The Zentradi Girl
Everything was burning. Leon shouldered his way past the technicians and emergency personnel as they scrambled to put out the fires. He saw his sister Mia and Rod Baltomar come stumbling out of a corridor, their white flightsuits smudged with soot, as was Rod’s platinum blond hair. The sight lifted Leon’s spirits; when Mia had first started dating Rod, one of their fellow pilots, Leon had initially acted the overprotective big brother. But Rod had won him over with his quiet devotion to Mia and, just as importantly, his skill as their wingman. Normally a romantic relationship between pilots in the same squad would have been frowned upon, but NUNS had been getting a bit lax in recent years with enforcing the little regulations.
“Leon, how’s Area B?” asked Rod, his voice hoarse from the smoke.
“Not good. Area B got hit the hardest by the attack. There might still be people in there but it’d be suicide to try and get at them.”
“Leon, don’t be so cold-hearted!” chided Mia, “If it were you in there I’d move heaven and earth to get to you! We can’t just give up on our comrades so easily!” Before Rod or Leon could do anything to stop her she turned and ran in the direction Leon had come from.
“Wait, Mia, it’s too dangerous, let the fire crews handle it! MIA!”
Leon’s eyes snapped open and his hand jerked forward, outstretched towards his sister. But he was not actually in that burning base anymore. Blinking he looked around and saw that he was laying atop a reclining bed in what was clearly some kind of sickbay. But where exactly? The last thing he could remember was being on approach to Ouroboros in his YF-25…
The crash! He hadn’t been able to prevent his YF-25 from auguring into the planet and had ejected at the last second! But after that was a blank…
He pushed himself into a sitting position that allowed him to get a better view out of the window. Nothing but blue ocean and blue sky out there. Was he on a ship then? He caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye and saw an island slip into view from the left side of the window. There was just one strange thing about this island though, it wasn’t down in the water, it was floating just about level with Leon’s window! Before he had time to gape at this site any further, he heard the hiss of a door opening, footsteps and a woman’s voice.
“So what exactly do you need me to do?”
There are several crates of parts waiting at one of our drop-offs. We’re a bit stretched at the moment so could you please pick them up?” replied the tinny voice of a woman which sounded like it was coming a mobile phone.
The woman then came around the curtain that was blocking off Leon’s view of the rest of the sickbay. He felt like his brain had locked up as he unabashedly stared at the young woman. She was most definitely NOT a nurse, not in that outfit. She wore a magenta and red vest with the SMS logo that barely covered and contained her very ample chest, leaving a large swath of flat, toned stomach on display, very brief short-shorts that strangely seemed to have suspenders attached to them just dangling down her hips and legs covered in black stockings that went up mid-thigh… legs that seemed to go on forever as far as Leon was concerned. Combined with bright, bubblegum-pink hair and ice-blue eyes set in a lovely, heart-shaped face and it wasn’t hard to imagine that this young Zentradi girl, the ears were a dead giveaway, caused a sensation wherever she went.
She was indeed speaking into a cat-shaped mobile phone, which was projecting a hologram of another young woman with violet hair but the angle of the hologram prevented Leon from getting a good look.
“Well, I’ll have to think about it. No pressure right?”
“Eh?! Hang on a minute…” but the violet-haired girl’s response was cut short as the pink-haired girl hung up.
“Hmm? Oh, you’re awake,” she said, finally noticing that Leon was sitting up in bed and staring at her.
“You gave us quite a scare… Mr. Leon Sakaki.” She said with a bright smile.
Leon stared a moment longer then something in his brain seemed to snap back into place.
“A Zentradi woman?” he said dumbly. Smooth move Lt. Obvious!
“A zentradi woman,” affirmed the girl, “I take it you haven’t met many before?” she asked with a slight smirk.
“Oh, uh, I have it’s just that… sorry but I’m a little confused… so, who are you, how did I get here and where is here?” he said, the questions tumbling out of him as his sleep-fogged brain finally recovered from the sight of the lovely Zentradi.
“Honestly, you have your life saved by a beautiful woman and she takes precious time out of her day to care for you and she doesn’t even get a thank you. I think I deserve one, yes?” she said huffily.
Leon cursed inwardly at his lack of manners.
“…Of course, you’re right. Let me introduce myself. I’m Leon Sakaki, a pilot from SMS Sepheela. My current assignment at SMS is as test pilot for a YF-25 Prophecy. How’s that?” he said, smiling for effect.
“Not bad,” replied the girl, returning his smile. Wow, she looks beautiful when she smiles! Wait, what are you thinking Leon! You just met her! You don’t even know her name yet!
“Let me return the favor. I’m Aisha Blanchette, the one who saved you from that crash.”
“The crash? Yeah… that YF-29 came out of nowhere after I beat those Ghosts and then…
“Hey, don’t strain yourself too much, too quickly,” she said, gently helping him out of the bed, “That was a nasty ejection and you got hurt pretty bad.”
“So I survived through a miracle, huh? Hang on, if I survived ejecting, what happened to my plane?”
“Come with me and I’ll show you.”
She led him through several corridors and then into a large hangar area. Leon was beginning to wonder what kind of ship this was as the hangar was filled with half-disassembled (or perhaps half-assembled) Valkyrie fighters. She led him to a cordoned off corner of the hangar where the remains of his once-beautiful YF-25 lay in a slagged heap.
“…There’s not much left is there?”
“I guess not. But don’t worry, you haven’t failed your mission just yet.”
“Huh? What? What do you mean I haven’t failed?”
“Your fighter was carrying detailed information on the YF/VF-25 wasn’t it? I recovered it before the computer completely fried with my AI implant.”
“What?! How on earth did you do that when it’s this badly damaged? And how do you have an implant?”
“Your questions are getting a little impertinent Lt. Leon Sakaki,” Aisha said with a frown.
“I have an implant because I need it to help me do my job. My full title is Director Aisha Blanchette of SMS Ouroboros, also captain of this ship, the Gefion. Does that answer your questions?” she said, a little testily.
“I’m not doing this right am I?” Leon said sheepishly, rubbing the back of his bruised head, “But yes, that does explain a lot.”
“No problem, just so we’re clear where everyone stands,” replied Aisha cheerfully.
“Well then, thank you very much for saving my life and the data Madam Director Aisha.”
“Hehe, no need to be formal, I was just playing with you a bit. As long as we’re clear on who’s in charge, just call me Aisha,” said with bright smile of hers.
“Alright then Aisha! So this has been wild but I need to get back to Sepheela as soon as possible. Do you have a Valkyrie with a Fold Booster that I could borrow?” Leon asked, looking around at the jumbled airframes.
“Oh, you need to leave so soon? You can’t stay for a bit?”
“No, not really. They’ll be missing me on Sepheela…”
“Couldn’t you please do a little favor for your rescuer first?” she asked with hands clasped together, an adorable pleading expression on her face.
Geez she goes from stern to happy to pleading so quick!
“Uh, yeah, I suppose I could. I’m behind schedule anyway, plus I’m not looking forward to telling my bosses that the Prophecy is wrecked…”
“You’ll do it then? Thank you, Leon!”
She bounded off down towards the other end of the hangar with Leon in pursuit, talking as she went.
“The mission is for a friend of mine who had some very important goods stolen from her by bandits. The goods are all in these big heavy containers but they were able to locate the drop points where the bandits left them. I assume she and her people are out dealing with the bandits right now, but we’re going to pick up the containers before anyone else messes with them. Got it so far?”
“Sounds simple enough. So do you have a Valkyrie for me to use for this…?”
“Right here!” she said, proudly gesturing open-armed at a blue-and-white Valkyrie.
Leon couldn’t quite tell what model it was; it bore a resemblance to the original VF-1 Valkyrie, but was larger and longer. It also appeared to have a cockpit for two.
“What is it?” he asked.
“It’s a vintage VF-0D Phoenix, from the Unification Wars on Earth. My deck chief acquired it in a game of cards with…” Aisha’s explanation was cut off as someone shouted across the hangar.
“Oh no you don’t Aisha! You’re not sending up a nugget in my Phoenix just ‘cause we ain’t got enough planes around here!”
Leon turned to see a tall, almost comically thin man with some kind of… scarf or something around his neck come storming up to them. Despite his lankiness, his face was rounded and his cheeks were flushed. He wore a white and orange technicians jumpsuit and a pair of brown gloves that were both stained with innumerable oil, grease and who-knows-what-else stains and he carried a thick leather tool belt on his waist, festooned with tools of all nations. His hair wasn’t free of the grime either, liberally streaked and smudged through the wild, fly-away locks, strangely blond at the root but then fading into red. He glared angrily at Leon and for the first time Leon noticed that it wasn’t a scarf the man wore about his neck, but some kind of furry, one-eyed, snake-like creature.
“Um, I’m not a rookie Chief. I was piloting a YF-25…”
“Yes, the YF-25 that’s now in ruins on my deck. You must be very talented. Anyhow, you’re not touching my baby!”
“Gerrol,” said Aisha in a long-suffering tone, “weren’t you just telling me the other day that your fondest wish was to see this Valkyrie in combat again?
“Well, yes… but I… I don’t see you offering your plane to him!”
Aisha crossed her arms and adopted an offended attitude.
“That’s because my plane is for me to fly. She’d chafe under this guy’s rough hands. No offense Leon,” she said, winking at him.
“Ugh, I’m not going to convince you am I? Alright fine, but you!” he said, rounding on Leon, “If you so much as put the tiniest little scratch on this priceless piece of aviation history…”
“Oh stop being so dramatic, Gerrol, he’ll be fine.” With that, Aisha strode over to the other side of the plane and single-handedly lifted a boarding ladder from the tools and parts stacked along the sides of the plane.
“Well, what are you two waiting for? Let’s get this Valkyrie ready to fly!”
As Gerrol and Leon scramble to help her, Aisha attempted to position that ladder on the lip of the Phoenix’s cockpit. Suddenly Leon was there, his hands helping to guide the ladder into place. Aisha smiled at him and he grinned back.
“Hmmm, you may or may not think of this as an inconvenience, but perhaps you should change first?” she said, her smile widening into a devious smirk.
“Huh?” Leon looked down and his face flushed scarlet. In his disorientation and the rush of conversation with Aisha, and perhaps a great many other things where Aisha was concerned, he’d forgotten that this whole time, he’d still been dressed in a hospital gown.
“Ah… right, I’ll just… go change then, ok?” he stammered, backing away from her. Aisha winked at him and he turned and fled.
“See?” grumbled Gerrol, pulling a cigarette and lighter from some random pocket and lighting up, “damn fool forget he was practically naked. My poor Phoenix…”
Aisha just sighed and rolled her eyes, catching a glimpse of Leon retreating through a hatchway.
It’ll be nice to have a new face around here, one that isn’t a grumpy Zolan. A very good-looking face at that!