Though Mordau had told him to hang back and avoid direct deployment, he was, at the moment, very angry with Mordau.

Mordau had been lying to him about the objective of the operation. Mordau had been lying to him about who he had been reporting back to. Mordau had been lying to him about coordinating with Hannan, and Mordau had been lying to him about Rasha.

He was sick of listening to Mordau.

The DASS flagship was surprisingly intact despite the heavy bombardment, though the harsh, astringent smell of emergency sealant was clogging his nose, and it had switched to secondary power. He cut through slews of their soldiers easily, carving a path to the central bridge. If he could seize control of that, then they could force a retreat, and furthermore, things would not go according to Mordau's expectations.

...The bridge appeared to have been most heavily damaged in the blast, with debris coating almost the whole room. The people there (the aliens from DASS were people, after all, weren't they?) were all in chaos, screaming and scrambling to drag themselves from the wreckage, a fine aerosol of sealant and blood hanging in the air. Several soldiers went ahead of him, and Nova proceeded to the admiral's office, open air and overseeing what was below. It looked like it had been heavily damaged, nearly completely gone, and seemed empty.

When he went in, he saw that the admiral of the fleet was quite soundly splattered against the wall, and the first officer was also in pieces. He could hear the faint, faint hum of oxygen draining from the room; the amount of emergency sealant in the hull had not been quite enough to fully repair the damage. If the ship was not scuttled, it would probably need extensive repairs if it ever returned to DASS custody.

... There was also a small, blonde human thing, hunched over a woman with long dark hair, mumbling feverishly under his breath. The uniform seemed to denote the rank of captain, though Nova rarely dealt with captains and this one seemed perhaps too young, so he was hesitant to say for sure.

Nova took a step inside the office, observing him, and a small piece of metal fell to the floor. He barely had the time to think that it would be no obstacle to simply radio in to Mordau that they had captured the fleet.

The next thing he knew, he had been shot, and an incredibly firm kick connected with his wrist, knocking his lowered sword away. It clattered to the floor, flying some distance away.

The blonde human backed away from him, light on his heel, staring.

His expression was completely neutral, and his eyes empty.

The only sign at all that he had moved from his initial position was that he was now standing, and his gun was now in hand rather than in its holster.

Nova tried to rally himself from the unexpected and sharp pain, only barely dodging when the human fired at him again.

He tried to run it down in his head; it would probably be easy to kill him, he had just been taken offguard. He held the advantage. He hadn't lost a fight in a very long time, anyways.

He went to recollect his sword, at the same time that the human went for it-

Wait, that meant the human was aware of the failings of the standard issue amunition that the DASS tended to hand out to its lower ranks, and, furthermore, knew something about Sturam steel- no, it didn't, he was making an assumption, wasn't he? It didn't matter because in the end he was the one who grabbed the sword, sliding forward on his chest in the rubble, and then twisting to strike him-

The human swung back, sword tip barely scratching his face, and then slid beneath.

Rather than directly attacking, he fired off another round that missed, grazing Nova's side, and then backed off again. He was again standing in front of the woman slumped on the ground. Defensively, perhaps? That was of almost no consequence. She appeared to be bleeding out.

Nova did not dodge in time the next time the human fired, and it struck him almost directly in the center of his chest, only stopped by the bone of his sternum. The pressure was not much, only enough to take him off guard, but this time the human was suddenly close to him again, pushing him back with his full weight- though near negligible, it was enough to make Nova trip over the debris behind him, and they fell on the ground.

Nova grabbed him by the collar and yanked him around, rolling on top of him, and as he took his blade to run him through, he almost felt like commending him for being an oddly capable fighter-

His dagger. The human had stolen his dagger out from the side of kita, and stopped his blade with it.

They struggled for a moment, power difference plain to see, before Nova slid his blade to the side and stabbed down into his shoulder, pinning him to the ground. He did not make a noise or even grit his teeth; his immediately reaction, in that moment, was instead to pull himself up on the blade and stab at Nova's face with the dagger he'd stolen. Nova barely moved his head out of the way, catching the blade in hand, and shoved him back down. He squeezed, the blade falling down to the ground.

There was a cracking noise. The human's wrist? He had practically crushed it in his grip.

Still no noise.

His eyes were still empty.

Something about that...

Suddenly Nova couldn't breathe, and there was a sharp pain in his chest.

He looked down to realize that the dagger was there, barely missing vitals.

How...? The other arm...?

The human pushed him off and pulled the sword out of himself, sitting up. Nova scrambled to remove the dagger; it was far too close to his lungs for his liking, and the wound would definitely take a while to heal.

As they were both recollecting themselves, it seemed that their reaction times were evenly matched; they went at each other again, glancing off, and then Nova whirled to the side as he struck again, kicked him; that was a solid hit, and he went flying. A shame he hit the one undamaged wall.

Nova strode across the room to collect his sword, which was still in the human's firm grasp.

He suddenly found that he had been shot in the face. Twice.

The bullets did little more than graze bone, ricocheting off, but the gouges in his flesh, the burn, it suddenly sent that age old paranoia of his into overdrive; the fear that he would be scarred. He was going to be scarred, wasn't he? Not even his own brother had managed to scar him-

He shook it off, staring the human against the wall down.

Nothing. There was nothing there. Did this person even have a soul? Nova felt. Significantly irritated.

The sword.

Was wedged between his ribs.

When had it gotten there? The human hadn't had time to move. He hadn't seen him move.

He could feel blood in his lungs.

He stumbled backwards, away from it, the blade, losing his balance, trying to remember what he had been told about injuries to the lungs- it had been so long since he had been injured, he couldn't remember the last time anyone had managed to do anything like this-

Shot, shot, shot, shot, shot, shot-

The gun clattering to the ground. Oh, it was empty.

Nova remembered the dagger- where it was- he quickly stepped back and collected it from the ground, holding it forward in hand; defaulting to a stance he hadn't used in a very long time.

As he circled around warily, he accidentally stepped on the woman's hair.

They both paused.

Nova looked down at her.

She was deathly pale, barely breathing, and her arm was completely mangled, a shower of metal shrapnel between it and her body. There was an unfinished tourniquet around the shreds of her elbow.

... Whatever was going on, it was clear that the human in the captain uniform cared for her, didn't he.

Nova stepped away, slightly, and the second he was no longer near her, the human jumped forward with an incredible speed and the sword forward, aiming for his chest. Nova had marginally grown used to his speed, and was able to parry the sword with his dagger, though they were both thrown off balance, and landed on the ground yet again.

A twist of shredded metal was under his back, uncomfortable and piercing his skin.

The human was straddling his chest, holding up his sword.

Nova rose up to strike him-

" ...You're a good person," he said, voice flat, warbly-high in that way human voices were.

Nova stopped, frozen by the words. The dagger was just barely touching the human's chest. His own sword was up against his throat, cutting into it painfully.


" Kirie said it's bad to kill good people," he continued, voice with none of the odd cadence Nova had normally known human voices to have. He looked like he was shaking a little bit.

Bad to kill good people...?

Nova could not take his eyes off of him.

" But you're so fun to fight, and I want to kill you so much," he said, and his voice cracked, and it was suddenly flooded with emotions that Nova couldn't even begin to recognize. " You killed Kirie. You killed Kirie. You killed Kirie. She's dying. You killed her. You killed my father. You killed him. I'm going to kill you-"

The blade cutting forward into his neck had filled his mouth with the taste of blood, and even though he knew that the dagger was certainly cutting into flesh, the human on his chest was still pressing forward, a wild look in his eyes that was somewhere between euphoria and agony.

" I'm going to kill you, I'm going to kill you, I'm going to kill you, I'm going t-"

And then it stopped.

He felt a weight slump forward and to the side; he felt blood splash on his face.

A familiar voice.

" This is why I said we should stay on the ship," Mordau said to him, sounding tired. He kicked the body off of him.

Nova laid still for a moment, staring up at nothing as his body recovered.

" The 13th Fleet is known for its irregularities. That's why I suggested an ambush."

He felt that his throat had recovered enough for him to speak, but it was still unbelievably painful, feeling raw.

" God. Pitiful thing. It's better to put it out of its misery."

He turned his head slightly, away, as Mordau killed the woman.

It's bad to kill good people.

Mordau leaned over him, expression passive, and then it morphed into mild surprise.

" I swear on Cascur, Nova, that's going to scar like hell," he said. " Why didn't you just knock it off with your free hand? Your neck's going to look like Diurn's."

" I hate you," Nova mumbled, as the physical cost of regeneration caught up with him, and he passed out.