Ranma had begun to grow weary of staring out the oversized window of the Sovereign class Crossroads auxiliary conference room. It was not that he did not enjoy seeing the stars streak by. Had he disliked that, he would have gone mad over the past eleven weeks. It was the fact that for whatever the compulsion, Ranma was attempting to count the stars.
He did not know what the purpose was either. Many of the stars were being blended together, a side effect of the warp field. He assumed, though, that it would give him something new to do.
Life had been quite dull for him these past two months. This was not his ship, so he had no command duties. He even offered to help in other ways but was told that it would be unnecessary.
The Crossroads, despite having many activities on board, did not really have anything Ranma wanted to do. He spent some time in the virtual nightclub that Gosnell had created, Benny's, but one can only spend so much time listening to the drunken karaoke screeches of his crew.
Other times he set up his own holodeck program to continue his martial arts training and to keep him in shape. However, the lack of any real danger his holographic opponents presented annoyed him to no end.
The only time he felt like he was doing anything that was remotely useful was when he was briefed by Admiral Larson. Larson would keep him up to date on what was happening back in the Federation and would constantly assure him that once he and the rest of the Sisko's crew returned, they would both be needed and put to great use.
At the end of each briefing Larson would tell him, 'Enjoy the ride back because once you return, it's going to be hell.'
Ranma had to be the only person on the ship looking more forward to the hell than enjoying the ride back.
The pig-tailed man sighed and leaned back in his chair, placing his feet up onto the window ledge. He reached over to pick up a glass of tea he had been nursing for the better part of an hour now. Instead of the tea glass, however, he felt the soft hand of a woman.
Not the woman he was expecting to see, though. “How long have you been standing there?” Ranma asked.
The purple-haired Amazon smiled and handed the tea glass to Ranma. “About five minute,” she replied.
Ranma took a drink and motioned for Shampoo to sit down next to him. Shampoo did and leaned back, mimicking Ranma's pose. “It seems a little creepy for you to just stand around, watching me.”
Shampoo had to admit that it probably was a little creepy, as she would not want anyone standing around watching her. “Yeah. But Shampoo just want to come and see how you doing. Ranma keeping to yourself so much lately.”
Ranma and Shampoo's relationship had been extremely complicated. From prey and hunter to the day Ranma removed her from duty for her alcoholism, to the breach of trust she felt when Ranma and Akane were married, and he lied about it; their interpersonal connection has had its moments. However, they had become closer lately. Shampoo having found love again in someone else, reducing – but of course not eliminating – Akane's jealousy, having had a lot to do with that.
As well as everything the pair went through together on Valarie. The loss of the Sisko had deeply affected both in a way that most of the other crew members wouldn't be able to understand.
Ranma finally nodded. “I guess I am just, bored.”
Shampoo laughed. Ranma turned to her, slightly perturbed. “What?”
“Staring out window by yourself is not usually good way to cure boredom,” Shampoo explained.
Ranma smirked. He knew she was right. “Well, what do you suggest I do?”
Shampoo stood and held out her hand. Ranma looked around at first, making sure that Akane was nowhere nearby. Again, Akane's jealousy had been reduced, not eliminated. Once he was certain he was safe, Ranma took Shampoo's hand and was pulled out of his seat.
“We have 35 hour before we reach destination,” Shampoo explained. “Spend day with Shampoo. I promise I make it fun.”
Ranma was skeptical but agreed. “Sure.”
Shampoo took Ranma out by the hand and the pair headed towards the nearest turbolift.
Inside Benny's, it was relatively quiet. The majority of the Sisko crew who visited did not usually show up till later. The ones that were there now were the ones that Gosnell had labeled as 'Benny's Furniture' as they were there almost all the time.
Those included his wife, Minako, and Usagi. Occasionally Rei was with them, but she was adamant about not allowing the NEO teams to get out of practice and continued to work despite the order of 'on ship shore leave.'
Due to the current low customer count, and the efficiency of holographic waitresses, Gosnell had joined the 'furniture' in their daily gossip. Most of it bored him, as it was typical 'girls talking about boys' gibberish, however, when the topic turned to Ryouga, his ears perked up.
“I understand that Ryouga is planning on asking for an official transfer to the Starfleet Marines,” Makoto asked Minako.
Minako appeared rather sullen about this request and she was not shy about vocalizing her disapproval. “Yes. He decided that he liked being shot at more than he liked piloting ships.”
“What kind of nut would want to get shot at?” Usagi asked. Makoto glared at her. “Oh, well...” Usagi trailed off.
“Whatever new ship we get, Minako...” Makoto explained, turning her attention back to her other friend who was going through her drink a little more quickly now. “...I am sure Captain Saotome can make sure Ryouga stays with our marine complement.”
Minako shook her head. “I'm not upset about that, Makoto. Being split up does not bother me. That’s something that's a part of this job. What does bother me is the idea of him getting killed.”
The group nodded. That was indeed a hazard of being in the marines. Obviously, it was a risk that all Starfleet personnel took, but the marines more than took it. They went out and found it.
Minako grumbled and continued. “I finally find a decent man and he wants to run off and get himself shot. It seems selfish to me.”
“If you'll pardon my bluntness, Commander,” Gosnell interjected, “but it sounds to me like you're also being pretty selfish.”
All eyes turned to Gosnell. The bearded alien blinked, realizing the hornet's nest he was poking, but continued anyway. “Ryouga seems to have found his calling. Something that he believes is bigger than himself, and a way that he can serve the Federation in a better way than flying in circles. What you view as selfishness, he views as selflessness.”
The eyes of the group remained on Gosnell. Not so much now for his rude interjection, but more for the fact that something so deep could come from someone whose advice rarely moves beyond white or brown gravy.
Finally, Minako spoke again, her eyes getting a little misty. “I guess I can't have it both ways, can I?”
Makoto, Usagi, and Gosnell all looked to her for clarification.
“Stability and love?”
Makoto shook her head. “You can't control who you fall in love with, so by its very nature, there is nothing stable about love.”
Minako nodded, smiled, and looked to Gosnell. “Thanks.”
Gosnell nodded back and patted Minako on the shoulder. “For what it's worth, from what the Captain has told me about Ryouga, he's resourceful enough that I don't think you have a thing to worry about.”
Minako chuckled as Usagi motioned towards the doors. “Speak of the devil.”
The group looked over to see Ryouga standing there in civilian clothes, looking around. He noticed the group and waved. The group all waved for him to join them. Ryouga, somewhat halfheartedly, did as he was asked.
“Hey!” Minako smiled, leaning up and giving him a kiss on the cheek. Ryouga, still not one for public displays of affection, blushed and grinned.
“Hiya,” he looked around some more.
“Something wrong?” Makoto asked.
“Hm? No,” Ryouga stated, finally sitting down. “Have any of you guys though seen Ranma?”
“The Captain?” Makoto asked, putting some emphasis on the word 'captain' to show her displeasure in Ryouga's lax respect for Ranma's rank. “No, I haven't seen him since our last briefing.”
The rest of the group also acknowledged that they also had not seen Ranma in a while.
“Oh, well,” Ryouga sighed. He ordered a drink from a waitress that had appeared and began chatting with the group.
STARDATE 61213.3 – 11 WEEKS, 2 DAYS AFTER RESCUE; 5 DAYS FROM EARTH.
The majority of the Sisko's command staff had assembled on the bridge of the U.S.S. Crossroads. They had been waiting for this day for weeks and every one of them had wanted to see it for themselves. The remainder of the Sisko crew had piled into every forward-looking observation room they could find.
Everyone wanted to be the first to see their new ship.
This is why the words 'disappointment', 'frustration', and even 'anger' could not begin to describe the emotions that were building up in Ranma and a large chunk of both the Sisko and Crossroads crew as first they saw no ships waiting for them on long-range scanners and then eventually, short-range.
“What's our ETA?” Ami Mizuno, captain of the Crossroads asked her operations officer.
“Eight minutes,” he replied. “We're well within both long and short-range scan range.”
Ami looked to Ranma. Ranma turned to the operations station. “You're sure these are the coordinates that Admiral Larson gave us?”
The operations officer, having already been asked that question several times, nodded in frustration. “Yes sir.”
Ranma sighed. Akane turned to him. “Maybe they're just running behind and aren't here yet.”
Ranma wished he could be that optimistic. He also wished he was able to try and contact Larson, but they were ordered to both maintain radio silence and to deactivate their transponder.
Both ship's crews could do nothing but wait the remaining eight minutes until the Crossroads reached her destination. The mighty ship dropped out of warp and slowed to a crawl in open space.
Ami quickly stormed up to the operations station and began to look at the sensor data for herself. Just as the operations officer had told her, there was not a ship for parsecs.
At least none that they could see.
“CAPTAIN!” the Crossroads first officer, Commander Adcock, yelled as he stood.
Ami turned towards the viewer.
Surrounding the Crossroads, about three dozen Romulan warships decloaked. Ami quickly turned to tactical. “RED ALERT! SHIELDS!!!” She screamed.
Ranma blinked. “Wait.”
His quiet objection was likely unheard as the heavy cruiser's klaxons sounded and her crew started scurrying to their battle stations. Adcock started barking out orders, as did Ami. However, it was the operations officer who brought calm to the situation.
“Captain!” he shouted over the noise. “We're being hailed. They're using Admiral Larson's encrypted frequency.”
Ami screeched to a halt. She turned to the viewscreen. “Open the channel.”
On the viewer, Admiral Larson appeared. He wore a solemn, yet friendly expression on his face. “Captain Muzino, good evening. I apologize for startling you, but I can assure you that these ships are with me, and they won't fire on you. You can stand down from your alert status.”
Ami ordered the channel muted and looked at tactical. “Have any of them activated their weapons or defenses?”
“No ma'am,” tactical responded.
Ami sighed. “Stand down red alert then.” She nodded to operations then turned back to the viewer. “You will forgive me, Admiral. I am not used to all this 'secretive' stuff.”
Larson chuckled. “Not at all, Captain. I appreciate the care you take in protecting your ship and her crew. Would you mind if I and Admiral Saotome came aboard?”
“Not at all,” Ami smiled.
“Uh, Admiral,” Ranma said, from the back of the bridge.
“I hate to point out the obvious, but there is no Federation ship in your fleet,” Ranma continued.
Larson again chuckled. “We'll chat.”
Ami walked into the conference room with Larson and Genma in tow. The room, consisting of the Sisko's command staff, as well as Lt. Devall and Rei, stood to acknowledge the two flag officers. Ranma walked over to greet the pair. A firm handshake was the greeting from Larson. “Glad to have you, well, close to home.”
“Thank you, sir,” Ranma smiled.
Genma was a little less subtle about how he felt. The larger, balder Admiral nearly killed Ranma he was squeezing him so tight. Despite the fact he could not breathe, Ranma didn't mind.
“OH, IT'S GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN, BOY!” Genma cried.
“Kssdow,” Ranma replied.
Ami smiled at the reunion and turned to leave, but Larson stopped her. “Captain, I will be departing with the Sisko's crew in about an hour. After that, I would like for you to return to your previous mission.”
“It is imperative,” Larson continued, “that you avoid Federation space. The Romulan Star Empire has agreed to allow your ship safe passage so long as you do not stop. As well, you need to ignore any instructions from Starfleet to return to Sol for the time being.”
Ami blinked. “Aye, sir.”
Larson looked at her for a moment. “This is probably very confusing, but I assure you, it's for you and your crews’ own safety right now. If they find out that you assisted me or Captain Saotome, they will try and destroy you.”
“Who?” Ami asked.
Larson sighed. “That's what we're off to find out.”
Ami simply nodded and walked out of the conference room. Larson started to walk to the table but noticed that Genma still had Ranma locked in a massive bear – or panda bear, if you will – hug. Larson chuckled and managed to dislodge the Captain free.
“Pop,” Ranma gasped.
“Sorry,” Genma cried.
Ranma patted his old man on the back and the group took their place as Larson started his presentation. The first part of it was basically things that they already knew. What was going on with the Federation, some of it was new information, like the skirmishes that had taken place. Larson also presented his theory on what has caused all the chaos.
“There has to be someone either with the Vulcan government, the Federation, or both that planted false information to push this snowball down the hill, creating the situation we have today.
“There have always been people, on both sides, who have wanted Vulcan out of the Federation, but it's always failed because both sides realize it's in both our best interests for Vulcan to be in the Federation.”
“How did we get involved in this?” Ranma asked, pretty much summing up what was on the minds of everyone in the room.
“Happenstance,” Larson responded. “Your near failure to stop the Vulcan terrorists from attacking Vulcan and the subsequent errant torpedo strike gave the artists of this conspiracy a point on which to work from.”
Ranma snarled. He knew he had made a mistake, but he did not think it was a mistake big enough to collapse the entire Federation. “What about the Sisko. What was the point in trying to kill us?”
Larson shrugged. “That I don't know. Perhaps the head of the shipyard was going to be a sacrificial lamb. A Vulcan Starfleet officer sabotaging your engines and killing you as an act of retaliation. Had it worked there would have been no evidence of the foreign devices on your engines.”
“But it didn't work, and there is,” JC noted.
“Indeed. In fact, Lieutenant, when we board your new ship there are some Romulan scientists who have a great deal of experience working with Borg technology who I'd like you to collaborate with on finding out where those devices came from,” Larson instructed.
JC nodded, interested in the concept of working with Romulans.
“Speaking of which,” Ranma noted, looking out the window. “As I mentioned previously, I don't see any Federation ships out there.”
“That's because you're not getting a Federation ship,” Larson replied rather bluntly.
Ranma took a moment to dissect Larson's statement. While he did not say that he was not getting a ship, he did say that he wasn't getting a Federation ship. However, the only ships out there were Romulan ships. Did that mean...
“We getting Romulan ship?” Shampoo asked, completing Ranma's thought out loud.
Larson nodded and activated the viewer. “I am sure you are familiar with this ship class.”
Ranma looked at the viewer with annoyance. “That's the ship the Vulcan terrorists had.”
“It's the same class, yes,” Larson corrected the younger man. “This is a Talon class battlecruiser. As you will recall from the last time you encountered this type of ship, it is quite sturdy.”
Ranma could not disagree with that statement.
“That ship was one of their prototypes. The one the Romulan Guard is allowing us to use is not. It's a fully-functional version of the ship that will be quite capable of dealing with most things we come across.”
Larson stood and walked to the view screen. “However hopefully we will not have to come across them as this ship can obviously cloak. Her transporter system also works while she is cloaked, so it's perfect for the covert nature of our current task.”
“And Romulans just letting us borrow this ship?” Shampoo asked, again saying what Ranma and likely the rest of the room was thinking.
Larson nodded. “More or less. Nothing is free, of course, but it's not anything you guys need to concern yourselves with.”
Ranma wasn't sure exactly how to take that, but at times like these beggars can't be choosers. Right now, he was simply happy to have a ship again and be able to do something.
“Well, alrighty then,” Ranma said, standing. “When do we get to see her?”
Ranma and his commanders slowly stepped out onto the bridge of the Romulan warship and looked around. The ship was certainly going to be an adjustment from the Sisko. The command chair sat in the center, atop a pedestal, by itself. A smaller tactical station for the executive officer was along the wall, along with a separate station for each position, weapons, security, operations, communications, and engineering.
Her helm console was the only thing that looked like it was where it was supposed to be, placed directly between the COMM and the main viewer.
The lighting was going to take some getting used to as well. The Romulans loved green. Most of the track lighting was green with dimmer, white light shining down from the center of the bridge.
There was also the issue with everything being in Romulan. That was going to be the hardest thing to get used to.
The commander of the ship walked up to Ranma. He did a Romulan salute, which Ranma attempted to return.
“Captain Saotome, I presume?”
“Yes,” Ranma replied.
“I am Commander Naraj, of the Romulan Guard, captain of the RSE Iorhae'edh,” The commander eyed over Ranma and his command staff. Too many females for his liking, but he had heard good things about this group. As well, they had destroyed a previous Talon class cruiser, so perhaps they were not as hapless as they appeared. “I have been instructed to relinquish command of my ship to you.”
Ranma did not need to be a Betazoid to sense the fact that this gentleman was not happy about giving up his ship. Ranma could sympathize. He would not have liked it if someone had told him to hand over the Sisko to a bunch of Romulans either. “And I have been requested to *temporarily* assume command of the Iorhae'edh till we can complete our current assignment,” Ranma made special care to stress the word 'temporarily.'
The Romulan commander nodded and began yelling in Romulan to his bridge crew. The bridge crew got up and slowly began filing past the Sisko crew into the turbolift. Naraj then started barking at the computer. Ranma felt certain he heard his name somewhere in the mess of Romulan orders, and Naraj confirmed it.
“Captain, all command functions have been transferred to you.”
“I relieve you then, Commander.”
“I stand relieved,” the Romulan replied. He began to walk towards the turbolift, but stopped and turned back to Ranma, grinning ever so slightly. “Captain, while I hope you do shoot as many Vulcans as you find yourself able to, I would quite appreciate it if you brought my ship back in one piece.”
Ranma nodded. “I will do my best.”
The Romulan, who was hoping for better reassurance than that, nodded and joined the rest of his crew in the turbolift. Once the doors were closed, Ranma turned to Larson, who looked at him with the same look he always gave Ranma in these kinds of situations.
“If you lose it, you'll be dead, so don't worry about it.”
Ranma could not help but laugh. Larson was right. If Ranma did lose this ship, an irate Romulan commander was going to be the least of his problems.
Larson turned to the master situation display and smirked at the Romulan wording that adorned it. Without looking to the group, he began to speak. “Computer, load Federation language protocols.”
“Acknowledged,” the quite straightforward, male computer voice replied, albeit in Federation standard. It was not the friendly, Starfleet female computer voice, however, it was in a language the crew could understand without the assistance of their universal translators. The consoles and monitors all switched to Federation standard (English for you non-geeks out there) as well.
Ranma and the rest of the bridge crew smiled. “This will make things a bit easier,” Makoto said.
“Speak for yourself,” Minako sighed. “I went through the effort of learning basic Romulan.”
“In under an hour?!” Usagi screeched.
Minako nodded. “Is that weird?”
“For you, no,” Rei grinned.
Minako, assuming that was snipe at her for being smarter than the rest, took everyone's surprise as a compliment and began to work her way down to her station. She made it halfway down the bridge before realizing that she had no clue which one of the stations along the wall of the bridge was the operations station.
“So, which is which?” Makoto asked, saving Minako from having to ask.
Ranma looked at his PADD and began to point as he called out. “Tactical. Operations. Communications – that's where I'd like Lt. Kaii, Commander Aino.”
Minako nodded as she went to her station.
“Security,” Ranma pointed. He turned to Makoto. “They aren't combined on this ship. I guess it's your call on where or not you want to run that or tactical.”
Makoto was not going to give up the opportunity to run the weapons on a Romulan warship. “Yeah, I'll stick Amanda on security.”
Ranma nodded. “Engineering, and helm.” Ranma blinked. “Oh, right.”
Shampoo looked at Ranma. “Something wrong?”
Ranma shook his head. “No, just something I have been putting off.” He lied. He had not been putting it off. He had been avoiding it. For rather selfish reasons as well. Reasons that he would deal with later and felt he should probably apologize to Ryouga for. But that was something for another time.
“Shampoo, that's the XO's station,” Ranma pointed.
“Awww,” Shampoo pouted. “Shampoo no more get to sit next to Ranma and drive Akane insane.”
Ranma grinned. “She's over it.”
“Liar,” Shampoo smiled back, pointing to the back of the bridge, where Akane was hanging out, looking around. Shampoo seemed to be right though. Akane's battle aura was glowing, even if Akane herself did not exactly know why.
Ranma turned back to Shampoo. “Getting over it.”
Shampoo smiled. “You want Shampoo to get Ryouga up here?”
“No,” Ranma said, losing his smile. “Ryouga is no longer our flight officer. Please assign the next in line.”
Shampoo nodded and without question, headed to her station. Ranma headed to his chair and sat down as Akane and Larson came up next to him. Ranma turned to the pair, shifting uncomfortably.
“Something wrong with the seat?” Larson asked.
Ranma shook his head. “No.” He adjusted himself a bit more. “It's just so... High. I feel more like a ruler up here than I do a captain.”
“A Romulan commander needs to be able to see all the stations,” Larson explained.
“There is something else,” Ranma complained.
“The Romulans will be quite displeased if you go outside and paint the hull of their ship,” Larson smirked.
“Yeah, yeah,” Ranma acknowledged. “I mean just something for us.”
Larson shrugged. “I don't have a problem.”
Ranma smiled as he went to think of a name. Larson turned back to him. “Do you mind if I address your crew?”
Ranma shook his head.
Larson activated the ship's intercom. “Attention all hands, this is Admiral Larson.
“Many of you are not aware fully of the events that are going on right now. I'm sorry to say that it will likely have to remain that way. But I would request that you have faith in both myself and your captain that everything we are doing and will do, will be for the greater good.”
Larson took a deep breath before continuing. “What I can tell you is that right now there is a conspiracy that is ripping apart the Federation-Vulcan alliance. It has already forced the secession of Vulcan from the Federation. This is about to spark a war between our two worlds which will weaken both and allow our enemies like the Breen, the Cardassians, and potentially even the Dominion again to invade and conquer us.
“Our only hope of salvation is this ship and its crew. We have extraordinarily little time, but we must disassemble this conspiracy and stop hostilities between Vulcan and the Federation.
“I have never had the good fortune to work with another group of people that I thought could save the universe more than you,” Larson smiled as the bridge crew watched him. “I place my life, and the life of the Federation in your hands because I know you can protect and save them both. Larson out.”
Ranma eyed Larson for a moment. The older Admiral looked like he was on the verge of tears. Akane, who was actually crying, rubbed his back. “That was beautiful,” she sniffled.
Ranma smiled. “Salvation.” The captain hopped out of his seat and ran to the replicator. “One bottle of Romulan Ale.”
The replicator complied and produced a bottle of the blue liquid. Ranma picked it up and walked to the ship’s current dedication plaque. “Can I have everyone's attention?”
The bridge crew all turned to their captain, as did Larson and Akane.
“Because I will have too much trouble pronouncing the proper name of this ship, and because she's my ship right now and it's my prerogative, I, Captain Ranma Saotome of the United Federation of Planets, hereby rechristen this ship, the U.S.S. Salvation.”
Ranma smashed the bottle of ale over the dedication plaque to roaring approval from the others on the bridge. Ranma smiled till he realized he had made quite a mess on the bridge. “Uh, Commander Tsukino… Could you call maintenance to come and clean this up?”
Usagi smiled and nodded, happy to oblige.
Ryouga paced around his new quarters, anxiously watching the clock that ticked away, fortunately now in Federation Standard, above his door. Commander Gosnell had instructed him to be in his quarters and ready for her inspection fifteen minutes ago.
Ryouga grew worried. Dating the boss’s friend had its benefits, like the ability to joke around. That also came with its drawbacks as well, like joking around when you probably should not.
'Inspection, eh?' Ryouga remembered saying. Ryouga facepalmed at his own stupidity. “She's coming to demote me now,” he whimpered to himself.
The room suddenly buzzed annoyingly. Ryouga looked around for a bit before coming to the realization that the buzz was the Romulan equivalent of the Starfleet doorbell.
“Come in,” Ryouga called, partially unsure.
To his relief, the doors slid open and Makoto, marine commander Lt. Colonel Nik Lee, and Ranma walked in. Ryouga, wanting to impress, snapped to attention as Ranma looked around the room.
“Oh, I hope my room doesn't look like this,” Ranma snarled.
“They all look the same, sir,” Lee sadly reported.
Ranma sighed and turned to Ryouga. “At ease, Lieutenant.”
Ryouga relaxed, ever so slightly. Ranma guessed he was not going to get Ryouga to relax anymore with the marine Lt. Colonel in the room, so he decided to move along.
“Ryouga, I must apologize,” Ranma said, hating every word of it. Their time on the Sisko together had healed a lot of their past differences, but the pair still had a rivalry. Ranma hated to admit when he was either defeated or wrong. At least this time, it was simply the latter.
“Apologize?” Ryouga asked for clarification.
“I've been kinda delaying my part in this for a while. Hoping that you would either fail, which I knew wasn't very likely,” Ryouga blinked at that admission from Ranma, “or give up ensuring that you would stay with this crew.”
“Why?” Ryouga asked, not really trying to hide the frustration in his voice.
“Oh, selfish reasons,” Ranma admitted. He walked over and put his hand on Ryouga's shoulder and smiled. “First off, I kind of liked bossing you around. After this mission, there's no guarantee I will be able to do that.”
Ryouga half smirked.
Ranma let his hand slide off as he started to remove Ryouga's rank insignia from his collar. “The other thing is that... Well, fuck it,” Ranma growled. “Ryouga, you're a good officer and I like having you in my crew. And if you tell anyone I said that I will make sure you're protecting parking lots on Bajor, you understand me?”
Ryouga was dumbfounded. Did Ranma compliment him?
“The captain asked you a question,” Lee barked.
“Yes sir,” Ryouga stammered. “I understand.”
Ranma smiled, looked at his old fighting partner, stepped back, and outstretched his hand. Ryouga took it and gripped it tightly. The handshake lasted a few seconds longer than it probably needed to, but a lot was said in it. Once his hand was released, Ranma began to speak again.
“See now here is the awkward part,” he chuckled. “Ryouga, remember, the marine ranks are different. While it might be called the same, you are NOT the same rank as me, got that?”
Ryouga laughed. “Yes sir.”
Ranma laughed too. “Okay then. I Captain Ranma Saotome, do hereby release Lt. Ryouga Hibiki into the command of the Starfleet Marine Corp on Stardate 61214.0.”
Lee began to read. “I, Lieutenant Colonel Nik Lee, of the Starfleet Marine Corps; assigned U.S.S. Benjamin L. Sisko – ah – U.S.S. Salvation - do hereby assume command and responsibility of Captain Ryouga Hibiki.
Ryouga beamed at his rank designation. Ranma was right. Captain was just the marine equivalent of the navy Lieutenant, but still, it was awesome to hear that rank before his name. As well, the dual silver bars on his collar seemed shinier than the two gold pips he had before.
Makoto turned to Lee. “What are you going to do with him?”
Lee thought about it for a second. “Recon.”
Ranma, Makoto, and especially Ryouga stared at Lee. Lee looked at the trio with concern. “I take it his sense of direction is not something we are to joke about?”
“So, you know?!” Ranma asked quickly.
Ranma sighed an enormous sigh of relief, then began to laugh. He patted Lee on the shoulder. “Well done, Colonel. Well done,” Ranma slowly strolled out of the room, followed by a less jovial Makoto. Lee turned to Ryouga, advised him of when he would be expected to report for duty, congratulated him, and headed out himself.
Ryouga smiled and walked over to his mirror. He looked at himself and his bars for a moment before noticing Minako standing behind him in the doorway.
“So, you went through with it?” Minako said, acknowledging the captain's bars on Ryouga's dress uniform. Ryouga sighed and nodded.
“Are you upset?”
Minako stepped in far enough so that the doors could close behind her. “Yes,” she said honestly. “But does that really matter?”
Ryouga stood there, looking at her reflection in the mirror. At this point, it did not really matter. He had already been transferred. He likely was not going to get transferred back. “It matters to me.” He finally answered.
“Then why didn't you care if would be upset before you asked for a transfer? Before you decided to make a living out of standing in front of incoming fire?” Minako asked, starting to cry.
Ryouga turned and moved towards her. Minako started to move away, causing the bandana-clad man to stop. He bit his lip and shook his head, not understanding what Minako was so upset about. “You didn't seem scared at all when I went out on that mission on Valeri,” he argued. “We were greatly outnumbered!”
“We were better than them,” Minako countered. “It was likely you'd survive.”
“Are you some kind of android?!” Ryouga exclaimed.
Minako growled at him. “No. I just look at things in a logical and scien-” Ryouga's laughter cut her off.
“Oh worse!” he cackled. “You're a freaking Vulcan!”
Minako's blood began to boil at the mocking she was receiving. She turned and began to storm towards the door, but Ryouga grabbed her and pushed her into a chair.
“For once you will listen to what I have to say, K?” Ryouga stated more than asked.
Minako, angry, sad, and scared said nothing, but did stare straight at Ryouga who brought himself down to where he would be at eye level with Minako.
“Why didn't you go back to that Starbase after the first couple of missions? You could have gotten off the Sisko – you had the sway. Why didn't you?” Ryouga asked, quietly, but very demanding of an answer.
“WHY DID YOU STAY?” Ryouga yelled.
Minako, having never had Ryouga raise his voice with her, nearly screamed. She managed to maintain her composure though and thought back. She had considered leaving the Sisko after the first couple of missions. All the blunders, all the non-sense the ship seemed to be involved in. Minako, though, came to realize that she could not. She had grown onboard and that she needed to be on the Sisko and not sitting in some lab.
She knew what answer Ryouga wanted too.
“Because I could do more here than there.”
Ryouga sat down on the floor and leaned back. “I'm worthless as a helmsman. Slightly less worthless in security. But the marines... They taught me how I could serve Starfleet and the Federation in ways I could only imagine.” Ryouga sat back up and looked at Minako. “And yes, there is a risk. There is always a risk when you put everything on the line for something you love.”
Minako started to cry again. “But... I love you.”
“And I love you,” Ryouga replied, bringing himself close to Minako's face. “That's why I am willing to put my body in harm’s way to ensure that this ship and the Federation is protected for you.”
Minako could only cry as Ryouga pulled the two of them together for a long and tender kiss. As Ryouga finally pulled his mouth off hers, she finally mumbled, “I'm so selfish.”
Ryouga smiled and shook his head. “I'm selfish. I'm not doing this for the greater good. I'm doing it for you.”
Minako smiled as the pair kissed once more.