Roxie expected a shock, but nothing came. From what she heard, it didn’t hit Leon either. ‘Checkmate’ disappeared, revealing the fluffy bleached hair of their savior. Of course, he winked.
“Emil! You came back!” Leon voiced Roxie’s glee.
“Told’ja I would.” Emil looked over his shoulder, giving them a thumbs up. “I woulda been here sooner if someone hadn’t closed the secret passageway.” He looked ahead.
“Lieutenant, What are you doing here?” The captain broke his silence.
“I could ask you the same thing!” His brother glided over toward him. “What is this place?”
Captain Galhardo’s visor once again covered his eyes. “We can discuss this later.”
“They already know about the place, so you might as well tell ‘em.”
He sighed. “We are currently standing in the ship’s engine room.”
“There’s an engine here?” asked Leon.
“It’s not in this section, which is why I had you test patterns here.”
Emil looked around. “Oh, so that’s what you guys were doing?”
“We trespassed and touched the sensitive materials, and for that, we face punishment.” Roxie explained, pointing at the cloths.
Emil touched one of them. “These blankets? They don’t look like sensitive materials to me.”
“They’re not blankets.”
“What are they?”
The captain folded his arms. “...Capes.”
“Nice collection!” Roxie commented. “But it seems really dangerous to keep them here. What if they get caught on something?”
He looked down and to his side. “They’re clear from any moving parts. But you are correct in that this isn’t the place for personal belongings.”
“Why not put ‘em under your bed?” suggested Emil. “That’s where I keep all my stuff!”
“I will consider that, Lieutenant.”
Leon raised a hand, but the captain kept his head down, so he wasn’t able to see it.
Emil answered for him. “Yes, Rookie?”
“Oh, I was just gonna ask if it was okay to speak now.”
“You did it anyway.” Roxie pointed out.
“Did I?” Leon laughed sheepishly. “Also, I was gonna point out that your hat’s kinda covering your face.”
“I am aware of that.” answered Captain Galhardo.
Roxie wondered why. She could only come to one conclusion. “Are you trying to hide your secret extra pair of glasses? They gave you a special advantage, didn’t they?”
“Uhhh.” Emil looked around. “If you call being able to read the settings a special advantage, I guess.”
His brother finally looked up. “I was hoping to keep that between us.”
“Oh! Was that what you were afraid of?” Leon asked. “People finding out you wear glasses? Don’t worry, Captain Lorie, lots of people wear glasses. We won’t think less of you because of it. There’s no need to be insecure!”
“I am not insecu–What did you just call me?”
Leon looked toward Roxie and Emil, the latter of which was making a ‘cut it out’ gesture with his hand to his neck. “What did I say?
“You called him ‘Captain Lorie.’” Roxie whispered.
“I did? Ah, Emil didn’t tell us that, just so you know!” Leon continued digging the lieutenant captain’s grave.
“Not directly.” Roxie tried to save him. “We figured it out from context clues.”
“Yeeeeah, and I’m sure they’ll never call you that again, right guys?” Emil smiled at Roxie and Leon, but his eyes were full of desperation. The other two nodded. “Anyway, the glasses thing. Don’t tell me you hid down here for a week ‘cuzza that.”
The captain busied himself taking down his capes.
Emil sighed. “Lorenzo,” he spoke his full name, “I thought we went over this. You can’t keep hiding for weeks at a time and leaving me with all the work! People are gonna think you’re lazy, and I know neither of us want that.”
“You weren’t left with all of the work. Any tasks I needed to handle, I accomplished.” His brother explained. “Just when no one else was present. But,” he took another cape in his hand, “if my absence makes the crew question my competence either way, I’ll be more present.”
“Good! ‘Cause you’re all outta hiding places!” Emil cheesed. “Unless there’s some other secret room you haven’t told me about.”
“There are none.”
“Besides,” Leon added, “spending all your time alone in a place like this seems so lonely. You can come up and talk to us. Everything we know about you so far’s been from Emil,–”
The captain shot his younger brother a look.
Emil raised his hands defensively. “Only good things!”
“–But we’d love to get to know you for ourselves!”
“Yeah!” Roxie chimed in. “Let us discuss capes together!”
“See? I told’ja people wanna get to know you!” Emil slung an arm around the captain’s shoulder. “You might be able to ignore it from me, but I think you’re outnumbered here.”
The captain took a deep breath and began to walk toward the stairs. Emil, Roxie, and Leon followed, leaving the battlefield stripped of both cloths and mysteries. How embarrassing!
“And remember,” the captain floated toward the opening, “none of you are permitted to tell other of this area or enter it without my permission. Understand?”
“You mean the suspicious-lookin’ place down there?” a voice asked from above. “And what’s with the blankets?”
The captains, Roxie, and Leon all emerged to see Aiden, who the voice belonged to.
“Is that the engine room?” Jun joined him. “Cool glasses, Captain. I was kinda wondering how the simulation glasses would work for people who had prescriptions. Seems like a design flaw.”
Mia stood further back. “We heard some talking coming from the walls, so…”
Roxie detected a hint of mortification behind the captain’s face of stone. While he and Emil handled all of the questions and comments, Roxie remembered one loose thread that hadn’t been dealt with yet.
“Yeah?” Leon’s baby face grew suspicious as Roxie’s hand reached toward it.
“We have some unfinished business.”
Leon resigned himself to getting pinched. Thus, all was right with the world.
An oddball group of astronauts are sent into the unknown with little experience and problems ranging from minor to Ursa Major. Will the crew of the Celestion-5 go down in history as humanity's first travelers to Neptune, or will lousy luck, personal problems, and military mismanagement be the doom of these future stars?