People staring at him.

He had never been good with that.

Since he had dyed his hair, he found himself being self-conscious again; a feeling he liked to willfully ignore.

He couldn't understand how Ifrit had always managed it so flawlessly; when he walked down the hall, and hair fell in and out of his vision, he could see parts he missed, parts that weren't as light as others, parts that seemed like they had lifted too much.

And the fact that William seemed to like it, somehow, bothered him...

He felt like a child who had done something for attention.

He opened the door to the bridge, and went in.

" Commodore General," he called out.

William jumped, and swiveled to face him.

" Lyena-Nova, this is the first time you've come out onto the bridge," he observed with a deal of surprise. " Is something the matter?"

... The bridge technicians were all looking at him, too.

" I just haven't come to the bridge before," he said. " I reasoned that I should come to observe while you're keying in flight data."

" Ah, sneaky."

Ear flick.

" Am I ever sneaky, William? I'm just being professional."

" Right. I'm the sneaky one."

" Oh, so you admit it."

" No point in denying."

Nova was suddenly aware that he had gotten a bit carried away, and the technicians were staring at them.

William looked over to them.

" Is something interesting over here, girls?" he asked. " I recall that we need to put in the stellar line coordinates, and haven't finished the Engine Six software update."

They all rustled around and immediately got back to work, chastened, a small murmur of embarrassment. The sounds of typing as their programming resumed.

" So what's our next course?" Nova asked.

" Mm, we're going to reunite with the chunk of the fleet that Chzgurit and Dawson took, then we've got to swing into sector twenty-seven to look into a diplomacy thing. You'll be useful for that, I think."

" Diplomacy thing?"

" I'll go more into it later."

Nova leaned against the wall, observing the rows of desks and workers. Mostly women.

...Seeing so many women around never got not weird.

" What do you even do here."

William shrugged.

" I tell other people what to do and then take credit for it."

" Sneaky."

He laughed a little.

" I have to be sneaky, Nova. Don't you like it?"

" Please, like I like any part of your shitty personality."

" Mean!"