Disclaimer: I do not own Vandread.

A/N: As I said last chapter, it'll probably go a little slow until later, when it picks up in pace. And thanks to those who reviewed. Without further ado, here's the next chapter.

Trials of Error

Chapter Three: Preparation

"For Meia to openly ask that sort of question, caught me slightly off guard. It was unlike her to ask about anyone else, with the way she normally is. I guess we both changed over the years."

-From the personal journal of Hibiki Tokai

Less than five minutes after they'd been summoned, had Hibiki and Meia entered the briefing room. They both immediately noticed that aside from Rebecca, Valore and Barnette were both present as well. Several seconds passed before Rebecca finally spoke.

"Now that we're all here, we can get down to it," she said as she brought up a holographic image of the Unity. "The ceremony for this ship's maiden voyage is next week."

"That doesn't leave us much time," Valore replied as she glanced at the holo-image.

"Preparations are almost underway," Barnette said. "Everything will be ready by then."

"Good," Rebecca replied. "How about you Meia?"

"We are to begin integration of Hibiki's unit today," she replied. "Once they are on-board, at least."

"They will arrive as scheduled," Hibiki added." "They'll be here in a few hours. After they get sorted out, we'll begin the exercises."

"How reliable is your unit?" Valore asked. "The last one they sent here couldn't pilot worth a damn."

"I personally chose the pilots myself," he replied as he turned to face the red-haired Dread pilot. "I can assure you, they are some of the best Tarak has to offer. They are specially trained to combat Harvester forces."

That reply seemed to quiet the room for several seconds, leaving a rather awkward silence among the group assembled. Rebecca finally broke the silence. "It seems everything is in order then. You are dismissed."

Barnette and Valore both left the room, but before he could leave, Rebecca spoke up again. "Hibiki, Meia, you stay. We still have a few things to discuss."

"He seemed full of himself," Valore muttered as both her and Barnette walked down the corridor.

"Well, he is a man," Barnette replied casually. "But he doesn't strike me as someone who would lie about the skill of those under his command."

"How so?" Valore asked as they continued walking, passing a few other women who were busy carrying out their assigned tasks.

"Like most of us," Barnette said, remembering of his relationship with Dita. "He lost something very important to him, that day three years ago."

After that comment, the two remained silent for several seconds. They both knew the significance of that event, and the repercussions it had left in it's wake.

"Well, I guess that leaves just one thing," Valore said as she left to attend to her duties.

"Their loyalty," Barnette said as she watched Valore walk away.

"You can't be serious!" Hibiki responded with surprise as Rebecca had laid out the plan they intended to carry out to him.

"Well," Rebecca said, unfazed by his outburst. "What do you think of it?"

"It's crazy," he replied, calming down quickly. "I'm not sure how you can make it work."

"We formed this plan ever since they started building the Unity," Meia said. "We've planned for pretty much every contingency, and now there is only one left."

"And that would be?" Hibiki asked.

"Your unit," Rebecca stated. "Can we trust them?"

"My second, Gerhard Koenig, is one hundred percent loyal to me. He'd follow me through hell and back," he said matter-of-factly. Then added an unspoken thought. "He already has."

"And the rest of them?" Rebecca asked, giving him a stern glance.

"I chose them based on two facts," Hibiki replied, returning her gaze. "Their skill, and their willingness to work with women. I didn't want any bigots within my unit, can't stand'em."

"That's all and good," Rebecca said as she read the datapad that contained the roster list of the pilots under Hibiki's command. "But what of their loyalty? Can they be trusted?"

"In one word, yes," Hibiki replied with slight hostility in his voice.

"I believe they can be trusted," Meia interjected, hoping to defuse a tense situation. "I trust his judgment."

"Very well," Rebecca said, hesitantly backing down. "Both of you are dismissed."

"I hope you're right, Meia..." was Rebecca's primary thought as she watched them leave the briefing room.

"This is Lieutenant Koenig of the Blackwind Squadron," Gerhard announced from the cockpit of his custom Vanguard in response to the call for identification from the pirate asteroid base. "Requesting permission to dock."

"Authorization confirmed," the female voice replied. "Your ship and escort are cleared for docking."

"Acknowledged," he responded curtly. "Beginning docking procedures now."

He took up position alongside the transport, which contained the majority of the unit and their equipment. Not counting himself or their commander Hibiki Tokai, there were a total of ten pilots aboard the craft alongside their Vanguards, the Commander's Vanguard, and the necessary spare parts, ammunition and other supplies, as well as additional support staff. Moments later the transport alongside its escort had come to a stop inside the large docking hangar, and the large blast doors closed and the artificial gravity as well as the life support was restored.

After a few moments, he opened the cockpit hatch of his machine and made his way down to the deck. He was greeted by Hibiki Tokai and a woman with short, light blue hair wearing a black and white pilot suit. He assumed that she was the leader of the pirates' fighter squadron. With sharp military precision, he brought himself to attention and saluted the two.

"No need to be so formal," Hibiki said casually as he extended his hand.

"Just trying to make a good first impression," he replied, shaking the commander's hand. He turned to face the woman, bowing slightly as did so. "Lieutenant Gerhard Koenig, ma'am."

"Meia Gisborn," the woman said in reply. "I'm in command of the Dread Teams here, as well as the overall commander of the combined Vanguard and Dread forces."

"After all the equipment is unloaded," Hibiki said. "Have everyone report to the briefing room on board the Unity. We'll discuss what's to be done once that is completed."

"Understood Commander," Gerhard replied curtly as he watched Hibiki and Meia walk away. "It will be done."

"That is one interesting subordinate you have there," Meia said to Hibiki once they were out of earshot.

"He is a peculiar one, yes," Hibiki responded with a slight chuckle. "Not really something common in a Tarak man, is it?"

"What do you mean by that?" she asked, then came to a sudden realization. "He's not from Tarak, is he?"

"Bingo," he admitted nonchalantly. "He's not."

"Now that raises a few questions," she stated as she kept pace with him.

"I bet it does," he replied. "But there'll be another time for that. We have things to do."

"I suppose we do," she responded as they reached the briefing room. She then thought to herself. "Why won't you answer my question?"

Several minutes later, all of the pilots were assembled in the briefing room. From a casual glance, one can tell the female pilots outnumbered the male pilots. That mattered little, since every pilot assembled was an expert at what they did. Their respective commanders had made sure of that.

"Now that everyone's here, we can begin," Meia announced while tapping a few buttons on the console in front of her. "We are going to begin a series of integration exercises to better familiarize Commander Tokai's squadron with our own."

"True," Hibiki added. "We only have a week to become ready for the launch of the Unity."

"With that in mind," she said. "We will start with several simulator runs, and later move on to actual combat exercises. As of now, we will be running the following exercise." She promptly brought up the battle exercise they were going to run on the large screen.

"Any questions?" Hibiki added, scanning the room. No one bothered to speak up or raise a hand, so he took that as a 'no'. "Then report to the simulators to begin the exercise."

As the pilots begin to file into the simulator room, Meia loaded the program into the simulator pods. The plan was mostly designed by her, with some input from Hibiki. Several moments later, all of the pilots confirmed their readiness. With a few button taps across the console, she started the program.

"So," she said as she watched the pilots run through the simulation. "Mind answering my question now?"

"I guess there really is no avoiding this," Hibiki muttered. "You know that planet in the magnetic storm? The one I crashed on?"

"Yeah," she replied. "I remember it."

"I spent the better part of a year there," he said, taking the occasional glance at the simulation. "I did what some people would call a little 'soul-searching'. It helped, but not by much. After taking my leave of the planet, I came across a large Harvester attack force. I deployed, but they took out my ship.

"I was about to be overwhelmed, but a large fleet came out of nowhere and destroyed the Earth forces that had attacked me," he continued. "They decided to let me join up with them, and I assisted in their battle against the Earthlings. I was with them for about two years, until the battle that wiped them out. Gerhard and I were the only survivors. We eventually limped back to Tarak, where we were intercepted by one of their patrols. After a while, they 'insisted' I join the Tarak Army. Due to my status as a first-class citizen, I was able to get my own command, and a fair amount of freedom in what missions I decided to go on. That is, until my assignment to this ship. That's the gist of it."

"Sounds like you had an eventful time," Meia had said, waiting to reply until after she was sure he was finished. "So that's why you've been out of contact."

"Pretty much," he replied, shrugging. "But that's the past, let's focus on the present at the moment."

She nodded, and noticed that the pilots had just reported that they had finished the exercise. She still couldn't shake the fact that he wasn't telling her everything, but she decided to leave it at that for now. The fact that he'd told her that much was surprising. She wasn't sure why she was so interested in knowing what happened to him during that time. Had she developed feelings for him? Similar to what Dita had felt?

Well, there you have it. Hope you enjoy it. Leave a review if you want to, I'd really appreciate it. I plan to start picking up the storyline in the next several chapters. Also, I wouldn't mind input on some of the characters/crew I need to come up with. If any of you have any ideas for potential crew, both male and female, just let me know via PM.