“How go repairs?” I asked Liam as I arrived on the Virginia’s bridge.
“I really wish you’d stop asking that every two minutes!” he hissed. “We still don’t know the extent of the damage!”
“…Very well,” I sighed. Emily finally caught up to me.
“Rest! Now! Doctor’s orders!” she snapped. I opened my mouth to protest but she grabbed my arm and dragged me to the Virginia’s sick bay. “Now lay down!” she ordered as she pointed to the bed.
“I can’t do that!” I insisted. “Not while Hiro’s doing god-knows-what to the Sources while on Foundation Prime!”
“You can’t command a damn thing while crashing into walls!” argued Emily. “This whole thing is stress-related and, as the resident doctor, I’m prescribing rest!” I didn’t move. “…Look, I get that Hiro managed to snatch victory from us,” she sighed, “and I get that you feel responsible, but we can’t exactly achieve victory if you’re fighting fatigue. Now, please, get some rest.” I stayed for a minute, then sighed before finally lying down.
I breathed a sigh of relief when she shut her eyes. “Majel, make sure she gets, at least, an hour of rest,” I ordered.
“Alarm set for one hour,” reported Majel. “By the way, Hiroki’s on the bridge.”
“I’ll meet him,” I replied. I headed off to the bridge and found him working on the Communications console on the lower level. I headed down and cleared my throat. That got his attention.
“Where’s Megumi?” he asked.
“Taking a much-needed nap in Sick Bay,” I reported. “She’s been stressing out about this whole thing that she’s practically crashing into walls.”
“Not surprised,” muttered Hiroki. “She’s not too happy with what X-PO did either.”
“Did this ever happen before you came to America?” I asked.
“Once, in school,” replied Hiroki. “She said something that could have been put into better words to a friend and almost lost that friend. Her studies weren’t at their usual best during the time she stressed about it.”
“Her friends are her power,” I guessed.
“If you want to use an anime trope, then yeah,” confirmed Hiroki. “Anything that risks the bond, she freaks out about it. Hence the emotional collapse after Hill Valley. She felt guilty for fracturing that bond. Now, she feels betrayed that the same mistake has been made.”
“Well, stressing about it won’t do her any good right now,” I affirmed. Just then, Liam came up.
“What’s up?” asked Hiroki.
“Right now, the amount of studs needed to fix this thing,” replied Liam. “The warp core needs restabilizing, the threshold between exterior and interior dimensions is just being held together with the equivalent of duct tape, the weapons need shoring up…”
“Give us the short version,” interjected Hiroki. “Can this be fixed in any reasonable time?” Liam winced before shaking his head. “…Damn,” sighed Hiroki.
“I’m sorry, guys,” muttered Liam, “but the damage Heather gave us was only patched up. The repairs were just supposed to hold until we could get it to a decent shipyard. That recent fight really stressed the Virginia to the point of it not going anywhere until it’s fully fixed. Flying this thing now will only serve to turn it into our tomb.”
“All right, thank you, Liam,” I sighed. Tanisha, Chell, and Elphaba beamed onto the bridge after Liam gave his report. “How’s Vorton?” Chell signed her answer.
“Could be better,” translated Tanisha. “Some of the systems are shot.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s ALL bad,” countered Elphaba. “We feared the Gateway’s systems were totally fried, but some functions, like basic life support, are still operational. However, a good chunk of the stabilization programs that require the Keystones to power are hurt a bit and require a fair amount of work.” Chell signed again.
“Not to mention,” translated Tanisha, “the security programs are subpar now, considering the recent invasion. On top of that, power distribution needs work.”
“Maybe…maybe we can reroute power to…” I guessed.
“Chell and Elphaba are being needlessly optimistic!” interrupted Tanisha. “I got the whole damage report from Lukas! This isn’t something we can slap some duct tape on and call it a day! Some of the systems are tied solely to X-PO’s presence on Vorton! With him gone, the seven person limit on the Gateway is back! We ALL can’t go to Foundation Prime without Megumi’s power! Now that things are damaged, trying to bypass them would be next to impossible without X-PO!” Hiroki kicked the pilot’s chair in anger.
“Hey, don’t take it out on them!” I snapped. “NONE of us are happy this happened!”
“He knew we scrambled them!” hissed Hiroki. I only guessed he was talking about Hiro.
“What, Vorton’s new coordinates?” I asked.
“Exactly!” replied Hiroki. “He somehow managed to deduce that we would try to scramble the coordinates if we wanted to be any safer! So he waited until we were vulnerable and so self-assured of our victory! With him having all five Sources now, we don’t stand a…”
“He didn’t know Vorton’s new coordinates until yesterday,” interjected Elphaba.
“…Nani?” asked Hiroki.
“A Tarlaxian ship did some scouting during the space battle,” explained Elphaba. “The only reason he could find us was because we didn’t shield the Sources’ energy signatures properly. He still had a fix on them. Originally, just after the Vortech Wars, he went to Vorton’s old coordinates. He only just found it yesterday.”
“…I repeat, WHAT?!” yelped Hiroki.
“The Sources gave off an energy signature that drew him in like a beacon,” elaborated Tanisha. “He must have kept records on them. We didn’t account for that and didn’t think to shield them.”
“…Megumi will be kicking herself again and stressing out after her nap when she hears about this,” muttered Hiroki.
“Well, not telling her will only make it worse,” I declared. “I’m going to tell her what we’ve discussed.” Hiroki was about to object when I put my finger to his lips. “Doctor’s prerogative,” I hissed. I turned to return to the Sick Bay when Lukas came onto the Bridge, cheering in his native German. “…Okay, what’s got you so happy? And I mean happy in the borderline lunatic asylum sense.”
“Meine Freunde,” (My friends) he began, “Tarlax came through! While After Academy can’t spare any ships, they don’t even have a shipyard, the Tarlaxian fleet that helped us was just a fraction of their full might! Just 1/32nd of the Tarlaxian Imperial Navy!”
“That was over 800 ships that helped us yesterday!” yelped Hiroki.
“They’re making more ships to replace those that were lost,” continued Lukas, “and have a backway into Foundation Prime that can overtake Shocker Rift! At current projections, they’ll be arriving there within three days! We can use our shortcut to get there a day ahead of them!”
“Subarashi!” (Wonderful!) cheered Hiroki. “A chance of victory! Liam, how long will it take to fix the Virginia?!”
“With things as they are and with Tarlaxian Engineers helping me,” mused Liam, “as well as Lukas, Moon-kyung, Lacey, and Dell, five hours at minimum.”
“Get to it!” directed Hiroki. “We need this ship ready for battle soon.”
“Aye,” obliged Liam. He turned to Dell. “All right, let’s… HOO MONY TIMES DAE AH HAE TAE TEEL YE?! TH’ REIT TOOLS FUR TH’ REIT JOB!” He stomped off and told Dell off as they got to work.
“I don’t think I’ve seen him so happy,” I chuckled.
I woke up an hour later. Emily and Hiroki were sitting there with big grins on their faces. “…Did I miss the beatdown on Shocker Rift?” I asked.
“No, it hasn’t happened yet,” replied Hiroki. “Bad news first, we found out how they figured out our position. We didn’t think to shield the Sources, so they tracked it easily.”
“Not to mention, we don’t have the original shortcut since, without X-PO’s presence on Vorton,” continued Emily, “we can only throw seven people there.”
“…Original shortcut?” I asked, picking up on what she said.
“That’s where the good news comes in,” replied Emily as a smile crossed their features. “Shocker Rift is taking the normal, three day route. The Tarlaxians found a way for us to get ahead of them and arrive a day early!”
“They’re also sparing more ships to help us in case we have another space battle,” supplied Hiroki. “We’ll be ready to go in about four hours now.”
“Now THAT’S something to wake up to!” I cheered as I leapt from the bed. “We leave once everything’s ready.”
“Got it!” replied Hiroki as he headed off to relay my decision. I stretched to get rid of any sleepiness. After that, I turned towards the door.
“Ah AH!” called Emily. I stopped in mid-step, my foot still off the floor. There was a bit of a tense moment. “…Okay, you’re cleared for duty,” chuckled Emily.
“Har har,” I grumbled. I then left the Sick Bay and headed off to Main Engineering to find Liam and Dell arguing.
“You’re all hardhat and no cattle!” snapped Dell.
“Cannae ye say anythin’ ‘at ISNAE related tae Texas?!” snarled Liam, his accent coming in thick.
“You just ain’t doing it right!” argued Dell.
“I’ve bin thes ship’s engineer lang afair ye sit fit oan thes hin’!” ranted Liam. “Ah ken whit aam daein’! Ye cannae jist smack th’ weapons systems wi’ a wrench an’ caa it a day!”
“Hey look, buddy, I’m an Engineer. That means I solve problems,” replied Dell. “Not problems like ‘What is beauty?’, because that would fall within the purview of your conundrums of philosophy. I solve practical problems. For instance, how am I going to stop some big mean mother-Hubbard from tearing me a structurally superfluous new behind? The answer: use a gun, and if that don’t work, use more gun.” He then indicated the blueprints for the Sentry. “Like this heavy caliber, tripod-mounted, little ol’ number designed by me, BUILT by me, and you’d best hope… not pointed at you.”
“Gentlemen,” I called. The two men yelped and jumped two feet in the air.
“Don’t scare us like that!” protested Dell.
“I trust things are going well?” I asked.
“He’s trying to add Sentries to the outer hull!” snapped Liam. “You can’t achieve that by whacking the weapons systems with a pipe wrench!”
“It’s worked fine as frogs’ hair for me!” snapped Dell.
“Have you ever been on a spaceship before?!” argued Liam.
“Gentlemen!” I shouted. Both men turned to me. “Now is NOT the time. Look, Dell, save the Sentries on the hull until AFTER we beat Shocker Rift. Liam, you DO realize the wrench is coated in self-replicating, self-destructing nanites?”
“How in Sam Hill did you know that?!” yelped Dell.
“Lukas gave me the results of the time he examined the wrench,” I explained.
“…That boy’s more invasive than the Medic!” hissed Dell.
“Kill him later,” I directed. “Look, the nanites are programmed to upgrade any piece of technology when enough metal is absorbed and they’re struck with enough of an impact to shake some off the wrench.”
“They tend to shut off and destroy themselves quietly once they’ve done their job,” continued Dell.
“…Do you even have enough metal to fulfill the kind of upgrades you’re proposing?” asked Liam. Dell opened his mouth…then realized he didn’t.
“Darn,” he muttered.
“Like I said, just focus on getting basics up and running,” I replied.
“All righty then,” answered Dell. He and Liam then went back to work.
“Great Leader Hiro, Sir,” called my Sontaran Adjutant as he brought the people I wanted to meet into my Ready Room, “presenting Ambassador Hell and Metalran, Sir, as instructed.”
“Splendid,” I praised. “That will be all, Tunk.” The Sontaran left and I addressed my former boss and Tarlaxian ally. “So wonderful that you could bolster our numbers back to their original size.”
“We aim to please,” replied Metalran as he bowed.
“Maybe YOU do,” grumbled Ambassador Hell.
“It looks like he does,” I answered. “I know, deep down, you wish to please, so why not…?”
“Before you speak and try to incorrectly guess my motives,” interrupted Ambassador Hell, “let me tell you this: I don’t like the fact that you managed to usurp our Great Leader, I don’t like the fact that you’ve expanded Shocker to ideas above our station, and I don’t like you! You place your emotions above the needs of Shocker! You constantly obsess over a child! You manage to keep us from our goals of conquering our planet! Quite frankly, you are the most inefficient leader Shocker has had and should have stepped down!”
“…Well, since you wish to be unpleasant to me, it’s only fair I’m the same way to you,” I growled. “I don’t like you. You say I obsess over a child when you obsess over one man. You never expand your thoughts to long-term goals, only short-term ones. You say I place my emotions above Shocker’s needs, yet you constantly waste resources to defeating the Kamen Riders. To be blunt, Ambassador, the Great Leader made a mistake in pulling you from our American branch and making you the leader of our armies. Hence my usurping him. Now, if we’re all done being unpleasant with each other, I’d like for us all to get back to work. Dismissed.” The two left the Ready Room and I sat down, wondering what would happen if Ambassador Hell met with an…accident.