A uniformed Beseth Dunijian Army private held open the door to the Situation Room, one of multiple similar conference rooms in the towering skyscraper that served as the nexus for governmental affairs for the Sovereign Duchy of Beseth Dunijia. Duke Shasta Ardeind strode through, waving his hand at the numerous governmental officials who stood upon his entrance.
“Sit, sit. Where are we?” the duke asked as he sat down at the head of the table. His chief of staff, Arnie Silver, who had followed him in, took a seat next to him.
“Dropships are en route, sir,” Praetor Darim announced.
“Excellent. Get a comms-link with PGLSUBCOM. And State, inform the UNF of our intentions.”
Klaxons blared loudly as Lieutenant Viru Koskila ran out of the pilot’s ready room towards her dropship, parked near the east wall of the hangar. She ran into the craft, entering through a service hatch next to the left side ball turret, and quickly scaled the ladder to the cockpit.
“All boards green. Weapons hot. Engines warming up.” Her copilot, Ensign Elesa Kimochi, replied. “We’re good to go.”
“Blackjack Leader to all call signs. Call in,” the squadron leader for 1st Transportation Wing, 6th Squadron, Captain Lasayuki Davu, called over the squadron frequency.
“Blackjack Two, engines hot. Ready for launch.” Of course, he’s ready. That ship’s been on Ready 5 for the past two hours.
“Blackjack Three, weapons computer offline for software upgrade. Need two for reboot.”
Lieutenant Koskila toggled her mike. “Blackjack Four, standing by.”
“Blackjack Five. All set.”
“Blackjack Lead copies all. Prep for launch. We have green ball. Blackjack Three, catch up when you can.”
Ensign Kimochi raised her eyebrows. “Leaving a ship behind? This must really be an emergency.”
“I thought that was a given from the alarm,” the lieutenant countered as she began guiding her dropship towards the hangar launchway. “But yes, it is interesting that we’re launching without Blackjack Three.”
Kimochi sighed. “Just my luck. Scramble mission on my very first day with the squadron.”
“You’ll be fine. Hey, we’re all pretty new here. Of course, the captain and some of the veterans have flown before, but not on these dropships. Not enough, at least. So long as you don’t pull any stupid ■■■■■■■■, you’ll be fine.” Koskila smiled as she said, “Just follow my lead, a’ight? Now, hush. Blackjack Five’s launching now. The captain will probably be beginning his briefing - ”
Right on cue, Captain Davu began talking on the frequency as Blackjack Five swooped out of the gaping maw marked by white and red boundary lights that was the opening to the squadron’s hangar and formed up with the rest of the squadron in the wide tunnel leading to the outside of the asteroid. As the squadron formed up into a single file formation and flew out of the asteroid, the captain began explaining the situation in Eugales. “We’ll have to run evasive courses. Course to Eugales and the first set of bounces are being transported to your navicomputers now. Good luck, and let’s save some people!”
The PGLSUBCOM watch center was abuzz with activity. Supervisors stood over technicians who sat at their desks, working on screens and speaking into headsets. At the front of the room, a group of uniformed officers stood before three large screens.
“Squadron Six out of Aubenall is away. ETA to the Argallant is … seventeen minutes,” a comms technician called to his watch supervisor, who marked it down on his screen.
“Get that comms-link set up now!” Lt. Col Maiker ordered, walking briskly toward the front of the bullpen. “I want feeds from the dropships patched in as well.”
“Yes, sir,” one of the technicians seated below the row of screens said as he pressed keys on his comm-desk. “Venal’s coming online now, sir.”
The center screen flickered to life. “Lieutenant Colonel Maiker?” An Amarr wearing a suit asked. He was seated at the head of a long conference table, flanked by officials wearing military uniforms or business suits. He was flanked by two Amarrian men, one a stocky, balding man wearing a business suit and the other a taller, younger man wearing a Dark Wolf Legion uniform with the crimson cape of a praetor. “What’s your status?”
“All dropship squadrons have launched and are en route to the sky platform Argallant’s projected location, milord. We’re currently trying to patch the feeds from the dropships into this link.”
“Projected location?” Praetor Darim asked.
“Yes, praetor. Unfortunately, I had to recall the recon aircraft for refueling. We can only estimate the Argallant’s current location based on its last known position, trajectory, and rate of descent. However, our projections indicate that acquiring the platform will only add ten to fifteen minutes to the evacuation. Milord, your quick decision has given us a few hours’ buffer. Unless something goes disastrously wrong, we’ll be able to get everyone off the platform in time.”
“That’s good,” the duke said, glancing momentarily at something offscreen before returning his attention to the feed of the watch center. “I see you have successfully patched the dropship feeds into this link. Thank you. Now, I’ll let you get back to your coordination efforts.” The duke turned his attention to some files lying in front of him. Recognizing his dismissal, the colonel assigned one of his aides to monitor the feed before heading back for the double semi-circle of tactical displays ringing the back of the bullpen.
“Exiting warp in three, two, one … ,” Lieutenant Koskila said, flipping a lever beside her. “Stand by on weapons. We’re going in hot.”
“Standing by on weapons,” Ensign Kimochi acknowledged from behind her.
“Blackjack Lead. All Blackjack craft, shift to vector 136, down 12. Forward full.”
Lieutenant Koskila acknowledged the order and nudged the yoke down and to the left to bring her craft into formation with the rest of the squadron before dragging her finger along a touchscreen on the left side of her dashboard to increase her ship’s speed to maximum.
“Entering atmosphere,” the lieutenant called out, looking back at her copilot as the dropship sliced through white clouds. “Keep an eye on those scanners. These clouds are really limiting visibility. I don’t want to run into anything.”
Ensign Kimochi’s reply was interrupted by the crackle of the ship’s comm. “Blackjack Lead to all Blackjacks. Command doesn’t have a fix on our target. We’ll need to manually search. Search pattern Echo. Center on Angels 65, coordinates … ,” the captain called. He reeled off a set of coordinates.
“Copy,” Lieutenant Koskila acknowledged. She pulled the coordinates up on her tactical display, marked a location, and began plotting a course. “I think we can start here, work our way east.”
Debris fell around engineer Dalton Termen as he ran down a maintenance corridor with the rest of his work party.
“C’mon! The stabilizers are right around this corner!” the lead engineer shouted. “Hurry! We don’t have much time!”
They turned the corner into a room full of smoke. “Camerin, you take the team, work on ventilation. We need to get the smoke out,” the lead engineer continued. “Dalton, you and I are going to start on the repairs. Start with minor damage, work our way up. Let’s get as many of these stabilizers functioning as possible! C’mon, let’s go! Chop, chop!”
Blackjack Three had spent the past half hour searching the clouds, in vain. Using their eyes and passive and active sensors alike, the flight crew scanned the sky around them, searching, but finding nothing.
Lieutenant Koskila sighed. “You want to check with Lead, make sure our target is actually at Angels 65? We’re finding nothing.”
“Alright,” the ensign replied, reaching for her mike. “You have any idea what we’re looking for, anyway?”
“Nope. Must be something important, if they’re scrambling every dropship they have in the constellation. Wait … hold that transmission. I’ve got something on the scopes. Bearing 356. You have it?”
“Yeah. Can’t tell what it is, though. You want to go check it out?”
“Yeah. Hold onto that transmission. We might not have to send it after all.”
Colonel Maiker checked his chronometer. Three quarters of an hour already. Still no sign of the Argallant. Maiker sighed as he turned his gaze back towards the hologram of the platform. They’d better hurry if we are to evacuate the whole platform in time.
“What’s the status of the fighting in system?” Maiker called out.
“UNF resistance holding strong. Launching counteroffensive in some areas. They’ve tied up most of the Gallente and CONCORD, sir. Dropships shouldn’t run into any resistance, sir.”
“Good. That’s one issue solved. But we’ve gotta find that goddamn platform first.”
Ensign Kimochi saw it first, off the port bow of the dropship as it emerged from a massive drifting cloud. The dome-shaped platform hung in the air, wreathed in plumes of smoke. “Lieutenant!”
“I see it! Report in!”
Kimochi toggled her mike. “Tallyho! Tallyho!”
“Tallyho! Tallyho!” the transmission blared into a technician’s headset. He scribbled down the coordinates before turning to the staff officers analyzing the tactical displays. “Sir, Blackjack Three has contact!”
“Get the rest of the dropships over there, pronto!” the senior aviator in the room shouted, clapping his hands. “Let’s go, let’s go!”
“How far out are our reinforcements?” Colonel Maiker asked a tactical officer standing next to him.
“ETA ranges from 37 to 98 minutes, sir. Most should be here within 49.”
“Good. We’ll need their lifting capability.”
Petty Officer Horsell stood next to the portside hatch of Blackjack Three as Koskila maneuvered her craft next to the Argallant.
“Stand by, stand by,” her copilot said over the intercom, carefully monitoring the distance between the platform and the dropship. “Activate clamps!”
Horsell slammed his hand down on a nearby panel to activate the magnetic clamps mounted to the side of the ship. They extended from the vessel to attach to the steel of the platform. Hydraulics strained as the clamps retracted again, drawing the dropship closer to the platform. Horsell hit another button. Plasma cutters around the hatch activated, cutting a neat hole in the platform. Within seconds, the cutting was done. The cutters deactivated, and a light on the panel activated. Horsell pressed one more button. The hatch slid open to reveal the hull. Together, Horsell and his fellow loadmaster pushed the cut-through section forward until it fell into the corridor beyond.
“You take right, I’ll take left. Stay on comms!” Horsell shouted. He began walking down the left corridor, waving for the stunned citizens to come towards him. “We’re evacuating the platform! Come on! Let’s go! We’re going to bring you to safety!”
“Hurry, hurry! This way, ma’am!” Horsell ushered a young girl into the dropship, nodding to his fellow loadmaster as he entered.
“All aboard!” The other petty officer called as she closed the hatch.
“Copy,” Koskila replied from the cockpit, pulling the yoke right. The dropship veered away from the platform. “Time to go.”
“First dropship’s away, sir.”
Excellent, excellent. Slow start, but it’s going well. Maiker shot another look at the viewscreens at the front of the room. Most of the space was taken up by live feeds from the dropships and status reports, but the feed to Venal was still prominently displayed on the center screen. Maiker watched the duke sit up straighter and nod along as a uniformed officer turned to speak to him.
By the time Blackjack Three returned to the Argallant, the evacuation effort was well underway. A dozen more dropships had arrived, landing in open public squares or attaching to the hull. A single-seater reconnaissance aircraft, tasked by PGLSUBCOM to assist with the search for the platform, had arrived on station to monitor the evacuation.
Onboard the platform, the public speaker system had begun blaring messages for inhabitants to congregate near public squares or in corridors near the edge of the platform. They assured the inhabitants that the dropships were run by UNF allies, and would bring those onboard to safety. Despite this, the platform managers were indeed trying to hedge their bets by continuing to send work crews to the bowels of the platform. Dalton Termen and his work party were among them, continuing their frantic effort to repair the atmospheric stabilizers.
“Wrench and bolts!” one engineer shouted. Another rifled quickly through a nearby duffel bag of tools, extracted a screwdriver, before sliding it across.
“Take it! Take everything you need!”
“Ahhh!” an engineer shouted in pain after accidentally electrocuting himself. Another engineer rushed over.
“Yeah … I’ll be fine! Go, do your work!” the injured man said, waving off his colleague’s attempts to aid him. He reached for the wires that he had been working on. “Go!”
“Come on, come on, got it!” Dalton shouted in triumph as he finally connected the last set of cables. “Giane, bring stabilizer 4 online!”
The Intaki engineer standing next to the control table flipped a switch. “Stabilizer 4’s on. Looking good! Running diagnostics now!”
“Bring her in close, Ensign,” Lieutenant Koskila ordered, having turned control of the craft over to the younger copilot. “Closer, closer … ”
Ensign Kimochi continued tapping the yoke to the left, nudging the dropship towards a service hatchway on the Argallant.
“Alright! That’s good. Horsell, go!”
“Activating stabilizer 7 … ,” Giane shouted.
“Smoke! Smoke!” an engineer shouted, noticing tendrils of smoke rising from behind a panel. “Smoke alarm, smoke alarm! Shut down 7!”
“Shutting down 7!” Giane shouted immediately, hitting the kill switch. It was the wrong decision, Dalton would later conclude. But, of course, hindsight is always 20/20.
Milliseconds after Giane killed the startup sequence of Atmospheric Stabilizer #7, the entire machine exploded. Three engineers were torn apart outright by the shock wave and flying shrapnel; four others were maimed. Dalton and a couple lucky others working on a stabilizer across the room were thrown off their feet by the blast, but otherwise escaped unscathed. Everyone else suffered minor injuries. The damage to the room, however, was severe. Stabilizer 7 was unsalvageable, and the two next to it were now heavily damaged. Previously repaired stabilizers were shutting down again. The last two hours’ efforts had been for naught, Dalton recognized. He was now in charge; his supervisor was lying in five pieces next to the wreckage of the destroyed stabilizer. Additional efforts would be useless. They had a chance, but the explosion ruined it. He ordered the work crew to withdraw, casting one last look at the shredded bodies and wreckage strewn across the back of the room before following.
“Sir, we have a problem. It appears the Argallant had been trying to repair its stabilizers.”
Colonel Maiker turned to the tactical officer. “Let me guess, it’s gone down the drain?”
“Yes. It seems one of the stabilizers exploded. They’ve got injured engineers who need evacuating, and it seems the platform’s now unfixable.”
Stakes are higher, now. If we don’t succeed … … … well, let’s not think about it. “Ok, have a crash team standing by at the rendezvous point. I want them on the next dropship that arrives. Send it to evac the engineers.”
“Alright, everyone off! Everyone off! Go, go, go!” Horsell shouted, waving everyone down the boarding ramp. He noticed a group of men and women wearing uniforms with red cross shoulder patches standing at the base of the ramp.
“You guys the medical team?”
An Althari woman shouted back, “Yes, we are!”
“Alright, get on board! Hurry up!” The crash team raced up the boarding ramp, clutching duffels full of equipment and wheeling gurneys aboard. As they stashed their equipment and the boarding ramp came back up, Horsell shouted into the intercom, “All aboard, let’s go!”
Dalton led his work crew down the maintenance corridor. “There’s a hatch ahead! Platform Command has asked a dropship to meet us there, with medical staff!” He shouted back at his fellow engineers. He pointed at a metal door ahead. “There! There’s the hatch!”
The group hustled forward, moving as quickly as they could without risking further injury. Dalton pushed open the door, and was nearly blown off his feet by the strong winds buffeting the landing. The landing extended from the doorway, which itself was part of a small pillar jutting out from the bottom of the platform. One of the younger engineers was the first to notice it. A large, gray vessel with red and black highlights materialized out of a massive plume of smoke.
“Looks like they’re outside, on a landing. I can get us close, and use the stabilizers to hold us still. You’ll probably still want to use the grapple lines, though.” Koskila called over the intercom.
The two loadmasters began unwinding grapple lines from their spools on both sides of the starboard hatch. The hooked, magnetic grapnels meant that only a truly inaccurate throw could miss. Horsell pressed the button to open the hatch. “Ready? Three, two, one … .”
The two loadmasters threw the lines at the railing of the landing, pulling the lines taut and hooking them on hooks at the top of the hatch. They waved their arms at the cluster of visibly injured men and women near the door at the far end of the landing. Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, Petty Officer Jacros noticed an Achuran woman dressed in a medic’s uniform edging toward the hatch.
“Hey, where are you going? Get back!” she shouted at the woman.
Lomiyo Fujioraki, the head of the crash team, shouted back. “I’m going outside to triage! We need to bring the heavily wounded on board first!” She pointed at the gurneys set up near the rear ramp. “We bring them on board first, we can give them more care, offload them first!”
“Alright, go, go, go!” the petty officer. “Quickly, quickly!”
Fujioraki raced out of the hatch, vaulting over the railing. Followed by two of her team, they raced towards the cluster. “Who’s injured, who’s injured?” They called, rapidly assessing the engineers. Scratches. Burns. Shrapnel to the face. Broken arm. Leg injury. That’ll be hard to get over the railing. He probably needs to go first. Bleeding. More bleeding. Puncture wound. That shard of glass is still in him.
“Ok, he, she, him, and … those two go on first.” Fujioraki said to her team, pointing at the most heavily injured engineers. “Him first.”
One of the other medics sidled up to the semi-conscious engineer, who was already supported by a fellow engineer. “We’re bringing him to the railing,” the medic explained. They half carried, half dragged the elderly Civire to the railing, where they were met by the loadmasters and two more medics.
“Broken leg, shrapnel to the back. Severe bleeding,” Hoden Saikko explained to the senior medic. “Grab his arms.”
Together, painstakingly, they lifted the Civire over the railing and into the dropship. “Get him onto the first gurney!” Fujioraki’s second-in-command ordered as he turned back to the engineer next to Saikko. “Grab my hand, come on. I’ll get you in here safely. Come on …, come on … … … ”
Dalton watched as one by one, his fellow engineers were evacuated from the platform by the medics and the dropship crew. Soon, he was the final one. Two of the medics had already boarded the craft to help tend to the injured. Only one remained, next to the railing, beckoning him over. “Come on, it’s safe. We’ve got you.”
Dalton walked over slowly, straddling the railing. Don’t look down, don’t look down, he thought to himself as he swung both legs over the railing. Don’t look down.
He looked down.
Down, down, into the endless clouds. I never knew we were this high up. Suddenly, he felt nothing below his foot. He had stepped off the platform. Not onto the dropship, however, but on air. He dropped.
“Woah!” Horsell’s voice boomed through the intercom. Startled, Ensign Kimochi instinctively jerked the yoke … to the left. Away from the platform.
Dalton felt weightless. Suddenly, a firm arm grabbed his.
“What the … ,” Horsell exclaimed as a medic balancing near the starboard hatchway slipped, his feet sliding towards the edge of the hatch, and the void beyond. The medic scrambled for a handhold.
“Grab my hand! Grab my hand!” Horsell shouted, extending his hand. The medic reached, missed, and reached again.
This time, Horsell caught his arm.
“Hold on!” He shouted to the medic before turning to the other loadmaster. “Tether! Give me tether!”
“What the … … grapnel’s are fraying, ■■■■, ■■■■ … get me tethers … ■■■■ … secure him … ,” a cacophony of voices roared over the intercom. “Grapnels fraying, grapnels fraying. … … Cockpit, what the ■■■■ are you doing?!?”
What … what is … what … what is going on? Ensign Kimochi thought to herself.
“Hold on!” Dalton heard. He looked up to see an Achuran woman leaning over the railing to grab his arm with both hands. “Can I get some help over here?!”
The ship rocked again under Horsell’s feet as he frantically gesticulated at the hatchway with his free hand. “Hold on, hold on, I’ll get to you!” He shouted before turning his head towards the intercom. “COCKPIT, ■■■■■■■ HOLD US STILL!!!”
“Ensign, hands off! Hands off!” Lieutenant Koskila shouted. “Pilot’s ship, pilot’s ship!”
“Pilot’s ship! Pilot’s ship, acknowledge!” Lieutenant Koskila screamed frantically. “Pilot’s ship! Acknowledge pilot’s ship! Acknowledge, damnit!”
“Pi … pilot’s craft?!?” Ensign Kimochi stuttered back.
“Pilot’s craft, thank you!” Koskila screamed as she nudged the yoke to drift the dropship back towards the side of the platform.
Horsell felt the ship stabilize beneath him. “■■■■■■■ HELL! THANK YOU, COCKPIT! NOW GIVE ME TETHER!”
His fellow petty officer slammed her hand into a button on the ceiling. A ceiling panel flipped down, dropping a rope which she quickly grabbed. She grabbed hold of Horsell’s harness and attached the tether to it by hooking a carabiner through a loop on the harness.
“You’re good, chief!” She said, patting Horsell’s shoulder. Horsell nodded as he cautiously edged towards the hatchway.
“I got you … I got you … ,” Horsell said reassuringly as he slowly dragged the medic back from the edge. “Ok, go, go, get inside!”
“You! Loadmaster! Support his torso!” the Achura woman on the landing shouted. She had leaned over the railing and grabbed his arm with both of hers, and was now straining to keep her grip. “What’s your name?”
“Dal … Dal … Dalton,” Dalton said.
“You’re an engineer?” The Deteis medic carefully adjusted his feet so one was in the dropship while the other was wedged securely under the bottom rail of the landing.
“Ye … yes,” Dalton said, his eyes drifting downward.
“Look at me! Don’t look down, look at me! How long’ve you been working on this platform?” Startled, Dalton lifted his gaze to meet the Achura’s again.
“Umm … two … … or three … months, I … I think - ooof!” Dalton started as a pair of arms wrapped around his chest, under his armpits.
“I got him!” The Deteis called. “Get on board, help pull him in!”
Working with a second medic , the Achura and Deteis slowly dragged Dalton aboard the dropship. As soon as his entire body was aboard, Hoden stepped back aboard the dropship and the other loadmaster hit the button to close the hatch. As the dropship ascended upward, Dalton lay on the floor winded. The two medics squatted next to him. “You alright?”
“Th … tha … thank y … you … ,” Dalton replied breathlessly, raising a thumb.
The ride was bumpy, but short. Within a dozen minutes, the dropship had set down in the Legion hangar again and the ramp crashed down.
“Go, go, go! Everyone off!” The loadmasters shouted, ushering everyone off. The crash team had disappeared into the hangar already, having raced off first with their equipment and the gurneys. Dalton was one of the last off before the dropship rose and sped back the way it came. He was stunned by what he saw. Thousands, no, tens of thousands, were congregating in the massive hangar. They’ve evacuated the ENTIRE platform? Goodness, the Argallant was massive! How … … … wow.
“Inside, inside!” The loadmaster shouted, waving for the UNF civilians to pile into the waiting dropship. As soon as the final civilian, a visibly pregnant mother carrying a young toddler, disappeared through the hatch, the loadmaster shouted, “Final call! Final call!” There was no response. The Gallente petty officer clambered into the hatch as well, slamming his hand down on the panel mounted next to it to seal the hatch and disengage the magnetic clamps.
“All aboard!” he shouted into the comm mounted on his flight suit. The flight crew responded immediately, sending the craft shooting upward, causing many to lose their footing. “Everyone hang on!”
“Sir, Dragon Two is away with a full complement. No casualties.”
“Recon’s reading negative on life signs. I think we’ve got all of them!”
“Confirm that!” the colonel shouted at the comm terminal.
“Sir, recon has a negative reading on life signs,” the female captain stated calmly through the comm. She gave her sensors one last cursory look. “I repeat, I am reading NO life signs on the Argallant. There’s no one onboard, sir. We’ve retrieved everyone.”
Lieutenant Colonel Maiker pumped his fist as the watch center erupted in jubilation. Officers and technicians alike celebrated together, ripping off headsets and throwing caps in their joy. Through the viewscreen at the front of the center, the colonel could see the Situation Room erupt in triumph. Defense Council officials celebrated with their aides, pumping their fists in the air in ecstasy. At the head of the table, the duke sagged in relief.
As Maiker’s fellow staff pounded his back and congratulated him, he could just faintly hear Shasta speak. “Excellent work, Colonel. Excellent work.”
Ensign Kimochi stood in parade formation next to Lieutenant Kimochi and the rest of Blackjack Squadron, watching as officers in parade uniform marched down the formation of dropship crews, presenting awards. Lieutenant Colonel Reron Maiker stood before a lectern on the stage before the formation.
“It is my honor to present all of you with the Gallant Rescue - Argallant commendation.”
Do … Do I really deserve this?
“Your bravery that day saved thousands of lives.”
Bravery … I nearly caused a man’s death. Then I froze when I NEEDED to act. Is that bravery?
“You have earned the gratitude of the UNF and even the Duke Shasta Ardeind himself!”
Do … do they know what happened? Do they know what I did?
“Ensign … ensign … “ Ensign Kimochi felt someone prodding her. She looked over to see Lieutenant Kimochi cock her head to the side. A major was standing in front of her.
“Ahhh … my apologies,” the ensign mumbled, redfaced, as she saluted. He returned the gesture before reaching for the tray held by the lieutenant standing next to him. He retrieved a ribbon and pinned it to the pilot’s uniform under her wings. “New recruit?”
“Good work. Interesting first mission. You did well. Congratulations.” He nodded before moving to the next pilot. Kimochi looked down at the blue and white ribbon and the Argallant pin. I … do I deserve this?
“Good work, Ensign,” Koskila said, reaching over to squeeze the junior officer’s shoulder. “Also, stop doubting yourself. I see it on your face. Evacuating a platform is stressful for everyone. You need practice, for sure, but hey, you helped save thousands of lives. You answered the call immediately. Sure, you stumbled along the way, but you got there, and you got the job done. How many can say that? Trust me, the club is pretty exclusive. Lose the doubt. Go enjoy yourself. You’ve earned it.” Koskila started walking away, heading towards the buffet on the other side of the hangar, leaving Kimochi behind, beaming with pride.