"Excuse me, sir, can you direct me to the Celestion boarding area?"
"Head straight and uhhhh, make a left at the- wait, you said you were going to the Celestion units?"
"Yes!" The young star ranger gave a nod. "It's my first deployment, actually! I can't wait to take off for space!"
"Woah, woah, there kiddo. You look like you're going to explode with excitement!"
"I might!" The brunet laughed, revealing a set of bucked teeth. Whether he's laughing at his own joke or from sheer excitement, even he couldn't tell. The older star ranger laughed with him.
"Just head straight and make a right at the escalators." instructed the close-shaven veteran.
The new recruit gave a hearty salute. "Thank you, sir! I'll be on my way." He walked a little ways past the stranger before turning back. "Take care!"
"Go get 'em, tiger!" advised the veteran.
The elder's snickering grew fainter and fainter as the young adult moved further away. With bags in hand, he walked as fast as his short legs could carry him.
So this was the spaceport. Bustling, spacious, sprawling; it was everything he hoped it would be and more! He could see himself in the reflection of the floor, grinning with wonder. Though the area was crowded, a lofty ceiling made him feel as though he had all the space in the world; so much space, he could get lost in it. And that, he did. While staring at it, he accidentally bumped into someone.
The rugged passerby gave him a scowl, before continuing left of the escalator. He had quite a scar on his face.
The new recruit continued to the right. As he neared his destination, enormous windows came into view, showcasing the runway under the clear blue sky. He beelined directly for them. Precious inches of space were the only thing separating his face from the glass before him, and he almost dropped his duffle bags in awe of the state-of-the-art spacecrafts. Today, he would be boarding one of them.
Today, his wildest dreams would come true.
He looked at his watch. His ship was scheduled to take off in 30 minutes. Looking around, he couldn't see any other star rangers in the waiting area. Strange. He must've been the first to show up! Punctuality was sure to make a good impression with his captain, so he celebrated making it here so early.
Time passed while he struck up conversation with strangers before eventually getting distracted by an informational video on the moon colony. Though Lunaria is so far away, the starry-eyed recruit felt like it lay within his grasp for the first time. He could almost breathe that artificial air.
There was still no sign of the rest of his crew, but he didn't feel like much time had passed. He continued talking to the other passengers in waiting, until they started boarding one of the spacecrafts. He got the feeling something was off, but decided to wait a few more minutes. The Lunaria info-video mesmerized him too much for him to leave. As he learned new facts about the moon colony, minutes upon minutes passed.
Still no sign of his crew.
Maybe now was a good time to check the time. The slightly concerned ranger pulled out his phone, his eyes widening in horror at what it displayed. It was 25 minutes past when his ship should have taken off. He frantically made his way over to the receptionist.
"Excuse me! This is the boarding area for the Celestion ships, isn't it?"
"Oh, no sir." the receptionist corrected him. "Are you with the Interstellar Forces?"
He nodded frantically. "Yes! I was supposed to be boarding a ship 25 minutes ago. Do you know where it might be?"
"All IF spacecraft are located on the other side of the spaceport." The receptionist motioned directly behind him.
"Thank you, thank you so much," He shook the receptionist's hand vigorously. "I can't thank you enough, seriously! My career is in your hands!"
The stocky star ranger ran toward his new destination, stumbling and nearly dropping his bags along the way. Did the others leave without him? He sure hoped the others didn't leave without him. As beautiful as the spaceport was, he wouldn't want to be stuck waiting there while his crew had the time of their lives in space.
Time was of the essence. There was no room for distractions, not even-Oooh, was that a replica of the spaceport? His little brother would've loved to see something like that! It would only take a second to text him a picture of it-No. Now wasn't the time for that! He had a mission, and nothing could get in his way. He passed by souvenir shops with cute t-shirts that he'd love to get his hands on. Now wasn't the time for that. The fresh smell of cheesy pizza pursued him as he remembered he hadn't eaten since the early morning. Now wasn't the time for that, either. Somebody called the name Léonardo Summers in the background. Now wasn't the time for-
That was his name.
The frantic young recruit turned toward the call. It came from a star ranger with a bleached blond afro. A rush of relief washed over the rookie, and he rushed over to the guy calling his name, almost dropping his bags in the process.
"W-Wait, that's me! I'm…! I'm Léonardo Summers!" he yelled between panting.
The other ranger looked his way, smiling. "Oh! There you are! I've been lookin' all over the place for you!"
"Ah...gosh! I'm so sorry!" The brunet stopped to catch his breath. Usually, he had much more stamina, but all the running around while carrying his luggage made his limbs feel like lead and his chest feel like it was on fire. "I had been waiting in the completely wrong area and I thought it was the right area but I thought it was strange because no other star rangers were there, but I stayed anyway, I can't even remember why I stayed there, then I checked my watch and it was like 'Shoot, I'm late!' and-"
The curly-haired star ranger chuckled. "It's okay, man. Catch your breath. Seems like we both had a busy day!"
"You can say that again!" the tired ranger replied, his voice now raspy. "Are you with the Celestion-5?"
"Yeah! The name's Emil. I'll be your lieutenant captain."
Lieutenant captain? The young ranger had been expecting someone in their mid-twenties or early thirties to hold that position. This Emil looked around the same age as him, a recent high school graduate.
He looked amazing, too! Emil stood a couple inches taller than the awestruck recruit, around average height for a guy their age. His bright, amber eyes glistened with warmth and good nature. His skin was a deep olive tone that complimented his golden hair nicely, and vice-versa. He had a smile emanating with charisma. To the rookie, Emil looked more at home on a silver screen than in the Interstellar Forces. Was this guy even real?
"Ranger Summers, reporting for duty, sir!" The rookie dropped one of his bags so he could properly salute his superior. Might as well try to make as good of an impression as he could after being so late.
"Pleasure to meet you, too! Want me to help you with your bags? You looked like you were struggling earlier."
"Ah! Thank you!" He handed the lieutenant the bag he still held. "Here, this one is lighter."
"Thanks~" The young lieutenant took the bag firmly in one hand and offered a handshake with the other. His grip was crushing, but the recruit tried not to show any anguish. "Shall we be off? The others are waiting for us!"
"Yeah!" Reinvigorated, the new ranger picked up his other bag with newfound energy and a smile to match.
"You've got a lot of spirit, Léonardo!" Emil shared his energy. "I think I'm gonna like you!" He winked.
"I think I'm gonna like you too! And please, you can just call me Leon."
The two made their way to the other end of the spaceport, which was noticeably emptier. In fact, other than the receptionist, no one was there.
Emil slapped his forehead. "Aww man, did they leave without us?"
"They left already?" Leon felt his heart begin to break. To think that after all this preparation, it only took one wrong turn to crush his dreams.
It must've shown on his face, judging by the lieutenant's reaction.
"Woah, hey now, don't look so down! I didn't mean that they took off. See?" Emil pointed toward the window. "Our ship's right outside waitin' for us."
Sure enough, one ship remained on the runway. Leon rushed to the window to get a better look.
There it was. A sleek, silver behemoth sporting golden wings and a curved window at the front. Its shape was reminiscent of an airplane, but much rounder. From the top, it resembled a star.
"That's our ship...?" he asked in disbelief.
"Yeah." Emil now stood at his side. "I know it's kinda small, but-"
"It's incredible!" blurted the rookie. He opened his eyes as wide as he could, taking in every little detail. "I can't wait to get inside!"
"You won't have to wait much longer, then." The lieutenant smiled, already walking toward the boarding tunnel. "Follow me!"
Leon followed Emil through the tunnel and down some stairs into the wide open runway. He felt a slight breeze on his skin, the last time he would ever do so before going into space.
"It's so beautiful..." Leon felt as if he might start crying as they approached the ship. He had to keep his cool, at least in front of Emil.
"Glad'ja think so! Me and the captain spent the last coupla days sprucing things up." The blond averted his eyes with a smile. "Mostly him, though."
Finally, they found themselves standing underneath the ship. Ahead of them was a room begging for the rookie to enter, but all he could do was stand in place, staring.
"Here we are!" Emil bowed and gracefully rolled out an arm toward the room. "This is the loading deck, where we load things and people."
Leon didn't budge.
The lieutenant nudged him along. "C'mon, don't be shy!"
Leon took a few steps forward. He now stood in the Celestion-5.
"I… I'm here. I'm standing in a real, actual spaceship!" He tapped the floor with his foot a few times to make sure it was real. A large mirror on the wall reflected his joy from a distance.
"We are!" A smile rivalling Leon's spread to Emil's face, revealing a chipped tooth. "Is this your first time on one?"
He rubbed his hands together. "Well, aren't you in for a treat? I'd hate to rush you, but we can't keep the others waiting for too long."
"Ah, you're right, you're right." Though Leon could've stayed in this room forever, he didn't want to hold up the others.
Emil handed Leon his other bag. "Just throw your bags wherever and let's head upstairs, okay?"
"Yes, sir!" The rookie placed his bags over by a group of luggage. Those must be his crewmates'. He couldn't wait to meet them all!
The lieutenant waved his words away. "Ahh, you don't have to call me that! Save the formalities for when we're around the captain." He winked.
He allowed Leon to take the spiral staircase ahead of him while a door at the top of it caught the latter's attention.
"What's that room?" asked the bucktoothed ranger.
"Oh, that? That's the burner room." Emil explained. "We'll use that to burn our trash, and I thiiink it'll help fuel the ship? The captain knows more about that kinda stuff."
"Coool-Ah!" Leon bumped his head on the ceiling.
"Whoops, be careful!" the blond warned after the fact. "Press that button on the panel up above you."
Leon obeyed. When he did, a circular door slid open, allowing him to enter the next room.
"Yeah, now we're going places!" Emil cheered.
Go places, they did. They finished climbing the stairs to see… another set of stairs.
"There's a lot of spiral staircases on this ship, huh?" noticed Leon.
"Tell me about it." Emil complained as they climbed yet another set of stairs. "I can't tell you how many times I tripped over these."
"You?" The bucktoothed ranger couldn't imagine him missing a step, let alone tripping over anything. "You seem so… I dunno if this is the right word, but stylish? Graceful! Yeah, graceful is the word I'm looking for."
"Me? Graceful?" Emil's incredulous laughter could be heard from behind.
"Yeah! Honestly, you're just a cool guy in general."
"Oh… wow, um. Thanks. I try!" He sounded almost touched. "You're a really cool guy too!"
"Really?" Leon couldn't believe his ears. If he weren't going to space, this would be the best thing to happen to him all day.
"Yeah, I like your enthusiasm!"
"My enthusiasm?" he asked, enthusiastically.
"Yeah, like that! I feel pumped up just talkin' to ya!"
The rookie ranger could float up the rest of the stairs.
"Watch out for the ceiling." Emil warned.
Leon stopped just in time to avoid bumping his head again. He saw another panel above him. "Do I just press this?"
"Y-" The blond stopped mid answer. "Actually, knock first. Someone might be standing above you. Don't want 'em tumbling down on top of us."
Leon knocked on the circular disk above him.
"We're comin' through!" Emil shouted to the room above. He then addressed Leon. "You can open it now."
The circular disk slid open after Leon pressed the panel. Thankfully, no one fell on top of him. He and the lieutenant entered a room where no more stairs awaited them. Instead, there were four other rangers standing in a row.
"Everyone still here?" Emil surveyed the room. "Good!" Suddenly he frowned. "Wait, where's the captain?"
Someone pointed to the door at the front of the room. It was decorated with a little star.
The blond tilted his head back, sighing. "I'll be back." He pointed toward one end of the row. "Leon, you stand over there."
After closing the circular entrance, Emil jogged through the door ahead, mumbling something about a lousy way to treat guests. Leon barely had any time to look around the room before he heard him shouting from behind the door.
"I'm baaack! ...Yeah! Of course I found the last guy! We couldn't just leave him behind! What would Dad think? ...They're waiting for you to come back! Now get down here so I don't hafta climb another set of stairs!"
The door cracked open slightly.
"We'll be with you shortly." With a quick, professional message, the lieutenant closed the door as quickly as he opened it.
Leon didn't mind the wait. He still tried to process the fact that he was on a spaceship. Looking at this room, it didn't feel like it. Walls of teal surrounded him with the only colors being the brown door and an orange stripe on which he and the others stood. Still, being here was just so exciting, he couldn't help feeling giddy.
He almost didn't notice the jiggling of the doorknob, as it opened to reveal the Celestion-5's most important crewmember.