"Now where do I begin…?" the lieutenant asked to no one in particular, tapping his chin. He turned to the door behind him. "Well, this right here leads to the observation deck, but I think I'm gonna save that for laaast, so the only other place we can go is downstairs. Sound good?"
It sounded good enough to Leon. His eyes were dying to scour every inch of this ship, his new home.
Like a graceful breeze, Emil swept past him, stepping over the orange line separating one half of the room from the other.
"Jun, you're gonna wanna move back some. In fact, everyone, gather around me for a sec."
Everyone congregated around the blond, who stood near some sort of panel on the wall. There were a few buttons on it, as well as a display screen that flashed a bright green. White numbers read 100%.
"Say hello to our braaand spanking new oxygen panel!" He presented it as if it were some kind of prize. "It's here to make sure we don't die!"
"Yaaaaay!" Celebration escaped Ranger Allen's lips before she sheepishly covered them up.
"No, living's good! Celebrate!" Emil urged her on. "Feel free to talk! It'd be a boring tour if no one else said anything. Now if you'll excuse me-"
He mimicked swimming the breaststroke, motioning for the crowd to part. When they did, he sauntered over to the orange stripe where the crew once stood. The metal disk stationed at its midway point was his destination.
"The room below, the tall staircase you guys climbed to get here? That's the airlock. When we get to space and have to let people in and out of the ship, all the air drains out of there into… uhhh," The lieutenant paced around the disk, in deep thought, "I dunno, somewhere! It goes somewhere so that we don't lose it in space. Anyway! That means sometimes the room below won't have any oxygen in it, and if you open it, that's baaad news!" He pointed between the entrance disk and the wall panel. "So make sure not to open this unless that panel's green, or as I like to remember: Green is good, Red is dead."
As Leon took a closer look at the guide beside the panel, he noticed many colors inbetween the green and red. "What's orange?"
"Hmmmmm." Emil tilted his head back some, shrugging. "Orange is okay, I guess! Good eye, Rookie! I'll let you do the honors of opening the door. Just press that big rectangular button below the screen."
"Yes, sir!" Overcome with the excitement of impressing one of his superiors, Leon almost immediately went to reach for the button.
All eyes turned to Mia. Her mouth remained open, a little startled, as if the words had been stolen from her mouth.
"Lieutenant, you're standing on the entrance."
"Oh!" The impromptu tour guide hopped off of the disk. "Thank you Wattson! ...Mia, right?"
The blond leaned down toward the panel. "That would've been a bad tumble, so thank you very much for looking out for me. Just as a warning, don't do what I just did!" With a snap and a point, he motioned to Leon dazzlingly. "You can open the door now!"
Leon obeyed, feeling pride and a sense of purpose, though a little offput by the fact that his actions almost resulted in a horrible accident. He stood by the panel, absentmindedly watching the others leave, until Mia's pale red hair disappeared into the airlock. There's something he felt like he meant to tell her…
"Hey Leon, you comin' down?" The lieutenant's distant call cut through his thoughts.
"O-oh! Yes, sir, right away, sir!"
The rookie scrambled down the staircase into a cylindrical, pale yellow room. Something caught his attention midway down. The strip of screen lining the circumference flashed the same bright green as the one on the panel in the room above. He hadn't noticed it on the way up. White text circled around the strip, reading 100%. After a moment, it changed to display the temperature.
"It looks like Lorie managed to turn this thing on!" Emil marveled at the screen from the bottom of the stairwell. "That's the oxygen reading, as you might be able to tell. It displays on every panel on the ship, which is located in all the rooms connected to this one. Always, always, always make sure to check the panels before opening the doors."
Leon joined the rest of the group as they followed Emil to one of the four doors on the bottom floor, the only one not made from glass.
"Pop quiz!" The lieutenant suddenly pivoted around. "Is it safe to open this door?"
Leon took a brief look at the panel beside the door while joining the others in a chorus of affirmation.
"Nice jooob everybody! You're gonna do just great, I know it!" The blond winked. He had such a positive vibe, Leon couldn't help but feel energized.
Emil opened the door into darkness. The lighting from the airlock illuminated a few boxes, but nothing else.
"Uh… lights?" He cautiously stepped into the room, examining something on the other side of the doorframe. "Did they still not get the electricity in this room working? The panel's the only thing on…"
The lieutenant captain shrugged, closed the door, and then turned toward the others. "I guess our tour of the storage room is canceled. Oh well, nothing much to see in there but some boxes and refrigerators. Let's mosey on over to the generator room!"
A few feet to the left stood another door. Emil opened the door and led them into a hallway so cramped that everyone had to enter in a single-file line.
"This looks magical...!" Allen's voice could be heard from inside. What could possibly be waiting in store for Leon? His curiosity piqued.
"Woah!" He couldn't stop himself from reacting. "This is incredible..." The room itself was quite small, but it made a huge impression. The generator itself looked imposing, a huge chunk of complex looking machinery occupying the center of the room, but the real showstoppers were the pipes connecting to it. Clear pipes sunk into the floor and lined the walls, carrying glowing blue gel speckled with black dots.
"What kind of sorcery is at work here?" asked Ranger Allen. It'd sound like an odd question at any other time, but with the way the gel moved through the pipes on its own, Leon wouldn't be completely surprised if it was sorcery.
"It's…" The lieutenant attempted to explain. "Actually… This is really embarrassing, but I don't know. I'll have to ask Lorie."
"Who is this Lorie you speak of?" asked the non-freckled redhead girl.
"Did I say-? I meant- Shoot. I already said too much. Just forget I said anything~!" Emil handwaved, figuratively and literally. That made it even harder to forget.
He continued his tour. "On your left, you'll see some goo pipes, on your right, you'll see some more goo pipes, but in the center here, we have this bad boy!" He patted the generator. "It takes all the goo and circulates it around so we have power. Something like that!"
"Coooool." Leon placed a hand on one of the pipes. It surprised him that he didn't immediately get scalded, but he was glad that wasn't the case.
"Is it safe to touch the pipes…?" Mia didn't ask Leon directly, but he sheepishly retracted his hand as if she did.
"Yeah, they should be." Someone answered. To tell the truth, Leon wasn't paying that much attention during the initial roll call, and he was too busy staring at his hand in embarrassment to see who said it. It didn't sound like the tall guy, though.
"It's pretty enough to stay in here all day, but we have a lot more ship to see, and not a lot of time to do it, and just in case the captain overheard," The lieutenant cupped his hands and shouted toward the ceiling, "I said ship, with a 'p', don't have a heart attack, bro!"
"Thank you for the clarification, Lieutenant." came the captain's voice over an intercom. "We're scheduled to take off in an hour."
"I thought we had longer!"
"We started our briefing late."
Leon felt a pang of guilt, knowing he was the reason they started late. He hoped against hope that no one else knew, but a few of the others glanced in his direction.
"Ahhh, sorry about that." He apologized with a light chuckle. "I was waiting on the wrong side of the spaceport, and-"
"Don't worry about it, you're fiiine!" interrupted Emil. "We'll have more time to go over things in detail after launch. Alright, let's keep moving, let's keep moving!" He began walking backward into the hall.
"And we're walking, and we're walking, and we're stopping at the door because I have one more pop quiz for you guys!" Emil surveyed the group once more as he stood in front of the panel. "It's the last time I'll do this, I swear. Is it safe to open this door?"
Everyone answered the same as last time.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk, you guys couldn't even see the panel!"
"Yeah, cause you're blocking it." The tall guy began. "But the one outside says it's safe."
The shorter blond looked behind him, then back at the speaker. "Oh, you're right! Good thinking! You guys are really clever!" He winked.
"I was the only one who said I saw it, I dunno where they were looking."
Emil laughed. "Sorry! Didn't mean to let everybody steal your thunder! Hows about I make it up to you, Mr. Wise Guy, and let you have the honor of opening the door."
"You're closest to it." Tall and Tough was not pleased by the offer.
"You suuuure you don't want to?"
The lieutenant captain hesitated, not seeming to expect that response. "Okay!"
With a push of the button, the crew proceeded to the airlock, and with the push of another, they entered the next door to the left, into a room that was almost certainly a gym. It's smaller than the ones Leon was used to seeing but it's bigger than what he expected for a ship this small.
"So this is the gym!" Emil motioned a hand over to one of the orange walls. "We got some treadmills and ellipticals over here." He motioned to the opposite one. "There's weights on the other side of the room, including some barebells, and somewhere around there is some pull-up bars." Finally, he gestured toward the middle of the room. "And around here there's some yoga mats and some big machines I don't know the names of. Go on, be free! Explore to your hearts' content! ...within the next five minutes."
The group dispersed to different areas of the gym. Leon decided to check out the weights. For curiosity's sake, he picked up a 30lb dumbbell, a little lighter than what he was normally comfortable working with. Ranger Allen looked up from surveying the adjustable barbells beside him.
"Hello!" he greeted.
Allen gave him a big friendly grin. "Hi there!" Getting a closer look at her, she didn't look much older than Leon, and stood around the same height. "Just making sure you have a spotting partner. It's the #1 rule of lifting safety!"
"They have a wide variety of these, hm?" He asked her. "Some of these look like overkill, though. Like that 100-pound one. I don't think I've ever met anyone who can lift something like that, at least not with one hand."
"Nope, not at all!"
After Leon said that, she stooped down and came back up with the 100-pound weight in one hand.
"Nice meeting you!" She smiled as if the weight in her hand weighed little more than a dandelion.
"Wh… Wha…? Amaaaazing." Her strength mesmerized Leon, so much so, the rookie almost dropped his dumbbell in shock. He then set it down to prevent foot-related accidents. "That's really cool! I can't believe I met someone with super-strength today!"
"Awww, you're too kind!" Allen set her weight down.
"No, seriously! How did you do that? And can you teach me?"
She chuckled. "If we train together, my secrets shall be revealed in due time! Farewell, newcomer!" The other ranger dropped her mysterious act to flash another cheery smile. "It's been a pleasure!"
"We're moving onto the next room!" Emil called.
The curly-haired girl left to join the rest of the crew, while Leon attempted to pick up the 100-pound dumbbell just to see if he could. It barely budged. A little disappointed, he left to join the others.