As I stepped inside the big meeting room inside of the Neon-jo I was greeted by every single member of my staff besides those that where currently out on patrol simultaneously snapping to attention. Some of them obviously did so way quicker and smarter than others, but I was pleased to see that over the last few months my promotion to Imperial State Service Commander of this Installation had apparently been accepted by every one of my subordinates, or they were at least smart enough not to show open hostility towards this fact anymore.
Honestly it had been a rough time, but dealing with my subordinates has proven to actually be the easier part of the job, as stories of my battles on Flamia had at one point apparently reached the ears of some of my crew, and had then spread like wildfire, my feats getting more and more exaggerated with every iteration of the stories I overheard. At one point I supposedly even singlehandedly destroyed two Gorgos with nothing but my bare hands and Level 5 Martial Arts skills….Ha…Level 5…as if I’d ever be able to reach that level of insane sword proficiency without secluding myself to swordsmanship for the rest of my life. I couldn’t even keep up to Yojimbo back when we had our sparring match while he served in my unit, and he’s supposedly Level 4….I did beat him during the racing part of our competition though, the old man can ride that’s for sure, but his skills are nothing compared to some of the stunts me and my crew had to pull back in the day…..damn those where good days back then…anyways.
Nodding towards my collected crew, which was their sign to stand at ease again, I positioned myself at the center in front of the giant holo projector which filled most of the back of the room and was capable of producing giant 3d holo images in real time. Folding my hands behind my back I allowed a small smirk to show on my face before I straightened myself up a little more, coughed slightly and then looked at the crowd with a more serious expression.
“Good Evening Everyone! I’m sure some of you have already heard the news and reason why I have called all of you here…” the little break in my sentence was used by one of my female subordinates hidden further back in the dimly lit room to shout a cheerful “Whooohoo!”, which was instantly answered by a bunch of chuckled “Ssssssh…” from everyone in close surroundings to her. “I see you did…well for those of you who haven’t heard about it yet….every single member of the Neon-jo has been temporarily reassigned to a new position…” this was answered by a few confused “Eeeeeeh!?”s and “Whaaaa?” by some of the members who apparently hadn’t heard the full story yet. “…on board of the “Dancing Panda”, a… “Yu Jing Interplanetary Cultural Festival and Exchange Spaceship” “.
At this point more of my assembled subordinates openly dared to cheer, with only a few of them still looking disgruntled or confused, and I too couldn’t resist a little smile. “Most of you have apparently already heard about the Dancing Panda, but for those of you who haven’t, let me introduce to you our new “little” home for the coming weeks and months. “
Sweeping my hand over the control area of the holo projector in an over dramatic commanding gesture I turned slightly sideways to allow better sight on the projector, as well as allowing me to actually see it. The Projector flickered to life, and quickly began showing a giant Space Ship that almost looked like a giant Yu Jing style castle floating on top of a bank of clouds. Flicking my hand a little upwards the holo projector then proceeded to show a holo projection of a giant dancing Panda right above the castle.
“As you can see…this little thing…” I pointed my finger at the projection, and a human shape suddenly appeared next to the projection of the castle, instantly making it obvious how gigantic this castle like structure actually was. “Is more than just a simple space ship….it’s a giant space faring representation of what our proud nation Yu Jing stands for, a cultural ambassador who’s single purpose is to spread our culture to other worlds, space stations or whoever else it comes across….in a peaceful way. Designed in a traditional style to spark the imagination of everyone witnessing its current position, and equipped with an eye catching advertisement system.” pointing at the giant Dancing Panda Holograph above the structure I earned myself some laughs for the sentence.
“Its interior contains a representation of a Yu Jing City, actually not too different from The Neon Dragon, but maybe a bit less “rough”, and is filled to the brim with Restaurants, Bars, Shopping Areas, Spaces for traditional festivals or other everyday life events, as well as theatres and even an Arena for Martial Arts Contests or military demonstrations and the like. It’s designed to land on planets or link into the giant circulator Starships, or simply dock onto space stations or other space ships when the opportunity arises. It even has its own ISS Detachment on board to ensure it’s safety, and as you can all imagine, that’s where our part comes in.”
More cheers followed this statement. “Don’t worry, we won’t be assigned to the Dancing Panda forever, but its current ISS Detachment is in dire need of some shore leave and R&R, and we have thus been selected to switch places with them for the duration of their extended shore leave. We will be stationed in the ISS Bunker in the middle of the Space Ship, a replica of the more basic ISS Outpost that you’d find in other areas of the Yu Jing Empire, and each of you will have his own apartment onboard of the ship.”
Even those that had been confused or grumpy before now started to ease up a little “Some of you have heard that this assignment is considered a “Jackpot” among the ISS Stations, and indeed it most likely won’t be nearly as challenging as some of our other recent actions have been, and of course we’ll all get to visit some new and exciting locations, but don’t let this fool you everybody, there will be challenges during our journey, more so than the Dancing Panda would normally face because the current destination of the Dancing Panda isn’t some cozy planet, but rather the Wotan Gate Blockade near Paradiso.”
At this revelation everyone inside of the room looked at the holo projector which changed its image to a depiction of the Wotan Gate and the Blockade around it and uttered a surprised “oooooooh..”
“The Emperor himself has deemed that recent events there have strained the relation between Yu Jing and some of the other factions present in the blockade to a point that might cause problems in the future, and has thus decided to send the Dancing Panda there to lighten up the mood and promote Yu Jings good will to everyone. We even got official O12 sanction for our “diplomatic mission” there, granting us docking rights to some of the facilities that otherwise maybe would be a bit reluctant to let a Yu Jing ship connect to them…which some of them might not like very much, so as I said….prepare for more action than this assignment would normally bring.”
More “ooooh”s and some disappointed “aaaaaw”s where all that followed this news, but overall people seemed to be quite excited for the opportunity to travel around in space for a while, maybe enjoying themselves a little on what is basically one giant amusement park for grownups in space…in their free time that would be of course.
“Anyways….departure is tomorrow at 1800 sharp, I know it’s sudden, but the recent events at the gate are forcing our hand a little, and the earlier we are there the better. Family is actually allowed to accompany you on this assignment if the circumstances allow for it, and your accommodations and food will obviously be paid for. I heard food is actually extraordinarily delicious on the Dancing Panda, most likely because they hired some pretty fancy chefs….I even heard that the Iron Chef Musashi is going to be on board as part of a JSA Detachment that will accompany us to meet up with local forces on our arrival. “
As the screen flickered to show off the regiment name of the JSA Regiment that would accompany us I had to fight hard not to let my jaw drop to the floor in surprise and excitement. Apparently it was my old JSA Regiment that I had served with on Flamia that would accompany us, most likely having returned from R&R themselves after the hard operations on Flamia.
“Anyways, Personal Information regarding where you’ll stay on the ship and other things like that will be assigned to you by Kuan Fu Bao in a minute. Bring your gear along, make sure you have everything you need to be combat ready…..and let’s enjoy ourselves while we’re at it right? If someone needs me…I’m packing!”
Followed by the cheers of my subordinates I nodded once and left the room, Kuan Fu Bao replacing my position right away and continuing with the more in detail and personal part of the instructions to make sure everybody knew where they’d stay. Unlike the others I would have to pack on this very day already, as I would have to talk to the Dancing Pandas Captain on the next day before our departure to make sure everything ran smoothly and everyone knew what’s what.
As I arrived at what had by now truly become my new home, I almost couldn’t open the door, having to forcefully push it open with a considerable amount of strength. Once I made it through I instantly notice why, realizing my mistake when telling my stay-at-home Bodyguard Automaton Yuki to “Pack your stuff, tomorrow we’ll be leaving for a mission for several weeks..”.
Apparently the Automaton had seen this as an instruction to pack ALL stuff, and the thing blocking the door had been a few cardboard boxes stacked on top of each other, filled to the brim with the real book collection I normally had in the living room.
For a second there I thought about asking Yuki why she’d placed the boxes in front of the door, but if I had learned anything over the course of the last few weeks, it was that her answer would either be “For defensive purposes”, “None of your business O-san!” or “Where else would I stack them?”…none of which I felt in the mood to reply to at the moment.
Slipping past the stack of Boxes and barely avoiding to fall over a pair of my shoes lying in the middle of the floor, I was relieved to notice that Yuki hadn’t fully dismantled our whole apartment yet.
When I entered the living room I saw her sitting on the half disassembled couch, watching a “How to disassemble furniture” video on the Holo projector, quickly switching to the default screen as she noticed me staring at her in confusion, and then attempting to hide a piece of broken hybrid material behind her back “Oh eh..HEY O-SAN! Where have you been all day?! I have been packing all this time while you were slacking!”.
Realizing that she couldn’t hide the broken piece she instead held it in front of her angrily and waved it at me “Look! This piece of crap couch even broke when I tried to disassemble it! What kind of junk have you bought?”
Grabbing the piece and putting it against the wall after sighing frustrated I answered in a slightly grumpy yet resigned tone “That’s cause it’s not supposed to be disassembled there…the couch came in 3 parts, not 50…” . Hearing that Yuki’s cheeks started to puff up in anger, a strange sight for an Automaton, and she was about to begin another angry rant, but I quickly interrupted her by adding “Anyways….you got it all wrong, we are not leaving here with ALL our stuff, I asked you to pack YOUR stuff….so your uniforms, things you want to take along for the trip…” realizing the potential error of that sentence I quickly added “And that you can fit in a small bag…Don’t worry about the Couch and the other stuff, just quickly collect the things you need, I will be packing as well, we will be leaving tomorrow morning, so there’s little time left.”
Before Yuki could realize that all her hard work of the last few hours had been for nothing, and could begin to vent her anger on me, I quickly left the room, grabbing my shoes from the floor as I walked past them, and entered my Bedroom to begin stuffing a large bag with clothing, a book or two from the boxes next to the door, and some other nicknacks, as well as my training Equipment for the Dojo. I didn’t know if there would be a Dojo on board of the “Dancing Panda”, but I’m sure I’d find a place to keep myself on edge, even if the mission should proof to be less interesting than I thought.
In the Living room I could hear Yuki cursing for a while, but also heard her open the little cupboard that I had assigned to her, which by now contained some alternative outfits for her, including a Hex Patterned Black and Orange Cheongsam that somehow managed to make her look at least a little elegant. I gifted it to her in case she’d ever have to accompany me to any official event, and even though she claimed to not give a damn about it, she seems to treasure it quite a bit, having stored it in Silk Paper wrapping and always making sure not to rough it up when she searched through the small cupboard for some of her other clothing.
She had also put some small trinkets inside of the cupboard, one of which I could hear being unpacked as it chimed audible as she pulled it out. It was a tiny little traditional Karakuri doll, dressed like a Shinto Priest which when wrung up would walk along the floor a few steps, and then chime a little crotal bell tree it held in his hand, turning sideways and chiming the bell tree again, until it eventually did a full circle and then bow and stop in its movement. I don’t know why Yuki had grown so fond of this trinket, maybe because it reminded her of her own origin, but I found it kind of cute of her and in surprising opposition to her usual rough behavior, so I bought it for her and she even went as far as to thank me for doing so.
Of course not all of her trinkets where as cute as that, one of them being a little Tanuki Statue, which, typical for its kind, had a giant ball sack, in this case flung over its shoulder. For some reason this one had a bell inside of its ball sack, which rung whenever you shook it…so maybe I had put too much thought into her decision to get the trinkets…maybe she just liked to hear bells ringing…
Once I finished packing my things it was already close to midnight, so I visited Yuki in the Living room, satisfied to see that she hadn’t ruined any more furniture, and had indeed finished packing her own stuff, including a training Shinai which I got her for her Dojo training, wished her a good night, and then went to bed myself. Tomorrow things would get quite stressful, and if my gut feeling was to be trusted, it would be more than just the quaint little space cruise that some people thought an assignment on the Dancing Panda was going to be…
Comment: To those who frequently read my blog and have closely read Chapter 1.15….you might have noticed that I had to red-con the Ending of Chapter 1 a little bit to fit the changed entry point into the comming Campaign Strikezone Wotan. I hope you won’t mind too much and will enjoy this different approach of reaching the sector as well 😉