Ryouko smiled warmly, looking honestly pleased at Ayeka's decision to eat here with her again. She smoothly got up out of her chair and gracefully pulled out the seat right beside her own, "Would you care to sit down?"
"Thank you," Ayeka smiled, as Ryouko gently pushed the chair in behind her. She uncorked a bottle, pouring some into a glass beside Ayeka, before refilling her own.
Ryouko sat back down and activated a small device on her wrist, "Another for dinner please, Asashi." She listened for a moment, "Thank you." Ryouko looked up at Ayeka, "Your plate should be here in a minute or so."
"Fast service," Ayeka noted.
"Sasami's helping out tonight, I think," then Ryouko chuckled softly, adding, "The foods much less spicy this time." Ayeka looked rather relieved, and Ryouko smiled.
"I was reading some of the library files," Ayeka said to her softly, "and I found them to be quite interesting."
"Which files?" Ryouko asked her a bit nervously. She quickly tried to remember where her private collection of lewd novels were hidden on the data-base, and if Ayeka could have been able to access them somehow.
"Mostly on your government, and the organization of the Republic of Manticore," Ayeka said, giving Ryouko an odd look. 'I wonder what other files are in there?' she mused, and resolved to try and find out..
Just then the nearby door opened up, and Sasami and Asashi came out bearing the plates carrying Ayeka's dinner. Ryouko tried not to look too relieved at the distraction. "Here you go," Sasami said with a smile.
"Thank you," Ayeka smiled at the two young ladies. "Are you having fun together?" she asked them curiously.
"Oh, yes," Asashi enthused. "I'm learning so much about cooking from Sasami! She doesn't use enough spices, though," she finished with a cute little frown.
Both girls left, and only then did Ayeka chuckle softly. "I'm glad Sasami cooked this," she said with a smile.
"I don't mind Asashi's cooking," Ryouko admitted, "but I know I'm in the minority about that." They shared quiet laughter. "So, you were reading about Manticore," Ryouko said, "what do you think of it?"
"It was very educational," Ayeka answered her coolly. She took a deep breath before saying, "My father had claimed that Manticore attacked Jurai first." Ryouko opened her mouth to protest that, so she held up a hand to stop her, "But my mother has confirmed what you data had told me, that we, Jurai, had started it."
There was a moment of silence at the table, as Ryouko considered what to say. 'Well, I guess I was right in letting the ladies live,' she thought. 'But even I didn't know that the Emperor had lied,' she thought to herself grimly.
"I'm deeply sorry," Ayeka said softly, trying to meet Ryouko's eyes, "for the harm my people wrought on yours."
"It's not your fault," Ryouko replied softly. She got out of her chair and walked to the viewport, looking down at Jurai. "It explains a lot," she said softly, "I sent a diplomat to Jurai early on, to try and negotiate for peace. She never came back."
"You went through all our databases for any sign of her?" Ayeka asked, sounding honestly concerned about the missing diplomat.
"Nothing," Ryouko answered her quietly.
"There are some encryption's, passwords that you may not know about yet," Ayeka said to her hesitantly, "Do you have a link to the royal mainframe? I could try them."
Ryouko turned to Ayeka, looking a bit startled. "Why are you doing this? I'm the enemy, remember?" she asked her pointedly.
A flush appeared on Ayeka's cheeks, and she obviously struggled to try and reign a flare of her temper. "My father may have done a great wrong," she answered her calmly, "and I'm honor bound to try and do something about it."
"Thank you," Ryouko said softly. "Let's try it, then," she said, offering Ayeka her hand and pulling her to her feet, "there's a terminal not far from here."
Ryouko set the brisk pace down a nearby hallway, leaving their two dinners cooling on the table behind them. 'Oh, well,' Ayeka thought wryly, 'I wasn't that hungry, anyway.' They reached a unmarked door, and Ryouko slapped her hand up against an identification plate. After a moment, it hissed open, and she led Ayeka inside. It wasn't the computer room that Ayeka had expected to see, but instead a bedroom.
Piles of clothes were scattered about the room, along with the occasional bottle. The bed was rumbled and messy, but mostly cleared. A chair, small table, and closet made up the rest of the furnishings. "Who's quarters are these?" Ayeka asked.
"It's mine, actually," Ryouko admitted. She dragged a chair over to the wall, and activated the computer terminal built into it.
"But," Ayeka said, surprised, "but it's smaller than my quarters."
Ryouko chuckled softly at that. "You're in the guest quarters," she shrugged. She worked the interface for a moment, then she nodded in satisfaction. "I've patched it in to the Jurai mainframe," she said to Ayeka.
Ayeka leaned forward and quickly punched in her password. 'Yosho,' she typed, and a new window opened up on the screen. Ayeka watched as Ryouko quickly navigated the system, eventually calling up a series of files.
Ryouko tried not to notice that as Ayeka bent over, her breasts were right beside her face. She gulped, and focused on the computer terminal. Working diligently, she searched until suddenly, she exclaimed, "Yes!"
"Did you find something?" Ayeka asked, bending closer to look at the screen.
A cloth covered breast brushed Ryouko's cheek, and she nearly lost her train of thought. "Nagi's alive," Ryouko said, smiling, "imprisoned, but alive!" She quickly back tracked to her own command network, and instructed that Nagi be released from her prison.
"I'm glad," Ayeka said softly. The relief and happiness on Ryouko's face surprised her yet again. 'She really cares about her people,' she thought.
Ryouko got up out of the chair and took a startled Ayeka's hands in her own. "Thank you," she said softly, "it would have been weeks, maybe even months before we found her otherwise." She looked into Ayeka's eyes, her own flashing with energy, then she suddenly crushed Ayeka to her body, kissing her fiercely.
Ayeka was surprised, stunned as she was pulled into the circle of Ryouko's strong arms. She felt her lips parting on their own, surrendering to the sweet kiss, and a fire started to race through her slim body. 'What's happening to me?' she thought to herself feverishly, then she suddenly pushed Ryouko away from her.
"What in the world," Ayeka choked out, backing away from Ryouko. She turned and fled, pushing the door open and running down the hallway.
"Please, wait," Ryouko started to call outr to her, then she stopped. She slumped, leaning against a wall as she swore to herself softly, "Shit."
Ayeka ran by Asashi and Sasami, right into her bedroom, and locked the door behind her. She leaned against the door, trying to catch her breath. She was shaking slightly, reaction racing through her body as her pulse began to slow down.
The deeply hurt expression that had been on Ryouko's face when she fled her appeared in Ayeka's mind's eye, and for a moment she felt a stab of pain in her chest. "What is wrong with me?" she hissed out.
She suddenly remembered the innocent question that Sasami had asked her, just after she told her about how Ryouko had proposed their political marriage, "How could she have fallen in love with you so quickly?"
'Was she right about her all along?' Ayeka found herself wondering. She stood shakily, and walked over to lay down on her bed, covering up her face with her arm. She tried not to think about how she felt around Ryouko, the racing of her heart and the warmth her gaze caused.
"I can't be falling in love with her," Ayeka said in a whisper, "I just can't."
"Are you all right?" Minagi asked her softly. Ryouko had been pacing Minagi's room silently for nearly ten minutes, eyes closed and her expression grim.
"I may have screwed things up spectacularly," Ryouko said with a sigh. She recounted what happened between her and Ayeka the night before, finishing with, "I lost control, and kissed her. I thought she was enjoying it, but she pushed me away, and ran."
"You jumped the gun a bit," Minagi noted, "that's for certain." She shook her head, "Give her some time to calm down a bit, first of all." She thought about it, and added, "Go to her later this morning, and apologize."
Ryouko nodded glumly. "She'll probably be scared to be near me from now on," she said to her with a sigh.
"Maybe, maybe not," Minagi said thoughtfully. "when I talked to her last night, she was kind of disappointed about not being asked to dine with you again. And then she did seek you out to eat dinner with you, right?"
"Yeah, she did," Ryouko agreed. "But it could be she's just looking for a new friend," she said with a sigh.
"Or she could be attracted to you," Minagi smiled, "and be a bit frightened of the idea. I know that females together aren't that unusual on Jurai, but it's not discussed in polite society, either. She may not know what to do."
"I hope so," Ryouko said softly. Her eyes brightened as she remembered something else, "I just got some good news to give you, Minagi."
"Oh?" Minagi said, "And what would that be?"
"Nagi's alive," Ryouko said with a grin.
Minagi whirled around to face her, "What?" A broad smile appeared on her face as she quickly demanded, "Where is she? Is she all right?"
"They didn't kill her, just tossed her in prison," Ryouko grinned. "She'll be here in a few hours, tops," she added. 'It was good to see the sparkle in Minagi's eyes,' Ryouko thought, 'a sparkle that's been absent while her lover was missing.'
"Thank you!" Minagi exclaimed, hugging Ryouko fiercely.
"Thank Ayeka," Ryouko shrugged, "without her password it would have taken weeks to find her, at least."
"I will," Minagi said with a firm nod. She looked at Ryouko worriedly, "I only have a few hours to get ready?"
Ryouko laughed softly, "I'll see you later." She stopped in the doorway and looked back to see Minagi cleaning her rooms frantically, and chuckled again. She headed down the hallway and then took the lift down to the bridge.
Kiyone stood behind the gunnery officer, instructing her. "You see," she pointed out, "when you took this shot, you left the ship vulnerable to their return fire."
"So why didn't the simulation shoot me down?" he asked her timidly.
"The window of opportunity was very small, and the computer decided that the shot was too difficult for your simulated opponent," Kiyone explained to him patiently. 'Of course, I made the shot on my own simulation, but I won't mention that,' she thought with a smile.
"I'll do better, ma'am," the pink hared young man assured her.
"Good, Nicole," Kiyone said with a nod. She noticed Ryouko on the bridge and snapped off a salute, "Admiral on the bridge!"
Ryouko rolled her eyes at that. "I'm not an admiral," she grumbled to her softly. She relented as Kiyone gave her puppy dog eyes, "So how's the training going?"
Kiyone stood straight, "We've reached a 90% win ratio," she reported, "but I feel certain we can add a few points to that."
"Good work," Ryouko admitted, knowing how difficult the simulations that Washu had devised for them really were.
Kiyone checked her chronometer. "The Galaxy Police liaison we invited should be arriving soon," she noted, and a little smile teased her lips. "Can I go down to greet them?"
"You really like jerking their chains, don't you?" Ryouko asked Kiyone with a smile.
"Just deserts," Kiyone said with a shrug. "They canned me after I helped you save innocent lives," she said with a bit of anger in her voice, "so it seems only fair that now they have to come to you for permission to even exist."
A brown haired woman with a military bearing came on the bridge. "Honor Harrington reporting to relieve you, ma'am," she said, crisply saluting.
"I am relieved," Kiyone answered her formally, returning the salute. She and Ryouko walked over to the lift together.
"It's not quite that simple," Ryouko pointed out to Kiyone reasonably once they were on their way up.
"Now that Manticore controls Jurai as well, the GP will need to operate in our territory to do their job in even the most minimal way," Kiyone said coolly. With a small smile she added, "Not to mention the budget they used to get from Jurai's rulers. They're going to have to come to you with hands outstretched."
"We do still need them around," Ryouko said mildly in return. Deciding to try and change the subject, Ryouko asked Kiyone softly, "Would you mind if I ask you a personal question?"
Kiyone looked a bit startled, "Certainly, but I won't promise to answer it."
"That's fair enough," Ryouko admitted. "How did you and Mihoshi become involved?" she asked her softly.
Kiyone smiled slightly, "I didn't take her too seriously at first, I just thought she had a crush. It wasn't until she resigned from the GP in protest over my firing that I began to take her a bit more seriously." She chuckled softly, "Not long after we both joined your employ, she made it quite clear that she wasn't just interested in me as a friend."
'Not much help,' Ryouko thought. "Thanks," she answered her softly.
"So are you having any luck with winning over Ayeka?" Kiyone asked her.
Ryouko looked at her in surprise, "How did you know?"
"The look on your face whenever you used to talk about her," Kiyone said with a shrug.
Ryouko rolled her eyes and decided not to answer that.