Chapter 4

'makoto'

Lita Kino fell into a wall as a blast hit the side of the ship. She ran up the stairs and burst through the door into the cockpit. "ARTEMIS!" She shouted. "What the hell is happening to my ship?" Lita leaped into the empty console chair as she noticed a beam aiming straight for them.

Artemis flew straight up, just managing to not be hit. "We accidentally flew right into a band of pirates. We're almost completely surrounded."

"Bloody hell. Get us out of here Artemis right now!"

"It'll be a bit difficult Leets," replied Artemis as he dodged two shots at once. "We lost one of the engines in that last hit. We'll be lucky to get out of this and all the way to Liechdart."

"Kuso," Lita hissed. She turned to her viewscreen and pulled a map up on it. "Look we're pretty close to Station 3. We'll have to dock there. Hopefully it won't take too long to fix the engine and we'll still be able to offload the cargo at Liechdart on time."

"I see you're not questioning whether we're going to be able to escape the pirates who continue to slowly get closer."

Lita looked at Artemis and grinned as the ship suddenly shuddered and began flying almost vertically down. "Ah come on Artie. I've been watching you co-pilot this ship almost all my life. I don't need to question it. I know you can ditch these bumbling idiots."

As Artemis turned to return Lita's smile at the confidence she had in him there sounded a large boom, indicating that the hull had been hit. Lita frowned as she spotted one of the pirate ships through the glass. "Though I might have to find a replacement if you let this ship take any more hits," she joked as she took hold of a gearstick and flipped up a radar screen.

"You got one in range?"

"I've got two. Just make sure you keep flying straight for as long as you can okay?" Lita didn't wait for a reply instead focusing on the task at hand and the screen in front of her. 'Easy Kino,' she thought. 'Remember the lessons with Dad: keep your cool and shoot straight. One, two, now!' Two quick movements of her thumb resulted in two direct hits to two different ships.

"Your father taught you well," Artemis remarked, pride easily detectable in his voice.

"That he did." She smiled softly at the memory of her parents as the ship sped through a newly opened gap. She became serious once more when she noticed that the pirates were following. At this rate with five ships firing and only three engines working they'd never make it too Station 3, which was still an hour away, even with Artemis's expert flying skills. "Artie in exactly ten seconds I want you to begin a roll sideways and don't come out of it until you've completed two full revolutions."

Artemis glanced at Lita out of the corner of his eye and nodded. He hoped that Lita was about to pull off something spectacular because right now they both knew their chances weren't looking too good. As the ship began to tip and roll Lita began a sequence of rapid fire. Not once during the roll did she remove her thumb from the "pretty red button" as she had called it when she was a little girl. After Artemis had pulled the ship straight again and was accelerating Lita pulled up a visual on her viewscreen to see how much damage she'd caused. She grinned when she saw the results. "Well two of those parasites are completely out of commission."

"That evens the odds up a bit." Artemis opened a cover and hovered his fingers over a few switches. "So are you feeling trigger happy today Leets and want to play this out showdown style? Or would you rather turbo up and leave them coughing in our dust?"

"Please Artemis you should know me better than that by now." Lita smirked as she cracked her knuckles. "Showdown all the way."

Artemis glanced at the woman beside him out of the corner of his eye. He should have expected that answer. After all, in all of the sixteen years he had known Lita she had never backed down from a fight, not even when he first met her at the tender age of seven. "As you wish Captain." Artemis slowed down and turned the ship so that Lita could see all three pirate ships through the glass. Now that they were barely moving the pirates had spread out trying to find a way to trap them and put the ship out of working order.

As Lita began to shoot quick bursts of laser beams, Artemis did not need to be told where to go or what to do. He'd been through enough ship battles in years gone by with Marcus Kino by his side, and in the past three years it had been easy to adjust to Lita's fighting style which was so similar to her father's. Neither had to speak as Artemis dodged enemy fire and Lita fought back.

Caught directly between two pirate ships, Artemis directed the ship vertically upwards as each of the pirates fired a few beams each. Only one was able to avoid being hit and after all the hits previously taken the other ship was destroyed. 'Three down, two to go,' Lita thought grimly. After a couple of lucky hits the hull there remained only one pirate ship firing at them.

It was at that point, as the members of each ship sized the other up trying to find weaknesses, occasionally shooting off a couple of rounds, that Lita and Artemis heard a voice crackling over the radio waves. "This is Federal Shuttle 288. Cease fire and state your name and classification number. I repeat cease fire immediately."

"Damn it not the bleeding feds," Lita groaned. "The feds haven't shown up on radar yet though. Okay Artemis I think it's time for that turbo."

Artemis flicked three switches on the console as Lita fired off two more beams. Two seconds later they were speeding away from the battle arena. Four minutes later the pirate could no longer be seen at all. Lita stood up and patted Artemis on the shoulder. "Good job A-man. I'll go see how the rest of the crew fared during that little episode."

Lita jumped down the stairs out of the cockpit and began making her way towards the common. As she moved through the ship she lovingly ran her hand across the wall. She had spent her childhood running through the corridors of this ship, had grown up on it and now it was a part of her. Lita knew every bolt and every piece of wiring. She loved the ship more than she would probably ever love anything else. Artemis, Luna and Hotaru were her only family now that her parents were gone and the rest of her crew were more than just people she handed a pay check to. They were her friends.

Lita grinned as she stepped into the common where the rest of the crew had strapped themselves in. "So how are all you bludgers doing back here?" she asked, her eyes sparkling with mischief.

Fourteen year old Hotaru undid her buckle and hugged Lita, smiling ecstatically. "That was so much fun!" she exclaimed. "Can we do it again?"

"Trust you to say that little sis," Lita replied, ruffling Hotaru's hair affectionately.

"So what was it that happened Lita?" Jed asked as he stretched out his arms.

"We accidentally flew into a group of pirates and they attacked us. We fought back then sped away before the feds had a chance to arrive."

"We fought back did we?" Luna raised an eyebrow. "Did you have the chance to escape earlier or did you just feeling like taking a few shots at the people who dared to attack your ship?"

Lita smirked and shrugged rather than answering. Luna sighed and smiled slightly at the brunette. "That's what I thought."

"How much damage did we take?" asked Chad.

Lita exhaled and flopped down into a chair. "One of the engines got knocked out. Other than that I'm not sure. I'm hoping the engine is the only major damage." She watched as Reika moved around the group making sure that no one had been injured by the twisting and rotating ship jerking them around in their seats.

Reika glanced at Lita after giving Greg the all-clear and was walking across to Chad. "Were you and Artemis alright up in the 'pit?"

"Yeah we were fine Reika. I've just got a bit of a headache from when I knocked my head against the wall during one of the blasts on my way to the 'pit. But I'm fine so don't worry about me."

"Right then, that's all sorted out." Luna moved towards the door and gestured for Hotaru to accompany her. "Come on Hotaru back to training."

"Mum do I have to?" Hotaru whined.

"Yes you do," Luna replied sternly.

Hotaru groaned and had moved to join her mother at the door when Lita broke in, "Oh wait Luna. We're heading for Station 3 so that we can repair the engine and Artemis is going at turbo speed. You probably won't be able to get Hotaru properly into the training routines before we dock."

"How far are we from the Station at this speed?"

"Fifteen or twenty minutes."

"That's still enough for a light meditation. So move it Hotaru, you're not getting out of it." Hotaru groaned once more as she stomped out of the common. Her mutterings and grumblings could still be heard as she walked away. Lita chuckled when she heard Luna calling out, "And watch your language! If I hear that again you'll be on dishes duty for a month."

Fifteen minutes later, Lita was back up in the cockpit with Artemis waiting for the chance to dock. "Cargo ship Makoto this is Ground Control. Your clearance has been approved and docking space 3C12 is ready for your descent."

"Thank you Ground Control," Lita replied. "Descent beginning now." She flipped off the communicator as Artemis eased the ship down into the designated area. He turned off the engines and relaxed back into his seat.

"Another perfect landing by yours truly," he remarked tiredly.

"Yeah, yeah great job," Lita, replied, fatigue just as obvious in her voice. "Meet you down in the cargo hold." She began muttering as she made her way towards the holding area. "I don't even want to think about how much damage the ship probably has right now."

When she reached the cargo storage area she found the crew, minus Artemis, waiting for her. Lita crossed the floor to a panel in the back wall and typed in a code. "You lot ready to get off?" she asked as the door opened and a ramp appeared.

Chad rubbed his hands together as he stepped into the artificial light of Station 3. "Right let's see what's going on with this engine."

As a group they all stood and stared at the condition the ship was in. Apart from the smoke pouring out of one of the engines, metal had obviously been lost from the outside. There were huge tears in the metal and large dents caused by the laser beams. Hotaru was the first to say anything. "Well, personally, I don't think the Makoto's ever looked better."

Lita frowned at her then glanced at Reika. Reika nodded in reply and slung an arm around Hotaru's shoulders. "How about you and me go pick up some supplies, eh Hotaru?" she suggested.

"Oh yeah let's go." Hotaru grinned. "Hey can we also do some window shopping? It's been ages since I've been here."

Lita couldn't help but smile at Hotaru's enthusiasm but transferred her attention back to the matter at hand when she noticed Artemis approaching her with a grim expression on his face. "Leets there's a problem with the fuel cells," he said before she had a chance to ask what was wrong.

"Come again?"

"The cells are just about bone dry. Before the fight they were more than half-full. I think one of the beams might've punctured a hole in the cells."

"Great. That's just what I needed to hear." She closed her eyes for a moment as she tried to ease both her frustration and the growing headache by massaging her temples. "Chad! How long do you think it will be before the engine is ready?"

Chad ran a hand through his hair as he took a moment away from examining the engine to answer. "It'll be a few hours at least."

"Do you want me and Jed to try and patch up the tears while Chad and Greg are working on the engine?" asked Luna.

"No don't worry about it. I want to be off the satellite as soon as possible. The shipment for Cosatel doesn't have to be delivered for seven days yet so we'll be able to spend a couple of days at Liechdart fixing the ship. Artemis reckons there's a hole in the fuel cells so Jed you're with me and Artie to check that out." Jed nodded and he and Artemis ducked under the ship. "Luna I want you to do what you can to help Greg and Chad with the engine."

Luna smiled and went to join the two men. Lita patted the side of her ship and said, "Don't worry old girl we'll have you in top shape again in no time." Then she followed Artemis and Jed and disappeared under the Makoto.


A/N: Yes I realize that very little happened. But it was a necessary chapter to introduce the other characters and the crew of the Makoto.

While I'm here I'd like to thank everyone who has reviewed so far. This story is my baby at the moment and it means a lot to me that other people are enjoying it. So: thank you. :)