Part One: Crashing
Mandatory disclaimer: The characters from and concepts related to the Tenchi Muyo! series are property of AIC. This fan fiction is written solely to entertain and the thought of my even attempting to monetarily profit from it is laughable.]
At one of the corners of space belonging (if anyone could truly own space) to the Galaxy Union lay a large, intricately-designed spiral-shaped space station known blandly as the Seventh Headquarters of the Galaxy Police. Patrol ships and courier shuttles came and went all day, deeply important criminal cases were discussed and paper pushed back and forth non-stop, the circularity of workshifts allowing sleep for the workers, but no rest for the station itself. The busiest place in the headquarters, though, always seemed to be the cafeteria. Time has little meaning in space, but the busiest time at the cafeteria was called "lunch time," where criminal investigators, traffic controllers, couriers, administrators, and maintenance personnel converged into one gigantic chamber to share stories, exchange gossip, and down nourishment which, while never quite close to mom's cooking, more than satisified the average hungry employee of the Union's largest civic institution. The cafeteria itself was fairly impressive too, its designers seeming to have anticipated the importance of this public meeting space, with a vastly high ceiling supported by shining metal columns and accentuated by potted trees from nearby habitable planets. Most notably, the cafeteria was built at one of the edges of the station, and the entire wall which faced the depths of space was made of a strong, transparent material that allowed employees to look out upon the stars as they dined.
One such diner, a tall woman with shimmering, waist-length hair that seemed green in some lights and dark blue in others, was doing just that. She was wearing a First Class Detective's uniform, and although she kept the uniform neat, with everything tucked and pinned as properly as it could be, she had also given it her own unique accentuations by wearing a scarlet headband rather than the usual blue cap, and matching fingerless gloves instead of the usual white kid-gloves. Her name was Kiyone Makibi, and she would look the embodiment of the officer whose strong sense of duty matched her sense of self, except that at this particular moment she didn't look much like she had a strong sense of anything. She poked disinterestedly at her food with her chopsticks, not really looking at her lunch as she occasionally shoved a few noodles in her mouth only to barely, shallowly honor the ritual of eating a meal. Her deep-sea-blue eyes were focused, or perhaps more accurately, unfocused, upon the glimmering lights in space, despite the buzz of the cafeteria, which seemed to go on without her noticing.
What Kiyone did notice, however, was a faint figure of a woman appearing as a reflection of someone who was now standing at the little table where she was eating. The woman had let the corner of her tray sit tentatively at the edge of the table. Kiyone turned toward her, eyes suddenly registering an expression other than "lost." Rather, the sapphire orbs seem to flicker in between widening in surprise and narrowing in wariness... perhaps, even in anger. "Oh no..."
By her uniform, the woman was also a First Class Detective, notably Seniwan with her pointed ears and light brown skin, and she had curly, pale gold hair and bright, innocent blue eyes that were all too familiar to Kiyone. Perhaps in response to Kiyone's suspicious gaze, the woman offered her a smile that, even with tiny fangs at the corners of her mouth, promised its bearer to be utterly unthreatening and friendly. "I'm sorry to bother you," she said, her spunky soprano voice tinged with a note of true apology, "but the cafeteria is full. Is it all right if I sit here?"
Kiyone glanced at the lunch crowd, and it was true enough, that there were few, if any, empty seats in the place. Even as she began to reluctantly nod, the detective had already seated herself, preparing to tuck into one of many dishes piled on her tray.
Kiyone raised a dark teal eyebrow at the woman. "Hungry, Mihoshi?"
"I haven't eaten all day!" Mihoshi said, frowning slightly defensively. "Besides, where I've been living, I haven't had to spend much money, so I have a little extra to spend today."
"I heard you were stationed in the middle of nowhere..." Kiyone's eyes were still running up and down the detective, still slightly widened in disbelief, regarding Mihoshi as if she were some sort of lost artifact... perhaps one better left buried?
Mihoshi shrugged. "It's a little primitive, I guess... but very nice. Very beautiful! I like it there. I've met some very nice people." She scooped some vegetables into her mouth with a pair of chopsticks. She blinked suddenly, mid-chew, and caught Kiyone's gaze with her own. Her eyes shimmered, threatening to tear up in another blink. "Doeth thith-" She paused and swallowed her food. "Does this mean you actually asked someone about me?"
Kiyone opened her mouth, but sound came out a moment later, cracking slightly, as if she'd been the victim of a broken sound playback in a film. "I... just heard, that's all." She looked down at her food and her jaw tightened slightly. "I told you before I have no..." She cut herself off, leaving the sentence dangling.
The blonde woman bit her lip, waiting for Kiyone to finish. After a few moments of awkward silence, she figured it was safe to assume Kiyone had stopped speaking. "You're still mad at me." Tears of a different kind threatened at the corners of her eyes.
One gloved hand clenched into a fist and then slowly unclenched, although Kiyone managed to keep her facial expression calm, only closing her eyes and took a deep breath. "You pushed me into an energy reactor," she said, in a turbulent voice hovering just above a whisper. "And then you left me for dead."
The tears in Mihoshi's eyes made good their threat and promptly coursed down her cheeks. "I-it was an accident, and I told you, I tried..."
"Mihoshi!" Kiyone suddenly snapped, a flash fire lighting underneath her words. Noting the tears on Mihoshi's face, she took another deep breath and her voice calmed again. She closed her eyes. "I don't want to hear it," she sighed resignedly. Opening her eyes again, she looked at the Seniwan woman. "Just forget about it, all right? Just... talk about something else."
Kiyone and Mihoshi ate in silence for a few moments, the meal having returned to the hollow solemnity with which it resonated before Mihoshi's arrival. After awhile, Mihoshi spoke again, quietly, but trying to keep a friendly tone. "How's Investigator Toshi?"
Kiyone shook her head. "Do you think I'd be here at the Seventh Headquarters if I were still working with Toshi? I was just reassigned here; they needed someone to cover a new patrol route."
"Well, I mean, how was he before you left? How about Sami? Does she still make that really good tea?"
"She does a hell of a lot more than make tea, Mihoshi," Kiyone said, rolling her eyes.
"I know that!" Mihoshi replied, slightly defensively. "I was just trying to make conversation."
"Maybe it would be better if you didn't."
Mihoshi's eyes grew wide and quivered slightly, though no tears came this time. She looked down at her lunch, then back at Kiyone, whose gaze had returned to the stars outside. Finally, Mihoshi simply resumed eating again. Kiyone picked at her noodles, although her eyes occasionally flickered back toward Mihoshi.
"Oh, Kiyone!" Mihoshi said after several minutes, startling Kiyone out of her train of thought, causing her to drop her chopsticks.
"Yes, Mihoshi. What is it?"
"I almost forgot!" Mihoshi grinned, as if the previous conversation had not happened. "Happy birthday! It is today, right? Living out in deep space, you kind of lose track of time, you know?" Mihoshi looked down at her tray and, among the other dishes piled there, picked up a small plate containing a slice of chocolate cake. "You like this kind of cake, don't you?" She reached across the table and placed it on Kiyone's tray.
Kiyone blinked several times, regarding the enigma that was Mihoshi Kuramitsu. "I- yes. I do. It is my birthday." She looked down at her tray, eyelids lowered, frowing perhaps a bit guiltily. "Thank you," she added quietly.
"I think I have a card for you somewhere, too," Mihoshi said, starting to reach for the white fuzzball attached to the hip of her uniform, but she stabbed herself with her own chopsticks still in her hand. She looked at them, seeming to have forgotten she was holding them. Rather than put them down, she merely added, "Maybe after lunch," and returned to her meal. "So what are you doing to celebrate?" She asked between noodles.
"Oh, nothing much," Kiyone muttered. "I don't know anybody here yet. What are you doing here anyway?"
"Just turning in a report, checking on a few things, talking to the Chief, wishing you a happy birthday, stuff like that," Mihoshi replied, ticking off the items (including "stuff like that") on her white-gloved fingers.
"Mmm," Kiyone responded, taking a thoughtful bite of cake. As she chewed, she looked back out at the stars again. Mihoshi followed Kiyone's eyes to the celestial scape.
"That's strange," Mihoshi said, frowning, pointing at a section of the window. "That little red star there almost looks like it's coming toward us."
"There's no red star..." Kiyone started, then noticed the object Mihoshi had pointed out. Her eyes widened as she registered something move very quickly outside in and out again of her range of view.
"It's gone now," Mihoshi said unnecessarily. "I wonder what it was."
"Probably just a-" Kiyone's thought was broken by a slight shudder that reverberated through the whole room. She and just about everyone else in the cafeteria started looking around, puzzled as to what had caused it. A second later, a security breach alarm began to scream, lights dimming as emergency lights began to flash on and off, painting the entire scene in alternating sequences of gray and red. Police officers started scrambling to their equipment, those authorized grabbing their control cubes and arming themselves. Other personnel began to quickly exit the room in as orderly a fashion as a red security alert warranted. Over an intercom unit someone began barking the usual orders for people to clear certain areas, officers report to emergency posts, and so forth.
Amid the orderly chaos, Kiyone stood decisively and pulled off the bright red bead she wore on her ear and opened her hand so that it sat in the center of her palm; it promptly popped into a square shape and grew into a GP standard issue storage cube. "Let's go, Mihoshi!" she barked, falling into full-duty mode. She deftly twisted the cube, and her entire body seemed to flicker, and she reappeared in orange battle armor, plasma revolver in her hand. She moved her cube toward the side of her head, where it returned to its more innocuous state as an earring.
"Oh my!" Mihoshi was saying, regarding the others running about with an almost-childlike fascination. Hearing Kiyone's command, she blinked, and her eyes narrowed, suddenly lighting with determined focus as well. "Right!" She followed Kiyone, who had already begun to move through the crowd. "I'm right behind you."
"Put your battle suit on!" Kiyone hissed as they pushed their way into a corridor.
Mihoshi did not seem to hear her as she was looking at her wrist-comp, which was displaying a small quickly flashing sphere surrounded by moving strings of characters. Mihoshi's eyes flickered back and forth as she took in the readings. "I think... someone attacked the station," she announced, still following Kiyone.
"I figured that! What else?"
"The ship is outside Section 12, I think. Lots of energy fire." Mihoshi's eyes widened. "Lots of- OOF!" Mihoshi, eyes still on her comp, walked into Kiyone as Kiyone stopped short.
"Section 12? That's central computer ops. And it's really well protected."
"They breached the hull. They're calling for more space fleet suppor- oh!" Mihoshi's eyes widened as the display flickered and disappeared. Mihoshi fruitlessly tapped her watch comp. "Connection's cut."
"Damn," Kiyone sighed, changing direction, moving quickly down a corridor that would lead to the shuttle docks. She looked back at Mihoshi briefly while running. "You still haven't put your battle suit on, Mihoshi."
"Right!" Mihoshi jogged behind the green-haired woman, pulling the puffball off her hip as it transformed into a pink cube. She twisted it, and her uniform flickered and transformed into her own orange protective suit. A number of other officers were running toward the shuttle bays, although not as many as they might have expected. They could only imagine or hope that the rest of the policement were protecting the non-combative personnel or were fighting stationside.
The two officers skidded to a halt, Mihoshi ramming into Kiyone once more (earning the blonde a brief glare), as they found several officers trying to pry open one of the shuttle bay doors, which apparently had been sealed. Further up the corridor, more personnel were running through the other shuttle bay entrance as a few officers frantically worked on keeping the gateway open.
Kiyone and Mihoshi maneuvered their way past the officers at the first door, who had given up high tech options and were trying to ram and shoot their way past the large, sealed gateway.
"Yagami's in that bay," Kiyone muttered toward Mihoshi.
The blonde detective took Kiyone by the wrist. "My shuttle is in the other bay, come with me."
Before Kiyone could respond with much more than a "hey!" she found herself being dragged along by Mihoshi. Given she had few other choices, she opted not to struggle and followed Mihoshi toward the white cruiser.
"Yukinojo, we have an emergency!" Mihoshi called out to her ship's AI as she ran onto the bridge of her shuttle. "Oh, and I need a co-pilot's chair."
A mechanical "head" lowered itself on a swiveling arm attached to the ceiling of the command center and regarded its commander with round sensors that served for eyes. "Yes, Mihoshi! And I am preparing the engines for take-off. Please stand in the doorway for a moment," the robot politely instructed as a few deck plates and panels shifted and opened, and robotic arms produced the parts of another command chair and assembled it behind Mihoshi's pilot's seat.
As soon as the sequence was finished, Mihoshi scrambled toward her own seat and began readying the ship for take-off. Kiyone took the new chair and adjusted the keypads at the arms to her liking.
"Yukinojo, this is Detective Kiyone Makibi. Please let her access co-pilot controls."
The robot head swiveled toward Kiyone, his "eyes" moving over her face. "Kiyone Makibi, First Class Detective, identity confirmed. Access authorized." The head swiveled back toward Mihoshi. "You will have clearance to take off in fifteen seconds... fourteen... thirteen..." the robot's level voice continued the countdown.
"I'll take care of weapons, Mihoshi, you just concentrate on flying, all right?" Kiyone said, finishing her adjustments to her keypad.
"Got it!" Mihoshi exclaimed, eyes wide with anticipation of the battle to come.
"Clear!" Yukinojo announced.
With a determined frown, Mihoshi maneuvered the ship up and, pushing up the throttle, out of the docking area and into space. Even from the other side of the station, Mihoshi and Kiyone could register flashes of light indicating energy weapon fire going off not too far away.
"Defensive shields are up," Kiyone reported as Mihoshi piloted the ship around the huge space station.
"Other ships report the criminal vessel has broken away from the station and is beginning to flee," Yukinojo reported, bringing up a holographic "screen" which showed the station and other ships on a grid map, with the enemy vessel in bright blinking red. Beyond, through the ship's viewport, they could see the actual pirate ship in the distance, a long black ship, more slender than but otherwise larger than most of the police cruisers it was trying to escape.
"We'll follow it!" Mihoshi replied, adjusting her course.
"Kiyone," Yukinojo addressed the co-pilot, "I am sending you what tactical information that has been gathered from the other ships. Unfortunately, some communications have been garbled."
Kiyone scanned the information on a small holographic display that appeared midair in front of her. "That's fine, just keep sending what you've got, Yukinojo." After reading for a few seconds, "This one's gonna be tough, Mihoshi. By herself, the perp's already taken out a few shuttlespacking some pretty strong stuff. Yukinojo, can we establish communication with the other police ships in pursuit? We'd best work together if we're going to take her down."
"I have achieved contact with the Yamagata and the Calyx." Two more small holographic screens appeared to the side of Yukinojo's main display screen, each with the faces of the officers flying the police cruisers, one a dark-haired Seniwan woman and the other a plain-faced red-haired man probably from a Jurai colony. Kiyone and Mihoshi collaborated for a few moments with their fellow officers, and it was agreed that since Mihoshi's ship was fastest, the Yamagata and the Calyx would provide cover fire as she flew in closer to get a shot at an already-damaged portion of the infiltrator's hull.
"You're sure you can handle this, Mihoshi?" Kiyone asked the woman, raising her eyebrows with faint skepticism.
Mihoshi shot back her trademark reply, "You can count on me!"
"Excepting manual landings, Mihoshi has an excellent piloting record," Yukinojo reported.
"Thank you, Yukinojo!"
"Good thing we're not landing," Kiyone replied with a roll of the eyes and a half-smile. "Let's go, Mihoshi."
The Calyx, a green ship that looked like a slightly wider version of Mihoshi's shuttle, shot forward, firing energy blasts at the pirate ship's port thrusters. Seconds later, the Yamagata went forth a little ahead and to the starboard of Yukinojo, aiming for the pirate's maneuvering wings. Domes of blue sparks lit and faded and lit again as the police ships' fire struck the pirate's force shields.
Kiyone furrowed her brow, concentrating hard on calibrating her sensors perfectly so she could make her best shot as the neared the ship.
The Yukinojo dove up and down and in between the two friendly ships, evading enemy fire and hopefully confusing the pirate regarding their directive. Inside, Mihoshi's eyes flickered rapidly, following the screen, and suddenly narrowed as she found whatever opening she was looking for. Thrusting the throttle up to max, the shuttle burst forward the other two ships, swerving to near an area just a little below the pirate ship.
Seeing her own opening, Kiyone rapidly set firing coordinates and determinedly pressed the "missile launch" button.
As the missiles fired, however, Mihoshi seemed to have caught sight of something else on her monitor. Quickly, yanking her joystick to a hard right, she caused the ship to perform a 180 spin and shift its attitude upward. The force of the turn caused the missiles, just in the process of leaving the bay, to alter their attitude just enough to miss their mark. They struck the hull but did not penetrate.
"Mihoshi, what the HELL-" Kiyone was cut off by Mihoshi, and moreover by what she realized Mihoshi had noticed on her screen. A series of missiles were flying toward the Yamagata.
"Concentrate shields to fore!"
"Wait!" Kiyone shouted, realizing Mihoshi was planning to intercept the missiles with her own shuttle. Speedily accessing the laser cannon controls, she aimed and fired at the cluster threatening their ally. Mihoshi's maneuvers had put them in a position to make it a fairly easy target than it otherwise would have been, and Kiyone fired true, destroying the missles before they could seriously harm the Yamagata. The explosion was near enough to the ship to be too close for comfort as it was, but it was the best they could do.
The Yamagata's pilot was not happy, however. "What the hell are you doing, Kuramitsu?" the officer demanded over the com link. "I could have taken that! Now she's going to get away!"
"I didn't want you to get hurt," Mihoshi protested, eyes widening.
"More people will get hurt because you let her get away." He sighed. "I'm going back to base. My maneuvering thrusters are damaged so I'll be useless in rapid pursuit," he muttered, and clicked off his communications connection.
"But..." Mihoshi trailed off.
The alto voice of pilot of the Calyx clicked on. "The perp's shot aheadI could never catch up with her. I'll report what happened."
"We're pursuing!" Mihoshi said determinedly.
"Okay," the Calyx's owner said skeptically. "Hope you know what you're doing, Kuramitsu." She shut off her com link as well.
Mihoshi bit her lip and adjusted the ship's attitude, flying forward in the wake of the pirate ship. The bridge grew tensely quiet for a moment as both officers stared ahead, doing what they could to keep track of the escaping criminal.
After a moment, Mihoshi slumped back in her seat as she finished entering piloting settings. Kiyone locked her jaw and leaned forward. "Mihoshi..."
"I'm sorry I ruined the plan, Kiyone," Mihoshi muttered sadly, head still hung low.
"No," Kiyone shook her head, putting her hand on the blonde's shoulder. Her voice had a softer tinge than it had held through most of their time together, not angry nor tense nor coldly focused on duty. "You did the right thing."
Mihoshi turned her head to look at Kiyone, who gave her a sincere, if faint, smile. "Really?" Mihoshi asked.
Kiyone nodded. "Yeah." She frowned, although her eyes retained a glint of amicability. "Now get a move onwe have to catch her before she terrorizes the rest of the galaxy!"
"Right!" Mihoshi nodded, confidence renewed as quickly as it seemed to have been shot down moments ago. Yukinojo blasted off for deep space.
Go to Part Two: Burning