All eyes fell on the man in the doorway. At least, this was what Leon assumed, since the newcomer stood in front of him, and in order to see where everyone else's eyes were looking, he would have to look away. It was still a safe assumption.
After all, this was the first time any of them got a look at their captain.
The captain stared ahead, looking directly at no one, but seeming to have everyone in his sights. Built like a stone pillar, he may've not been the tallest in the room, but the rookie found him to be the most imposing… except for maybe that guy on the other side of the line-up, who was much taller and had a mean look about him. The stony man stepped forward with all the poise expected of an experienced captain, though he didn't look much older than early twenties.
"Attention. Hand, salute." Leon's hand shot up to salute at the captain's command. The ascended cadet peered over to his right to make sure he was doing the right thing. Everyone else's hands were in the same position, even the tall guy, whose salute was much slower than the others. The captain glanced over in his direction, but didn't say anything.
A flourescent yellow cape billowed behind the leader as he finally stepped into the room. The rookie wasn't even aware that captains could wear capes. It looked so majestic. He wanted one of his own, but he knew the captain must've earned it through discipline and hard work. Speaking of majestic, the impossibly cool lieutenant captain sidestepped from behind his superior. Leon smiled at him, and to his surprise, Emil winked back. The rookie felt special.
The captain also had his eye on the poofy-haired lieutenant, but he wasn't smiling.
"Lieutenant." he addressed him, almost questioningly.
"Yeah br-, yeah Captain?"
After the captain glanced back and forth between him and the rest of the crew, the lieutenant understood.
"Oh!" Immediately, he stood at attention, saluting. "Sorry." he whispered.
"Apologies don't protect you from rule violations." The captain turned his head toward his crew. "This, of course, goes for all of you as well. As star rangers, I expect you to know the rules," He turns toward the tall guy "...as well as the ramifications for breaking them. At ease."
Leon, as well as the others, relaxed their posture at the captain's command. He couldn't remember if this was the command where he could speak or not, but no one else did, so he kept quiet.
"Now we may proceed." The captain cleared his throat. "You're now aboard the Celestion-5, the fifth and arguably most crucial ship in the Celestion project. Our mission is bigger than us, bigger than anything the Interstellar Forces has done thus far."
He took a moment to pause.
"We're going to Neptune."
Though he was told the mission objective months in advance, Leon still gasped, struggling to keep a smile off his face. He couldn't believe this was finally happening to him. His hopes and dreams lie just beyond the Earth's atmosphere. He'd be with them in just under a few hours. A few days and a quarter-million miles beyond that, he would take his first steps on the Moon, filled with the same excitement as pioneers were more than half a century ago. He could cry right now. Would he make it to Neptune before dying of excitement? Only time could tell.
The captain continued. "The only reason any of us are standing here right now is sheer luck. But as you know, luck is not what runs the Interstellar Forces. No, the Interstellar Forces runs on perseverance, hard work, and the pursuit of knowledge." He gazed up at the ceiling, giving himself a moment to contain his passion. "It runs on honor, strength, and integrity. Feats mankind couldn't have dreamed of just decades ago have been achieved through the arduous physical and mental labor of those who came before us. We should be humbled that despite all odds, the Interstellar Forces, and the United States of America as a whole has chosen us to undertake such a mission, to seize an opportunity like this, to-"
A quiet cough from Emil snapped the reverent captain out of his speech. In fact, the latter goes completely silent, and blinked a few times before continuing on.
"A-Anyway. Yes. We'll have a lot to prove. But the fact that each of you have passed Interstellar Forces basic training tells me that you have it in you to…" His once strong voice quieted down to a monotonous whisper as he tipped down his hat. "...to handle this assignment."
Silence followed. Leon got the feeling that something was supposed to be happening, but no one knew what. The captain glanced at his lieutenant expectantly. Emil looked back at him, confused.
The blond didn't reply. He seemed almost frozen in place. Thus continued the awkward staring contest with the captain.
"You are allowed to ask our crew to state their positions."
The lieutenant stood in place with a confused, conflicted expression on his face. "Uh, Captain? You-you didn't give me the order."
"What order? I just gave you an order."
"You didn't say I could say anything yet, the last thing you said was 'at ease.' I thought we were supposed to stand here like statues no matter what, like you did back in academy!"
"What? That was- Emil, remember? Coach told me-"
As the discussion went on, Leon took the opportunity to get a better look at his crewmates, starting with the woman next to him. She stood a little taller than him, around Emil and the captain's height. Freckles were lightly smattered across her face, and she had light red hair that looked natural enough to abide by military guidelines, and unnatural enough to remind him of those fashionable space punks who lived on the moon colony.
"Hi, are you from Lunaria?" he asked her. She didn't respond, and that was when he realized how rude he was being.
He forgot to introduce himself first!
"I'm Leon, by the way. Leon Summers!" he whispered, so as not to interrupt the captains' conversation. "Is your hair dyed? It looks kind of pink!"
She shook her head in an odd direction, toward the front of the room. Maybe that was how they did it on the moon.
"Is that a no…?"
She jerked her hand forward a couple times. Leon had no idea what that meant, but if he had to guess, maybe she wanted to shake hands? He offered his hand to her.
"Hi, I'm Leon...again." He forgot he'd already introduced himself.
His crewmate obviously shook her head this time, but at what, Leon did not know. Was 'Leon' not an acceptable space punk name? Did she not want a handshake? He didn't even know if she was really from the moon or not. This lady was so mysterious!
"A-Are you from Lunaria?"
She paused. Then, she nodded once, before resuming her other strange gestures. Leon couldn't believe that he met a real life Lunarian! He had so many questions about what life on the moon was like. It'd probably take him the whole trip to Neptune and back to ask them all.
"Have you lived on the moon your whole life?"
Her lips formed a tight line. She tooks a deep breath, and nodded once. Then, she spoke.
"We can talk. Later." She whispered. "Right now," she gestured to the front of the room. "Th-the captain-"
"The captain what, Ranger Wattson?"
As he asked this, the captain stared directly at her and Leon, moreso at her. She froze completely, like a horror-stricken salt pillar. Leon felt like he'd swallowed his heart.
Her mouth opened and closed as if she was a broken fish animatronic. Finally, words forced themselves out. "M… My apologies, C-captain. Sir."
The captain remained unimpressed. "What did I say about apologies?"
"They won't save me from punishment, sir."
"Hopefully your memory serves you that well next time. I'll still be writing down your name for a conduct violation."
"Yes, sir…" Her already pale skin blanched completely. Leon wanted nothing more than to apologize, but judging by the captain's glare, now wasn't a good time to say much of anything.
"Lieutenant, continue on with the procedure." As the captain glanced as him, Leon felt his posture growing straighter than he ever thought it could.
"Alllrighty!" With a clap of his hands, the lieutenant cut through the silence. "III'm gonna need you all to introduce yourselves, last name first, first name last, and rank. Got it? Good! We'll start with you!"
Emil went over to the side of the line opposite from where Leon stood. "Your name and rank, please?"
A girl's voice chimed. "Allen, Roxanne. Ranger."
"I see you're also in medical training?" asked the lieutenant.
"Yep! ...Sir. Sir, yep, sir!"
"Seems like we already have something in common! Nice meeting you, Roxanne!" Emil walked down to the next person. "State your name and rank, please?"
"Kelly, Aiden. Ranger." Droned a board voice. It must've been the tall guy with the scar.
"Have we… met before? I coulda sworn I've seen you around somewhere..."
"Okaaay then! Nice to meet'cha anyway!" the lieutenant's footsteps grew closer. "Now you! You really don't need to introduce yourself, but why don't you humor us anyway?"
It caught Leon's attention that after this ranger, the redhead would introduce herself next, and then he'd get to introduce himself. How exciting!
"An honor to meet you!" Emil replied, after getting the dark haired ranger's introduction."I can't believe we get to be on board with a real life hero! Can I get your autograph later?"
"Lieutenant, this is not the time." The captain interrupted.
"Okay, okay...sir. Next we have..." Emil finally moved to the star ranger next to Leon. "You! State your name and rank, p-leeease?"
"Wattson… Mia. Ranger."
Mia… that was her name. She sounded so defeated. Leon wished he could say something to cheer her up.
"Nice to meet you! And lastly we have…" Emil stood right in front of Leon. "You! Who I already met back at the spaceport. Well, I saw all of you, but I had to specifically go looking for this guy. I already know your name and rank, but introduce yourself to the rest, please?"
"Lé- Summers, Léonardo. Léonardo Summers!"
"Your rank is Léonardo Summers?"
Leon laughed. "I meant- Ranger. I'm a ranger."
"You're also a rookie, if I'm correct?" asked the lieutenant captain.
"Welcome to the team, Rookie!" Emil winked once more. The day wasn't even over yet and Leon already had his own nickname. He felt like he could drift off into space at any second.
The lieutenant returned to the captain's side and the latter spoke once again. "Now that everyone is accounted for, does anyone have any questions?"
One hand raised up.
"Yes, Ranger Allen?"
"What's your name?"
"My name is…" The captain stopped to think. "You may address me as Captain Galhardo."
"Okie-dokie, Captain Galhardo, sir!"
The same hand raised itself.
"Yes, Ranger Allen?"
"What's your name?" She must've been addressing the lieutenant captain this time.
"Lieutenant Captain Galhardo." corrected Captain Galhardo.
"Okaaaaay! I mean, yes sir!"
Silence followed for a few moments, only for Ranger Allen to raise her hand a third time.
"Are you guys brothers?"
"Yes." both captains answered.
Before the ranger could ask another question, Captain Galhardo spoke once more. "If you have any further questions, please direct them to the lieutenant captain as he gives you a tour of the ship. In the meantime, I'll be configuring the control room."
As quickly as he said it, he left the room. For a brief moment, his cape got caught in the doorway and he had to open it again for it to get unstuck.
"Well." Emil clasped his hands together. "Time to give you guys a tour!"