Note: I've noticed a slight issue I failed to address when writing the previous chapters: the fact that the crew is already aware of Katsuo's last name being the same as that of the ruling family. In the interest of saving time and preventing my readers from needing to go back and reread, I will address this problem now. Among Senshians, "Takeda" is a fairly common last name, and bearing it does not necessarily mean that one has a blood connection with royalty.

Note: Originally I planned to make the whole Earth visit one chapter, but I decided to break it up into several so that I could further develop character relationships and overall plot. I do apologize for taking so long to update and I appreciate your continued patience. Certain circumstances prevent me from working on updates as often as I'd like. Additionally, every time I try to work on this story I end up thinking of ideas for the closing chapters rather than the middle of the storyline...a big oversight to be sure. Anyway: I hope you enjoy the story and please to review/comment. I really do want to hear your thoughts.

-ninjashogun


The next morning, Katsuo was awakened, much to his displeasure, by a shrill beeping in his ear. It took him a moment to realize that someone was attempting to reach him through the ship's intercom. He pressed the green button built into the side of his bed and, in a gruff voice, asked, "What is it?"

"You've got an incoming transmission, Captain" Hisoka replied. It sounded as though he had been woken by the sudden communication request as well.

"Who's the transmission from, Lieutenant?"

"Their royal majesties King and Queen Takeda."

Upon hearing this Katsuo launched himself out of bed and sprinted to his bathroom, frantically trying to style his short blond hair as he went. He splashed cold water on his face, dried it with a nearby towel and, tossing the towel onto the counter, proceeded to the room's closet where he deftly removed a suit from its hanger and grabbed a pair of socks and shoes. Still donning the pants, he hopped over to the side of his bed where he sat and put on his shoes. "Put them through to my private line, Lieutenant" Katsuo said, now awake enough to use his normal voice."

"Right away, sir."

Katsuo had just enough time to press the red button on the side of his bed, cutting the intercom connection, and take his seat in front of captain's private transmission terminal before the faces of the king and queen appeared. He wasn't too worried that the ensuing conversation would be overheard; the captain's room was soundproofed specifically to prevent eavesdropping. "Well met mother, father. I trust you are doing well?"

The king merely grunted in response, which wasn't particularly surprising for Katsuo. It was Katsuo's idea to become captain of the Apocalypse, and of all the people who had opposed the notion his father had been the most vehement. While the prince had eventually convinced his opposition to let him go, King Takeda had never given his son his blessing and Katsuo suspected that his father was still upset over his departure.

"We are well, my son" the queen said in a tender, elegant voice. "More importantly, how are you? Are you getting enough food and rest? Are you -" she was cut off as Katsuo interjected.

"Mother, we have only been here for a night. Of course I am well" he said with an exasperated sigh. "You worry too much" he added in a gentler tone, not wanting to give the impression that he didn't appreciate her feelings.

"I'm your mother. It's my job to worry about you."

"It's your job to be the queen of Senshi, mother. What would you do if someone walked in or overheard this conversation with you fretting over me in such a way? While the chances of such an event are unlikely, it would be best to ensure such a thing doesn't happen, no?" You have a reputation to keep; your name conjures an image of a strong and prideful woman among the Senshian people. As for myself, I'd prefer to keep the chances of my identity being discovered by the crew-or anyone else who doesn't know, for that matter-to a minimum."

"Ah, yes, you may be right Katsuo."

"While it is good to hear from you both, is there a reason you contacted me? I must speak with the Catian captain concerning when we will be going down to Earth."

"Yes there are two things we need to tell you, Katsuo." She paused and glanced at her husband, as if waiting to see if he would at least tell his son the reasons for the transmission. When it was clear he had no intention of doing so, she continued. "First of all, we just received a complete report on the extent of the losses so far for the battle of Catia. Only a seventh of the Catian fleet is still fit for battle, we have lost almost half of our forces, and we estimate the Dogesians and their allies have had their numbers reduced by about half as well."

"These are heavy losses indeed. So there's been no change; it's still an even fight" Katsuo commented in a grim undertone. "But there must be something more than that; you wouldn't have bothered telling me this yourselves unless there was a hidden issue."

"Yes. In the middle of the last battle one of our more advanced fourth generation battleships fired upon our other forces, destroying four battleships before anyone could react to what was happening. It then took to hyperspace and has not been located since."

The idea that a captain and crew would turn against their own kind in the heat of battle sent a surge of rage through Katsuo. There was a brief silence before he could bring himself to respond without shouting. "Why was I not informed of this earlier?"

King Takeda was the one who answered the inquiry. "It was by my order. You chose to go protect the Catians on Earth, and due to the mission you are not free to leave them to give chase. As such, I saw no reason to inform you of the matter as it did not concern you."

"Oh, but now it does?" Katsuo could barely maintain his composure. "Considering I had such a difficult time getting approval for my involvement in this assignment, I find it hard to believe you'd have let me chase the ship even if I was available to do so!"

"We had hoped to have the situation resolved by now" the king calmly retorted. If he was embarrassed or angry that the situation remained unresolved, he did not show it. "At any rate, since we have been unable to track the rogue vessel and it has had plenty of time to be well on its way to whatever destination the captain had in mind, it would be wise to be on your guard. It's possible that it may be heading your way."

"We'll be ready if they're foolish enough to present themselves before us." Katsuo was so frustrated that he wanted to end the transmission immediately, but he remembered that his mother had said there were two things she needed to tell him. Now, what was the second thing you were going to tell me, mother?"

"I wish I could tell you under better circumstances, but it can't be helped I suppose. You will soon be a big brother" she said with a warm smile.

"W-what?" Katsuo stammered as he heard the news. This was one of those rare moments when he was lost for words and had no idea what to say. This was not something I was expecting to hear after the previous topic. "Congratulations, mother." It was the only response he could think to give. A little brother or sister…I wonder which it will be? Either way, it looks like things are going to be interesting when this mission expires and we return home. An awkward silence followed, during which time Katsuo glanced at his communicator and realized that the transmission had lasted much longer than he had intended. He needed to contact the Catian captain and make final arrangements for the visit to Earth. "Mother, father, unfortunately I have matters to attend to and I must take my leave. Again, congratulations." Katsuo reached for the switch on the side of the monitor that would end the transmission. He was about to flip it when his father made one last remark.

"Katsuo, your mother isn't the only one who worries about you" he said in a low, wavering voice that threatened to portray his true emotions. As soon as he finished his sentence, King Takeda cut the transmission from his side.

"One unexpected thing after the other" Katsuo muttered as he rose and walked into his bathroom. He then proceeded to brush his teeth and properly redo everything that had been rushed that morning. I can't have myself looking undesirable in front of that Catian captain now can I? He let out a brief chuckle and shook his head. Come on Katsuo, what are you thinking? You're Senshian royalty, and she's a completely different species! It would never be allowed.

Katsuo left the captain's quarters and made his way to the mess hall. He was greeted by the crew members who happened to cross his path, to each of which he gave his typical smile and returned their greetings. He did not, however, stay and converse with them as usual. Not only was he hungry, but he wanted to make the arrangements for the Earth visit as soon as possible. Once in the cafeteria, he ordered a simple breakfast of cereal with water to drink. He finished his meal after only a few minutes, gave his tray holding his ceramic bowl, spoon, and glass to the crew member on dish duty, and trotted down the halls in the direction of the cockpit.

Hisoka rose and saluted the captain as he entered the cockpit. "Good morning, sir. Have you decided who will be accompanying you on the visit to the embassies today?"

"Ah, right, we're visiting the Catian embassy today" Katsuo replied, feigning ignorance.

"We need to speak with the Japanese embassy as well, Captain. Please tell me you didn't forget?"

"I see no reason to bother ourselves with the Japanese embassy. There's not a thing they can do about us staying here anyway" Katsuo said in a carefree tone. The truth was that he really hadn't thought about the local government.

"Doing so would cause problems for the Catians, sir." It was clear that Hisoka was, yet again, mistaking him for being serious.

"With a battleship named Apocalypse overhead outfitted with technologies far more advanced that Earth's own? I wonder if Earthlings would really be so stupid?"

"Captain, surely you aren't honestly considering ignoring the Japanese government!" Hisoka exclaimed, a slight pleading whine entering into his voice. Katsuo simply grinned at the Lieutenant for a few moments and chuckled as he entertained the thought. "Captain!"

Glancing at the time, Katsuo decided to put an end his teasing for the moment. There was much to be done, and the sooner he could get on Earth, the better. "Relax, Hisoka. I have no intention of overlooking them. To answer your question I plan on having you and Arata with me. If we take Apocalypse's landing shuttle there should be plenty of room."

Relieved, the lieutenant sighed and slumped into his chair. "Well then, should I contact the Catian ship, Captain?"

"No, I will do it" was Katsuo's reply as he activated the transmitter. He was a little disappointed when it was not Kuune, but another Catian who appeared on the screen. This one had short blue hair and was considerably smaller than most of the other Catian crew he had seen. "Good day to you! We are ready to leave for Earth whenever you are" Katsuo said, hiding his true feelings with an air of cheerfulness. "Let's see, you were…?"

"Ah, yes! L-lieutenant Melwin" the Catian responded, stuttering a little. "We are ready as well."

That hesitant response reminded me somewhat of Hisoka,Katsuo thought, amused. Nodding in acknowledgement, Katsuo continued. "We think it would be best to use Apocalypse's shuttle for this endeavor. Would the Catians who are accompanying us find that to be acceptable?"

"Yes, that will be fine."

"Perfect. Well then, the shuttle will dock with you shortly and then we can be on our way." Once he had ended the transmission, Katsuo turned to Hisoka. "Let's get to the hangar, shall we? We can't keep the Catians waiting" he said with a smirk. As the two left the ship's bridge, the captain used his wrist communicator to contact Arata.

The young Senshian answered, his bright voice flowing from the communicator's speakers. "What can I do for you, Captain?"

"Get cleaned up and meet me in the hangar. We're going to Earth."

"What?" Arata exclaimed, startled at the sudden order.

"Is there a problem?"

"No sir! No problem at all! I'll be right there!"

Katsuo chuckled as he lowered his communicator from where it had been in front of his mouth. Visiting Earth was interesting in itself, but having Hisoka and Arata with him would surely make the trip even more so. An easily flustered lieutenant and an overly excited crew member…something was bound to happen. Indeed, his decision to bring these two along must have been a stroke of pure genius.

Arata was waiting for them as they arrived at the hangar. Together the three Senshians boarded the shuttle and initiated the startup procedures, which was a simple matter of booting the onboard computer; the ship's updated technology could do almost everything that would require manual interaction on previous models. The shuttle reminded Katsuo of a miniature Apocalypse. It contained an unbelievable amount of space, and the interior was just as well decorated and maintained at the main ship. To think that they even went through the trouble of redesigning the shuttle to this extent just because I'm the prince. Rather than piloting the craft manually, it was decided that the auto-pilot (the Senshian Auto Navigator, aka SAN) would fly them to their destination of Earth.

"All electronic systems online and functioning properly" SAN reported. "Cabin pressure is within acceptable parameters. Fusion engines and thrusters are within acceptable parameters. Apocalypse shuttle is ready for use."

"SAN, launch the shuttle and dock with the Catian ship" Katsuo commanded from one of the soft reclining seats located in the back.

"Orders confirmed. Main hangar door disengaged; opening. Shuttle is launching. Expected order completion time is one minute." The sudden increase in speed as the thrusters were initiated was barely perceptible to the Senshians onboard; a significant change from previous shuttle models.

It took exactly two minutes until the shuttle was docked alongside the Catian ship. Katsuo rose from his seat and motioned for his companions to do likewise. He would not be so discourteous as to not meet the Catians as they entered. As the airlocks disengaged and the doors opened, Katsuo was pleased to notice a certain purple-haired beauty amongst the small group of three waiting to board. There was no need to conceal his delight; he was sure that it would be interpreted as excitement over visiting a new planet.

"Welcome aboard and thank you again for agreeing to show us around Earth."

"It is no trouble at all, Captain Takeda" Kuune said in her usual polite and cheery voice. "I do not believe that you have been introduced to my companions. Allow me to introduce you to our ship's doctor, Duerel, and the embassy's head of security, Chaika." "I must say, this is quite a nice shuttle!"

"I am Captain Katsuo Takeda of Senshi. It is a pleasure to meet you, Duerel and Chaika."

"Likewise" was Duerel's composed response.

"Hey, pleasure to meet you as well!" was Chaika's energetic reply, which reminded him of his own crewmember, Arata.

"Since we're on the topic of introductions allow me to introduce my own companions, Lieutenant Hisoka and mechanic Arata Ichirou."

"A pleasure to meet you, Lieutenant Hisoka and Mr. Ichirou. I am Captain Kuune of Catia." Kuune said with a dazzling smile. The two Senshians bowed to hide their blushing faces and smiles at being addressed by such a beautiful girl, while Katsuo looked on doing his best to maintain his welcoming visage and hide his jealous rage. Senshians could be quite jealous in matters of love.

Don't get too happy you two; she's mine, Katsuo thought. Wait, what am I thinking? We're completely different species and I'm royalty! It's not even a realistic possibility! Despite his logic he could not calm himself. He decided it was time to change the topic.

"Well, we probably should be on our way. Please, come in and make yourselves comfortable!" Once everyone had been seated, Katsuo gave the order to head for their destination. "SAN, set a course for the Catian embassy on Earth."

"Orders confirmed. Expected order completion time is five minutes."

The remainder of the flight to Earth was filled with idle chatter between the six passengers. Eventually Katsuo managed to somewhat compose his inner feelings, but he couldn't forget the jealousy he had felt and the emotions behind it. Honestly, what on Senshi have I gotten myself into?