been gone a while she'd most likely been distracted by other things and if he went looking for her would probably end on a wild goose chase all over the ship. "I need to talk to her, do you mind if I wait here?" She shook her head in response stepping back so he could come in, though she looked nervous. He sat on the sofa, while Alvis went to Lavie's desk where a brush, mirror, and her strange bun covers were waiting. He leaned his head back closing his eyes, it had been hectic lately, so he tried to catch any bit of rest what he could.

They had been attached by the guild not even a day after Alvis had boarded. Claus, and Charles Brom, who had become his fighter navi had been injured. A starfish had been playing with them, making them too distracted when another attacked from the side. The pilot of the first starfish, apparently angry that their game had been interrupted had shot the attacker down. Fortunately the guild's time limit had run out before the 'game' could be finished, and they'd had to retreat, or risk malfunctions, and damage caused by the machines overheating. That was one of the few weakness' starfish had. Claus had been able to get back to the Silvana safely. He hadn't been severely injured, and was more frustrated than anything, but Charles wouldn't be flying anytime soon leaving Claus without a fighter navi.

Alex was distracted from his thoughts by quiet grumbling. He looked over at the desk in time to see Alvis' messily placed bun cover slip off her head, and land on the floor. She pouted at it angrily. "Looks like you need help with that. Do you want me to get Sophia?"

"Guita used to..." Was the only response he got out of the girl. He wasn't quite sure how to deal with that, he wasn't sure how to deal with Alvis. Claus, and Lavie had been easy, he'd known them, and cared for them before. Alvis, he knew nearly nothing about, other than she was the last known survivor of one of the purged families, and she was possibly the only one in the world with the power to save Prester. Claus had told him about Alvis' caretaker being dead when they had found Ralph Wednesday's vanship. Alvis had probably spent most of her life up until now having nearly everything done for her. That was, admittedly all too easy for him to understand. How many times had he had to remind himself that he wouldn't always be there for Claus, and Lavie? That he could die, and leave them just as suddenly as their fathers and Euris had? One bad injury, or illness could leave him to waste away like Justina?

Alvis it seemed, wanted to be able to look after herself. Helping her learn to do so was going to take time, and patience. Considering Lavie's temper at times he wondered if leaving Alvis with her had been the best idea, but she had already grown surprisingly attached to Claus and Lavie. Separating her from them wouldn't help at all.

He got up from the sofa and walked over to the desk. "Here let me try. Don't expect much, I haven't done anything like this since Lavie started keeping her hair short. According to her, I wasn't very good at it then either."

Alvis looked up at him curiously. "You used to take care of Lavie?"

He nodded. "I've raised both Claus and Lavie since Claus' mother died when they were five." He reached over pulling a picture of Lavie, and Claus with Justina. "See, her hair used to be even longer than yours."

"Why does she keep it so short now?" Alvis asked curiosity replacing the fear she'd had of him before.

"Well for one thing, long hair can be dangerous working on a ship like this. Especially with the mechanic work Lavie does. We learned that the hard way when Lavie was little. " He paused, listening carefully before he leaned down closer to Alvis. "You have to promise not to tell her I told you about this." Alvis nodded eagerly in response. "Before we came here, we lived near a repair shop. Claus and Lavie were in there all the time learning everything they could about vanships. I usually left them there when I had something to do and there was nobody else to look after them. One day no one was really paying as much attention as they should have, and Lavie got her hair caught in one of the machines." Alvis gasped hugging the goat to her face anxiously. "She wasn't hurt." He added quickly to calm the girl. "She'd been very frightened by it though, and her hair was tangled in the machinery so bad the only way to get her loose was to cut it." "I on the other hand nearly died when I found out what happened." He added to himself before continuing. "She's never let her hair grow out since then."

"I KNEW IT!" They both jumped at the sound of Lavie's voice. She glared at Alex. "The moment I turn my back for long enough, you sneak in here and start telling stories!" She was balancing a tray of food on one hand as she closed the door. She set it on the desk before snatching the brush out of his hand. "Go over there, before you do some kind of permanent damage."

Holding his hands in front of him he retreated back to the sofa as Lavie started to brush Alvis' hair for her. "I came here to talk to you. It's not my fault you were out." He pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and tossed it onto the desk. "It's the list of supplies, I need you look over it and make sure nobody missed anything. We'll be at Walker's for repairs by sundown."

Lavie nodded, not looking up from Alvis. "Sybil let Claus out of the infirmary. I made sure he went right to his room to rest, but I don't know how long he'll stay there."

"Charles' injury leaves one of our best fighter pilots without a navi." Alex sighed leaning his head back on the sofa. "Not like Claus going let that stop him from trying to fight."

Lavie frowned as she finished with Alvis' hair. "I don't know. He was pretty freaked out about that starfish. To be honest I was too. It was just playing with them, .. And then... to shoot down one their own comrades? What kind of nut does that?" She asked angrily as she turned to Alex.

Alex just shook his head not looking up.

Sighing Lavie picked up the list and looked it over. "Looks like everything is here to me. We might want to double the order of spare parts for the vanships."

Alex nodded getting up. Lavie handed him the list, and then followed him out of the room as Alvis went to inspect some of the toys that had been found for her earlier.

"So what was it you really wanted to talk about?" Lavie asked closing the door quietly behind her. "You usually leave this kind of stuff," she continued taking the list from his hand, and waving it in his face. "to Sophia, It's pretty dumb of you if you're trying to pretend you aren't up to something."

Alex smirked. "How is she doing? This must be a big change for her."

"She's ok, I think. I just wonder what kind of life she had before. Sophia, and I had to teach her how to bathe and dress herself. She even acted like she'd never seen toys before." Lavie answered frowning.

Alex nodded. "She's been spending her life running from the guild. I can't imagine it left much time to be a child. How are you doing? This isn't too much for you is it?"

Lavie smiled. "If you can handle me, and Claus on your own, I'm sure we can handle her. I think, I can kinda understand why you used to get so frustrated now." She added quietly.

Alex placed a hand on top of her head ruffling her hair, receiving a glare in response. "Let me know if you need anything." He said before leaving her to return to the bridge.

Lavie stood in the hall for a while wondering if she should check on Claus, as she smoothed down her hair. She decided it would probably be best to leave him alone for a while, and went back into her room.

It was later in the evening after they had docked, and Alvis was tucked in bed sound asleep that Lavie decided to head into the casino. There were a few shops, and Lavie wanted to get some things for Alvis. Alex's birthday was also coming up too, and she wanted to find something nice and embarrassing for him after telling Alvis the story about her hair. Casino Royal was the perfect place to look for something like that. The casino had no end of tactics to send even the big winners home with empty pockets. She stopped to check on Claus who was out like a light before leaving, confident both he, and Alvis would stay out of trouble she shut the door to his room and headed for the shops.

Lavie smiled entering the bar with her shopping bag. She'd found some nice sketch pads, and crayons for Alvis. There had some left over from when she and Claus were little, but they had been in bad shape. She'd also found the perfect present for Alex, something embarrassing, but not something she could get in trouble for. Her vengeance would be complete when she gave it to him in front of Sophia. She frowned a bit as she made her way to the bar, absent mindedly waiving to the familiar barman. The place was crowded with nobles, from the other ship that had been docked when they arrived. "What kind of Nobles would dock here?" She wondered as she sat at the bar taking the water menu from the barman.

She'd been unable to hide her shock at finding out they had "first water from a rare source" for 80 Claudia. Lavie frowned, staring at the menu. 80 Claudia a stein was a lot even for first water. "The drought must be getting worse." She thought glumly. She recalled the fountain at the Mad-Thanes, where the poor people from town would come to get the cleaner water rather than having to boil the water from the canals, and the ornamental lake where children would come to play in the water every day. Not many noble families would do that, it was one of the reasons she and Claus had become so fond of them during their short stay. At this rate, she wondered how much longer would it be before even the Mad-Thanes no longer had water to share? Lavie was startled from her thoughts by a stein of water almost bumping into her hand. The boy at the end of the bar smiled at her.

About 15 minutes later Mullin Shetland blinked in confusion as Lavie snorted trying to contain her laughter. "You want to work for 'Runaway Ratface'?"

"Runaway Ratface...?"

Lavie continued snickering. "Sorry, that's what Alex calls him. He's got quite a reputation you know. It makes sense though, better than getting shot at, right?"

Mullin smiled. "Yeah. So what are you doing here? A message to deliver of something?"

"Nope. Our ship is in for repairs, and resupply." Lavie answered before taking another long drink of water.

"You work on a ship?!" Mullin asked nearly dropping his drink.

"We grew up there. We were orphaned, when we were really little. Alex took us in and raised us afterward, he became captain when we were seven. The ship is our home, and the crew is family. Sometimes, it's hard to remember what it was like when we still lived on the surface." They were both silent for a while. "Looks like the next race is about to start!" Lavie said to change the subject.

The next morning, after getting involved in a bar fight and nearly being killed Mullin Shetland found himself on board the infamous Silvana, where after an admittedly bad choice of words he found himself striped of his uniform, and subjugated by the mechanics. He could deal with this, he'd been through worse. He wasn't sure however he could deal with the epiphany he'd just had. "Alex took us in and raised us afterward, he became captain when we were seven." The words came back to him like a sledge hammer to the head. He was on the Silvana. Alex Row was captain of the Silvana. Therefore the 'Alex' Lavie had mentioned was Alex Row... Added up this meant Alex Row, the infamous, and feared captain of the equally infamous, and feared Silvana was Lavie's adopted father.

The mechanics weren't helping at all either. "Yep," Kostavi said grinning. "Known her since she was a baby."

Godwin nodded. "He can be overprotective, if you know what I mean." He said putting an arm around Mullin's shoulders. "Especially when it comes to his little girl."

"Remember what happened to the last guy that got a little too close to Lavie?" Gale asked solemnly. The other nodded respectfully removing their hats for few moments.

When he asked what had happened no one would answer, Ethan just patted him on the shoulder saying "Don't worry too much. You'll probably survive." This was why about half an hour later, when the captain asked him if he'd seen Lavie, Mullin panicked and ended up causing a chain reaction of accidents that ultimately landed him in the infirmary with a man in his late twenties who introduced himself as Charley.

"Er.." Mullin began warily. "What exactly happened to "the last guy that got too close to Lavie?"

Charley blinked in confusion for a few moments. "Last guy that got... Wait are you talking about Rick?" He asked.

Mullin just shrugged nervously. "I don't know, the mechanics didn't give any details..."

"Oh hell, is that what this is about? Captain's gonna be pissed." Charley placed a reassuring hand on Mullin's shoulder. "Look, don't worry about it, they were just messing with you, and got carried away. Rick was a stupid kid we had piloting a few months ago. He was kind of a problem from the start, but it's hard to find vanship pilots willing to fly in battle so we tried to put up with him. The big problem was he apparently had a thing for Lavie. Lavie couldn't stand him, and he had a hard time taking no for an answer, even after a long discussion with him about his inappropriate behavior. So one night when we docked, and he was out having himself a good time Alex had all his belongings, and his navi thrown off and we left without them."

"... Really? That's it?" Mullin asked feeling something between relief and humiliation at the entire situation.

"Yep... Actually come to think of it the captain would probably be relieved if Lavie, or Claus were interested in something besides vanships." Charley said thoughtfully, scratching his chin.

Back in the hangar Alex was trying to keep his temper as he faced the mechanics. "I want this cleaned up." He finally managed to say in a surprisingly quiet, even tone, fist clenched at his sides. It was one thing teasing a new crew member, it was entirely another to use him to terrorize an already high-strung former musketeer who had nearly been murdered the night before, and who also apparently happened to be a friend of Lavie's. He was about to hand out their punishment when a high pitched squeal echoed through the hanger. Recognizing the sound Alex cringed and braced himself, but it did him no good as Lavie barreled into him with enough force to knock the wind out of him, and send them both stumbling into a nearby vanship.

"Horizon cave!" Lavie squealed her arms wrapped around the stunned captain. "YouarethebestIwillneversayanythingbadaboutyouagainandItakebackeverythingbadIeversaidaboutyouIwillevengetyou
arealbirthdaypresentinsteadofwhatIwasgoingtogiveyou!" After giving him several kisses on the cheek, which would have embarrassed him horribly considering the audience if he hadn't been so busy trying to breathe again, Lavie went over to Claus, and Alvis who had followed and started talking loudly about the upcoming race. Claus gave Alex a concerned look as Lavie dragged him off excitedly discussing the race.

"Are you all right?" Sophia asked visibly trying to keep from laughing.

Alex having caught his breath sighed. "I see you found them." He said deciding to pretend the events of the last few minutes had not happened.

Sophia nodded. "Tatiana overheard, she's already fuming." She paused, looking around the hangar. "What happened in here?"

Sighing again Alex looked around noticing the mechanics had taken escaped. Grumbling to himself, he started heading back to his quarters.

Sophia followed not saying anything until they were behind the shut door of his room. "Do you really think it's Graf? And if so what could he possibly have that will help?"

"Walker's information has never let us down before. The only thing I'm worried about is interference by other parties." Alex said sitting on the sofa, Sophia sat beside him. "If Walker knew, Delphine will definitely know. We need to pull this off with as few mistakes as possible."

Sophia nodded, smiling. "And yet you are going to let Claus and Lavie participate in the race. Maybe Tatiana is right, you do spoil them." She laughed when Alex glared at her. "Don't look at me like that... I know, you're worried about Claus, and you want to take his mind off fighting. Nothing distracts those two better than a race." When she smiled at Alex something about it made him have to look away. "I'll make sure everything is prepared." She said giving his hand a reassuring squeeze before she left.

The white hared boy cheerfully made his way down the hall until a familiar voice stopped him. It took all his control not to shudder.

"Dio, please be careful during your little race tomorrow. I would be so devastated in anything happened to you so close to your birth week" Came the voice from the shadows, it made one think of poisoned honey.

"Of course Sister. I would hate to ever disappoint you." Dio responded. He was relieved when he sensed she had gone. He continued on his cheer faded, but his determination growing with every step. Horizon cave. The black ship, Silvana would be there, he just knew it! And since the black ship would be there, Immelman would be there. His smile returned seeing Lucciola, his friend didn't realize it yet, but after tomorrow they were going to be free. First however they would have to get captured by the rebels from the surface.

Claus sighed, he stopped the vanship at the fueling gate. Alex was up to something, something to do with the Exile legend. He frowned he didn't know what was going on, but it worried him. He was worried about Alex getting in over his head, he was worried about Alvis because he just knew she was involved somehow, he worried about Lavie because... well he always worried about Lavie. This was his family, and yet he felt like he couldn't do anything to protect them.

He and Lavie got out to help make the last preparations before the race when he was startled by a voice.

"Hello Immelman!" It was a strange guild boy pounced wrapping his arms around Claus' shoulders. "I knew you would be here." Claus broke away and started to run when the boy began chasing him.

"His name is Claus, and just who are you anyway!?" Lavie said angrily getting between the boys.

"You don't remember me? I'll give you a hint!" He replied smiling "Bang!" He continued pointing his finger at Claus.

Claus visibly bristled. Sophia on the other side of the gate pulled Alvis to her and tried to keep her out of vew. Gale looked at her questioningly, but she shook her head not wanting to draw attention to Alvis.

Still smiling the boy looked at Lavie. "Who are you?" he asked but turned back to Claus without waiting for a response. "What happened to your navi Immelman?"

"I am his navi." Lavie answered angrily Claus was still glaring at the boy. No one offered the guild boy any other information. Seeing he'd worn out his welcome he easily jumped the gap back to his own vanship, pausing to insult Tatiana before heading to his own gate.

Lavie glaring looked like she wanted to shout something, but Claus put a hand over hers. "Let's just concentrate on the race ok?" Lavie nodded.

Hours later Claus and Lavie sat together in the dark watching the fireworks, and taking the chance to bask in their victory as they waited for the lights to come back on.

"I'm sorry," Lavie said quietly. Claus looked at her in surprise. "I'm not very much help am I? I'm too afraid to fight with you, and now with Charley injured... I try to be the best mechanic I can for you but..." She looked at Claus blinking when he put his hand over hers.

"I don't think that at all. You, and Al are the reasons I can keep fighting no matter what." Lavie was glad it was too dark for Claus to see her blushing as he continued. "I know you are doing the best you can, so I will too. I'll do whatever it takes to keep you and Alvis safe. And someday, when this is over we'll cross the Grand Stream together."

Lavie smiled "Right." She said squeezing his hand. "You better not do anything stupid then."

Claus smiling himself was about to reply when the guild boys arrived in their own vanship.

Alex stepped out of his room after changing back to his uniform, Sophia was there waiting. "Claus and Lavie haven't returned yet. Should we send someone?"

Alex shook his head. "They'll be fine. After tonight I want to avoid having them connected to us if possible."

Sophia nodded. "They're preparing a victory celebration. You'll come down won't you."

Alex smirked as he stepped onto the lift. "Of course." They were interrupted by an anxious young ensign. Claus and Lavie had returned, and had brought visitors. So before the night was through, Alex found himself interrogating the younger brother of Maestro Delphine, who'd just handed him the house Eraclea mysterion.

Alex knew a payment when he saw one, and he had a very good idea of what the job was. The Silvana was the only ship that wouldn't just hand him back over to the guild if asked, and Reciuse had said Dio would be coming of age this year. Just in time for the Right of Agoon. He knew from Euris what the Right had once been, part of ceremonial series of test to rate the physical, and mental abilities of guild youths. He also knew what Delphine had turned it into, and what she did to the children to make sure they would participate for her amusement.

Dio was examining the photos on his desk, attempting to act sly, and cunning. This ended when Dio looked past the picture of Alex with Euris, Hamilcar, and Georges, at another picture not far behind it. His eyes went wide, and excited grin splitting his face. "It's a little Immelman!" He said ecstatically as he picked up the picture, taken not long after they had come to the Silvana, of Claus, and Lavie covered in grime from the first time they began repairing the vanship. Alex had been trying to clean Lavie's face, and hadn't even noticed the picture had been taken. "Oh! There's that red hared girl, and that's you isn't it? You didn't look nearly as scruffy when your hair was shorter."

He pouted when Alex took the picture from him and put it back on the desk, but was soon distracted by other pictures he noticed handing on the wall. Dio beamed. "Oh! There's Immelman what he was even smaller! How long have you know him? Does he have a favorite food? How did he learn to fly? What's his favorite color?" He only stopped when Alex annoyed, got up and took the restraints off his hands.

"Why don't you go ask him?" Alex said turning away. He rolled his eyes when Dio actually hugged him before racing out the door.

Not long after collecting Lucciola from where he had been kept and finding Immelman, Dio was having a wonderful time. People (mostly Immelman) had been telling him he was not allowed to do all kinds of things, there were places he was not allowed to go, things he wasn't allowed to touch, or even see! This hadn't happened to Dio very often before. He'd usually done whatever he pleased unless Delphine told him no.

The people on the Silvana were interesting too. He didn't get to see interesting people all that much. Interesting people tended to say no to Delphine, and people who said no to Delphine didn't live very long. Yet here was an entire crew openly defying her! He'd never met people like this before, and it was already so much better than the guild.

Claus was not enjoying the experience nearly as much. He was beginning to wonder what he'd done to make Alex want to torture him like this when Tatiana and Alister, who had gone out to retrieve a message returned. Alister looked upset about something, but Tatiana continued to Alex's quarters ignoring her. Things like that had been happening a lot lately, and as the girls mostly kept to themselves not even Sophia knew what was going on between them.

Claus considered going to ask Alister what was wrong when Dio once again blocked his view of everything else. "Hey, Immelman take me to see the ship's claudia unit."

Claus glared at him. "For the last time, you need Alex's permission, and he doesn't need to be bothered right now." The boys repeated the argument they'd had several times already, only stopping when Alex appeared and ordered Claus to fly escort to a meeting with the captain of the Urbanus. Tatiana's subsequent protest pointing out he no longer had a navi fit for a military operation some how lead to Alister volunteering to be his navi much to everyone's shock.

As Claus prepared to leave, and Dio was finally given permission to see the Silvana's claudia unit. Before they left Claus glanced worriedly from Alister's stoic expression, to where Tatiana was watching having changed out of her flight suit. Giving one last reassuring smile to Lavie and Alvis they took off.

Vincent stood watching as Alex approached, trying not to frown. "That damn cape.." he thought feeling irritated. "If that was me I'd have a big heavy peace of fabric blown right over my head, and it probably would have twisted around enough on the way over to start strangling me too. And his hair! Anyone else with hair like that, in wind like that would look like a bird tried to make a nest on his head. Not Alex Row however. Every strand probably goes right back to exactly where it should be... how does he do that?" Pushing the thoughts aside, he smiled greeting his old friend and leading him inside.

The meeting was going surprisingly well. Alex was as usual stoic, and never let his guard down. Things were far more pleasant than Vincent had expected though, at least until he got to the point of the meeting.

"He name is Alvis." Alex interrupted him with deceptive calm as he mentioned "the cargo," and the mysterion he'd been sent to take from the Silvana. One look in Alex's eyes and Vincent knew this was not going to end well.

"You'll go against the emperor?" Vincent asked feeling a lead weight in his stomach.

"The bastard on the throne no longer deserves that title. Handing her over to you, is as good as handing her over to the guild. I will not let that happen." Alex said standing, and turning toward the exit.

Angered at the insult, and what he felt was irresponsible, and dangerous behavior from Alex, Vincent stood slamming his hands down on the table. "If are going through with this insanity, You will at least release Her Highness to my custody, so she isn't caught up in your treason!"

Alex didn't turn back to him, but Vincent could feel him smirking. "Whether she leaves my ship or not is her decision. If she decides to leave, I have no problem having her safely escorted to the Urbanus. Don't hold your breath though." He went out the door leaving Vincent fuming.

Considering the events of the day Claus was becoming very worried. He'd tried to talk to Alister about what was going on between her and Tatiana. Despite thanking him for his concern, she had made it clear they weren't going to discuss it. Thoughts of the fight were quickly forgotten when Alister pointed out the stars were changing. Prester was beginning a rotation shift, which shouldn't have happened for another twenty years. When they returned to the Silvana Alex hadn't said a word to him, or Lavie, by the expression on his face, both knew something bad was about to happen. He noticed Alvis was not with Lavie, and was told she was in the weight room playing on the swing the mechanics had put up for her. Claus decided he needed to look for her when he noticed Dio was also no where in sight. He found the two of them in the weight room, and... he didn't know how explain what happened to her, or how it affected the ship... And now they were heading into the Dragon's Fangs to face Vincent in battle. Everyone seemed confident in victory, and if it had been anyone else so would he. Claus and Lavie knew however that there were few people who could read Alex like Vincent could.

The worst thing however came right from Tatiana. "Claus Valca, you will be my navi." "What was she thinking?" Claus asked himself as he prepared for battle. There was no time to go to Alex about this. As he went to Tatiana's vanship, he passed Alister leaning against a wall. After a few moments pause he walked over to her. "Alister? I... I don't know what is going on between you and Tatiana, but.. I know this is hard for you. I promise I'll do my best to look after her."

Alis smiled despite her worry. "Of course you will. You're Claus... I'm sorry. Tatiana and I... it's starting to interfere with everything else.. Please do you best. When you get back, I'll make sure we get things straitened out."

Claus nodded and left her, hurrying to the vanship where Lavie and Alvis were waiting.

Following Alex off the bridge Sophia was having similar thoughts to Claus. "Captain,.. Alex this is treason. Is this part of Marius' plan?"

"He was sent to take Alvis, and the mysterion. I can't let that happen, and I won't let him take you either." Alex said without looking at her.

"What? What do you.."

"But," Alex interrupted. "If you wish to leave on your own, I won't stop you." He turned to her. "I can't let him take Alvis, he's too loyal to the emperor, and we both know what the emperor has become. At this point it would be as good as handing her over to Delphine. What I'm about to do puts you in more danger than anyone else, Sophia. Vincent has demanded that I hand you over, I won't do that. If you wish to go however, I'll make sure you are safely escorted to the Urbanus. He's waiting for you."

For a while they were silent, before Sophia looked up meeting his eyes. "I am your First Officer. My duty is to this ship, and its crew, Sir."

"I'm sorry." Alex said quietly as she turned to go back to the bridge.

"I know." She replied, just as softly.

"He's in love with you." Alex said, making her pause. He was looking away from her again.

"No he isn't. He loves his princess, and someday perhaps, he will love his empress, but 'Sophia' is someone he doesn't really know." She said smiling bitterly.

"And I do?" Alex asked.

"To and embarrassing extent at times." Sophia answered.

On the Urbanus, Vincent clenched his fist. "We can't wait any longer," he growled out quietly to his XO. "She's not coming."

"Disgusting." Officer Dolfstland said, glaring at no one. "Does the man care nothing for the safety of Her Highness?" He asked, trying not to raise his voice as the location of the imperial princess was highly classified. Even many of those closest to the emperor thought she was just somewhere in hiding, being kept protected in some fortress from possible Disith plots to take her prisoner as the only heir to the throne. Hardly anyone knew how deeply involved in the war their princess was.

Vincent sighed. "The problem is he does care." He thought to himself morosely. "He cares enough to let her make her own decisions,... and it's always going to be him, isn't it, Sophia?" Frowning he straightened up in his chair. "All hands prepare for battle. We are to intercept the Silvana and take its crew prisoner." He sighed again slumping in his chair. After a few moments he handed his XO his cup of coffee. "Here, caffeine is no help in a situation like this."

Roumolt blinked at him. "Sir?"

"What do you know about mother bears Roumolt?" Vincent asked.

"Bears are extinct in Anatoray, Sir. I hear there may still be some species in Disith..."

"Thank you, for missing the point Rum." Vincent said far too familiar with his first officer's habits to be exasperated any longer. "Mother bears are extremely protective of their cubs, ready to kill, or be killed to protect them. Alex is the mother bear, and "the cargo" is one of the cubs... This is not going to be easy."

Author's notes: Title refers to Dio and Lucciola, it doesn't really have anything to do with Dio's personality, but rather references the breeding habits of some species of cuckoos.

Cuckoos are known to lay their eggs in the nest of other birds, who then raise to cuckoo chick instead of its true parents. While not completely accurate, the analogy of Dio, and Lucciola being the cuckoos looked after by the crew of the Silvana is one I kind of like.

Going into the actual series is very tricky for me. Once again I tried to focus on what I think would be different rather than stay the same.

One of the things that always bothered me was Alisters' comment about the stars, especially since other than a line Claus said later it seemed to be forgotten. I wanted to do something with it, and make the people of the surface/the Silvana's crew more informed of what is going on with the world they live on, so I made up the rotation shift. I imagine it's something that happens to help keep the climate stable, but the weather controllers malfunctioning whatever controls the shift is also being affected. Yet another sign something on Prester is going very wrong.