4. Charmed by Aqua Space

Standing in sickbay, Akito can only watch as Gai’s life signs drop to zero, and the doctors pronounce him dead. His friend and fellow Gekigangar fan is gone.

Depressed, Akito returns to the quarters he shared with Gai and begins watching the Gekigangar episode where Joe dies over and over- not even noticing or caring when maintenance come over to remove Gai’s effects. The Gekigangar III pilots moved on to find new friends and a new robot (Gekigangar V), but Akito cannot do the same- he is stuck.

In the mess hall, Yurika wonders if she should go and see him, but no one seems willing to advise her; Seiya is too busy drooling over the new zero-G Aestivalis frames that they will be getting, whilst Howmei is more interested in the new pilots that will be joining the crew. Just as Yurika manages to get their attention, a call comes in from Megumi; they are just about to approach the Satsuki Midori space colony, and the captain is needed on the bridge.

As the Nadesico approaches the colony, Megumi opens a communications channel, but even as she begins talking to the colony, it is rocked by explosions. The colony is left adrift, whilst the Nadesico itself suffers minor damage; something- or someone- has breached the hull.

As everyone arms themselves for the security alert, Akito remains in his quarters watching Gekigangar, at least until a noise in the vents disturbs him. Fearing it may be the intruder, Akito aims his gun at the vent, only to watch in surprise as a girl falls out, crying at Joe’s death on Gekigangar. Whoever she is- she can’t be that bad a person, given her obvious love of both the show and anime in general.

Meanwhile, on the bridge, Yurika and the others have their own mysteries to deal with. A zero-g Aestivalis frame is approaching, towing a box and three other frames. From their white towing bow, Yurika deduces that the pilot must be friendly, and prepares to welcome them aboard.

The pilot of the Aestivalis is a young woman called Ryoko Subaru- and from her brash attitude it is clear that she is more interested in taking a shower than in being polite to the captain. She isn’t the only pilot to have come aboard- the second is Hikaru Amano, the intruder who dropped into Akito’s quarters, whilst the third is Izumi Maki, a young woman with a strange sense of humour who stowed away in the box that Ryoko brought in. It’s clear that none of these pilots could be mistaken for normal- which makes them perfect for the Nadesico.

Ryoko reports that since she could only bring four at a time, there is one more zero-G frame left in the colony. Yurika proposes that the three pilots return as soon as the zero-G frames are refuelled- but they don’t seem too keen to take backup pilot Akito along- after all, he is only a cook. Akito argues that he didn’t even want to be a pilot anyway, but is clear that he didn’t expect to be left out so easily.

Sitting alone in a computer-generated meadow, Megumi can’t help thinking about the destruction of the colony. One minute, she was talking to their communications officer, and the next minute, he was gone. Her thoughts are interrupted by Akito, who is still thinking about Gai. Even though he gave his all for the Nadesico, now it feels like no one even remembers him. Why does no one seem to care, and will they forget Akito just as easily if he gets killed? Megumi says she understands; she is affected too, but appreciates that unlike them, other people don’t always want to express their feelings, but keep them locked away while they get on with the job. Inspired by her words, Akito realises that not only do the others care, but that he has duties to get on with as well.

As Yurika watches the three pilots head off to the colony, she wonders if it is her fault that Akito isn’t with them. Even as she worries, however, Ruri reports that Akito is indeed requesting a launch, even though he has never piloted a zero-G frame before. Despite Uribatake’s protests, Akito launches anyway.

The three women have already entered the colony, cutting off their energy feed to the Nadesico. Just as they locate the frame, Akito joins them, but his zero-G piloting (or lack of it) soon gets him in trouble. After bouncing around a few times, Akito runs out of power, and Ryoko has to kick him back out into space where he can recharge from the Nadesico.

The girls go to retrieve the frame, only to find that it has been taken over by Jovian “bugs”. As the possessed frame begins an attack, Ryoko and the others are forced to use up their energy maintaining defensive shields. Hoping that the attached bugs will slow the frame down, Ryoko plans a swift attack- only to discover that the enemy frame is easily fast enough to evade her attacks.

Swinging around for another assault, Izumi and Hikaru decide to soften it up with a double attack- one which fails miserably. Fortunately, Ryoko’s follow-up is right on target, and she slams the “bug-frame” right out of the colony- and straight for the Nadesico. Now the only thing left in its way is Akito- but is he in any shape for a confrontation?

Resolving to be fearless, and with Gai never far from his thoughts, Akito flies straight for the bug-frame. Launching a “Gekigan Flare” attack, he hits the bug-frame straight on, destroying it.

Back onboard, Akito finds that not only has he become something of a hero, but that waiting for him in the hangar bay is none other than Megumi. After thanking her for her encouraging words, Akito shares a quick kiss with Megumi, little realising that Yurika is watching from the other side of the bay. As the two depart, Yurika remains frozen in disbelief. Surely she was just imagining things? That kiss couldn’t possibly be real-or could it?

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