Makoto stopped before the door, pausing to take a deep breath. Her nerves always started to act up when she had to come here, despite being told an infinite number of times that she didn't have to worry. Well, she wasn't worried! Just... Being extra careful.
Once her equilibrium was restored, she pulled open the door to the Navigation Room, where the leader of ARK performed his leaderly duties.
Nathaniel's head was buried in a stack of papers, hand armed with a pen and scribbling furiously. Makoto stood for several long moments, waiting for him to notice her, but for nearly a minute, he continued.
"Uh, excuse me, Navigator..."
Nathaniel jolted out of his fervor hard enough to drop his pen, and a bolt of fear shot through Makoto, straightening her into an overly formal salute.
"Oh! Captain Nanaya, I'm sorry, I didn't see you there." He said quickly, feeling somewhat silly for his lapse.
He cleared his throat, setting aside the paperwork for a moment, and let out a sigh of relief. "I swear, the forms and documents are never-ending. My advice to you, Captain, don't become a leader if you value your wrists."
He peered at the stiff saluting squirrel sidelong, then gave a short, amused chuckle.
"At ease, Captain."
Makoto complied, relaxing like a rusty spring unwinds. "Yessir..."
"How did your mission go? I understand the Major asked you to survey Rust."
"Y-yes, I have submitted my report to the Major."
"Really? Not just straight to me?"
"W-well, sir, Sergeant d'Ivoire found me after I reported to the Major..."
Nathaniel chuckled again. "Oh, do relax, I don't mean that. Besides, that's not why I called you here."
Makoto swallowed the lump in her throat. It wasn't... It wasn't to be discharged, was it? Her intelligence was good... Right? Sure, she might miss a little detail here and there, sure, she might get a little distracted sometimes, but she was-
"So-" Makoto stiffened up again. "-ooo... Hm. Captain, are you alright?"
"What's two plus two?"
The Navigator smiled at Makoto with gentle amusement. "Captain Nanaya, there is hardly an event that would demand punishment for one such as you. Please, at ease. In more than one way."
Makoto hesitantly lowered her salute, and when she returns to a standby position, she let out a huge breath. "S-sorry, sir..."
"It's quite alright, you meant well."
Deciding to cut to the chase, he took a small card from his desk and passed it to her. "Here, this guarantees you leave for a week to do whatever you wish. Vacation, sightseeing, partying... Visiting friends, whatever you wish."
Makoto stared at the card, which instead of being some official-looking ID card, was just an index card with some writing scribbled onto it. "...This is new."
"Well, I noticed I was receiving such requests from you on a fairly consistent basis, and so I figured, why not skip the paperwork? You're certainly talented enough to deserve an exception here and there."
Makoto gulped again. "Y-you mean it?"
"I mean it, Captain. Now scurry off, before Arbiquas gets back and lectures your posture." He said with a smile and a shooing motion.
"Thank you, Navigator!" She said, giving one last salute before practically scrambling out.
"Sweeeeet! Heh heh, bet I can get there before them, pretend they were all late~"
Makoto hummed to herself while she packed a bag with clothes and necessities, her mind already ahead to the three of them all sitting at that old cafe, just as they always did.
Tossing a toothbrush into her bag, she turned to change into more casual clothes for departure. In between outfits, she let herself get distracted by the reflection in her mirror, and couldn't help but pose vainly for a bit before getting redressed.
One last check before she left: Money, change of clothes, peanut mix, toothbrush and paste, map, tonfas and a revolver for good measure, three cool hats, and two more bags for whatever she might pick up abroad.
With a pleased nod, Makoto zipped up the bag, slung it over her shoulder, and headed out the door.
Maybe if she was lucky Tsubaki and Noelle would be early, too.
What do you think of the planetarium?
That beautiful twinkling of eternity that will never fade, no matter what.
All of the stars in all of the skies are waiting for you.