Chapter 5

Settling In

"Say, Ahhhhhh." Yuubari held a stick down on Spirit's tongue.

"Ahhhhhh." Spirit did as she was told.

"Your tonsils look fine, despite the amount of vomit you dropped over the side on the way here." Yuubari joked.

"Hey! I only threw up once!" Spirit protested.

"That's likely because of your empty stomach, not your constitution. Hopefully you'll get used to the rocking in a couple of days. In the meantime..." Yuubari dug around in the back of the medical cabinet for a minute, before finding what she was looking for. "...take one of these with every meal." The dark haired Zygarian handed her a bottle of pills.

"Thanks. What are they?" Spirit asked.

"Meclizine pills. Luckily they're standard issue, because I would never thought to stock seasickness medications." Yuubari answered. "That concludes your physical examination. You're in good shape with a clean bill of health."

"Great!" Spirit was glad to have something to help with the nausea.

"You are slightly underweight for your height however, so just make sure you're eating properly." Yuubari advised. "I'd suggest I trip to the Canteen, as you'll need to eat when you take the Meclizine anyway."

"Ok, I will." Spirit nodded

"We'll talk more later. I have a few more tests I'd like to run on you, with your permission." Yuubari motioned to the door. "But for now, just send subject B1 in on your way out. And tell her not to bring that wrench!"

Spirit left the examination room, and returned to the lobby where Bulin was waiting. "You're up!" She pointed over her shoulder with her thumb.

"Ugh, let's get this over with, buli." Bulin shouldered her wrench as she stood.

"Yuubari said not to bring the wrench..." Spirit told her. Bulin grumbled, and seemed to consider disobeying, but eventually held the wrench out to Spirit.

"Watch over it for me." Bulin said as Spirit took the wrench. The tool was surprisingly heavy for how casually Bulin handled it. "Be careful, for mine is the wrench that will pierce the earth!" Bulin warned her.

"I'll guard it until you get back." Spirit promised. Bulin, satisfied with her answer, nodded and entered the examination room.

"This thing so heavy, how does she just walk around with it!" Spirit hefted the giant wrench with both hands. "What does she even use this thing for?!"

"NYA!" Spirit was startled from her thoughts by a loud exclamation from the end of the hallway. She turned to find Akashi rushing towards her. "Put that wrench back where you found it!" Akashi was nearly shouting.

"Huh? Bulin gave it to me, she wanted me to watch it for her." Spirit was confused by Akashi's outburst.

"Really? She gave it to you?" Akashi asked, surprised. "You're sure that sure she was giving it to you?"

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure she was giving it to me. She handed it to me herself." Spirit responded. "What's the problem?"

"There's no problem, Nya. So long as Bulin gave it to you." Akashi answered. "I was worried, because there have been... incidents, in the past. Bulin are very protective of their wrenches. I once saw one attack a fully armed Battleship after said Battleship stole her wrench as a drunken prank. " She explained.

"Wow..." Spirit looked down at the wrench in her hands as if seeing it for the first time. "Why would she trust me with something so important to her?" She couldn't help but wonder.

"Anyways, I wanted to talk about you duty assignment." Akashi changed the subject. "I've decided to take Yuubari's advice, so I'm assigning you to one of the Anti-Aircraft gun crews. The Bulins will teach you how it works."

"Thanks for putting me with someone I know. Bulin has been very helpful!" Spirit commented. Akashi looked confused for a moment before answering.

"...Do you mean the Bulin that helped you to the bridge? You probably won't be with her specifically, there's lots of Bulin on the ship."

Akashi explained. "They're basically interchangeable, nya. We don't even track which one is which, just write "six Bulin and one Purin commander needed for gun crew" and they'll show up." She continued.

"Oh... Ok..." Spirit couldn't hide her disappointment. She had only known Bulin a short time, but she had come to like the dependable white haired girl.

"Nya~ Don't worry! I wouldn't waste a Kansen on gunnery duty." Akashi misunderstood her disappointment. "Once we know you're trustworthy, I'll move you into a better position."

"No, no, I'm fine with gunnery duty..." Spirit began to explain.

"Ok, I'll be expecting to see you bright and early tomorrow, nya." Akashi said. "I'm due for an inspection down in engineering, so I'll see you later." The green Zygarian gave Spirit a comical salute, then hurried off down the hallway.

"See you later!" Spirit bid Akashi farewell as she continued waiting for Bulin. "Anti-aircraft duty, huh?" She thought to herself. "I don't think this ship is even big enough for a J-1. I wonder what we'll be using instead."

SLAM! Spirit jumped as the door to the examination room flew open to reveal an angry Bulin. The little engineer's face had a bright red smack mark on her right cheek. She turned and slammed the door behind her with great force, before stalking over to Spirit and holding out her hand.

"Wrench." She said in a carefully controlled voice. Spirit complied, quickly handing Bulin back the wrench. "Thank you." Bulin's voice still held tension as she turned and walked down the hall. Spirit followed behind her, unsure of how to handle the situation. Bulin continued walking until she was outside, where she stopped to lean against the handrail at the edge of the ship.

"I'm sorry." Bulin stared at the sea below. "Thank you for waiting for me, and for taking care of my wrench."

"It was no problem..." Spirit answered. "So... what happened back there?"

"I don't want to talk about it!" Bulin's response was sharp.

"Roger... Roger." Spirit held up her hands placatingly. "That's fine. That's your business." Spirit's mind raced to find a way to change the subject. "Well... I've got some medicine to take, wanna go find some food?"

Bulin considered the offer for a moment before answering. "Fine. Let's head for the Canteen."

The Canteen was on the "bottom" floor of the midships house, even with the rest of the ship's deck. The first thing Spirit noticed when she entered was the Bulins. She hadn't really seen any others, besides the one guiding her, but this room was just full of them. Dozens filled the room, sitting in small clumps of 4 or 5 at the various tables. Sprinkled throughout the groups were spots of gold, the blond hair of another group of identical girls.

"Those must be the Purins Akashi mentioned." Spirit thought, inspecting one of the blond girls from afar.

"Stop staring and come on, Buli!" Her Bulin pulled on her hand.

"At least she's in a better mood." Spirit allowed herself to be pulled to the serving line. Once there, she and Bulin were each served a plate of... food? There were only two items, a slimy pink substance about the size of a deck of cards and a pile of white mush. At the end of the line was an icebox, and Spirit followed Bulin's example and grabbed a bottle of brown liquid from within. After grabbing some silverware, she followed Bulin to a nearby table.

"So what exactly is this?" Spirit poked at the

pink substance with her fork.

"It's called Spam, buli. Get used to it, it's usually the only meat we have." Bulin cut her portion of Spam into strips.

"Ok... but what kind of meat is it?" Spirit decided to try a piece before Bulin answered. She shoved a bit in her mouth and found... that it wasn't all that bad honestly. It was very salty, and had a spongy texture.

"Akashi claims it's made with pork, but who knows?" Bulin answered. "It could just be ground up rats from the hold, or something even worse, buli." She didn't hesitate to eat one of her Spam strips despite her claims of it's dubious origin. "I just try not to question it too much."

"Works for me." Spirit shrugged "What about the white stuff?"

"Powdered potatoes, re-hydrated and mashed for your convenience." Bulin said as she drenched her potatoes in ketchup.

"Oh, that's right!" Spirit suddenly remembered. "I never seasickness pills to take." Spirit shook a pill out of the bottle and reached for her drink. The bottle made a "Tssss" sound as she broke the seal. Spirit ignored the sound, popped the meclizine tablet in her mouth, and took a gulp. "Gammpf!" Only to recoil as the drink burned her tongue. She quickly clamped her hand across her mouth to avoid spraying the drink all over her companion.

"Hehehe!" Bulin giggled at her expression. "Just swallow it, it won't hurt you!" Spirit complied, taking a sharp breath after she finished.

"What the heck was that!" She spluttered.

"Good isn't it?" Bulin smirked. "Oxycola is the best thing about living on this ship, buli." The little engineer cracked open her own bottle and took a drink. "It's Akashi's flagship product, so she's sure to serve it wherever she goes."

"We're eating fried mystery meat and re-hydrated potatoes, but also have the luxury of drinking soda." Spirit tried another sip of Oxycola, and decided that she really liked it when she knew what to expect. "Isn't that a little weird?"

"Hmm... I guess so." Bulin responded. "But we've got like a hold and a half of the stuff. Akashi even converted the number four hold into a bottling facility, so we can make it right on board, buli!"

With that surprising statement the two girls fell into a comfortable silence as they ate their meals.

After they finished eating, Bulin took Spirit on a tour of the ship. The Crimson Gem was a moderately sized cargo ship with five holds, three in the bow and two in the stern. The first hold carried "mixed mercantile", and accord to Bulin it contained "whatever Akashi and Shiranui could throw together on their way out". The second and third holds were locked up tight and Bulin claimed only Akashi, Shiranui, and Yuubari knew their contents, though she did know Yuubari had converted the third hold into a lab. The fourth hold was Akashi's bottling facility, and the fifth contained only Oxycola.

There was a 4 inch deck gun emplacement on the bow. It was supported by a pair of Anti-Aircraft guns situated beside the foremast, which rose up between the first and second holds. Four AA guns were placed at the corners of the midships house's roof, protecting the bridge of the ship. Two more AA guns were on the stern, along with a second 4 inch deck gun.

By the time they were done with the tour, the sun was beginning to sink below the horizon. The two returned to the midships house and Bulin lead Spirit below decks to the sleeping quarters. The room they entered was at the end of the hall, and contained three pairs of bunk beds made into the wall.

"I'm in the bottom bunk, at the end on the left." Bulin pointed to her bed. "Take whichever of the others that you like, buli. I need to check a few things, so I'll let you get settled." Bulin stepped out of the room and returned down the hall.

"Wait, I can just take any bunk? Are we the only ones in here?" Spirit wished she had thought to ask Bulin before she left. Inspecting the other bunks, she found that they were indeed empty, except for the one Bulin had pointed out as hers. Spirit decided to take the bunk opposite Bulin's, and was just laying down to try it out when Bulin returned.

"I managed to trade around some assignments so we can work together, we're on the day shift for gun four. I also took the liberty of picking you up these." Bulin returned with a small basket full of toiletries. "We'll be tagging along with one of the engineering teams for shower time tonight, buli." Bulin handed Spirit the basket. "Follow me!"

The shower was different, what with being made to turn the water off and on again, but it was refreshing. Afterwards Spirit and Bulin returned to their rooms. There had been a simple cotton nightgown with the toiletries, so Spirit put it on as she got ready for bed. Bulin's pajamas consisted of a gray tank top and matching shorts.

"So... have you always had a tail?" Spirit couldn't help but ask. "Why didn't I notice this before?!"

"Yes!" Bulin blushed. "Stop staring at it!"

"Where you hiding it, or something?" Spirit disobeyed, watching Bulin's black tail flick back and forth with it's end sparking slightly. "Because I seriously didn't notice it until just now."

"It was around my... waist!" Bulin threw her pillow at Spirit's head as she spoke the last word.

"Oof!" Spirit was too distracted to dodge, and it hit her square in the face. "Alright, I'll stop! Sorry for staring." She tossed Bulin's pillow back to her before settling into her bunk. Her companion did the same.

"We'll be getting up early tomorrow, buli." Bulin replaced her pillow. "So get some sleep." The two lay quietly for a few minutes, before Spirit broke the silence.

"There's a reason your tail is shaped like an electrical socket, right?" Bulin only growled in response.

Anti-Aircraft gun four was a pair of duel mounted 40mm Bofors, situated on top right corner of the midships house. Spirit was happy to find out that Bulin had traded jobs with one of her sisters in order to stay come with her. The two of them worked as loaders, slotting four round clips into each of the gun's magazines. It wasn't a complex or exciting job, but it was important for The Crimson Gem's air defense.

They spent half of the first day doing drills, before settling into a routine of doing nothing. Shifts were 12 hours long due to lack of crew, and were simply spent staring at the sky and the sea. They were told to report anything they sighted to their Purin commander, who would decide if it warranted telling the bridge. It seemed like nothing ever happened, and nothing was ever sighted.

"Shouldn't we have seen something by now?" Spirit complained halfway through the third day. "Another ship, or an island maybe?"

"We're in the middle of the Indian Ocean, buli." Her friend replied. "There's not really any Islands around here, and most other shipping has stopped due to fear of the Sirens."

"Shiranui said I was a Siren spy when I first got here." Spirit remembered. "But what is a Siren?"

"They're Aliens!" Answered a Bulin from the opposite side of the gun.

"No, they're time travelers from the future, buli!" Said another.

"They're the bad guys." The Bulin in the gunner's seat said over her shoulder.

"I couldn't have said it better myself." Their group's commander joined in. "The most important thing to remember is that when they show up, we'll shot them all down! Purin!" The blonde haired girl held her drill over her head and revved it.

"BULI!" The rest of the gun crew cheered.

"Ok... so they're bad, but what do they look like?" Spirit tried to get back on track. "How will I know when I see one?"

"Siren production ships and other vehicles are black with glowing red lights most of the time." Her roommate answered.

"Nuh-uh, they can be black with blue lights too." One of her sister's refuted her claim.

"I heard that there's reports of purple ones up north, buli!" The gunner chimed in.

"Ok-Ok! So there's some other colors too!" Spirit's roommate looked annoyed. "But the red are the most common, and they're also the reason Shiranui accused you of being a spy, buli." Bulin explained. "It's because your eyes glow red too."

"My eyes glow red..?" A weird feeling came over Spirit, as if she was missing something important, but she pushed it aside.

"Isn't that stupid though?" The gunner asked.

"There aren't any humanoid Sirens who are red. Besides Spirit is super cool, and she hasn't even killed anyone yet!" The Bulin shot Spirit a smile and a thumbs up.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence!" Spirit smiled back. "But what was that about humanoid Sirens? I thought you said they were ships?" She asked.

"There's Humanoid ones too, they have glowing yellow eyes and white hair" Spirit's roommate started explaining once more. "Their rigging glows yellow too."

"Nuh-uh, they-" another Bulin started to refute.

"Ugh! Yes they can be blue or purple too!" Spirit's roommate cut her sisters off. "But the most common ones are yellow, and they're already kinda rare." She continued. "The Blue ones only ever show up when they're going after a specific targets. We'd be in big trouble if we ever saw one." The little engineer crossed her arms. "And the purple ones are just a rumor!"

"Speaking of seeing some Sirens..." the Bulin who was lucky enough to get a turn with the gun crew's only pair of binoculars joined the conversation "... I think there's a squadron of Siren fighters right there!" She pointed at for black dots on the horizon, laying directly in the Crimson Gem's path.

"Let me see that!" Their Purin leader snatched the binoculars. As she looked into the distance her expression hardened. "Get to your positions! Now!"

No sooner had she spoken, than did the ship's air raid siren begin it's piercing wail.

Authors Notes: Ha-ha remember in the beginning when I said I would try for bimonthly updates? Good times...

"The Crimson Gem" is based on the "Liberty Ships" mass produced by the United States during WW2. Don't ask how Akashi got her hands on one. She probably bought it on the black market. I had the funny idea for her to try to make it into a "Soda Ship" to sell Oxycola, in the same vein as the USN's "Ice Cream Ships" and just decided to run with it.

I've been trying to think of a new name, or nickname for Bulin. That is, the Bulin that is Spirit's roommate. She's "special", as in she'll be a specific recurring character with a character arc and stuff. I kinda ended up calling her "roommate" during the AA gun scene, and it felt a bit clunky to keep track of her specifically when she was in a group of other Bulin, who are interchangeable background characters. It's a conundrum I guess. Anyone got any ideas?

I'm a little excited to try writing combat for the first time, I hope I can handle it. Speaking of which, I've decided to use the anime's rules for rigging, i.e. you can manifest your ship or have rigging, but not both at the same time (because the rigging is the ship.) And I know I keep saying this, but hopefully I can be a bit faster with the next chapter.