Minagi had a slight smile on her face as Mitsuki came onto the large bridge. "Hell of a ship, isn't she?" she said with a great deal of pride, sitting there in the command chair.
"From what I saw of it, it's pretty impressive," Mitsuki quickly agreed with Minagi, looking around her curiously.
Sasami, Masaki and Funaho stood to one side of the chamber, out of the way of the members of the bridge crew. She didn't recognize most of the crew who were sitting at the different stations, and wondered if they were a group specially assigned to the Swordbreaker itself. However she noted that the bridge layout itself was pretty typical, with a central command chair and several crew stations spread out around the circular bridge.
"You ain't seen nothing yet," Minagi grinned. She turned to the young lady at one of the consoles, "Ayanami, open communications with the Ryo- Ohki."
"Yes, ma'am," Rei Ayanami said coolly, activating a series of controls on her panel with smooth efficiently.
The bridge of the Ryo-Ohki appeared on the monitor screen, and Mitsuki quickly made note of those standing there. Ryouko and Ayeka were front and center, Washu and Yume to one side, and nearby Kiyone was standing waiting.
"Ready to move out?" Ryouko asked with a grin.
"The last of the stragglers are on board," Minagi shot a impish look at Mitsuki.
"Hey!" Mitsuki protested.
Ryouko chuckled softly at that before smiling at Minagi, "We're moving out. Let's keep the ships down to the lower hyperspace bands, we're not in that much of a rush to get there. And it'll give us a chance to discuss our strategy."
Minagi pouted, "Aw, but I wanted to see how fast this thing could go!"
"It'll just have to wait," Ryouko shrugged, then she seemed to be hit with an inspiration, "we'll race or something later, OK?"
"I'll even give you a lead, old timer," Minagi grinned.
"Oh, yeah? Ryo-Ohki can take Swordbreaker any day!" Ryouko shot back.
Washu sighed and muttered to Yume even as the two siblings continued to fight, "I swear, they're like a pair of overgrown children."
"Be strong, m'love," Yume pattered her on the arm.
Ayeka was shaking her head, but a little smile was teasing her lips.
Kiyone shot all three a scolding look, then said to Minagi seriously, "The Swordbreaker will be carrying the fighters along with it through hyperspace. That means if we run into anything hostile, let the Ryo-Ohki take point until you can disengage them."
"Got it," Minagi nodded firmly.
"Then let's do this," Ryouko nodded firmly.
"Mothers, sister, I look forward to seeing you on Earth," Ayeka said quietly just before the communications line closed.
"Get me Yamamoto Yohko," Minagi next ordered Rei, and a few moments later the face of the intense captain of all the fleet's fighter squads was up on the screen. "Move the fighters into position," Minagi ordered her.
Outside in the airless depths of space a flight of seven fighters moved in a delicate dance, taking up their positions all around the Swordbreaker. Six of them were silvery strike fighters, and one was a larger, almost blood red craft.
"Fighters ready," Yohko reported from the red fighter's cockpit.
"Extend transit field around the fighters," Minagi turned to the silver haired figure sitting at the navigation console.
"Done," Ruri answered her simply, an odd light dancing across both the backs of her slim hands and her wide blue eyes.
"Tactical, extend the ship's shields around us and the fighters," Minagi ordered the young woman with fiery red hair.
"The shields are in place, ma'am," Asuka Langley reported back after a moment.
"Yohko," Minagi said, "I want communications links maintained with Swordbreaker at all times. This is the first time we've tried this stunt with this many fighters, so if any of your systems start behaving oddly, I want to know."
Yohko nodded, her expression grim, "Understood."
The link closed, and outside, they saw Ryo-Ohki moving into position in front of them. "All right," Minagi smiled, "looks like it's time to go."
Ruri worked her controls, smoothly bringing them directly in line behind Ryo-Ohki, There was a slight shudder, then Ruri softly declared, "Main drives engaged. Countdown to hyperspace transit in... five... four... three... two... one... go."
Outside all of the viewports, space itself seemed to disappear into pure darkness as the ship left normal space and began to move through a very different sort of reality. Hyperspace, the shortcut between any two places in the universe, was utilized by most of the great spacefaring races. But Washu had taken that technology one step better, cutting down transit times by an incredible factor. And Swordbreaker might just be her best design yet.
"Estimated time of arrival for Earth, two standard days," Ruri reported coolly.
Mitsuki did a fast metal comparison of roughly how long a typical Galaxy Police cruiser could have crossed that sort of distance and whistled softly. "That's incredibly fast," she murmured to herself quietly.
Minagi chuckled softly, "Not really. Both Ryo-Ohki and Swordbreaker are taking it easy. We could finished this trip in less than a day if we wanted to."
"Remind me not to challenge either ship to a race then," Mitsuki blinked. She looked over at Minagi thoughtfully then with a sly grin asked her, "When you do race against Ryo-Ohki, who should I put my money on?"
Minagi had a good laugh at that, "Damned if I know." She got up out of her seat and said to the navigator, "Ruri, you're in charge."
"Of course," the silvery haired girl answered coolly.
"Asuka," Minagi turned to the tactical officer, "keep an eye on the fighters for me. You pick up anything unusual, let me know."
"Yes, ma'am!" Asuka threw a salute.
Minagi took Mitsuki in tow before walking over to Sasami, Funaho and Masaki and saying, "We'll have someone show you to your quarters. They won't be luxurious as the Washu's Revenge, but they shouldn't be too bad, either."
"Thank you," Funaho said with a bow.
"I'm sure it'll be fine," Misaki beamed. Quietly to Funaho she said, "It'll be just like that time we stowed away on that freighter and had to spend the entire trip in a little cabin."
Funaho didn't say anything, but she blushed faintly.
"Sasami," Minagi started, but trailed off looking a bit uncomfortable.
"Yes?" Sasami asked curiously.
"We don't have a ship's cook just yet," Minagi admitted. She looked entreatingly at Sasami and asked, "Would you mind helping out?" Her pleading glance was quickly joined by Mitsuki's, Sasami's mothers, and then several bridge crew.
"All right, all right," Sasami laughed, "I'll cook for you."
"Thanks," Mitsuki smiled happily. She chuckled softly, "I'm sure that none of you would want to try my cooking."
"Is it that bad?" Funaho asked her curiously.
"There's an standing order to shook me if I go anywhere near the galley of a Galaxy Police vessel," Mitsuki answered jokingly.
Soft laughter was her general reply. They escorted the ladies to their rooms, then Minagi said to Mitsuki, "Anything you need to do to prepare for our arrival on Earth?"
"Not much I can do in advance," Mitsuki admitted. "I'll have to see how the situation there is and then play the investigation by ear," she explained. She hesitated a moment, then looked over at Minagi to ask, "You seemed especially concerned about the fighters. If there some unusual danger involved with bringing them along?"
"Not exactly," Minagi said gravely. "We tested this out a few times and it's worked fine, mostly. But one time..." she trailed off.
"Something went wrong," Mitsuki quickly concluded. She quietly asked her, "Did you figure out what happened?"
"From the transmissions we recovered the pilots were goading each other on, seeing which one could get the closest to the transit field's event horizon," Minagi explained quietly. A grim little smile, "They managed to rupture the field."
"A catastrophic re-entry into normal space," Mitsuki murmured, "there's no way they could have survived that."
"Even worse," Minagi said grimly, "they impacted a planet."
"Ouch," Mitsuki winced, thinking the kind of explosion that could trigger.
"Dixon and Fokker got a memorial plaque in one of the fighter hangers," Minagi shrugged, "because we couldn't recover a body." Minagi shook her head and forced a smile, "Such a gloomy topic! Sorry I nattered on so long."
"Hey, I asked," Mitsuki shrugged. She smiled, "So how do we kill two days?"
Minagi smirked, "I can guess how Ryouko and Ayeka are going to."
Mitsuki snickered, "Even with Ryouko's mothers on board?"
"Wouldn't stop Ryouko," Minagi said thoughtfully, "but it might slow Ayeka down a bit."
Just ahead of them aboard Ryo-Ohki, Ryouko looked out into the blackness of hyperspace with Ayeka standing close by her side. "You know what I'm going to miss the most while we're on this trip?" Ryouko asked.
"Our bedroom?" Ayeka asked with a little smile.
"Heh. That, too," Ryouko admitted. With a slightly sheepish smile she admitted, "I'm going to miss Sasami's cooking."
"Oh, don't worry about that," Ayeka shrugged.
"Hmm?" Ryouko looked at her curiously.
From behind her back Ayeka produced a giant lunch box. "I had Sasami prepare us two bento boxes for today and tomorrow," she said cheerfully.
Ryouko began to laugh even as she hugged Ayeka close, "You think of everything, m'love."
To be continued...