The sleek, silver ship smoothly decelerated as it entered Jurai's solar system, maneuvering until it reached the planet of Jurai itself. A carefully executed docking was achieved with the much more massive Manticore flagship, the Washu's Revenge.
"We cooperated with this ship during the Kagoto campaign," one Galaxy Police officer said quietly to the young woman leading the way between the two vessels. She was a good looking if rather intense red-head, and her expression was deeply troubled.
"Does anyone know," she asked the other officers quietly, carefully making her way along the docking tube, "if Kiyone is still affiliated with Manticore's forces?"
"I don't know, Mitsuki," the sandy hared young man admitted to her softly.
They all reached the connecting hatch at last, and then had to wait a moment for it to open up. A soft hiss, then the pressures inside and outside equalized enough for the hatch to open. The GP officers tensed a bit, seeing who was waiting there.
"Welcome aboard the Washu's Revenge," Kiyone said to them with a pleasant if slightly dangerous smile on her face, "I'm her captain, Kiyone."
The redhead threw her a salute, "Galaxy Police Officer Mitsuki." Kiyone gave no sign of recognizing her, just a friendly nod. Her smile widened as a final figure came aboard, a tall, blond hared man of great stature and authority.
"Well, hello Marshal," Kiyone smiled at the leader of the entire Galaxy Police, "It's been a while. Back at my court marshal, I think."
He nodded to her gravely, "It's..." he paused, and then he forced himself to say, "good to see you once again."
"Follow me," Kiyone said briskly, "I'll lead you to the conference room where the Queen is waiting for you."
Ryouko smiled grimly as the door opened and the Galaxy Police delegation was led inside. Kiyone was as deadpan as always, but it was obvious that she was enjoying this. The Marshal looked glum, knowing that he was at a severe disadvantage. The rest of the GP looked nervous, except for the red-head, who kept a wary eye on Kiyone.
Ryouko rose, "Take a seat, please. We have much to discuss."
Kiyone went over to Ryouko, taking a seat just beside her.
The Marshal stiffened visibly. "Does she have to be here?" he asked Ryouko with a bit of anger in his voice.
Ryouko's eyes narrowed, but she spoke mildly in reply, "Kiyone is the senior Captain of the fleet, as well as one of my most trusted advisors." With a dangerous look in her eye she said much more seriously, "She stays."
'This is not going very well at all,' Mitsuki thought to herself grimly. Trying to save what she could from the situation she said, "Thank you for the invitation, Queen Ryouko. I'm certain that the GP can be a great help to you."
"I do hope so," Ryouko said to them as her voice dropped to a frightening purr in the silence of the conference room.
The Marshal and Mitsuki exchanged a worried glance. "Your message didn't mention an agenda for this meeting," the Marshal ventured to say.
Ryouko got up, walking over to take a look out one of the viewports, as well as to make them wait a bit. "My agenda is relatively simple," she finally said to them coolly, "I would like to authorize the Galaxy Police to operate throughout the Republic of Manticore, including the territories that had formally belonged to Jurai."
Almost everyone on the Galaxy Police's side of the long meeting table breathed a loud sigh of relief. Mitsuki, however, still looked rather nervous, a concern that was quickly justified by Ryouko's next few words.
"Sadly, I can't do that just yet," Ryouko said regretfully. "You see, I'm very concerned with how the GP participated in Jurai's war with Manticore, as well as operating as a extension of the Emperor's own secret police."
The Marshal stiffened visibly. "We were only operating as a police force during time of war," he said to her quite firmly.
Ryouko raised her eyebrow, "I distinctly remember seeing GP ships actively fighting against the Manticore line of vessels." She shook her head, "But that is in the past. I am willing to finance the GP, as well as provide you with a charter guaranteeing your independence from my government. You'll be free to pursue criminals even within government bodies."
"What's the catch?" Mitsuki asked her flatly. There was no way that Ryouko was offering them such a wonderful deal without strings attached.
Ryouko gave her a short but respectful nod, "Before I do this, I want the GP to clean house first. All those officers who obeyed illegal orders in the war with Manticore or before hand, must face justice for their actions."
"But, they thought they were obeying the requests of a justified civilian government," the Marshal protested that loudly.
"I was just following orders, is not an acceptable excuse," Ryouko said to him grimly, "They should have refused such orders outright."
Mitsuki spoke up firmly, "If we do this," she said, putting all the force behind the first word, "can we expel the officers dishonorably, stripping them of their benefits and pension, rather than having them face prison sentences?"
Ryouko looked sideways at Kiyone, who gave her a small nod yes. "That might just be acceptable," Ryouko said softly.
Ayeka curled up on her bed, still fully dressed for last night's interrupted dinner. Her thoughts raced, bouncing around wildly from one thing to another, unable to settle down at all. Giving up on resting, she sat up on the side of the bed, glaring blankly at the wall. Suddenly, she was startled by a soft rustling noise coming from one corner of the room.
Ayeka looked around her for anything she could use as a weapon, when she heard a soft cry of, "Myah?" A small, brown colored creature timidly hopped into her line of sight, looking up at her curiously. It was certainly an odd looking animal, a mix of the front half of a cat, but the back and the ear size of a rabbit.
"How did you get in here?" she asked it, surprised.
"Myah!" the little creature cheerfully chirped, and then it bounced up on to the bed beside her, rubbing against her leg happily.
"What a silly little thing," Ayeka chuckled, reaching down to scratch between it's massive cat's ears. The little cabbit purred happily in reply.
"What am I going to do?" Ayeka softly asked it, gently drawing the cabbit into her lap. She petted it absentmindedly, smiling down at it fondly. "I think I'm starting to like her," Ayeka admitted, thinking of Ryouko almost fondly.
The little cabbit looked up at her before giving forth another, "Myah?" To Ayeka, it was almost as if it was actually asking her, "Why?"
Ayeka chuckled softly at her own imagination running away with her. "Ryouko's strong," and the little cabbit paid special attention to that name, "capable and confident. But she's also kind, and she really seems to care about her people."
"Myah," it sounded like the cabbit agreed with that.
"I just wish that I understood why she's so interested in me," Ayeka said to herself with a soft little sigh.
The little creature jumped down, looking up at her entreatingly. Then it ran right through the closed door! Ayeka looked on in surprise, and then it popped it's head back through the door. "Myah!" it firmly commanded her, then moved back outside.
Ayeka got up and opened up the door, seeing the little cabbit bouncing down the corridor. It stopped at an intersection, pointed down one pathway with one of it's expressively big ears, then bounded off that way.
"Oh, well," Ayeka said with a bemused smile, "it's not like I had anything better to do." She followed it down a twisting pathway of hallways, eventually reaching the engineering section. Finally, it passed through an unmarked door and disappeared.
Ayeka hesitated for a moment, looking at the door thoughtfully. She activated the chime, and heard a female voice cry out to her, "Come in." The door opened up, Ayeka stepped inside, and then she stopped cold.
The chamber she entered was massive, stretching impossibly far into the distance. Machinery of many types was scattered all around, much of it completely foreign to Ayeka. Impossibly large structures reached almost to the roof, while other, smaller but infinitely more complex devices floated in midair. And at the very center of all the chaos a young woman sat, working two softly glowing keyboards at the same time.
"Myah!" the cabbit declared proudly.
"So you've made a new friend, Ryo-ohki?" the red-head asked the cabbit curiously. She was tiny, but still seemed to be a mature adult, as well.
"It looks like it," Ayeka chuckled, "though I'm not sure why Ryo-ohki led me here."
"And you are?" the woman asked.
Ayeka blushed, "Oh, I'm sorry. I'm Ayeka."
The woman stopped, an odd look on her face as she quietly said, "Of course you are." She smiled at Ayeka wryly, "My name is Washu." She chuckled as she added, "And I believe you're here to ask about Ryouko."
"How did you know?" Ayeka asked her, surprised.
Washu just smiled at her mysteriously.
Kiyone accompanied the Galaxy Police officers back to the access port, and watched silently as they began to disembark. Once most of them were gone she placed a gentle hand on the Marshal's shoulder, stopping him. He looked over at her questioningly.
"I'm sure Mihoshi would like to see you," Kiyone said to him softly. The older man looked torn a moment, then he finally nodded. Kiyone raised her communicator, "Mihoshi to airlock ten, please, airlock ten."
Not long after, Mihoshi walked up to the airlock, and stopped cold, staring at the Marshal. Then, she cried out "Daddy!" and hit him with a flying hug.
Kiyone noticed Mitsuki standing nearby, and tilted her head towards an empty corridor as she said, "Let's give them some privacy, shall we?"
Kiyone led Mitsuki down the hall a short distance, just far enough away not to hear all of Mihoshi's squeals of joy. "That was a very nice thing you did for him, back there," Mitsuki said to her softly, an odd look on her face.
"I didn't do it for him," Kiyone answered her quite coldly, "Mihoshi would have been so hurt knowing that he had been here and didn't want to see her." That killed the conversation for a bit. The redhead looked deeply uncomfortable, unsure what to say to her. "Did you get that promotion you wanted," Kiyone asked softly, "after you sold me out?"
Mitsuki visibly winced at that. "I didn't sell you out," she protested, "but I had no choice about testifying against you, partner!"
"Don't call me that!" Kiyone bit out at her angrily. "You have no right," she said much more quietly. "You didn't say one word about the good we did," she said bitterly, "just that I had knowingly assisted Galaxy Police's number one enemy Ryouko."
Mitsuki turned away from Kiyone's piercing gaze, knowing that she couldn't argue with what she said. "I'm sorry," was all that she could find to say. A moment of silence, and then she asked, "I suppose you wouldn't consider joining Galaxy Police again?"
Kiyone looked at her in pure disbelief, "You have got to be kidding me."
Mitsuki shook her head, "I know more than a few officers who were outraged about your court marshal. If you want your job back, it's yours."
"No," Kiyone said softly, shaking her head. "After all I've seen, I'm not quite as starry-eyed about the GP as I used to be. Besides," she added with a honest smile, "I can do more real good right where I am."
Before Mitsuki could try to argue her out of it, Mihoshi bounded down the hallway towards them. "Thank you, Kiyone!" she squealed happily, laying a thorough kiss on the surprised Kiyone. Then she was gone down the hall, back to work.
Mitsuki watched her go, her own face remarkably pale. 'I guess I've lost her for good,' she mourned, seeing the honest happiness on Kiyone's face. "I'd better go see if the Marshal's ready to go," Mitsuki said abruptly.
Kiyone looked over at her a bit oddly, but nodded her agreement. She smiled as she saw the goofy look on the older man's face, but otherwise she didn't remark on it. "Good voyage to you," Kiyone wished them well, offering a salute as they climbed out the hatch. Both GP officers returned it gravely, and then they were gone.
"That Kiyone's not so bad," the Marshal said softly.
Mitsuki smiled sadly, "No, she's not." She looked over at him seriously, "The changes Ryouko wants made will mean a major shakeup in the GP."
"But I suspect we'll be the better for it," the Marshal admitted. "Things went from bad to worse under them Emperor of Jurai," he said softly, "let's hope that things improve under the Queen of Manticore."
"They'll improve," Mitsuki vowed softly, Kiyone's face in the forefront of her thoughts, "even if we have to push every change ourselves."
"...and that's what happened." Ayeka felt good having told the whole tale to someone. It was strange, but it was very easy to confide in the small scientist. She had a almost motherly aura about her, inviting such confidences.
"Ryouko is impetuous," Washu sighed, "as you no doubt know." Ayeka chuckled at that, so Washu continued, "But her instincts are usually right."
Ayeka blushed faintly. "I like her," she admitted, "and I find myself feeling strangely around her, as if I want to do... something, but what I don't know."
"That's a good place to start," Washu said gently. Before she could say anything more, the door chimed softly. "Just when it was getting good," she grumbled, then more loudly, "Come in!"
Ryouko walked in, "Washu, I have to ask you something," and then she froze, staring. "Ayeka?" she gasped, and a blush stole across her features.
"Ryouko," Ayeka said, blushing as well. "I'm sorry, I was just asking Miss Washu for advice, I didn't mean..."
"Don't listen to anything she says!" Ryouko blurted out.
"What, you don't think your mother can give good advice?" Washu protested.
"Myah!" Ryo-ohki piped up.
"Mother?" Ayeka echoed her faintly.
"Yes, I'm this overgrown juvenile delinquent's mother," Washu admitted, bringing a snort of laughter from Ayeka.
Ryouko glared at Washu, "Mom!" She took a deep breath, collecting herself, then more quietly, "Ayeka?" When she turned to Ryouko, she continued, "I'm very sorry about what I did last night. I got carried away by the moment, and didn't consider your feelings."
"Apology accepted," Ayeka said softly, walking over to where Ryouko was standing. After a moment to collect her courage, Ayeka asked, "Do you think we could go talk about it?"
Ryouko looked at her in surprise, then she smiled. "I'd be glad to," she said, and tentatively took Ayeka's hand. They left quietly, hand in hand.
"Kawaii," Washu sighed softly, watching them leave.
"Myah," Ryo-ohki agreed.