Minagi pushed her mane of light blue hair back as she looked over the forty or so young men and women who sitting in front of her, the members of the Manticore Pilot Corps. They came from a variety of worlds, ranging from out on the rim, to some of the throne worlds of the surviving galactic empires, and they shared one thing in common other than the blue and white uniforms they wore. They all were risk takers, adventurers who lived to be on the edge.
"Sorry ladies and gents," Minagi smiled at them a bit apologetically, "but we're going to be increasing our fighter drills for the next while."
There was a general groan, and Minagi waggled her finger at them scoldingly, her long hair bouncing along her back.
"We don't know what we're going to run into on Earth," Minagi said to them seriously, "all we really do know is that those cloaked ships that attacked the Revenge came out from there. So I'm not taking any chances." A dark haired young man sitting in the back was waving his hand and she nodded to him, "Yes, Hunter, right?"
Rick Hunter stood up and said, "Yes, ma'am. Has it been decided which fighter pilots will be brought along on the Earth trip yet?"
"Yamamoto Yohko and the other three fighter wing commanders will be the ones making that decision," Minagi shrugged. She grinned suddenly, "So if anybody's still got some treats to bribe 'em with, break them out now."
There was a general laugh from the pilots at that.
"That's it for now," Minagi gave them a casual wave for dismissal, and the pilots got up out of their seats and filed out of the room while talking together quietly. Mostly about what the mission might be like and whom to brown-nose about it, she noted with some amusement.
'A very casual command style,' Mitsuki noted, watching the meeting from the wings, 'but it seems to work with them.' Looking at the pilots they seemed much more independent than typical military crewmen, so maybe that informal style suited them well.
"You wanted to see me?" Minagi walked over to her.
The two set off down the hallway together, and Mitsuki asked, "Would it be possible for me to accompany the team heading for Earth?"
Minagi looked over at her thoughtfully, "I don't see there being a problem. Have you asked Kiyone about it yet?"
Mitsuki blushed slightly, "I thought I should ask you, first."
Minagi smiled slightly, "Kiyone makes you nervous?"
"A bit, yes," Mitsuki admitted. She sighed, "I've been reviewing her record, getting a feel of what she's done since she left the Galaxy Police."
"And what did you think?" Minagi asked.
"I was impressed," Mitsuki said softly, "very impressed. I thought the stories about her in the Manticore Fleet were exaggerated, but now I find that it's just the opposite!"
"Kiyone is pretty damn good at her job," Minagi nodded firmly, "but if you look at the fleet in general, most of our best people have quite similar records." She looked over at Mitsuki and added, "Including you."
Mitsuki blushed, mildly surprised as she protested, "It's not quite the same thing."
"Ryouko wouldn't have requested you from the Galaxy Police if you weren't of the same caliber," Minagi smiled. She grinned, "I heard about how you commanded the GP forces we fought at Jurai. You did a fine job there."
Mitsuki flushed, "Considering that the GP had to run with out tails between our legs, I'm not all that proud of it."
"You did what you had to do in a bad situation, and you were smart enough to know when to pull out," she said simply. With a soft chuckle she added, "When you're dealing with her, just try to remember that Kiyone puts her pants on one leg at a time, just like you or I."
Mitsuki smiled back, "I suppose you're right, ma'am."
Minagi punched her in the shoulder, nearly knocking her off of her feet, "Minagi, please! We don't do that formal style here."
Mitsuki rubbed at her shoulder, wincing slightly, "Right, right."
In another part of the ship planning discussions were taking place, involving how the fleet itself would be operating. "I still don't like this idea at all," Kiyone said, angrily tossing the data pad on to the table. The dark haired woman looked clearly irritable, standing there with a nervous Honor Harrington at her back.
Ryouko sighed as she said, "There's not a lot of options available to us." Quite dryly she added, "If we go wandering into the Moon Kingdom's territory with the battle fleet at our backs, it won't go over well."
Honor Harrington cleared her throat nervously. She got a nod from Kiyone and said, "But why not take the Washu's Revenge? Just going there in Ryo-Okhi and Minagi's Swordbreaker puts you all at serious risk."
Washu looked slightly indignant at that comment, "Ryo-Ohki is more powerful than most of the ships in our fleet, captain. And the Swordbreaker prototype has the best shields of any of our craft, not to mention the improved drive system."
"Point taken," Kiyone sighed. She frowned, then plaintively asked Ryouko, "But why do you have to be the one to go investigate this?"
"Queen Serenity was quite pointed that I had to come along," Ryouko said, giving a sideways glance over to her new bride.
Ayeka was quite unruffled as she sipped from her glass of tea and simply said, "Which is why I'm coming along as well."
"What?" Kiyone squawked.
"Oh, this is going to be good," Ryouko murmured to her mother softly.
Washu nodded, "Ayeka's almost as stubborn as you are."
"Maybe a bit more," Ryouko added.
Once Kiyone got herself somewhat under control she told Ayeka seriously, "It is not wise for you to go on this mission, Ayeka."
"It's also not wise to leave Ryouko and Serenity alone together," Ayeka answered dryly.
Washu snickered softly.
"Myah," Ryo-Ohki sounded quite amused.
"A point," Kiyone admitted with a sigh. She looked at Ayeka thoughtfully, trying to tell how determined she was. "You're going to insist, aren't you?" she made a face.
"Sorry, but yes, I think I am," Ayeka said firmly.
Kiyone pushed her dark hair out of her face, "Then I guess I'll just have to go along, too. Someone has to keep you out of trouble."
"But ma'am!" Honor blurted out.
Kiyone gave her a look that wilted the younger woman almost instantly. "Honor, I'm leaving you in command of the Revenge," she said firmly. She looked thoughtful, "Tita can stand in as your second in command."
"Yes, sir," Honor saluted.
Ayeka looked thoughtful, "So Ryouko and I are going, Kiyone, Minagi, and my mothers have also requested to come along."
"Funaho and Masaki?" Washu blinked.
"My brother Yosho may have been slain there," Ayeka said softly, "of course they want to see it, to say their final farewells."
"Understandable," Ryouko nodded. "We could also use an investigator along as well, any suggestions?" she asked leadingly.
Kiyone gave her a look, "Mitsuki is quite the qualified investigator. If the information about the cloaked ships is concealed, I suspect she could find it."
The door to the conference room hissed open, and Minagi stepped in. She caught part of Kiyone's reply and said, "Mitsuki has already asked to come along."
Ryouko looked remarkably smug.
"How did you know?" Ayeka blinked at her in surprise.
Ryouko grinned, "That's for me to know and you to find out."
Ayeka raised her eyebrow, "You know, you do sleep pretty soundly..."
Ryouko flushed and blurted out, "I'm a pretty good judge of character. I figured that Mitsuki would want to be where the action is."
"Ayeka has Ryouko so whipped," Minagi said to Kiyone with a smile.
"Oh, yeah," Kiyone nodded firmly.
Not much later that day and there was a general rush going on to get everything ready to move out. "Swordbreaker?" Mitsuki blinked in confusion as she jogged alongside the boy who was escorting her to the ship in question.
"Yes, ma'am," Nicole beamed, his pink hair falling into his eyes. He grinned, "It's the latest prototype ship created by Washu-sama!"
"But what is it?" she pressed him.
"It's a hybrid ship, with both organic and inorganic systems, with more advanced shields and weapons," Nicole said with a great deal of enthusiasm.
'Then again,' Mitsuki thought, 'this boy probably gets enthusiastic about weather reports.' Changing the subject she asked, "So how long have you been in the fleet?"
"Since Capt'n Tita joined," the boy's eyes got big and sparkly. Nicole beamed, "We ran into Ryouko and Ryo-Ohki, helped each other out of a mess. She offered Tita a Captaincy in her fleet, and Tita insisted that we all be given the chance to join up."
They passed a viewport and Mitsuki jerked to a stop, her eyes wide. "Wow," she murmured, looking at the ship that hung out there in space.
It was a silvery wedge shaped craft, about a third the size of the Washu's Revenge, but just looking at it told Mitsuki that it made up in power what it lacked in size. Shaped in graceful curves, the central body was basically an oval, with twin bows that stuck out the front. The over all impression it gave was of a tiger, crouched down but ready to strike.
"Is that it?" Mitsuki murmured softly.
Nicole nodded, a smile on his face, "That's Swordbreaker."
Mitsuki grabbed the boy's arm and all but dragged him down the hallway as she said, "Then what are we waiting for? Let's get on board!"
To be continued...