[ Claudia briefing room / September 20, 0078 16:27 ]

As Teana finished her report, only the slight hum of Cross Mirage's projector and the tapping of Admiral's fingers broke the silence for a while.

"Very well, officers. Under the circumstances, you have performed exceptionally well. It is a great pity about Prof. Schwanstein and his assistants, but they have brought it upon themselves. Don't blame yourself."

"What about their bodies, Sir?" Subaru asked quietly.

"I have requested a team to excavate the ruins," Chrono shifted uneasily, "but the Bureau is reluctant to send more ships to Walder, considering what transpired there. I was given to understand that all non-critical off-world operations are suspended until the Cradle is taken care of."

Teana raised her hand.


"If we knew that the Cradle was going to hit Walder, why wasn't there an entire fleet there, Sir? Doesn't the HQ see that Claudia alone has no chance against that kind of firepower?"

"In due time, Major. The Walder operation was a search and rescue, not an assault. That's all you need to know on the matter."

"But why, Sir?" Subaru inquired.

Chrono gave them a long look.

"The Navy lost eight cruisers chasing the Cradle during the first months of its rampage. We all remember them too well. The Navy won't join us until we have the Cradle cornered, officers."

"Eight… cruisers?" Teana found it hard to believe.

"Did you think we were sitting on our asses doing nothing all these years?" Chrono looked away.

"We didn't know…"

"This was kept under wraps. The prestige loss was too great to take it out of the family, so not even the ground and air forces were given full details."

Teana and Subaru nodded uneasily. The Admiral finally smiled.

"I think you earned your rest, officers. We will be arriving at the HQ shortly, so take a day off. I will see you the day after tomorrow."

The two of them saluted and left the room.

"He didn't reprimand us for attacking the Gadgets," Subaru said, as they walked down the corridor.

"I think he was happy just to see us alive," Teana shrugged. "We won't get off that easily again."

As they waited for the elevator, Subaru's stomach growled audibly.

"Oh, for crying out loud, Subaru," Teana glared. "Didn't I tell you to eat before we delivered the report?"

"I did," Subaru said apologetically. "But they only had small snacks at the medbay and besides, it's not fun without you."

"Baka! It's about your health, not fun!"

"You are so cute when you worry about me… Owowowowow! Tea!"

"Shut up, idiot!"