During the inaugural trip, the royal family decided to take it easy. Serenity stood in her throne room with all manner of servants and aides around both her and the king to wait on their every whim. She stood there majestically, soft spoken, and graciously. They told the people there that she and her husband were going to take a few days to relax while waiting for the fleet to come back. They all bowed and retired. Once everyone was out of earshot, the once formal and mature queen suddenly pumped her fist and raised her knee as she said, "Yesssssssssssss," and went to an antechamber that was just off the throne room. Endymion smiled and just rolled his eyes as he followed her. She immediately stripped off her royal robes and put on something more fitting for a teenager back in the days before the cataclysm. She now affected sneakers, shorts, and a tee-shirt, as well as skating pads. She walked to a book case as she kicked up to her hand a skate board and pulled back a book in the shelf.
One set of the cases opened up revealing a secret passage which led to something of which people would never have thought to be something in which aqueen would engage. The tunnel led to an underground area that was filled with the ultimate skate park, one that over which even the greatest in the sport would drool. She then set down her board on a ramp that led into this skater's paradise and took off with a "WHEEEEEE!"
She headed right for her area of expertise-the street course. After a couple of good passes, she stopped and could hear the sounds of another set of wheels. It was near a half pipe that was designed to be ridden like the kind of half pipes upon which skaters compete. She went over, and there was Thomas Reichmann in his "grunge" look, riding that pipe. He wasn't wearing the pads, and that concerned her. She went up and said, "Hey, and what makes you think you can skate without protection, Marine?"
He stopped on the top, and then he went over to her, bowed, and said, "Your majesty, you know we are immortal, thanks to what you did five hundred years ago."
"That doesn't mean that you can ignore the rules," said Serenity, her lower lip curled out in her old Usagi-like way."
"Dude!" he said, "Now you know that only the scouts know about this place, and none of us can die anyway, so what's the fuss?"
Serenity could not fight that logic, so she said, tapping the tips of her forefingers together, "Well...um...it's just a rule, okay?"
She then stuck her head up and said, "Besides, I am the queen, and what I say goes!"
Endymion chimed in, wanting to be sure that something bad did not come out of it, and he said, "It's more of the need of always setting an example, even if no one is there to see you do it. Do that in private and you will get so into the habit of doing this that you will do this instinctively."
The king was warmer in his approach, and worked with reason. Tom could only think that he was the completion of her. She had indeed matured over all those centuries, but somewhere there was the beloved Usagi that they all had come to know and love. He said, "Okay, I give up! I'll get my gear!"
He skated over to his bag and put on his gear, a smile on his face. He then said, "Come on, your Majesty, let's hit the pipe!"
She agreed, and they were all over it. It was good for this, because it took their minds off the dangerous mission that the others were undertaking. Yet, there were other things they knew not of, if which they did; they would not even think the trip a massive undertaking.
Many light years away, two ships that had been at Proxima Centurai were now returning to their home system. Their ships were no more than what looked like wavy tubes, but they considered themselves more practical creatures, and they did not feel the need for style. They were a race of beings known as the Gnarl. They had evolved from, of all creatures, mole rats. They were hairless, pink, and had that severe rodent-like face. Their eyes, however, were far more developed, but their jaws were no less strong, filled with long pointed teeth. They could be extended out and opened wide, becoming excellent weapons for them. The creatures from which they came could gnaw through solid rock, and they had just strengthened that over time. They were grotesque looking things, even to creatures that did not look remotely humanoid. They were also not all that desirable, because there was only one thing that they had in mind: conquest. It was then that the captain and a few choice officers shuttled down to their home world for a court with the emperor and his wife. (In truth, the empress was the one with the power, considering that mole rats have a hiving concept not too dissimilar to bees, having one queen rat and the rest her servants. The emperor was more of the figurehead, but he could make decisions. It was often that she would choose to rule through her husband, so every male vied for a chance to be her bride when she was single. However, she could override her husband when she wanted.)
The shuttle came down over the landscape, but there was not even one mark on the surface to show that there was anything sentient living there. They came up to a mountain, got close to its surface, and a hole opened up to them. The entire civilization was underground, and this mountain was the royal palace. The guards rendered proper military homage as the group exited the shuttle and followed the escort to the throne. For any other creature used to more temperate climes, they would have asked why it was that the heat was blasting in the place. Being what they were, they required much in the way of heat, and designed their world to give them what they needed. They entered the throne chamber which was filled with all manner of guard and servant, just itching to do anything for their beloved empress. The entourage bowed deeply and they were bid arise, and entrance before the thrones. Emperor Grenj said, "Stand at ease, gentlemen. The message we received said that you discovered a new world."
"We discovered a warp trail that led back to a yellow dwarf in the constellation of Skretch the Warrior," said the ship's captain, "That can only mean that there is a civilized race there. We must see how far along they are in space travel, though it cannot be much, considering that this was the first evidence anything was there."
Empress Squila leaned back for a minute, and she said, "It could be worth investigating. We always need new home worlds in which to expand. There is only so much a planet's crust can be exploited. We need more breathing room."
After some more pondering, Grenj said, "What kind of exploration force could you put together for this purpose?"
"We can send in an exploration corvette," said the captain, "It would be inconspicuous and unnoticed. We could get you the information in a few weeks."
"Excellent!" exclaimed Squila, rubbing her hands together with a sinister grin,"I can only hope it has several habitable spots. They will rue the day we ever showed up on their doorstep"
Grenj then said, "Pick out your stealthiest, fastest exploration corvette, the best infiltrators, and take care of business. We await your return."
The entourage bowed again, and took their leave. The two on the throne now looked greedy with sinful joy as they thought of the new worlds that they would now conquer.
The flotilla returned to Earth with great celebration and adulation. They all landed and pulled in to the Neo-Tokyo port with great joy, and the reporters were all over the ship commanders. Venus was all agog, but Mars was not so joyous, and no one knew why. Once all this was done, the scouts were invited to the throne room for a private ceremony. Serenity looked a Mars and said,"Princess, why are you so sad? The lot of you has done some great things!"
Mars mumbled something incoherent, and both the king and queen both looked oddly at her. Venus said, "Um, I think their majesties could not understand you, darling."
"ilstthbt,"she mumbled louder.
"I LOST THE BET!" screamed Mars.
Everyone looked stunned at the outburst, but Serenity looked at her out of the corner of her eye, with a bit of a smile, and looked at Venus, asking, "What kind of a bet did you two have?"
"We were going to see whose ship would reach the star first, and.../she lost!/"said Venus, the last part being said in a singsong kind of way. Serenity looked at her, grinning, and looked at her in a knowing way, saying, "Ah, now Iunderstand! So, what was the payoff?"
Venus gladly volunteered the information, and she said, "She, and her personal SEAL squad have to pull shore police duty for a week while my crew gets a weeks furlough."
Now Mars began to protest, and said, "Hey, we had to make a course correction!"
Yet, Mercury said, "In all actuality, I looked at the race data, and calculated that, even if you had not made the course correction, you still would have been behind by 1.652347 seconds."
Mars groaned, knowing how exacting Mercury can be, and Mars knew there was no way of getting past her. Ceres then said, "Hey, don't worry. The missus and Iwill make sure you get the best set of Marines and Greenbacks to pull duty with you. Besides, with the training your people have, they would be a great addition to the guard."
"Now that I know this," said Serenity, "This is locked in, and you cannot get out of it."
Mars now looked at her, and some old things started to creep in as she said,"Hey, I think you're enjoying this!"
Endymion wanted to speak out, but Serenity jumped in, saying, "Oh dear, I upset the great Mars. You know, there was once a time where you would not have hesitated to harass me, knowing I could not respond. Well, what goes around comes around dear friend. Tell me, was harassing me, or anyone, worth it now that that tables are turned?"
Mars hung her head, knowing the queen was right, and said, "I apologize, your Majesty..."
However, serenity giggled and said, "Please, don't feel bad, dear friend. You know we all love you, and we will make sure that your guard experience will be pleasant and a learning experience to all involved."
Jupiter then said, "I'll show you the rotation, and you can pick the best time for your unit."
This seemed to relax the formal situation, and everyone began to banter like the old friends that they were. However, Endymion spoke up and said, "Before we sit down to eat and kibitz, there is a formal issue with which to tend."
With that, Mars, Mercury, Venus, and Chibi Moon with the Amazoness Quartet were all called front and center and given Meritorious Service medals for their efforts. "This was just as great as other great space advances, and you all have earned them."
They were all happy to receive these, but PallaPalla was all agog, "Ooh, that's so pretty! PallaPalla likes the pretty jewelry! Is that for me?"
JunJun sighed and said, "Yes, it's for you! Ugh!"
After that, Ceres said, "Okay, who wants pizza?"
Everyone cheered as they headed to the skate park for some rest and relaxation. They needed this time to prepare for the next phase. The UES Artemis was going to start exploring with at least one destroyer and one CT cruiser to see if there are more habited worlds, and if there was a way to gain alliances. If the New Moon Republic was going to last, it was going to have to have strong allies to ensure no one like Queen Beryl ever raised her head again.
However, they were not the only one seeking to investigate. Out of warp came the mole rat corvette at the edge of the Oort Cloud that sits on the extremes of the Solar System. As soon as they came out, they had to be careful, because there were many dirty snowballs hurtling around them that would think a corvette no obstacle. They decided to head in from there to allow for the least amount of detection in their approach to the system. At that, they were able to pick up another band of the ice balls that sat tight around the edge of the outermost body orbiting the system's star. The captain then gave an order for some probes to head into that system so that, by the time they arrived, they could have some more detail as where to head once they had shown up. The whole system did not seem like much, but one could never tell. It looked like a good enough thing, he just not sure what was inhabited, or if anything would be worth it. He would also find out about their defenses, because, if they were too strong, that would make the whole thing "not worth it." In any case, he knew that, whoever lived there had better get ready, because their lives, as they knew them, were about to end.