A week has passed since the disastrous (compared to their victories so far, at least) battle with Tahriel. Spencer and Daas have been released from medical care, and the four pilots with their NERV father figure have been swept away into a visit to the USS Halsey by Captain Redford, commander of the vessel that had been of instrumental help during their first sortie. Spencer, somehow, had managed to locate a pair of ridiculous aviator glasses before the helicopter lifted off to take them aboard the vessel.
Daas: Daas turns back from the window, where he’d just snapped a couple of pictures. Sometime since being released from the hospital, he’s picked up a slim digital camera. “Spencer, you look like the cops in that ridiculous old TV show you were watching a couple weeks ago.” Daas chuckles; the idea of Spencer as a cop is just too amusing.
Spencer: “Call me ‘Maverick’.”
Marina: She glares at him. “He reminds me more of some of the worse instructors I had. They wore terrible shades like that.”
Daas: “But were any of them named Maverick?”
Spencer: “See that’s crucial.”
Spencer: “I’d also accept ‘Iceman,’ ‘Goose,’ or ‘Fish Eye’.”
Marina: She sighs and resumes looking out the window, the first airborne view of Seattle she’s had yet.
Nadya: “I have no idea what any of you are talking about.”
Spencer: “That’s it Nadya, tommorrow I have some important instruction films to show you.” Turning and looking at Morgan, “Any chance I can borrow the briefing room?”
Nadya: “Why do I feel impending doom?”
Morgan: Morgan chuckles. “As long as it isn’t in use for anything you can use it for your remedial american culture class.”
Spencer: “I prefer to just call it good culture.”
Daas: “Iceman? Are you cold?” It’s getting hard to tell sometimes whether Daas is actually obtuse or just screwing with people; you’d think he’d have started assimilating the culture. “I believe you’ve just earned one of Spencer’s ‘Cultural Education’ nights. Don’t worry, he force-fed me about 12 episodes of something called ‘The A-Team’ when we first arrived.”
Marina: She just sighs. What a terrible first impression they were going to make.
Spencer: “Daas, I’ve caught you whistling that theme more than once.”
Daas: “It’s a catchy tune, what can I say?” Daas leans back in his chair. “Relax, Ensign, I at least know enough not to go calling the Captain by her first name, or start hanging off the ship by a boom arm or something.”
Marina: “I know you will, but…”
Daas: “But this is the first time in a while you’ll be back among your own people. Relax. You’re a hero, remember?”
Marina: She simply looks back out the window, at the cleanup and reconstruction efforts proceeding at the edge of the bay.
Spencer: “Actually, do they know what’s up?”
Daas: “I imagine they’ll guess when the Major shows up with four teenagers, one of whom is in an NAU uniform.”
Nadya: “Wait where are we going?”
Morgan: “Of course, Spencer. This was Captain Redford’s idea in the first place.”
Daas: “I believe we’ve been invited aboard one of the ships we’ve been fighting alongside the past few months, or weeks in your case.”
Spencer: “I mean the crew.”
Marina: “The Halsey, which participated in the battle against Sachiel. Tour sort of thing. CSG9’s been a large aid to NERV-07 in the past months so the least we could do is accept a tour invitation.”
Morgan: The USS Halsey’s one of very few non-Evangelion weapons on earth that can claim to have actually hurt one of the monsters. That’s why they’re getting the first delivery of that." Morgan points out the left side of the helicopter to where a pair of Chinooks are lowering a large gun barrel into place.
Nadya: “And what, exactly IS that”
Marina: “It looks familiar.”
Morgan: “That’s because it’s a miniaturized version of the railguns you’ve played with in the sims.”
Marina: Her eyes downright shine. “They’ve worked out enough of the issues for it to be combat deployed on a destroyer?”
Spencer: “Meh, I’m sure they are useful for things like aircraft carriers and destroyers.”
Morgan: “Section 3 recently managed to get the power requirements down enough that military vehicles could be equipped with them. The Halsey’s getting the first production model, but the Stryker MGS are going to be getting them as fast as we can turn them out.”
Daas: “That… will be very helpful.” Daas was less familiar with the weapon than Marina, but he knew enough about the physics to know that this would be a useful addition to their arsenal.
Marina: “Are they gonna test fire it today? Or is it merely being transported back up to Everett for that?”
Morgan: “You’ll have to ask her when we arrive, I don’t actually know. More importantly for you all they’ve got the first working prototype of one scaled for the Evas, so it’s only a matter of time before it won’t be a simulation pipe dream anymore.”
In front of the chopper, the figure of the Halsey and her two attendant frigates, the Ingraham and Davis loom large in the harbor. As the Blackhawk descends, the figures of sailors going about their duties on the deck can be seen, as well as two figures waiting in the open door of the Halsey’s helicopter bay.
Touching down, the two figures come out to meet the chopper as its engines spin down. They’re a man and a woman in Navy uniform, Captain Redford and a man whom Major Ward can presume is her XO, one Commander Williams.
“Major Ward!” the captain says, extending her hand in greeting as the side door opens. “Glad you could make it, welcome aboard the USS Halsey.”
Morgan: Morgan grabs the hardshell case sitting next to him and steps onto the deck, shaking her hand and nodding to the Commander. “A pleasure as always, Olivia, Robert.”
Marina: Marina barely shoves down the urge to salute, given that she technically didn’t need to, waiting to be addressed all the same.
“And these must be the pilots, eh?” she asks, turning her attention back into the chopper.
Marina: “Yes, mamm!”
Daas: Daas waits for Marina’s lead; not only did she know more about the protocols, she was their Team Leader, at least on the org chart, despite Spencer’s protests to the contrary.
Captain Redford’s eyebrow goes up as she spots Marina in an Army uniform, then dashes off a formal salute. “It’s good to finally meet you all. I’m told that I shouldn’t ask for your names for security reasons, but I’m Captain Olivia Redford, and I’d like to welcome you all to my humble vessel.” Commander Williams, out on the deck, eyes the orbiting Chinooks with a smirk. “Morgan, you didn’t say you were bringing gifts…”
Daas: After waiting a moment, Daas removes his straps and moves to the door, pausing for a moment to make sure the others don’t need a hand disembarking. It might look like chivalry, but really, he’s worried about Spencer ending up kicked into the ocean on this trip more than anything.
Marina: She salutes back, before watching the railgun from a lower angle as she steps onto the deck of the ship.
Nadya: Nadya quietly unbuckles herself and makes her way out of the helicopter.
Morgan: He smiles and responds quietly. “I could swear I mentioned it.” He hands the case over to him. “This one’s for you and Olivia.”
A deck crew rushes out to the Blackhawk, sidelong glances at the pilots obvious as they hook up the tow wagon to the Blackhawk’s front wheel to haul it into the empty hangar on the Halsey. “Morgan,” Williams laughs, taking the case, “you know we can’t accept bribes, even from NERV.”
Daas: Daas quietly takes in the barely contained chaos of the ship, smiling a little. It was his first encounter with non-NERV military. Hell, it was just refreshing to see different uniforms.
Ushering the pilots out onto the deck, Captain Redford continues speaking to the pilots. “You’ll have to pardon the crew — we couldn’t tell them you’d be coming aboard… and, well, let’s just say you’ve all been the objects of a little curiosity.”
Marina: She rocks on her heels for several seconds, before following the captain. “Understandably, I think, sir.”
Daas: Daas spends a few moments trying to cultivate a mental connection with Spencer, the whole content of which would probably be ‘no, stop, police, murder’. Sadly, no flash of insight reaches Spencer, and so Daas moves on. “We’re glad to have the chance to meet you, after working together so long.”
Spencer: He’s practiced a special smile using the aviator glasses
Nadya: nadya just kind of tries to be unobtrusive
Joining her XO and Morgan, Olivia nods to Morgan. “Sorry about abducting your chopper, but we have, ah, another visitor coming in on the ship’s Seahawk.”
Morgan: “Is that so? May I ask who?” Morgan frowns, having a bad idea.
Marina: “There’s another VIP coming in?”
“Yes, Admiral Kennedy decided that today was a good day for an inspection.” Captain Redford squints at the horizon. “Frankly, I’m surprised he’s not here by now… generally he sends his notifications about ten minutes before he arrives.”
Marina: “Is he going to be inspecting the new rail weaponry personally once he arrives?” She’s sort of failing to keep the eagerness out of her voice when she mentions the guns.
Morgan: Morgan nods and looks slightly relieved.
“He will be now. It’s as much of a surprise to us as it was to you.” She looks towards the bow, where the railgun is slowly getting lowered to the deck. “Let’s get the tour started while we wait for His Highness to show up, eh?”
Nadya: Nadya whispers to Daas, “They’ll be able to have it firing ready today? It just got there.”
Daas: “It’s probably mostly assembled already; if I understand the system, all it needs is power.” Daas whispers back. “Assuming they didn’t make any mistakes with the power connection, they could have it ready very quickly.”
Marina: “Roger, mamm. I’ve never seen the inside of a navy ship before, I’m eager to do so.”
Leading the group through the hangar, Captain Redford takes them into the underdecks of the ship. Making their way below, the group passes single-file, crewmen splitting around them as they pass, snapping off salutes at the captain and letting them linger as the trail of officers and pilots passes behind her. She rattles off some of the ship’s history as they pass, relating some of the notable incidents — service in peacekeeping during the 1990s, the turmoil after Second Impact, anti-piracy activities and brushfire wars in the decade following.
Marina: Marina listens to it all with rapt attention
Daas: “The ship is in remarkable shape, considering such a long service history. Your crew must work very hard.”
“We just all do our jobs, Pilot. To be frank, the ship’s looked better in recent years — ever since the Angelic War kicked off, we’ve had a lot more money to spend on maintenance.”
Daas: “I can imagine.” Daas, to his credit, manages to keep his tone neutral."
“First stop is right up this ladder. Mind your heads… and no pictures, please, Pilot.”
Daas: “Ah, I was going to ask.” Daas slips the camera into a pocket. “Security, I know.”
“Not that we don’t trust NERV, but the US Government still has restrictions about these things.”
Marina: She follows the others up the ladder after letting them go first.
The Captain leads the way up the narrow stairwell, coming out in front of a door marked CIC. She pushes her way through the hatch, leaving it open behind her. A quick bosun’s whistle sounds, followed by a called “CAPTAIN ON DECK!” as the group steps onto the bridge.
Spencer: Spencer trails behind watching everything with interest.
Daas: Daas takes the scene in, subdued. He manages to keep his mouth shut though; he has a feeling the Captain is waiting to say something.
The crew snaps to attention as they enter the cramped CIC, snapping off salutes, even as they look surprised at the teenagers following her. “As you were, crew. Welcome to the Combat Information Center — where everything comes together.” Outside the bay windows, the new naval-class railgun is getting lashed to the deck outside, stowed away for passage.
Daas: “I suppose you stopped calling it the Bridge some time ago?”
“Navy didn’t think it sounded professional enough,” Commander Williams interjects. “But that doesn’t stop anyone.”
Marina: She eagerly looks around, eyes shining. If it was possible, she’d be radiating tiny sparkling lights.
Nadya: Nadya is also looking around curiously.
Daas: “I can imagine. Tradition, and all that.”
Redford takes them around the bridge, starting with Navigation. The professionalism of the sailors is admirable – faced with a bunch of kids who are, presumably, the pilots of the local Evangelions, they manage to keep doing their job with a minimum of gawking. “Among other things, yes. It’s also snappier.”
Morgan: Morgan follows behind the pilots, looking a bit twitchy.
The Captain stops at Gunnery. “… and, actually, this is someone who’s been wanting to meet you for a while.” She gestures to the man in the chair at the station, a young blond. “This is Lieutenant Cole. He was in the CIC and acting as Gunnery Chief during Operation Bulwark. Lieutenant Cole, these were the pilots you were supporting.”
Marina: Marina salutes him.
Daas: Daas offers his hand. “A pleasure, Lieutenant.” He doesn’t do salutes; he can never keep straight when to do them.
Spencer: “Excellent Shooting Lieutenant”
Marina: “Yes, it was incredibly helpful during the fight.”
Nadya: “we appreciate it a lot.”
Marina: She blinks before nodding.
Lieutenant Cole seems to be surprised by the fact that a teenager in Army dress greens is saluting him, but returns a professional one before shaking Daas’ hand. “Oh, uh, don’t just thank me, I’ve got a dozen NCOs and enlisted under me actually doing the grunt work, I just call the shots. I’m just glad to see you’re all alright, we haven’t been able to participate in the last couple of engagements and, uh, frankly a lot of us have been keeping an eye on you folks since Bulwark.”
Marina: "You have? Howso?
He shrugs, scratching the back of his head. “Well, uh, there was talk about taking leave to help with the recovery after the second fight… and we were watching the feeds from a week ago, even if y’all were outside our engagement envelope.” Lieutenant Cole cracks a bit of a smile. “I guess we’ve just been in it together since the beginning, yeah?”
Marina: She blinks again, before smiling widely. “Yes! Hopefully the new armaments allow you all to assist from farther at range, so you all aren’t in as much danger during engagements.”
“We’ll see, it’s direct fire ordnance either way… but we’re not gonna turn our noses up at an upgrade, that’s for sure. Looking forward to stretching that baby’s legs, that’s for sure.”
Marina: “I wish we’d be able to stay for your return to Everett and watch the test firing.”
Lieutenant Cole smirks a little. “Well, I’m sure that if we’re getting one now, you folks will have your own soon enough.”
Spencer: Audible whipser: “I think you’ll do better with it.”
Daas: “Some of us will, I’m sure.” Daas smiles; his EVA didn’t really do guns. Luckily, they probably hadn’t seen his embarrassing performance with the Pallet Rifle last engagement.
“We just have the benefit of a more stable firing platform, that’s all.” “Captain, signal from the Seahawk,” the woman at the comms station calls out. “Admiral Kennedy is three minutes out.”
Marina: “We’ve been told that’s the case, yes. And indeed, we’ll need a special stabi-” She stops herself, half realizing that perhaps that’s classified and half because of the announcement.
And, in fact, an incoming helicopter can be seen on the horizon, angling in from Seattle!
Captain Redford straightens up, brushing at her uniform. “Well, I need to go roll out the red carpet – care to join us, or do you want Commander Williams to show you around the batteries?”
Marina: She looks torn, before looking to Morgan.
Nadya: Nadya also looks to morgan, with a somewhat confused “What am I supposed to do here?” look on her face
Daas: “Perhaps we might split up? I dare say some of us would find the guns fascinating, but I imagine we should meet the Admiral.”
Nadya: because we need to compare, you see
Morgan: Morgan shakes his head. “Let’s all go ahead and meet the Admiral first.”
Marina: “Understood, sir.”
“Right, then. Technically, he didn’t know you were coming… but if this is a coincidence, I’ll eat my pretty little hat.”
Nadya: “It is a very pretty hat.” Nadya says quietly
“Why, thank you.” Captain Redford leads the NERV group back out, detouring out along the deck of the ship. They can see the Seahawk pull up alongside and come in for a landing on the now-cleared deck.
Morgan: Morgan cracks a smile at that exchange.
They make their way up onto the helicopter deck as the Seahawk touches down, the side door sliding open as soon as the wheels hit deck. Out of it, an older man steps, clearly past middle age, but looking good for it all the same. He holds onto his cap as he stries across the deck to meet the welcome wagon.
“Captain Redford! Permission to come aboard?”
The naval officers exchange salutes. “Yessir, welcome aboard. Another surprise inspection?”
“You could say that. But I heard through the grapevine you were having a NERV delegation aboard, so I thought I’d do a meet and greet. Major Ward I recognize, but the rest…?”
Marina: Marina salutes as well, frozen at attention.
Nadya: Nadya also salutes.
Daas: Daas hasn’t been doing it up until now, no point starting. He stands respectfully straight, though.
Spencer: Spencer adjusts his Avaiator glasses to a more cocky position.
“… and when did we start letting the Russkies aboard our boats?”
Morgan: Morgan doesn’t salute, but hadn’t saluted to anyone else, instead offering a handshake. “We felt it’d be a good idea for the pilots to see how the other side lives, Admiral.”
“Ah! That explains the civvies. Good to meet you all.”
Marina: “Likewise, sir!”
He sticks his hand out to Morgan first, then the pilots.
Daas: “A pleasure, Admiral.”
Marina: She shakes his hand with some trepidation
Spencer: Spencer performs a manly shake
Nadya: Nadya also shakes the admiral’s hand
“Hope y’all don’t mind, but I brought along a guest with me today. Been remiss on Bring Your Granddaughter To Work Day for a few years now, and, hell… it was such a nice day for a helicopter ride. Kate! Get out here and meet the pilots!”