Narita International Airport
17:55 JST (08:55 GMT) 9 September 2009
"I'm terribly sorry, sir, but they don't have passports. I understood that there would be some special paperwork in this matter waiting for us when we arrived."
The customs agent sighed. "You decided to visit on Kiku no Sekku. Perhaps the paperwork will arrive tomorrow."
The ship's owner frowned. "That presents a problem. The Prime Minister asked us to visit today, presumably because today is Chrysanthemum Day."
Just then, a man wearing a black suit, with a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist, walked into the room. "Pardon the interruption. You are Scott-san?"
The briefcase was opened and three Japanese passports withdrawn from it, leaving one in the case. "Please give these to your associates as quickly as possible."
"Certainly. I will do so as soon as my business with this diligent customs agent is concluded."
While the owner and crew of the unusual craft were away from the airport, a young artist set up an easel and went to work.
"Thank you for joining us on such short notice, Mr. Scott."
"It is my pleasure, Prime Minister. I never expected to be invited to your residence, especially not on such an important day in the Japanese calendar."
"Ah, but you are quite respected in certain Japanese cultural groupings. Why would we not invite you to visit?"
Noah smiled. "I do like that phrase, 'certain Japanese cultural groupings'. I must remember to use it myself sometime. Have you met my associates yet?"
"Not yet, no. I would be happy to be introduced to them, although I do wonder why you didn't bring all of them along."
"Alas, somebody had to remain at home, lest I return to discover someone else had moved in while we were gone."
Yoriko turned to Jake, and pouted. Again. "I never get to go anywhere interesting..."
The translator standing beside the two gentlemen was enjoying himself; it was rare that he was asked to interpert a casual conversation like this one. His skills were sufficient for the task, though.
"Such delightful young ladies you've brought to visit us, Scott-san. But their names, mannerisms, and appearances... Are they, how do you say it...?"
"The term I believe you're looking for is 'biomodded', Fujishima-san. It's short for 'biologically modified'. This is something we don't ask people who we meet in space, just in case the modification was accidental or regretted after the fact. However, I do know that many people take new names when they first go into space, for any number of reasons."
"Then Hasegawa-san and Li-san had different names before they joined your staff, Scott-san?"
"That is another thing we don't ask about, Fujishima-san. A few of the people who changed their names did so to avoid the consequences of their actions. I doubt that applies to my staff, though. Perhaps it would be best to think of them as remarkably dedicated cosplayers."
The manga-ka smiled. "Yes. Perhaps that would be best."
Narita International Airport
The artist packed up his easel. As he walked to the front gate, he started to hurry, as if he had a deadline to meet.
Residential Module 1
07:45 GMT 10 September 2009
"Noah, have you seen today's Asahi Shimbun?"
"Why would I be reading a Japanese newspaper, Yayoi?"
"We're in it."
Noah raised an eyebrow. "I didn't think we made that big a fuss yesterday."
"I wouldn't know..." muttered Yoriko.
Yayoi ignored her. "We did arrive in something other than an aircraft. Oh, look!" She pointed to an artist's rendering of the Epsilon Blade. "It's lovely."
Noah glanced at the text around the ukiyo-e image. "Which of these is supposed to be the EB's name?"
Yayoi blushed as she pointed to the text alongside the image. "It says 'Maniakku Jogyosha'. That means..."
When she didn't continue, Noah smiled. "No need to continue, Yayoi. I know what it means."
"You don't mind?"
"Why should I mind my ship being called 'fanboy's rolling stock'? At least they didn't call me, or it, 'otaku'." After a moment, he added, "Did they?"