" Has being in administration for so long made me soft?" William asked out loud, not particularly chasing an answer.

" You're still young," Nova responded. " And you've only been in charge of your fleet for what, four years or so?"

" There's a fight in front of me that I'm not sure I can pursue," William said.

" What's stopping you?" Nova asked.

William looked down at his hands.

" If I make an enemy of Sector 05," he said, testing the words. " Isn't it the same as ending the peace?"

" It's a power struggle between factions," Nova responded matter-of-factly. " On Storam it'd just be settled with a duel."

" The worst part is, I know intellectually that it's a bad idea, that I'd be ending what everyone's worked so hard for, but I can't stop myself from feeling excited," William continued, as though in a daze. " I'm afraid I can't live without fighting."

Nova's hands settled on his shoulders. William looked up at him.

" Wille, you don't have to stress yourself over it," he said. " Either way you go, I'm here. I love you."

William stared up at him, like he was looking at him with fresh eyes.

" That's right," he said. " You love me."