Episode 19 - You're the Next Captain of the Nadesico!
Trials and Transitions
Andrew Joshua Talon
DISCLAIMER: Martian Successor Nadesico is not my property. I am not making any profit on this endeavor in any way.
The massive battlecarrier USS Enterprise easily dwarfed the Nadescio. Over three times the mobile battleship's length, and four times the mass, she manuevered slowly but majestically, a mighty whale alongside the dolphin that was the Nergal vessel. It's central hull was particularly whale-like, with it's long, sloping nose, curved ventral sections, and large engine modules for the tail. On either side of the battlecarrier sat a large, heavily armored hanger nacelles, connected by heavy pylons to the central hull. In these were contained over fifty combat craft, which, combined with the warship's heavy cannons, extensive shielding, and batteries of rail guns, made the Enterprise positively lethal to anything to come into conflict with her.
"... I know what you're thinking. She looks like a crocodile on pontoons," Lieutenant Lee broke the quiet that had enveloped the bridge when the massive battlecarrier had come alongside. Minato, below, snorted and covered her mouth to contain giggles, while Ruri looked impassively on the American vessel. Megumi giggled openly, while Yurika turned to her XO with a small smile.
"Well, I was going to say alligator on waterskis, but yours is good too." The captain turned back to the vessel, raising an eyebrow. "Who designed it, anyway? I mean, it's certainly impressive... Just... Odd-looking." Lee chuckled slightly.
"Heh... There are a few stories to explain it... Probably the most believable one is that the head designer at Norfolk Naval Yards was a Battlestar Galactica fan." Yurika blinked at the American.
"Battlestar whatsit?" Lee smirked.
"It was a popular science fiction TV program in the early 21st century, and our battlecarriers look a lot like the title ship from that show." Yurika smirked back.
"Makes the Jovians with their worship of Gekiganger look almost normal." Lee raised an eyebrow.
"The Enterprise is requesting permission to dock, captain," Megumi reported. "They say they have a VIP that they're transporting here." Lee and Yurika exchanged looks, before Yurika nodded and turned back to Megumi.
"Megumi, inform Enterprise that they have permission. We will meet them at the airlock. Ruri, carry out docking procedures."
"Yes Captain," Ruri and Megumi repsonded, as Yurika once again turned to Lee. Lee shrugged.
"Don't look at me... I wasn't informed that anyone would be coming to meet us out here." Yurika nodded, before clearing her throat.
"Very well... Let's go meet this VIP then, shall we?
The airlock of the Nadesico was a tidy affair, white and plain, as compared to the honor guard that was arrayed outside of it. Members of the security team had quickly changed into Nergal dress uniforms and held up rifles in a respectful salute, while Lee and the captain stood at attention at the end of the honor guard, standing at attention. The airlock thudded slightly, as the much larger Enterprise connected, unseen, to the smaller Nadesico. Another loud thud sounded, announcing that a hard seal had been made between the two ships. Finally, the lock on the hatch turned, opening the door with a small sigh of pressurized air.
And stepping onto the Nadesico, a woman with long, greying black hair, green US Army BDUs, and a big smile stepped aboard.
"Jon! Oh, I'm so glad to see you!" The woman cried happily, completely ignoring the bewildered honor guard, before hugging the shocked Lee with grizzly bear strength.
"M-Mom! What are you doing here!" The lieutenant gasped, as his mother, Lieutenant General Grace Lee, released him, smiling broadly. Yurika's (as well as every one else's) jaw were hanging flaccid, as the petite woman grinned.
"Oh, I had a few months shore leave coming up, after the ground offensive against those Jovian bastards in Puerto Rico (they sure made a mess of things, left thousands homeless), and the Enterprise was being assigned patrol duty to the moon, so I tagged along! How have you been, Jon?" The general Lee gave her son a glare.
"You haven't written in months! What is wrong with you, son? This is-Huh?" Grace noticed Yurika, staring at her in amazement, before adopting a proud smile.
"Ohhhh... I see! So, when's the wedding? Hm? Soon, I hope? You two haven't gone and made me a grandchild already, have you?" Yurika and Lee blanched, jumping to opposite sides of the passageway, while the honor guards watched, amused.
"MOM! She-She-She's my commanding officer!" Lee yelped, while Yurika shuddered.
"Y-Yes! And besides, um, I'm spoken for!" Grace looked rather disappointed, but soon brightened.
"Oh well... Your father, Captain, and I had a long talk... You could do much worse than my Jonathan here, you know that! And what's this about marrying a cook?" Grace tutted, taking Yurika's wrist and squeezing it. She harumphed. "Why, you poor dear, all skin and bones... So that's why you're pining after a cook!" Grace scowled, shaking her head at the wide-eyed Yurika. Lee coughed, taking his mother's hands off his captain.
"Ah, mother? Um... You know, it's against regs to commandeer a ship for your shore leave-" Grace looked at her son, suddenly outraged.
"WHAT? Do you presume, Lieutenant Lee, to know more about the Uniformed Code of Justice than I do?" Lee coughed again.
"Ah, no ma'am, however, if you didn't have any other reason than seeing me-" Grace looked aghast.
"Why, no son! Of course not!" Grace dug around in her BDUs, and pulled out a poster. Happily, she showed it to both the captain and Lee.
"I'm here to help judge this contest!" She replied cheerfully, while both commanders of the Nadesico gaped.
"And the winner gets this big pop star contract! So, what are you doing for the talent contest, huh Ryoko? I'm gonna sing a song!" Hikaru bubbled enthusiastically. Rogue scowled.
"I'm not going." Hikaru blinked, and gaped at her friend.
"Huh? Why not? Huh, why not?"
"I don't want to," Ryoko replied flatly.
"Oh, hmph," she grumbled, chewing on her noodles. Izumi, leaning over so close to Ryoko, the green-haired pilot backed off in shock. She then sucked up her noodles and grinned creepily at Ryoko.
"Well then, if you're not entering, after this war is over, do you have any plannnsss?" She asked. Ryoko looked past Izumi's shoulder, noticing that Akito was being complimented by Mrs. Howmei on one of his dishes. The two pilots blocked her view, smiling cattily. Ryoko jumped back.
"It's none of your business!" The green-haired pilot cried angrily, while Izumi and Hikaru giggled.
"I bet I know what she wants," Hikaru leered.
"And where she wants it," Izumi added, before they collapsed into giggles. Ryoko, her face bright red, whacked both pilots in the head with dishes. At that moment, Jun walked into the mess hall, eyeing Ryoko and the others. Ryoko, embarrassed, shoved the plates behind her back.
"All right, all pilots, listen up! I've arranged for an exchange between us and the Enterprise's flight crew. In essence, we'll be sending over a few pilots to see their flight ops, and they'll send a few here to see ours." Jun handed a sheet of paper to Akito and Ryoko, eyeing them both. "You two will go over to the Enterprise. You are then to meet with Deck Chief Martinez, who will show you around. I'll be showing around the pilots from the Enterprise. Report to the Enterprise portflight pod at 1300 hours, which is in..." Jun checked his watch. "Five minutes." Ryoko coughed, before looking at an equally frazzled Akito. This was her chance...!
"Understood, sir!" Ryoko saluted, vaulting over her table and fairly dragging Akito out of the galley. "C'mon, Tenkawa! Let's go!"
"B-B-But!" Akito protested, as the green-haired pilot pulled him with her out the door. Jun smiled, as he sat down and began to whistle, looking through his paperwork. Izumi leaned close to him, looking inquisitive.
"Pretty conveinient to put Ryoko and Tenkawa together, no?" Asked Hikaru, grinning at the CAG. "A bit too conveinient, ne Izumi?"
"Very... It all falls into place, in space," Izumi rhymed, smiling creepily. Jun smirked.
"Well, let's just say that Admiral Mizamura and General Lee wanted me to... Personally make sure that their children were given as much time together as possible," the lieutenant chuckled. "I wonder what Yurika will say if she finds out she's being played matchmaker, rather than playing it herself..."
The hanger pod of the Enterprise was so long Akito could barely see the other end of it. Even without all the technicians, machines, and spacecraft being moved around constantly, the entire deck abuzz with activity. Next to him, Ryoko turned and smirked slightly at Akito's expression. She'd reacted very much like him when she'd first entered flight school, and practiced landing on the training carrier the JSSDF maintained in orbit of Earth.
However, the Enterprise was several times larger than the Narushia had been. Not to mention significantly warmer.
"Oi! You guys!" Akito and Ryoko turned at the shout, and saw a stocky, well-built woman with short blonde hair and a cigar at one corner of her mouth grinning at them. She was dressed in what appeared to be a flight suit, though significantly different from the Nadesico suits.
"Ah, y-yes?" Akito asked, as the woman came up to them both and grinned, her cigar smoke wafting around her face.
"You're from the Nadesico, right? Chief Martinez couldn't make it-A problem with one of the water recyclers, but anyway, I'm supposed t' give you the grand tour, kapische? Name's Lieutenant Sara Trace," the blonde woman introduced herself, holding out a hand to Ryoko. The green haired pilot shook it, sizing up the other woman as she shook Akito's hand with the same firm grip she'd just felt, the cook wincing slightly.
"Ryoko Subaru," the green-haired woman replied, smiling at the American's air of confidence. She carried herself without owing anything to anybody, and her hair was tussled as though she'd recently been in a fight.
"So yeah... Lemme' show you around... That over there, are the launch tubes, which basically just shoot out the fighters into the fight. Our larger craft are lifted by elevator to the landing bay overhead," Trace stated, gesturing over to pentagon-shaped openings in the bulkhead, with a number of craft being ferried over to them. "Our fighters are pulled by the roombas-"
"Wait... Roombas?" Akito asked, perplexed. He then yelped as something flew past his feet, and Ryoko looked on a small, circular object that raced along the floor, weaving around the legs of technicians as it finally came to rest at the forward landing strut of a spacecraft, and latched onto it with a pair of silver arms.
"Well, they're technically called 'Flightdeck Movement Robots', but we just call 'em roombas. They go around, using a powerful electromagnetic rail system underneath the deck plates to pull our fighters and other craft around to where they need to go," Trace explained, smiling at the cook's expression.
"Er... I've noticed that you use... Well, you don't use Aestivalis... Why's that?" Akito asked, as Ryoko smiled inwardly, the blonde pilot leading them over to one of the American fighter craft. Ryoko reflected that it was among the strangest-looking vehicles she'd ever seen: It's nose was a grey, long barreled cannon, seemingly a single module, that was locked under a bright-red smooth, domed oval-shaped module-Probably where the pilot was situated. Underneath this module, directly behind the cannon, was a form-fitting blue-and-white module that extended into two, leg-like structures, with red lining what were presumably the vehicle's engines. And, flanking the sides of the fighter, two single pods sat, holding up two wings each-One long, sharply-angled, grey with yellow lining that looked to be variable geometry, with a smaller, red wing that looked more like a flattened thruster that fit perfectly into the back of the larger wing. It's landing gear was a simple affair, subtly-reinforced struts that looked far too thin to support the bulk of the fighter they were holding up.
"Maintenance reasons, basically..." Trace explained, looking over the odd fighter with a smile. "The mecha have so many moving parts, and in order for our carriers to be really effective, we need a large air wing. So, we basically decided that fielding large numbers of traditional fighters was preferable to just smaller numbers of mecha. Besides, I'd take the Eagle over a big robot any day." Akito blinked, and looked over the hull of the fighter. On it's side was LT. SARA TRACE, USN. Underneath this was STARFOX, in apostrophes.
"The Eagle?" Asked Akito. Sara grinned, blowing out a cloud of rich cigar smoke that made the cook cough.
"Yep... More precise, the SF/A-36 Eagle 2... Our premier strike fighter. She's got the same shielding as the Aesti, but with her internal helium-3 fusion drive, she has a lot longer range and can carry a heavier weapons load." Trace took out her cigar and gestured over her fighter proudly.
"Best part is, she's completely modular-Her engines, power drive, wings, cockpit section, and weapons package are all swappable. The standard armament is our big directed fusion cannon you see right there. It's got enough He-3 to wipe out a couple squadrons of those Bug fighters, and a capital ship or two, if we get lucky." Akito had moved to the other side of the Eagle, and blinked at the stickers adorning the side of it. Marked on it were a number of Gekiganger-shaped icons. The cook turned to Trace, and, in a quiet voice asked, "Ah... Wh-What are those stickers for?"
Trace laughed modestly. "Those? Oh, those are for Geki kills... The big, manned Jovian 'bots. I got four of them in a single action." Ryoko and Akito choked.
"It's not as hard as you think... Compared to the little bugs, they're a piece of cake. Sure, they can FTL jump, but they're really predictable. They always try to jump right in front of you, claws out, trying to grab you. Or, they'll jump and try to hit you at point-blank range with their cannon. Either way, all you have to do is keep moving. Eventually, they'll jump where you can get a good shot at them." Kara leaned forward, as though divulging a secret.
"'Tween you and me, I think those extra-large robots are just to compensate for somethin' the pilot's lacking, ya know? Under the belt?" Ryoko laughed loudly at that, as Akito blushed bright red. Sara raised an eyebrow at Akito, as though seeing him for the first time.
"So, what do you do on the Nadesico? You, ah... Cabin boy or somethin'?" Akito sweatdropped, as Ryoko smirked.
"Actually, he's a pilot... A really good one, too. He once took out a whole fleet of Jovian warships all on his own!" Trace grinned broadly, wrapping an arm around both pilot's shoulders.
"Hey, me too! It was over the New Berlin colony... This buncha bastards kept trying to trap the big E between them and the moon. So, I dove in, rammed their lead ship's shields at just the right angle, ignited a fuel line, and got out of there just before it blew and took out it's buddies along with it! So, how'd you do it?" Trace asked, smiling eagerly. Akito coughed, slightly embarrassed.
"Uh, er... Basically... The same way?" Kara blinked, before smiling even more broadly.
"Hey! Nice job... Damn those Jovian ships have a bad habit of exploding, don't they? Heh, almost feel sorry for their crews..." Sara shook her head. "Speaking of which, let me tell you about our crews on the flight deck. First, everywhere you look, you've got your technicians-those guys in the yellow. They fix the ships and make sure you come back in one piece. Those guys in the red are munitions-Got balls of steel, I tell you, to cart around mini-nukes. The grapes-Er, folks in purple, are fuel handlers. The orange suits are DC-damage control-crew. They put out fires, seal off decompressions-Basically, wherever the ship is hit, they'll be all over it in seconds." Sara nodded with a grin, putting her cigar back in her mouth.
"So, anything else you wanna see? I could show you the brig..."
"She's been in it enough times," laughed a voice behind them. Akito and Ryoko turned from the flight deck to see another pilot, tall and rugged handsome, walking over with a big smirk. Sara smiled sweetly and said, "Fuck you, Husker."
"Nah, I'm good, thanks Starfox," Husker responded, shaking his head. He looked over Trace's shoulder and noted Ryoko and Akito. "So, these the pilots from Nadesico?"
"Yes, uh, sir," Akito responded nervously, as the American pilot walked up and slapped him on the back, grinning. Akito was nearly bowled over.
"Ah! The corporate cavaliers... The profiteering pilots... The-"
"Amazing! He can use words with more than three sylabyls!" Trace laughed, ducking a playful punch from the male pilot. Ryoko looked offended.
"Hey! We're not some kind of-"
"Mercenaries?" Asked Husker. Ryoko stopped, and coughed.
"Uh... Er... Well..." Husker shrugged and laughed.
"Hey, relax girl! No problem, no problem... I mean, you guys have been fighting the good fight, giving the Jovians hell... Same as us. It would have been nice if you'd shown up a lot earlier, though..." Kara sighed sadly.
"We lost thirteen battlecarriers alone trying to hold Mars... The Independence, the Halsey, the Colin Powell, the Stennis- The list goes on. Until we sucked it up and bought the shield upgrades from Nergal, we were losing about as many ships as we were destroying." Kara snorted.
"Nergal's got a monopoly on the technology needed to fight the Jovians, so they can charge whatever they want-We have to pay for it or we're screwed. As it is, they've got the UESF over a barrel."
"What else is new," grumbled Ryoko.
I know, I know... Sorry for splitting up the chapters. The Captain Search is next! RR!