This is a story set in the far future of my fanfic storyline, involving the granddaughter of the character Scott Freeman. It takes place about 30 years after the end of The Freeman Chronicles, and a decade or more after the two fanfics I'm working on as the main sequels to the Freeman Chronicles.
It was originally posted on the last, now defunct, DoZ message board, as a serial. I'm putting it here, still not in its final form, to make sure it stays on the net until my fanfiction.net stuff catches up to it a bit (I'm still writing stuff 20 years before this, and after then will have to update and type 500 pages of 20-year-old handwritten fanfic)
It was a toss-up who was more surprised by the defold in deep space - the crew of the Dreamweaver, who expected a defold in a solar system, or the commanders of the Macross 07 fleet. It became even more confusing when the two crews met.
While dimensional counterparts of Marie Freeman's parents were commanding the fleet, their names, histories and even their children were nothing alike. Even genetic tests showed the appearance was physical only. Of course, something like this happening was expected by the Freemans, having contacted a "mundane" Earth that had been shaped for contact by Karen, but the only Macross they had information on from that world were the original TV show, the movie, and the video series that appeared to be a movie sequel (and versions of the latter two universes had been encountered a few missions prior, and were full allies). None of the information led them to expect this. The Jenius family played the congenial hosts, though it seemed to the Freemans that their relationship was showing strain now that Miria was a civilian.
To get things more in focus, the Freemans' son Steven (who himself looked barely twenty, yet had two young daughters that looked in their teens) offered to take a bunch of the younger residents off on a jaunt to the pocket dimension of Omphalos. There, they could have a series of mini-events, taking advantage of the realm having all the climates one would have on a normal planet, whereas only a couple were actually represented in the fleet. As this would be the last chance to experience things like snow (or a real sky) for however long the fleet was in transit, even primary-school age kids went along. Once they got there, though, none of the teens wanted to get saddled guiding the younger kids, and soon there ended up being two different groups, with the youngsters playing with some of the local kids.
When it came time to return, panic set in - the younger kids couldn't be found, and strangely, the normal means of tracking them down didn't want to work. They began trying to find them the hard way, going from village to village - as they could return moments after they originally left, time was less an issue than one would think. Other things started interfering with the search, such as Steven's unique position within the Omphalan hierarchy.
One of Steven's titles was "Consort to the Second Daughter of Omphalos", a position theoretically unrelated to any of his relationships outside the realm. In fact, his wife Anna soon became upset when she found out that the "second daughter" had agreed to let any regional Invid princess to "borrow" the consort (Anna's husband) one time for recreation or procreation - and while Anna had a few women that she willingly shared Steve with (including said Omphalan royal cousins), these total strangers were asking a bit much. It seemed that every other village had the couple spend the night in bed with the local princess - and in several cases, they were more interested in learning from Anna in order to satisfy their own future mate (being only a couple generations or three removed from being all the semi-magically-created children of the Regis, most Invid were woefully undereducated in bedroom techniques), which really wasn't any more comforting than them actually lusting after her man.
Coming back through one of the villages a few days later, though, things went pear-shaped (in more ways than one). Apparently, months had passed in those few days. While again asking around about the missing kids, one of the teens blundered into hearing the tail end of an argument - two of the locals arguing about what they were going to do now that "the big kids were asking around again". Steve was immediately notified, and he sent off for the "First Daughter" - his cousin Tinya.
Tinya had the ability to manipulate reality within the realm, and she would be the easiest way to get to the bottom of the funny business.
"All right, kiddies - time to stop playing around." A wave of her hand, and all the locals, even those trying to hide, were in the village square.
"Now, I know most of you are children of Optera. I can sort you out, but after I do, I want answers - like, how long have you been running altered time here?"
Another wave of the hand, and most the village ended up on one side - however, several of the children remained with the adults. Several of the Invid got very upset.
"Great.... More complications. You - time to answer. So, how long has passed since you and the human kids decided to play grown-up?"
"Nine years," the female Invid descendant said. "We'd been running altered time for nearly a century in the town our parents came from. When enough of us hit puberty, we chose to set up our own community."
"Now, whose kids are these in the non-Invid group? Parents, step forward, take your spouse with you and grab your kids."
Several women of Invid descent came forward, gathered their children, and grabbed their husbands from the crowd of humans. Notably, the two that were spotted arguing about the situation were in the lot. There was also one couple among the humans. All the kids were accounted for.
"Now, here's the problem - I can't really undo what's been done. I can regress your ages, and suppress the memories, but when your physical age back at your home hits your current one, your memories will come back. At that time, or at any point where your soul departs your body before then - as in, you happen to die tragically young - you'll be brought back here, and you can choose to resume your life here, or go back home to the life you should have had there without this interference. The village will remain in stasis until then. Ready?"
She waved her hand, and the spouses and children froze. Then, the humans slumped to the ground, asleep, and shrunk to their appearance and clothes they had when they arrived. She turned to the unpaired humans.
"It's your turn, now..."
She tried to repeat the process, only to have one person, still sitting on a bench, unaffected.
"Okay... who are you?"
The pink-haired teen looked over her sleeping, de-aged, friends.
"The village princess."
"But, you're human, not Invid."
"It was the choice of the village."
"Even so, you shouldn't be able to resist as you did."
"I wasn't resisting. I think there were other factors involved."
With that, she stood, and her gravid belly became apparent.
"This could be a problem...."
There were several safeguards that Karen & Zor had built into Omphalos after they gained ascendency there, but before they left it in the hands of their two eldest daughters while they went exploring.
The first safeguard put in was that sentient life present could not be destroyed through acts of those residing there, only transformed. The only exceptions would be accidents, or in the case of the realm actually being invaded, and those with the genetic markers of being a native would be "reborn" at certain spots (the latter tended to make some Invid adventure junkies). Those that died of old age would enter what amounted to a "soul buffer", where they could choose when (but not where, or to who) they could be reborn, eventually regaining many of the memories (but not the full awareness of personality) of their previous life, after growing into an adult.
Because of this, it was possible that some of the children already born to the misplaced tourists were reincarnates. It also meant that things like accidental (or intentional) losses of children prior to birth were not possible either. If something like an exo-uterine pregnancy occurred, 90% of the locals had the ability to move it where it belonged via psychic healing (and birthing issues could be done using psychic surgery for a Caesarian - if not the infant teleporting out of the womb), including the mother, and if something took out mother and unborn child, the safeguards kicked in to recreate the bodies as they were in one of the emergency locations. The presence of the child within her meant that she was effectively locked to the realm in her adult form, until birth.
The second safeguard was that it was extremely hard for even the half-dozen people with the highest active "user level" in the realm (Tinya, her parents, the Regis, and the two Invid that the Regis had designated her successor regent & regis) to create new sentient life. Even duplicating a person required the combined efforts of at least 3 people of the two highest levels, at least one of which had to be top tier. Tinya's sister Cindy was one of the second tier types, as was Steve, and (when they visited) so were Karen's other children and grandchildren.
On top of this, if they simply just cloned (not regressed) the headstrong young daughter of the Jeniuses, they'd be sending back a clone that was, for all intents and purposes, an untrained, obscenely-high-power-level, Homo sapiens secundus (including such things as possibly rapid aging to or even THROUGH puberty), especially since it would have the immature spoiled normal-child original personality of the seven-year-old that arrived. That would go over like a lead balloon. It was this reason why all the others, even the ones with already-born children, were just temporally regressed.
Then there was the glaring alien rodent on her shoulder, that was obviously a sentient psychic being in its own right, even if her father didn't fully realize it when he rescued it and gave it to her. Steve wondered where the rodent had been a few months ago, as it would have been a big tip-off to her identity - like before the hormonal teen used the rather permissive rules of the realm to lay her honey trap for him. Whatever they did to her, now meant going through him.
"I got nothin'..." Tinya said to Steve, in the deadpan of the cartoons of the early 21st century that she'd been exposed to via gifts from her mother. "Sis?" She looked over to Cindy.
"Do the restrictions on creation prevent the artificial creation of chimeras?"
"What good would a fire-breathing dragon-goat be?"
"Not THAT kind of chimera. I mean, could we create a non-pregnant duplicate of her, then temporarily join them at the abdomen?"
"Maybe... But, what would that accomplish?"
"We make her a temporary Siamese twin, transfer the baby from the original uterus to the clone's, like we were fixing an ectopic pregnancy, then separate them. At that point, the original won't be pregnant anymore, and we can regress her. However, unlike the others, we will have to take additional steps to try to make sure she never remembers any of this. And, it's probable that even with regression, she and the others will remain carriers of the Secundus mutation for future offspring - though if there's much contact between universes, that contagious transmission will be happening to others at the contact point spontaneously anyway."
"I guess we can try it - but I wonder what Mom will think next time she shows up? Not only is this untried and risky, it's messing with a non-native and pretzel-bending all the safeguards in place to prevent us or our descendants from going too far in playing god."
"What's the worst that could happen?"
"They could merge, or they could become inseparable. What about the rodent? He's gonna have to be dealt with too."
"That will be easy, now that we know he's there. We stasis him, then revert after the procedure's over."
"And, what about the clone - and the baby?"
"They can't stay here - we're putting the whole county into temporal lock for nine or ten years relative to their home timeline, to wait for the regressions to cycle through. The baby is one of us, since you're the father, Steve - that makes it going into stasis only possible if it chooses so itself, or it's so close to death that we can do it as part of the resuscitation process."
"What about their staying with you two?"
"Not a chance. Too many historical and other instances of kids being raised with a royal family deciding that they should be the heirs, leading to grief. Now, if you and Cindy hadn't already had Cassie, I'd have considered marrying her off to my son, but doing so now would just result in something similar a generation later. You and Anna are the ones that misplaced the kids - you're going to have to deal with it. It's not like Cindy or Beth are your legal spouses back home, and the other girls you two sleep with are young enough that they're likely to pick other spouses rather than become legal wife number two or three behind Anna."
"You seriously don't expect me to bring her in, after you two created this situation by offering my husband up to your subjects like the prize bull at a stud farm!" Anna interjected. "And, how the hell do we explain where they came from?"
The conversation devolved from there into a mess, but the end result was going with Cindy's idea. It worked, but that left them with figuring out what to do with Guvava. The clone insisted that he remain with her, yet they couldn't send the regressed original back without him. They ended up duplicating him as well, sending the regressed original back, and also used the original's memories to recover (via time scan and duplication) some of his people (including what was probably his mother, whose severed tail he'd still been holding when found originally by Max), to take up residence on Omphalos.
The tourists got sent home with Anna and her kids, and they took the adult (well, older than her father was when he met her mother) Mylene back to the central palace complex to try to figure out what to. For the duration, she moved into the quarters of the Second Daughter. Weeks passed, as they waited for the baby to come to term.
********* "Cindy, why did you do all those things to me? And, why does Anna hate me so?"
Cindy held her co-wife to her chest, as they sat on their bed. Even if Anna was technically Steve's first legal wife back home, the bonds between Cindy & Steve were consecrated & consummated before that ceremony, and as a result, on Omphalos, it was Cindy's call who entered the relationship here, not Steve's or Anna's, and she had finally got tired of sitting on the sidelines.
"Honey, what we did to you was to save you and your family from grief. I know all too well the trouble that a missing child showing back up as an adult can cause. After all, your baby's grandmother was an adult clone of my mother's universe's equivalent of your oldest sister Komilia, in 2017. And, when the Max of that world found out about that, and how she'd become involved with Steve's father, he nearly killed him. For that matter, my brother ran away with and married what would be, counting a few years' cumulative fold time lag, what would be the closest counterpart of Emilia or Miranda, and while both were physically adult, they were only about ten by the calendar, and your mother's counterpart acted just as badly. I really don't expect your parents to act any less overprotective."
"She came from a world where plural marriage was only found in a few primitive cultures, much like Earth was before the Zentraedi. Truthfully, it was only having to assimilate the culture that created the Zentraedi in Steve's home universe, that plural marriage even became legal there, and it's still rare and looked on oddly there. The odd bond that developed between Steve and Anna radically altered her psyche - but it wasn't intended. And, in part, that is why she became receptive of allowing Beth, me and a few others in the marriage bed with her - because Steve already was their lover, and part of Steve's... well, soul, entwined with hers, and vice versa, and remained. So, as a result, his feelings for them became hers."
"But I wasn't."
"Yes, but Anna was a natural empath even before then, of a different type than my people - or for that matter, you in your new body, or Guvava's people. It's part of what caused the odd interaction between their minds. She can't stay mad forever. And, in the course of time, if Steve accepts you, she will as well."
"That leaves Steve."
"That will come in time as well. He doesn't NOT like you. It's just that he didn't expect you and your child. It's one thing for him to have a bunch of children that he will have no direct hand in their raising, because in this realm he helps rule, he knows that they will be taken care of. But, you're not an Invid - not from a matriarchal utopia. You might have felt prepared for it, but since you really weren't one, there would have been ramifications eventually - that is, if you even had survived the birth; I doubt your original body could have survived the full term without help.
"You're also the daughter of people that, in that your successful seduction of him, he feels he has betrayed. It took his father half a year to get over the very similar incident involving his mother and the equivalents of your parents, and even then Marie didn't have any children for over a decade after their marriage. If he didn't feel responsible, he'd have left already, no matter how mad it would make Sis. He'll be here at least until your little girl is born, and Sis has ordered that he HAS to take you with him at that time. I think she's trying too hard to force things, much as our mother tried too hard to force Scott to accept Marie."
"Is there anything you can do to counter that?"
"Well, I'm gonna insist that he live up to his vows and sleep with us tonight, even if no hanky-panky goes on. For one thing, he's the best masseur I know, and I'm getting tired of working out your aches and pains by myself, without getting any work done on myself."
"He's probably the only masseur you know - there's a definite shortage of testosterone around here."
A few weeks later, Melanie Moaramia Freeman was born, and shortly afterward, Steve took his new daughter and fiancee back home. Anna begrudgingly gave the adult Mylene permission to marry into their plural marriage, but had moved out when the couple returned home from their short honeymoon. Steve also found out that some of the details of what happened had been communicated back to Mylene's parents, presumably by Anna, and that he'd been declared persona non grata by the Macross 07 fleet as a result. Still, the incident didn't completely sour the mission, and while no official ties came of it, limited tech collaborations and trade, and communications several times a year, were established.
Initially, Max offered to communicate requests for more widespread ties, but after talking privately with a couple other fleet commanders he trusted, he decided that the current internal security issues made it unwise to make the dimensional incident become more widely known. The Sharon Apple Incident a couple years later made it clear it was a wise choice, though he did ask for Scott Freeman and his allies to investigate it clandestinely, because of Max and Miria's ties to the manufacturers and military units involved. The result of that investigation led to Freeman calling in a favor from the Circle of Ouroboros, whose temporal tech was proprietary, and having a copy of the pilot killed in the incident beamed out in order to be debriefed privately. Bowman was treated for his congenital nervous disorder, and recruited as a trainer for the Dimensional Corps' Advanced Piloting School, which had bootleg copies of VF-11s, VF-14s and VF-17s via trades with Jenius for the schematics. Similar offers were made to the other test pilot and the person used as the template for Sharon, for the Outreach Service, since they were disgraced in their professions and the interstellar New UN wanted to cover up the incident as completely as possible.
Meanwhile, Mylene adjusted to life in a universe in many ways much more primitive than the one of her childhood, and life as one of several women in Steve's life. Then, in 2051, her and Steve's lives seem to take a turn for the better. Anna finally started making visits back from her birth world, trying to reconcile in time for her two daughters' weddings. After the latter of the two weddings, Beth's roommate Lynn-Karen, who had been Beth & Steve's lover (and therefore, Mylene's as well) partially for her own ends, partially to provide cover for Beth's visits to her cousin's house, asked for permission to become the third official female in the relationship. Anna and Mylene told her they would make up their mind, after Steve, Beth and Karen returned from their Outreach Service mission.
That's when everything went to hell. Some sort of fold accident resulted in the disappearance of the Outreach teams, in Earth orbit, yet within a day, search & rescue operations were called off, with no reason given as to why. This left Anna and Mylene alone with Melanie, as Anna's daughters had married off-world. Then, in 2053, the horrifying message came in from Anna's homeworld. Stephanie and her mundane husband had been arguing about something, when they were hit by a seeming drunk driver at a red light.
Further investigation would reveal that it had been an assassination attempt by agents of the shadowy Euro extra-governmental group that had kidnapped Anna when she had been pregnant with Stephanie, with the intent of using the latter's genetics to create super-soldiers and bio-weapons. However, the only person killed was the husband, though Stephanie went into labor and gave birth to her twins prematurely - injuries or danger to the mother being the only reason premature birth could happen with seconds. Stephanie's first daughter apparently had been intended for abduction, and possibly the unborn children as well, but little Steffie kept her head enough after the accident to teleport the entire car to the Dimensional Corps' compound, when her mother recognized those trying to "rescue" them.
Stephanie's husband had a no-clone order in place; even though he'd been a victim of a violent crime. He'd had moral qualms about using cloning tech to come back from the dead, and Stephanie blamed herself for instilling that in him, as a result of telling him what she and her mother had been put through before Steve had rescued them. For their recovery, and the chamber treatments to fix the twins' health problems, they moved back home.
In 2055, contact was made with Steve's mission, who had found themselves in a world with serious issues that his father's forces couldn't help - in fact, it was dangerous to travel there using the Dimensional Corps' tech, so the difficult to acquire local "magic" of that world was initially the only means to get there. The entire family chose to relocate there, as things had occurred that created a desperate need for people to help that were familiar with the health issues of pregnant Seconds, and the needs of their children, after an encounter with a fertility goddess resulted in nearly every female on that mission becoming pregnant, many with multiples.
Between those and subsequent pregnancies among all four women, the family almost quadrupled in size, though three of the additions weren't Steve's offspring, as a visitor from another pantheon proved to be just as susceptible to the fertility goddess' visit. Then, there was the plea for help from Mylene's home universe, not from her family, but via the deaths of several of her childhood associates, who "respawned" in Omphalos saying that the city was under attack by soul-sucking space aliens flying weird VF-14 variants. Melanie went to investigate, taking some of her half-sisters. On returning, it was apparent that the magically-supercharged post-apocalyptic world they'd chosen as a world in need of their help wasn't staying in sync with their home area of the multiverse, and time passage between them remained uncertain. Eventually, though, many of the children (including those born on that odd world) returned the Freemans' home universe, and went on to go into quite different government service types than their parents.
Chapter One: High School Life
2059, Universe Macross-Alpha
Mina "Sterling" sat in class, fidgeting. The concert was in a few days, and she still hadn't picked out something to wear.
Outward, she was a normal teen, from a odd but relatively mundane background. Her records said that she was an exchange student at Mihoshi Academy from planet Eden, who had been sent by her parents to study on Frontier as a potential colonist. She was an excellent student of musical instruments, and an honor student besides. Well, at least that part was true - that, and her first name.
Sterling was a family name, but of her great-grandparents - one of the reasons it was chosen was that it gave her the initials MS. The official name of her program was "The Dimensional Sentinel Project". Having read lots of stories of potential alternate dimensions as part of their training, ranging from official background info to fanfic, the "Sentinels" had adopted a nickname of their own from the rather harsh critics of the latter stories - "The Mary Sues".
Most of her "Mary Sue" friends ended up on worlds that the Dimensional Corps didn't really know much about - places where just WHAT fiction as the basis of their "world as myth" connection was still unknown. They essentially were there to watch, observe, and when the identity of the world finally presented itself in a recognizable pattern, to report in for further instruction. Otherwise, they'd serve ten to twenty years, then be replaced by a new Mary Sue. Only a few such worlds had actually been identified, prior to her departure - the horror story given by one Mary Sue, that of the world tagged Romero-1, led to that world changing from a normally monitored world, to one monitored from orbit until just what caused the dead to rise could be determined. The haunted look that now-instructor had acquired had not dimmed despite being back nearly a decade.
Mina, on the other hand, had familial ties to this universe, and it wasn't an unknown. In fact, one of the reasons why she was here was to get acquainted with the universe of her ancestors, in preparation for eventually becoming part of the ambassadorial staff to it when the time was right. Theoretically, this universe held allies of her paternal grandparents. In actuality, only her maternal grandparents' fleet was a true ally, and most of the other fleets and established colonies refused to believe that the contact had ever occurred. After all, why would an Earth that suffered three alien wars go looking for other dimensions, when the one here, that only suffered the equivalent of one of them, was hard pressed to rebuild and send out colonies?
What happened concerning her maternal grandparents' fleet in 2045-46 had in fact been part of the rationale for the creation of the Sentinel project. The other fleets seemed to go out of their way to not only NOT help Macross 07 fleet, they continued to not provide any assistance (and even denied release of their nuclear weapons) even when it became apparent that the enemy had already destroyed and mind controlled TWO OTHER FLEETS, thereby having destroyed, enslaved or in the process of attacking FIVE PERCENT of all remaining Human & cultured Zentraedi! While this was justified by invoking the Global Protocols (The idea of sending out colonies to spread culture out to keep from being wiped out in one attack), that was just a cop-out for isolationism, as it was apparent by that point that the enemy was the same that had destroyed the previous galactic culture, despite its size, and that isolationism would not stop its predatory hunger if the alien "Spiritua farm" scheme to keep humans as livestock failed.
The Sentinel Project's utility for known universes came about from such concerns. Effectively, it was akin to a spy network, but much more specific. The targets were threats to the security of friendly societies, both internal and external. The agents would remain as moles in their society, ever watchful, for as long as they desired. Eventually, they would either leave, or blend into the watched society, as part of a larger network after their replacement arrived. Other universes, like Romero-1, had agents just looking out for what make those normal-seeming universes different from others - those were the least desirable posts, as you could spend an entire life there, theoretically, with nothing obvious happening - but if something did, it was usually something catastrophic. Some of those went stir-crazy, even without the walking dead or worse occurring.
"Mina, you ought to get a part time job where I work," Nanase commented, as they sat on the roof of the school, watching the piloting class practice.
"You know I don't need the money, Nana."
"Yeah, but there's so many people to meet there. The customers, the other workers - Ranka's a big Sheryl fan too. Maybe we can get her a ticket if she doesn't manage to get one."
"The boys are cute enough here at school - even though you don't seem to notice."
"What's that mean?"
"Oh, I'm not talking about the ones that are attracted to you for your big 'assets'..." Nanase blushed at Mina's comment. "There's at least one guy around here that has it for you bad, but between his bashfulness and your outgoing personality, you totally miss it."
"And, who would that be?"
"Not for me to say.... of course, I was raised in an overly affectionate environment - the whole idea of hiding feelings took me years to develop. The commune was such that I had plenty of boyfriends and girlfriends to hang around with and do things."
"Well, let's just say that until I moved here, I didn't own a bathing suit, and we went to the beach nearly every day." Not exactly true, it was a pool back home - but her cover identity was from a commune of alternate lifestyle settlers of Eden, who took the planet name a bit too far, abandoning most tech (and clothes) to live a nudist lifestyle on an island - half of which were Zentraedi. "The hard part was figuring out how far was too far with some of them - some of the boys were potentially half-brothers or cousins, and while they didn't tell us who was who, the parents knew enough to cringe whenever we mentioned having a new boyfriend."
"You should try my body massage sometime. At least when we girls were playing around, everything was safe."
"Uh... Mina, you're freaking me out."
"Sorry." Mina put on her 'innocent child' smile. "I forget people out here in the real world are a lot more squeamish about such things. I know how to do completely normal massages, silly. I only do the more intimate ones on request, and I know you don't go that way."
"And, yet, you won't go out with me," Michael intoned, melodramatically, sitting down on the next bench.
"I'm not that desperate, flyboy," Mina flipped back. "I know your type all too well."
"And where would you run into that in a commune?"
"From my parents talking about my grandfather? Remember, according to them, I look like a lot like my half-aunt Mylene in Fire Bomber."
"Well, until you show me your mother's birth certificate showing 'the Blue Max' as her father, I have my doubts, though you really do look like Mylene. If you were a few years younger, you'd probably have to deal with people claiming you were her love child with Basara, or that idiot movie co-star of hers that tried to rape her, before the Protodevlin knocked some humility into him."
"Ick, on both counts. What she ever saw in Basara, I'll never know. I met the band as a child, while they were on tour. Basara was to music, what Michael is lady-killing; so full of himself that he can't see outside his narrow focus. I'm so glad she ended up marrying Gamlin."
"But, isn't he a pilot, as well?"
"He's more of one in the style of Ichijo or Kudo; Michael here is more of a Focker or Dyson - otherwise he wouldn't go around getting people to pronounce his name like his ancestors were European royalty instead of being several generations from speaking French natively."
"You wound me, Mina."
"Get over it, Casanova. You're just lucky Mom & Dad put a clause in my school contract that I couldn't take piloting courses. They can't stop me from doing it as an adult, but I'd have to pay my way, and probably have to enlist, to get it."
"Like you'd do it..."
Truthfully, Mina thought, I wouldn't, because I'm under orders not to give away the fact I've already had pilot training, and could probably out-fly you in that EX-Gear if I used my ability to mentally link into machines. As it is, I'm having to bite my tongue about commenting on yours and Luca's extra-curricular activities with SMS, as I'm not supposed to know about them. I could only imagine the looks I'd draw if I ever had to use my emergency contact in SMS for extraction.
"Nah - why would I want to embarrass you like that?" Mina smiled. "Hey, Alto-hime, how long before you launch again, so I can get Mickey-Mouse back on the launch rail and out of my hair?"
"Don't call me that!"
"Maybe I ought to bring my pre-Zentradi anime and manga collection on datadisk to school some time. There was this great series about a Saotome family, that I'm just sure everyone would just love to see."
"Why? Would 'Ranma-chan' be a worse nickname than 'Alto-hime'?"
"Ranma-chan?" Nanase asked.
"Don't you dare..."
"It has so many similarities with our poor Alto... A son becoming antagonistic with his father, over his father making him into a girl most of the time, thanks to a magical curse."
Michael, who had been drinking from a water bottle, spouted water through his nose, on hearing the description, and started choking.
"Stop right there..."
"Oh, I might... of course, the likelihood of him getting caught in a love triangle or pentagon like that character might be a little far-fetched, unless he's running here to be a pilot in order to escape an arranged marriage."
Alto started toward her, and Mina reached out with her mind, powering down his EX-Gear then springing down the flight deck in the local gravity that was substantially less than the Earth-normal she was raised in, and secretly kept her apartment set at, using clandestinely installed grav-plates.
"See you later, Princess... I think I'll go do some of my AV class homework. Pray I don't make a presentation on the works of Takahashi."
The next few days were hectic, and a bit unnerving. First, Alto ended up accidentally part of the routine of the concert in ways that probably had authorities screaming for his head - that is, until the alien attack. The timing of the attack essentially knocked Mina's readiness level up to level 3 status - it would have been only level 5, if not for the juxtaposition of the young pilot with the pop star. This was reinforced when the military showed up to arrest Alto at school, then he didn't come back for a couple days. When he did, all it took was a little probing of Michel's inflated ego, not even using psi powers, to infer that had to do with Sheryl AND his actions in a borrowed VF-25 - something all too similar to Ichijo's first VF-1 flight. In fact, actual probing of the high-security network indicated that it, and a later event that had parallels to other events in the Ichijo love triangle on Macross, making Mina all the more nervous - and it was apparent that the third leg of the triangle, provided this wasn't a false alarm, was the ward of one of the SMS pilots - who happened to be Nanase's friend from work. Then, that young girl, Ranka Lee, had the audacity to enter the local talent pageant, and attempt to replicate Minmay's pageant run - a little too well, having a fall much like the icon had suffered in her amateur debut.
The convergence of fates became more apparent when she started hearing the whispers around school, of Alto's date with Sheryl that intersected with the presence of Michael and that girl, Ranka, at the mall - and that Ranka's singing of one of Sheryl's songs in quite a different style caused quite a stir. She had to hear from the male principals just what exactly transpired, as things were getting really scary.
Michael had just gotten to asking Alto about Ranka, even putting him into a headlock to elicit an answer, when Nanase came charging past Mina and the other eavesdropping girls into the room, yelling to them she had important news about Ranka. With that, the three pilots came running, and Mina saw the opportunity to tag along.
It turned out that the singing at the mall had gotten scouted by one of the talent agents that had taken residence at the mall to represent and coach the musicians that performed for free at the mall, hoping for more exposure.
"But, I've never even heard of this 'Vector Promotions'," Alto commented.
"Of course you wouldn't, Alto-hime," Mina jibed; "He's a pop music promoter - far below the notice of 'real artists' such as your family. After all, you probably never heard of Akiko Houjoh or Myung Fang Lone either."
"Akiko was the producer and agent for Fire Bomber - at least when she could force Basara to do studio work. Myung was an Eden native, who was the supposed agent for Sharon Apple; in fact, Sharon was never actually completed, and they used her mind and talent as the template for Sharon - and because of her own conflicted emotions for two pilots interacting with the AI, caused that incident with the X-9 Ghost prototype in 2040 at the Anniversary celebration - right, Luca?"
"What? How do you know that about Sharon? That's still classified!"
"I'm from Eden - so were Myung, Isamu and Guld. My parents grew up with them. Things sort of came out unofficially, when people started wondering what happened and started pulling strings. Of course, there's those really wild rumors out there, that they're still alive, and working with those mysterious allies of the Macross 07 fleet that helped them against the aliens they ran into, when the NUNS wouldn't."
"We're getting off into strange stuff here, that I'd rather not talk about," Luca said, rather perplexed. "This is supposed to be about Ranka, right Nana-chan? I'm just glad Captain Ozma gave his blessing."
"It was a bit unexpected, given how he's been the overprotective big brother."
"I just hope he doesn't take it out on us..." Alto suddenly realized that Mina was theoretically not in on the SMS secret. "Forget you heard that, Mina."
"Forget what? That you three are flying with SMS outside school?" Everyone stared at her. "I can keep a secret, even if I'm known for giving too much information about some things. After all, the EX-Gear isn't being used by the NUNS yet, and the only aircraft compatible with it in the fleet are aboard that midget Macross belonging to the SMS. I'm surprised the Academy doesn't realize people are smart enough to make that connection, especially at a school for the gifted. Then again, President Glass and his military apparently think that simply throwing a tarp over that mercenary battleship will hide its existence from the civilian populace."
"You're really starting to creep ME out now, Mina," Michael said.
"But, let's get back to the real reason we're gathered together," Nanase said. "Ranka, we're here to support you all the way, until you become the diva of the galaxy! Down with Sheryl!"
From there, the Ranka Lee Fan Club was quickly declared, and discussion became a bit more serious. Ranka admitted that she wanted to tell Alto first, but things conspired, since he was with Sheryl. Of course, both refused to admit how much they really saw of the other at the mall, which had everyone else thinking they were being stupid, though Michael was the only one who vocalized it, as Alto gave Ranka one of the two VIP seat tickets that Sheryl had gave him for the concert.
Before the uncomfortable pauses and lurches got any worse, though, all the viewscreens in the area declared an emergency announcement from the president. With that, the men were recalled to their SMS duty station for briefing.
Everything was screaming in her head that she should declare a level 1, and do something... ANYTHING. But, technically, the Frontier fleet wasn't an ally - only the inhabitants of planet Rax, which were former members of the Megaroad-13 and Macross-05 fleets, and the Macross 07 fleet itself were classed as such (and the only reason Rax survived to be colonized was due to her big sister and one of her half-sisters spearheaded an intervention back during the Protodevlin incident, that led to her own position in the "Mary Sues" watching over this reality). Without any kind of information indicating that it was more than a single-fleet threat (and not all that major of one, with the presence of SMS' superior technology doing what the NUNS couldn't do), she couldn't even break cover. And, truthfully, it was still too early in the course of events to even consider an intervention. After all, there was that all too familiar meme of the original enemy not being the real enemy, and it was far too early to take decisive action.
What she could do, however, was finally get her motorcycle license, and get her "bike" out of storage. She also sent in the level 3 alert report, which effectively meant that sometime in the next few months, she might get some backup.
The immediate result of the report was the arrival of a box in her apartment, containing an auto-injector and a few dozen doses of the Mary Sues' ultimate safeguard. The question, of course, would be just who to actually inject with it, and how to get access to them. After all, she was just a high school student - and not even her friends would let "the strange girl from the commune" shoot them up with who knows what drugs?
There was only one choice, really, but delivery would have to wait until the SMS returned....
"Dr. Bernstein; Enclosed is a shipment of trial immunizations from our mutual friends on Rax. Please take care to immunize your fellow employees and all your families; anyone else is your call. Do not let anyone know of the source of the medicine. Life is short, but the years are long. Your friend, Mary Sue.
P.S. My employers are still unable at this time to come visit, as the viral outbreak you are monitoring has not become serious enough to warrant their traveling here without governmental permission."
She could only hope that the message was understood and acted on in time.
As she handed off the package to the courier that would deliver it to the SMS offices, she got a message from Alto.
"Nana is working, and as you've probably figured out, the rest of us are going to be unavailable. I've dropped off my ticket to Sheryl's show at 'Will Call' for you. Please pick it up and keep Ranka company - it's going to be a long night for all of us, and Michael and I feel it would be best if she isn't alone, in case something happens."
Mina looked at the message, and cursed. Things really were getting ugly, and she was handcuffed by the rules. At least, she could try to enjoy the concert.
Chapter Two: Sheryl on Stage
Mina actually found Ranka trying to jog to the concert, and got her to climb on back of the motorcycle for the ride to the stadium. She was met by a puzzled look from Ranka, when she settled into the seat Ranka had been expecting Alto to occupy.
"Alto couldn't make it," Mina explained. "He has to work."
"Work?" Ranka looked at her, then thought "Onii-chan..."
"Yes, that kind of work. If Ozma's like my grandfather, he has a message recorded and timed to be received by you after the SMS ship is beyond civilian communication range. That way he won't have to deal with second thoughts on either end."
"As he is letting me follow my dream, I must let him follow his. I know that."
"A famous Valkyrie pilot said that it gets into your blood. I know that it's true, because my grandparents about have to be forced not to fly, even when they have more important duties. As much as Alto goes on about wanting to fly under a real sky, I'm pretty sure it's gotten to him, too, even before he ever got to fly a real plane. Even with the experiences of the last few weeks, he still hasn't - flying in space is a lot different than flying in a dome or on a planet. It's as different from what he's done as your little talent show appearance was from really performing for a crowd actually there to see you."
"Does Sheryl know about Alto?"
"Probably; she and her management are probably the closest thing to an ambassadorial staff present right now. Pay close attention to her - consider this a lesson on character under stress. At least we got here in time for the start - you probably would have missed half the concert if I hadn't found you on the street."
"I'm part of your fan club, remember? It's my duty to help you out."
As expected, Ozma's call came in during the concert's intermission. The concert was going well, but when it came time for the last song, Sheryl began to falter. Audience members called on her to be strong, but it seemed to have no effect, until Ranka called out.
Mina was caught off-guard. SOMETHING happened. Not only did it seem to spur Sheryl on, it's almost as if she felt it herself. It was like something "bumped" her mentally, in the part of her mind that only her family's long-range telepathy tapped into. But, there were no others from the family present, though she'd lobbied hard to try to get her grandfather to send a few cousins that they could scatter around to Earth, Rax and a couple other locations to get a network up to communicate more quickly than couriers and the Galaxy Network - both of which were subject to delays and distortions from fold faults, as well as the flagship station of the network being missing.
Sheryl started singing "Infinity", and Ranka stood there, fifteen rows up from the stage, singing as well, her voice in sync with Sheryl's in a way that would have been hard to do if they were standing together - let alone that far apart. Furthermore, Mina could feel their harmony inside herself, almost as if she'd opened a telepathic link to them - but she hadn't, and neither Ranka nor Sheryl were telepathic. The closest thing to telepathy known in this universe was the connection between a Protodevlin and an avatar they'd placed part of their consciousness into, or the high-level empathy of Gubaba/Guvava's race - and neither were capable of projecting to more than just their specifically bonded recipient.
A chill ran through her stomach. Something more was in play, and she had no clue as to what. Dammit, Grandpa - what have you gotten me into, without any hope of backup???
A few days later, the feeling came back ten-fold, when both Ranka and Sheryl transferred into Mihoshi Academy. Mina didn't even want to THINK about what sort of insanity caused Sheryl's panties to be able to take off running seemingly on their own, precipitating the chaos - though it got her thinking about finding some way to get the VF-1 mounted on the school roof, before she found out that too much of the reactor assemblies in the legs were gone to replace without drawing unwanted attention. However, it didn't stop her from breaking Sentinel protocol and firing off an email to Mylene & Gamlin, asking if they could help her cut through the red tape with LAI on getting a custom authorized (Mina figuring that Luca could probably get it expedited once in the build queue, even if it meant implanting psychic suggestions or, at worst, possessing him). She was getting desperate, and the waiting made her anxiety all the more worse.
Canaria examined the strange box on her desk, purportedly from the labs on Rax that studied Protoculture medical advances. However, no flights from that area had come in since before the Vajra arrived. The cryptic letter would look to the casual reader to be suggesting an experimental vaccine against the V-type infection - something that of course had been tried, and failed, several times. However, the code phrase at the end evoked something all together different.
"Not while the evil days come not..."
Years before, she had been contacted by a shadowy group that offered her medical training and equipment, in exchange for agreeing to be a bolt-hole for their agents. Normally, this would sound like a very bad idea for a mother of a young child, but the recommendation had come to her via Mr. Birla, the owner of SMS, who in turn had been introduced to the stranger by Dr. Chiba of the Macross 7 fleet.
The stranger, who appeared to be of mixed human/Zentraedi ancestry, had touched her head, and somehow in the touching induced temporary blindness. When her eyesight returned, she was on the campus of an odd school that appeared to be closer to a beach resort than an institute of higher learning. Their shuttle ride had not been long enough to go further than some of the islands in the fleet, yet she hadn't been able to locate it since. Her fellow students were mostly human, but there were some that were of no race she had ever seen before. She spent almost a year separated from her family learning how to use and maintain outlandish equipment that had no maker's marks she recognized, and some of it looked like things mentioned only in the legends of the Protoculture. Many of the classes were taught by her recruiter, or by the recruiter's husband.
At the end of the training, she went to bed, only to wake up in a hotel bed back on Island One, the morning after she'd left for training! All the time she'd experienced, had supposedly only occurred in ten hours. Even the perfume she'd wore that night was back on. Perhaps it had been a dream - but the training she was given still was in her mind, and couldn't have been a dream, could it? Part of the training had been in the use of various educating devices, derived from ancient technology. Some simply wrote into a blank brain, or tried to overwrite an existing mind. Others created a virtual environment where traditional learning could occur. Could such equipment compress a year into a night?
No one would ever believe the story; in fact, she was told if she ever approached Chiba or Birla, they'd deny everything. All that she needed to do, is remember the sign and countersign, and await contact that might never come. Well, it finally came - with an autoinjector of unknown origin. Well, she wasn't going to use it blindly - she would analyze it first.
Two days later, she had her results - or lack thereof. She couldn't tell what it was supposed to do, other than put some kind of tracer into the genetics - one that she had already been altered to have, once she compared her DNA to her child. The tracer had some sort of odd energy signature - not quite fold energy, but related. She thought about it, and it finally came to her about what was said when she got her immunizations at the school. A cryptic reference to an antiquated financial institution, which made sense of the request to inject family members if possible.
Her husband and son were first; the Quarter crew and pilots were next, followed by the support personnel. After her tests to determine the safety of the vaccine, there was only enough left for one more person - had her not trusting the sincerity of the message potentially cost lives? If so, not many would be at any more risk than any other Frontier resident. She still had no idea what the effect would be of the immunization. Camouflage, making the injected not seem "foe" to a Vajra? Protection from the V-Type infection? Both? Or, something completely different?
Most of SMS was single; Birla rejected the vaccine, as he wasn't going to be shrunk to get it. Ozma wouldn't give anything to Ranka without knowing what it was, and there was no way of knowing what would happen if the fold energy released by the marker would interact with that produced by the Vajra virus. There's no way that Sheryl's manager would let Alto use it on her - even if she could talk him into trying. That made the crew whose relative would get the last dose a no-brainer - provided she'd do it.
Chapter Three: Idol Talk
Mina did her best to keep in contact with the pilots, though they had exemptions where they could miss class to perform military duties - in fact, they got credit for it. This meant finally breaking down and getting that job at Nyan-Nyan, as it was still the unofficial hang-out for SMS. At least, that's what she thought. Instead, she ended up being Ranka's fill-in, as Ranka worked on promotional events, and SMS decided to keep their personnel's down-time in their annex next to their dock, since there were reports of Vajra in the vicinity.
Michael's reaction to the comment from Sheryl's manager concerning his sister, though, worried Mina, and made her realize that the only people in her circle of friends that she knew much about the background of, were Alto, Nanase and Luca. The incident with Jessica Blanc was over a year before she arrived, and by that time it had become too touchy to mention in casual conversation.
All she really knew about Ranka is that she was actually adopted by Ozma, not her brother (in fact, legally she'd be at worst his ward, if not his adopted daughter - no wonder he tended to freak out like a father).Normal attempts to find out before the adoption were blocked - as were attempts to load promotional web pages for Ranka's debut in album that was a work in progress. This started setting off her alarms all over again.
Then, there was the third leg of the triangle, Sheryl, who had lots of PR data, but most of it the kind of sketchy stuff that typically was of dubious reliability. There were several references to her grandmother, who was a famous scientist and author, but none to her parents. The book was part autobiography, part non-fiction, about a Protoculture event that occurred a year before the SDF-1 launch.
If the book was to be believed, the Nome family was a direct matrilineal descendent of a Protoculture survivor who ditched her ship on Earth prior to the rise of civilization - and whose mDNA allowed the women, with training, to do miraculous things that rivaled the effects of Anima Spiritua. (if not surpass it). The Mayan language was even seen to be a debased version of the Protoculture language, with even more drift than Zentraedi from being reverted to the language of island tribals. At least the mechanical aspects of the story had been confirmed in 2058, when the surviving military records were declassified, but with Dr. Mao's death in 2048 it was hard to confirm. Death in her 50s? That's odd. How? Destruction of a science fleet based out of an Earth-built derivative of the original Macross refit - nature of attackers "Classified".
"Step two: Running cross-check of available data, before trying to hack for additional data," Mina muttered to herself, trying to quell the butterflies in her stomach, that had long passed Mothra, and were now doing Gavil/Glavil and Valgo imitations. She almost could hear her stomach rumble "The ultimate beauty of fucking you over" in a Zentraedi/Mayan Islander pidgin.
The check ended with her heavily-firewalled fold-up near-sentient computer (that could be anything from the size of a cell phone, to a folding laptop or double tablet, to a wall display) screaming "BOMBAAA!"
"Match one;" Mina continued to read out loud, as it was a quirk she developed when storing stuff into her eidetic memory. "SDFN-4 Global, 117th Survey Fleet, Colony & Science Research. Lost 2048, Gallia System, to alien attack; nearest planet, Gallia-4. Personnel files.... "Nome, Mao: Doctor. Position(s): Civilian commander, Colony. Day-to-day colony operations delegated to elected city government. Commander, Scientific Research. Specialties: Protoculture Technology, Protoculture Biology, Protoculture History, Protoculture Origins, Human Origins, Alien Biology, Alien Virology. Last known product: Study of V-type infection, search for cure. Status: Presumed dead in destruction of fleet. Nome Family: Daughter and Son-in-law presumed dead 2048, Galaxy Fleet, casualties of alien attack. Elder sister missing, fate unknown, "Bird Human" Protoculture relic Technology incident, 2008. "Granddaughter, Sheryl Nome, missing, presumed dead 2048, found as street urchin in 2052. Made ward of the Galaxy Medical Research division, to treat chronic illness. Current occupation: Entertainer. "Lee, Ozma: Position in 2048: Junior Pilot, 117th Fleet Colony defense. Status: Survivor of attack. Current status: Private Contractor Pilot, SMS, Frontier Fleet. Family: no biological kin. "Adopted refugee child, name unknown, given name Ranka Lee in adoption. Non-standard adoption - child being raised as if a sibling."
"Name unknown? From a ship with about fifteen thousand people who are completely documented. Hell, Galaxy found Sheryl from among millions. Everyone's genetics here are catalogued" - well, everyone but mine, she thought. "Even if from a failed colony, the only ones not on record, or not traced to birth parents, are ones descended from local Zentraedi in the early colonies, or the occasional stow-away. The last one I can remember was.... Basara." She just looked at the screen for a couple minutes.
"Computer, pause other results. New Searches. First Search designated RL. Search all children that would be four to six years old in 2048, that ever lived on, visited, or used SDFN-4 as a transfer point. Do search for years 2042 through 2047." Let's see how smart the person deleting data is, she thought; the birth records are probably gone, as are the last year or two. But let's see what is left in between... "Second Search designated VT: What is definition of a "V-Type infection"? Search only non-classified scientific journals prior to 2048. Audio circuit on."
"Searching..." Ten minutes later, a "BOMBAAA!" came.
"Search parameters complete. Cosmo Nature magazine, November 2047. Research on prophylactic treatments for incurable V-Type infections. V-Type infection is symbiotic viral agent in the Vajra lifeform, purpose unknown, accidentally introduced into a non-Vajra host. Article authors are Doctor Mao Nome as Project Lead, Doctor Ranshe Mei, Doctor Grace O'Connor."
"What the fuck?"
"Pause initiated from designated code word."
"New search. Code name Grace. Display bio of Doctor Grace O'Connor, SDFN-4 personnel, side by side with Grace O'Connor, civilian music promoter, Macross Galaxy fleet."
"Information incomplete due to missing state of Galaxy. Military escort vessel Dulfim from that fleet is denying access to system, and is launching hard system attack on this unit. Chance of success is zero, from technical incompatibility. Interface is diverting the attack to the airlock control computer for the primary corridor interfacing with Dulfim. Chance of Dulfim infecting its own systems is approximately twenty percent, depending on where firewalls are set to defend from its own black ice."
"What information can you provide?"
"Doctor Grace O'Connor presumed dead 2048, in loss of SDFN-4 Global. Age: Thirty." "Grace O'Connor, manager of Sheryl Nome, born 2035. Departed Eden 2040 aboard Galaxy City. Records missing until she is hired to scout Galaxy's orphanage for artistic talent.in 2054."
""How many clients did she take on?"
"One. Sheryl Nome."
"Do you have images of Doctor O'Connor?"
"Yes, with Doctors Mao and Mei in the earlier reference."
"Display side by side with publicity photo of the younger Grace from Sheryl Nome arrival on Frontier."
The pictures loaded, and Mina fell back into the chair behind her, as her knees buckled. The pictures were identical - if anything, the younger Grace appeared to be an optimized version of the other. The main differences were the ever-present jewelry.
"Scanning image.... Not an exact clone. 90% certainty that the younger Grace is not wearing jewelry, but the items are disguised cybernetics of types banned on Frontier and most other fleets, not those permissible in most fleets. Pulling up cross-dimensional comparisons, since no data on Galaxy military class cybernetic technology is accessible."
"Time to complete?"
"Thirty seconds...." Mina fidgeted during the wait. "Analysis of video footage in multiple spectra complete. Target Grace O'Connor is most likely an espionage cyborg, with cybernetic disguise, multiple espionage data gathering internal devices, some weaponry, and communications. Flesh is likely impregnated with nanites, allowing a technological equivalent to your telemechanics ability. Closest encountered equivalent are cyborgs in use in Japan and the New German Republic on World NEMA-1, but much more sophisticated. Closest equivalent in fiction, not yet encountered, would be the Code Gamma Earth of the fiction of S.M. Stirling, code named 'Draka'."
Code Gamma..... "This can't be happening..." Code Gamma is a "retreat on discovery, and initiate system containment protocols" - system containment as in getting the proper equipment from the Thuriens, then enclosing the system in a gravity gradient that prevents escape (even through alternate dimensions) and shuts off the ability to cross dimensions to or from within the circle. In the case of the Draka, release of an engineered weapon to cause rejection of the implants (and death) was discussed, but that bridge couldn't be crossed until they reached that Rubicon. Here, however...
"Likelihood this tech is common on Galaxy?"
"Minimal. The technology level of this universe is insufficient to create more than a few hundred such agents without incurring costs well beyond interstellar fold trade to support. Most likely, there are at best dozens, and few have actually been deployed. An idol musician's manager would be an optimum disguise for such, but there would be little opportunity for more than a couple at any given time. Perhaps, several more working as support personnel for the Galaxy Network communications system."
"That's something of a relief. But, as sinister as this appears, there's no evidence of foul play by anyone from Galaxy. It could just be that Grace 'Mark whatever' is a sign that she resumed her Vajra studies and her staff or another clone royally screwed up while she was away with Sheryl."
"Shall I give the results of Search RL?"
"There were two hundred and ten female children matching this criteria. Extrapolating from other data, we can eliminate eighty-five entirely human children, and sixty-two of pure Zentraedi extent. The four Zolan children can be eliminated as well. This leaves sixty-nine children, of which eighteen are known survivors, and thirty-two are confirmed dead from the distress log list of casualties. Of the remaining nineteen, eighteen were aboard the ship, and one was planet-side. Ozma Lee was planet-side on sentry duty, as were most of the military survivors and the ship they escaped in. That leaves one probability."
"Ranka Mei Sterne; daughter of Doctor Ranshe Mei."
Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck........ Circles in circles in circles, destinies spiraling to who knows what kind of apocalyptic end.
"Anything else your problem-solving routines can determine?"
"First, none of the Mei family members used the 'Sterne' family name while aboard the Global; the sole record found is a certificate concerning parentage of Ranshe's two children for purposes of survivor benefits, from the New UN's Employee Payroll and Benefits Agency. As no attempt was made to get Ranka to other family members, it is likely the father died before the incident leading to the ship's destruction, or was never actually married to Doctor Mei, and died in the incident. Nearly all records concerning 'Ranka Mei' appear to have been expunged from fleet records, but because of the different last name in the original document, it appears that this one reference was somehow missed. No query done as yet to the father's fate."
"Don't bother; as you noted, it's a moot point. Next?"
"It's likely from inference, such as the fact that another article was written by researchers on Galaxy on experimental symptom delay drugs for V-Type infections, that the 'alien attack' on Galaxy was probably Vajra in pursuit of Doctor O'Connor as she fled the Global. The Vajra are known to home in on fold energy, and use it to chase prey across dozens of light-years. It also means that the affliction that Sheryl suffers is likely a V-Type infection - and if so, she is approaching the terminal stage of the disease, as the longest survival known before terminal onset was fourteen years. Median for onset time was passed a couple standard deviations ago."
"Can I do something about it?"
"Unlikely - not even the local sizing chambers could filter it from Zentraedi victims."
"Probably not; it's not subject to any of their advanced anti-virals, and if those don't work, your healing is not up to it either. Perhaps, a visit to Omphalos might work."
"Like I can get there under my own power, without a gestalt or hijacking someone's fold engine. If I'd known, I'd have hit her with the retrovirus before I sent it to the SMS."
Chapter Four: Arkan
School was out for several weeks, so Mina had time to try to do a bit more old-fashioned research on Dr. Nome and the pre-history of her mother's ancestral world. Ironically, this led her to the beach. Well, not actually directly for the beach, but inquiries on Dr. Nome's book immediately led to casting calls for a movie being made in the fleet, in the Island 3 district.
Besides having a large Zentraedi population (in both senses), and the Folmo Mall (named for, and partly owned by her maternal grandparents' Zentraedi fleet advisor), Island 3 had an artificial island chain on one side that was constructed based on pre-2008 topographical maps of the Mayan Islands, that were just a few hundred kilometers from the site of Italia Island. Rumor had it that the Mall's island was based on the pre-Macross Italia Island, but that couldn't be confirmed or denied all that easily, having such radically different surface usage for commercial and agricultural purposes.
She was sitting on the beach, working on a tan and reading the actual "Bird Human" book, when the sound of Valkyries coming in for a landing down the coast caught her attention. She made a short teleport hop over to see what was going on, and saw that was Michael and Luca. Curious, she started walking in, hoping no one would realize that she wasn't one of the crew or extras - she'd teleported over from the mall roof, as access to the island was limited to the film production for the duration, with the few residents either working with the crew, or on vacation and renting their homes to the crew.
The few locals were in fact Mayan islanders and their descendants, as half the island's population had gone to work as laborers on Italia before the Bird Human Incident, and the survivors of the incident were relocated there while their island was rehabilitated. As a result, they were a significant minority among the civilians the SDF-1 had taken on its journey. In fact, it was aboard Macross that Mao began her formal education that led to her becoming such a renowned scientist. Others followed the path of Shin Kudo, and became pilots, and died in the void of space, returning the descendants of the Bird Man pilot to their ancestral home of legend. The appendices of the book reflected the emotions Mao had of the lost innocence of the time, as she saw so many friends die fighting the same war her many-times-great grandmother had fled to Earth to leave behind, tens of thousands of years before.
Another thing that caught her eye was who was also present. Alto was there not as a pilot, but apparently having to be bodyguard for Sheryl.... poor, poor, Alto-hime..... Given that Sheryl's grandmother was one of the three lead characters, it was to be expected. She continued to walk in as if she belonged there, and no one noticed.
Not long after, a ship pulled in, and Mina had another gut check, as Ranka stepped off. What. The. Hell???
She decided to go ask Michael what was going on.
"Oh, the director saw the promotional disc she was giving out last weekend, and invited her to walk on as one of the minor roles."
'Minor role', my ass, Mina thought. Now I know what Grandpa Scott felt like when things seemed to bend around him and his family to try to take the shape of events from the other timeline he visited, despite his attempts to prevent their recurrence in his. She'll end up with a bigger role, I know it. I'm stuck in an Event, and there's no such thing as minor coincidences in Events. And, given that she's totally wrong for Sara, and she's too young for the scientist, that only left one role, and she even looked the part. Hell, she looked the part of Mao a thousand times more than the lead female looked the part of Sara. At least it isn't as bad where "Aunt" Mylene played Minmay that one time.
"Keep an eye on her. Something's not right around here."
Mina went to the replica of the grotto of the winds, where several of the scenes would take place, from the crash of the VF-0 that Shin would commandeer, to many of Sara's big scenes. One of the scenes called for floating rocks - something that was argued in commentaries on the book whether it actually happened. But, given the events of 14 years ago, it wasn't as outlandish as it seemed for someone with the blood of the Protoculture flowing through them. Oh, what the hell, I need the exercise.
Mina waded into the spring, and started singing one of the Fire Bomber songs that Melanie had brought back from her visit to this universe back then, one that was technically Basara's, but Aunt Mylene had managed, solo and a capella, to EXORCISE a protodevlin out of Gamlin, that had gone immaterial and merged with him to control him.
As she sang the song, she felt the power reaction that she'd heard about, something intrinsic to the laws of nature of this universe. She reached out to the rocks, and levitated them with her mind, putting them in a slow circle around the pool. It felt good to be cutting loose; and if nearly anyone saw her, most of them would think she was testing out some of the special effects - never mind the systems meant to lift the rocks for filming didn't have power yet. The FX guys would be the real issue, and they were busy with other scenes. "Love will save your heart...... Love will save this world...... Love will light the light......"
Suddenly, a scream off toward the cliffs jarred her back to reality, followed by gunshots. She broke off in a run, and arrived on the edge of the jungle in time to see a blonde cyborg gaining the upper hand against what seemed to be a rabid Edenite Hydra, which were common Zentraedi pets, and normally not hostile to humans at all. The Hydra was engineered by the Protoculture to be even more docile to those of humanoid form than even domestic dogs, as a form of genetic memory. In fact, they were blatant proof that the Protoculture had been to Earth before the Bird Human, as the Hydra was a true-breeding genetic chimera of Terran ancestry (with the actual name Chimera went to another Eden creature of similar engineered origin, that looked a lot like the Chimera of Greek legend - and it didn't share that docile trait, apparently engineered as a guard animal).
As she and Alto watched, the cyborg extended an arm blade and sliced the hydra in two from head to tail, as he leapt over it.
As Alto staggered to his feet, he asked his rescuer his name...
"Brera Sterne," the cyborg replied, before bounding off.
Mina's jaw about hit the ground. Brera Sterne was dead, according to the records. Those same records also said that Brera Mei Sterne was the elder child of Dr. Ranshe Mei - and therefore Ranka's big brother. And, his present state meant that not only was he not dead, but he made it to Galaxy as well. So, what was he doing here, now? Dulfim's crew were quarantined, so it's extremely unlikely he came from there - at least not legally. Fuck.
As Mina figured would happen, Ranka ended up with the role of Mao - the previous actress had been habitually late, even before getting hurt when the rabid Hydra attacked her car en route from one of the local houses to the shoot. What she didn't expect was that the male lead threw a fit about the underwater scene, and that Alto had been hired to take his place in that scene - where Shin was kissed by Mao. There was a lot of trepidation about the role, but seeing Sheryl kiss Alto by surprise apparently gave Ranka the understanding to play the role. If only she knew just how close to being sisters, or at least honorary cousins, she really was to Sheryl.
A few weeks later, the film premiered - and Ranka's performance, and her music especially, mesmerized the crowd. "Arkan" meant "star" in the Proto-Mayan, and from their story, Ranka had reached that lofty status. The question now was what would happen, as Sheryl and Ranka were now rivals in both love and career, even if they and Alto didn't fully grasp it yet.
"This SUCKS!!!!!!!" Mina screamed from the end of runway 01 on top of school, the night before classes started back. Why hadn't help arrived yet?
Chapter Five: Drifting Hurricane
School was back in session, but Ranka's newfound fame had kept her away from classes for the most part. Luckily for her, what she was doing counted as performing arts class credit, but her other classes would have to be done via home study.
Mina, her plans on monitoring the growing Event stymied by this, was able to at least give the appropriate mental nudges to have them assign her to take the assignments over to Ranka & Ozma's house, and even offer tutoring if it was needed. Sometimes, Nanase would come along as well. But even then, they talked to Ranka more by phone than in person.
Poolside at school, the conversations wandered all around, until Sheryl walked up and confronted Alto about his upcoming birthday. After some kidding around, and Michael going all chivalrous on Sheryl's sniffles in order to make all the gawkers on the other side of the fence jealous, Sheryl told them about her planned trip to Gallia 4 - at which Mina almost drowned at the mention of the name, having been just casually floating in the pool behind Luca at that point. Oh. Crap.
After the swimming period was over, Sheryl had taken a bit longer than the others to get dressed, so they were sitting on the steps, looking at Gallia 4 on Luca's computer. It was not a pretty planet. Inhabitable, but really only along the twilight zones, being tidally locked with the gravitational center of the Gallia 1 red giant. Frankly, the system shouldn't exist, as the gravitational pull of Gallia Prime, the star that Gallia 1 itself orbited, should have produced tidal forces that prevented the tidal lock (not to mention the additional pull of other two planets orbiting closer to Gallia 1, and Gallia 4's moon), and that kind of system engineering would be extreme even for the Protoculture. It was probably one of the reasons why Mao Nome went there.
Discussion was interrupted by Alto's old sempai from the Saotome theatre showing up, and taking him off to talk about his father. Conversation shifted to Alto's past, and then back to some of the other topics, like Luca's brothers being jealous of his "Making of 'Bird Man'" documentary appearances, and Sheryl's morale concert.
Even without the connection to her grandmother and Ranka's mother, something just didn't seem right. Once Mina got back to her apartment, she looked up just who Sheryl would be performing for - the 33rd Marine Division.
The 33rd were, for lack of a better word, trouble. They were the last remnant of Bodolza's forces that hadn't embraced culture. Even more bizarre, many of the Zentradi in it were genetic siblings of those that had preceded Bodolza to Earth. Ogotai was brother to former UN Forces commander Vrlitwhai (commonly called Bretai) - and therefore also a great-uncle of Ranka's manager; come to think of it. Exedore's brother was his advisor. The two had been chosen years before to attempt to shepherd their fellow Bodolza fleet survivors into joining the new culture, and the 33rd was the last division left of what had once numbered several fleets.
Scarily enough, the instigator of the request for Sheryl to appear was a Kravshera. Given the history of Quamzin Kravshera and his analogue in the Robotechnology universes, Khyron, this HAD to be a trap of some sort. More perversely, said Kravshera's individual name had the same pronunciation as one of Ghengis Khan's honorifics - much as the name Ogotai was also the name of a Mongol khan, though one of Ghengis' heirs.
Mina made up her mind - she had to find a way there. But, without a fold-capable craft, she'd have to find some other way there. She theoretically could fold there under her own power, but only if she'd been there before - and the same fold faults that played havoc with folds there affected her abilities, and her spacesuit would run out of air long before she could navigate around the faults, even if she used her space-rated Cyclone as a flight suit. There was really only one option, and it scared the hell out of her.
On the day of the departure, she went to see Sheryl and Alto off. While making small talk to Sheryl, and telling her to be wary of the situation, she stuck a nanobot onto Sheryl's extra luggage. She then retreated to an unused lounge, and waited for the foldliner to lift off. She activated the nanobot, and had it find a place in the cargo hold large enough for her. With that, she teleported, and hoped she could spoof any sensors on board.
Mina dreamed of home. The warmth of the beds she sometimes shared with her female relatives (and sometimes male ones); the touch of their skin; the smell of their bodies; the caress of their hands. Living alone in Sentinel school was the first time she'd ever had a bed to herself, other than a couple of minor illnesses that resulted from vaccination against NEMA-universe diseases that were usually fatal to normal human immune systems. Her apartment on Island One took weeks to get used to, because she was also missing the empathic rapport of others of her kind, and she'd literally willed herself to sleep with her own psychic powers as a crutch, instead of trying to immediately acclimatize.
The shaking of reentry woke her from a particular sensuous dream, of being back at her second home on Omphalos, having fun with several of her half-sisters and the local Invid.
"Right when it was getting interesting.... " she muttered, reaching out bands of telekinetic force to secure herself. Eventually, the ride changed into the smoothness of actual flight, and Mina began looking for a means of tapping into the external cameras. A few tentative taps with her telemechanical presence ability allowed her to make sure that the cyborg wasn't monitoring the systems.
She reached her mind over into her pocket, and made contact with her pocket computer, and started going over the plans for the military base that she purloined from the Battle Frontier database. If she had to teleport out (say, if Grace or another cyborg was about to come in) instead of clouding the minds of the normal humans and Zentradi outside, she'd need to know the rooftops from the schematics, and their relative locations via the security cameras, and have that cross-reference already in mind.
She sat there, watching the ceremony for Sheryl's arrival, when things went horribly wrong. Sheryl passed out coming down the mobile stairway, and there was a bit of an awkward lurch in the events outside. Apparently the Kravshera adapted more quickly, and launched his hostage taking, improvising to switch the blame to Sheryl, claiming it was a ploy to keep from performing for the 33rd.
"Damn, he's good," Mina said to herself. "Quamzin would have never made that adjustment, and turned the thing into a bloodbath right there."
Shooting did start, but it was short-lived, and no one appeared to be seriously hurt, other than a hostage that got squeezed perhaps a little too hard. But it quickly became apparent that walking out of the foldliner wasn't going to be an option, and she needed to get out before they searched the ship.
"Okay, other than the Queadol-Magdomilla, what's there on base that I really don't want the mutineers to have?" She looked over the map, and one item jumped out - Secure Weapons Storage. She tapped the display, and she found out just what was so important that they were secured off-ship.
"Oh, great; nukes compatible with the shoulder hard points of the power armor suits." And, of course, being the NUNS, the armors here were all Queadlunn variants, having decided that it was unfair to limit the suits to their traditional female special forces users. "Whatever happened to not giving your best technology to units prone to mutiny?" She quickly folded her computer back up, found the weapons vault on a camera, triangulated, and teleported.
She arrived a couple feet high, but that was deliberate. In fact, it was actually lower than what she aimed for. She dropped and rolled, then looked for the roof access hatch. Telemechanics got her in, as the lock wasn't designed with her powers in mind, nor was the security system. She looked at the racks below her, which were actually trailers stood on end. The missiles were HUGE.
"Okay, so emulating 'The Long Watch' might be a wee bit difficult. But, there's more than one way to FUBAR a nuke. Dahlquist, if your spirit is out there, watch over me." She then set about disabling the missiles by shorting out their power distribution systems, and shorting the fault detector to where the missiles would still seem to be armed. It's not like the renegades could repair the things.
She'd barely finished the last missile, when she heard footsteps approach the main door. She used her telekinesis to leap to a walkway above the door, and hid there as it opened. From there, she listened to the Kravshera's speech - and overheard what his followers did not, that he had assistance from someone in the miclone camp, that had been in on it since before the arrival of the morale show. Apparently, his brother Quamzin wasn't the only one meriting the moniker "Backstabber", and these Zentradi were being used as pawns for some other purpose - probably to destabilize the NUNS.
She quietly slipped back to the roof, hid, and began recuperative meditation. All that had taken a lot out of her, more than she'd ever really exerted before, in disciplines she rarely used outside training. Several hours later, all hell broke loose again - to be followed by an unexpected arrival. Ranka, how the hell did you get here?
She sat there and listened, and finally got to see first-hand the power that her "aunt" and her sisters had manipulated first-hand, fifteen years before. It probably would have been more effective with one of the old VF-11 Sound Force birds, but Michael's four wing-mounted Chiba pods were Spiritua manipulation enough for dealing with Zentraedi. The real problem was the effect it had on Temujin, who like his brother had a resistance to the power. The resulting battle between him and Alto, who apparently had been caught trying to get back to his fighter right before Ranka arrived, was spectacular, if a bit short.
She slipped over to the medical building, and decided to rest there, as to better keep an eye on Sheryl, and the person most likely to be communicating with cybernetic links was there too. Hours later, when weird stuff started happening with foldspace and power grid that she could sense even without any equipment or training, she knew something was up. She pulled out her computer.
"Query; what could be causing foldspace noise, and power failures, simultaneously? Limit parameters to local universal conditions."
"Dimensional energy pulses, or spikes in the local fold energy. Most technology in this dimension uses quantum technology derived from that of the Protoculture. That technology can be disrupted by foldspace noise."
"How can ships fold, then?"
"For disruption to occur, the frequencies involved must be approximately one magnitude higher than what is being disrupted; if several magnitudes apart, the interference does not occur. To make an analogy to electromagnetic energy frequencies, ship folds produce energy equivalent to VHF, while fold faults are pockets of non-dissipating energy equivalent to UHF. Experiments are ongoing with higher-frequency fold equipment capable of bypassing faults, led by LAI, but no one has offered one commercially yet, nor have military trials begun."
"I guess that explains Ranka's arrival; it must be Luca's doing. Continue."
"The frequencies that most local computing technology and sensory technology operate on are analogous to the x-ray frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum. Therefore, it would take frequencies analogous to gamma radiation to induce disruptions. This has been explored as weapons technology, but it has been impossible so far to artificially produce such frequencies."
"But, they occur naturally?" Mina asked, catching the inference.
"Correct. Weak signals of this type have been detected in proximity to large masses of Vajra."
"I've got a bad feeling about this...."
She slipped down the hall, acting as if she belonged there, hoping that no one that would recognize her as someone not supposed to be on-planet. She found her way down to Sheryl's room, and saw that it was empty. She looked out the window, and saw Michael and Sheryl getting into his VF-25.
"Okay, now where's Grace? There's no way she'd be letting Sheryl get out of bed like this, let alone fly." Mina decided to exit the building like a normal person, pretending to be part of Sheryl's entourage, and asking if anyone had seen Grace. What she heard along the way bothered her - Alto and Ranka had left to get the fold pack that Michael & Sheryl used, but hadn't had time to reach orbit when all the power disruptions started to hit. As nearly every variable fighter after the original VF-1 required computer fly-by-wire controls to even fly straight, this did not bode well. And, Grace had been seen walking towards the wilderness outside the base, where there was little but barren rock.
Mina decided to risk it, and teleported to the cliff she could see in the distance. Once there, she looked around, and saw Grace leaping in great bounds - quite obviously using her cybernetic augmentation now that she thought she was away from prying eyes. The last time Mina had seen anyone doing those kind of leaps outside a power armor was back on NEMA-1, and those were all humans augmented with technology to produce superhuman abilities. It was all she could do to track her, and make short teleports to keep up without getting so close that she would set off Grace's proximity alarms.
Finally, Grace stopped, and Mina stopped to observe. Grace was behind a ridge, but beyond that ridge, was the bay, and the military base beyond. Why had she circled around the bay? After several minutes, Grace leaped over that last ridge, and Mina jumped to it to watch from above.
She watched as Grace approached a rock formation that shouldn't have been there; a formation that turned out to be a camouflage hologram, that decloaked as an energy beam lanced up from the jungle far to the other side of the base. The design of the device screamed "BOMB". In the distance, multiple ships seemed to lift off from over the horizon, as weapons flashes of what appeared to be at least a couple of aircraft fighting also appeared. She regretted not bringing along a helmet radio to monitor what was going on, but that would have probably distracted her from Grace.
Grace went to the device, pushed a button with her hand, and her cybernetic flesh began to reshape itself, plugging into the computer ports - it was obviously where normally the arming plugs would go. And, when it powered up, Mina had the enormity hit her of just what kind of bomb it was - a D-Bomb, like the one that created the Orguss Earth Tinya and Karen had saved, and was now a member of the interstellar government back home. Effectively, an unfocused fold drive, that if tuned properly would destroy everything around it - and Ancient use of them in the Divisive War and subsequent Protodevlin destruction of both sides is probably what caused all the fold faults, as it effectively converted much of that mass into energy and released into the subdimension that fold travel traveled through. Improperly focused, it could miss foldspace entirely, and punch a hole through hundreds of dimensions, causing a catastrophe like Orguss or NEMA-1.
She had to stop it, but this was WAY out of her level of expertise. She would have to wing it. She made a telekinetic leap to the opposite side of the bomb, and made her own telemechanic link to the device. It was asking the impossible - if a device was controlled by a sufficiently advanced AI or cybernetic link, she wouldn't be able to do anything - but perhaps the shock of her showing up might have an effect....
"Hey, psycho bitch!" she channeled through the device to Grace. "What the hell do you expect to accomplish?"
"Who the hell are you? No matter, you'll just die here with the bomb."
"Not if I stop you."
"Give it your best shot, girl. Your cybernetics can't be advanced as that of Galaxy."
"Who's using cybernetics???"
"But -" Grace faltered a bit, realizing that somehow this cybernetic intruder wasn't cybernetic.
Mina jumped at the hiccup, accessing the weapon. It was far too late to turn it off, but perhaps... She reached into the discharge controls, and tapped into them, altering the frequency and focus.
"CODE OMEGA! CODE OMEGA!!! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!!!" she screamed mentally on her family's mental connection, hoping she had gotten the discharge modifications right.
Grace attacked again through her cybernetic bond with the weapon, rattling Mina, but Mina felt something else, like a mental carrier beam. She made one last push, into the controls, trying to shape the fold envelope with her mind to match the beam, even as the early effects started tearing at her body.
And, everything went black.
"WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?!?!?!?!?" Alto yelled in despair, looking back at the planet, that was missing a huge chunk from where the bomb had detonated.
Chapter Six: Pandora's Boat
Mina had come to, sort of, with the sensations of intense pain nearly everywhere. She couldn't speak, she couldn't see, and if she was actually moving her limbs, she couldn't actually tell.
"Do you think she'll make it?" a young girl's voice asked, a touch of fear present despite it almost sounding like she was talking through a towel.
"I've never seen someone come out of a pod in this kind of trouble," an older female voice replied. "I really wish Grandma was here. If this doesn't work, we'll have to restore her back to her mnemonic backup from before the mission, and we'll never find out what happened..."
Unconsciousness mercifully returned.
"...I think she's coming out of it, finally," the first voice spoke again, apparently much later than the last time. She still couldn't see, but most of the pain was gone, and she could actually tell someone was holding her hand, probably the one releasing her from some sort of imposed coma.
"I hope there's enough of her left to find out what happened," the other voice spoke, as the blackness shifted to more of a gray haze. "Mina, do you recognize my voice?"
"Denice?" Mina almost couldn't recognize her own voice.
"Yeah, sis. You scared the hell out of us. What do you remember of how you got here?"
"Not exactly... I seem to remember a bomb..."
"Your memories are still integrating; I'm not surprised you don't remember much. Near as we can tell, you were at ground zero of a D-bomb, trying to tune it into a fold drive. As a result, the pods had a hard time reconstituting your mind when you died - let alone anything else."
"I was afraid you were going to use the D-word. How come I can't see?"
"Like I said - you were in bad shape. We concentrated on getting your mind back together, but we won't know how good a job we did until we talk to you a bit. The clone body that popped out of the pod had things wrong with it we'd never seen before - we finally figured out that your body was being so shredded in proximity to the fold bomb that even the proteins in your DNA were being scrambled. And, your body was being affected on that level, you really don't want to think about how your memories were affected. We're recreating a body based on your last visit, to transfer your mind into, but we can't do that transfer until we make sure you've recovered everything you can, because everything not recovered will probably be lost. Frankly, if we tried to repair the existing body, you'd still end up blind, crippled and bald."
"I guess it's a good thing, then, that I am blind for now."
"Yeah. The first thing on our list of questions is just where in hell in Macross-A did you come across tech like that?"
"I... I think it was a terrorist incident. Someone's trying to destabilize the interstellar New UN."
"That didn't look like any normal colony world. Then again, we're prohibited by treaty and Grandma's orders from using dimensional scrying for espionage or other study, once there's official contact. Can you remember where you were?"
"An old world. Tidal locked to a red dwarf, but in a larger binary system that should have prevented it from being locked."
"Again, that brings up one of those 'how the hell?' questions, on what you were doing there, when you should have been in high school."
"You're one to talk, Sammy, given you're the problem child of the House of Omphalos. You were born after Karen's last visit and didn't get subjected to the things Denise and Cassie were. But, I think I was there because my classmates were in danger. There's an Event going on."
"Pilot love triangle with not one but TWO idol singers, sure. I'm starting to remember stuff, but I'll need more time."
"I guess, then, we'll have to talk to the people that came through with you, and right after, then."
"Oh, shit, I just remembered - quarantine the bomb site. I was fighting a cybernetic being that was detonating the bomb. A really nasty piece of work, about equivalent to a Draka."
"Don't worry about it - currently, the entire planetary fragment is in stasis lock. We'll have to pull people out slowly. And, you're not the only person that got podded. We'll talk to them while you're recovering - they didn't get their memories scrambled, and being a normal re-pop, they aren't going to have to go through most of this."
"Who was it?" Mina dreaded the answer - depending on how her presence messed things up, she could have gotten any of the principals killed, and it was likely neither of the girls were tagged.
"A female Zentradi, full-sized."
"That's a relief - but that means there must have been an attack on the fleet. There were no females in that planetary unit, and the fleet was a week away by fold. How long have I been out?"
"Two weeks, or thereabouts. Macross-A is time-synced with Core, other than the difference in year, and we try to keep our part of Omphalos synced with home for purposes of dealings with the Circle of Ouroboros, since we can step into another sector and expand or collapse time as needed. We leave the time travel to the Longs."
"Well, I'm declaring a Level One Event in Macross-A. How soon can I get backup?"
"Not any time soon."
"Think for a moment, Sis," Sammy piped back in. "Why are WE the ones dealing with your arrival - especially considering the shape you arrived in?"
The implication slowly dawned on Mina.
"Where's the rest of the family?"
"The Black Hats are active again. The Circle is in a full-scale time war, and Tinya and Mom are taking part, along with most of the EDC fleet. Cassie's currently in charge here, and we took a big chance when you called for help, as you could have been subverted or under duress, to trick us into letting a Black Hat force into Omphalos."
"If I'm going to have to go back in without backup, you better hurry. I think that the bomb was probably an indication of the mid-Event crisis, especially since the bad guy just unmasked."
"Okay, now that we know you're not a vegetable, we'll move you over into one of the time-compressed areas to finish memory recovery and the body swap. Remember, without Mom or Tinya here, we're having to do everything the hard way, from growing your new body, to actually transferring you into it."
"You know this is going to suck a lot," Mina said to herself - literally. The clone of herself was lying next to her, waiting for the process to start. Of course, it was unconscious, having been kept asleep from the moment of creation, and possessed all her memories up to her departure from Omphalos on her last visit. However, it was physically a tabula rasa, and she'd have to undergo physical therapy to get it back into condition, since they were having to do this the "hard way".
"Talk to yourself much?" Sammy joked, from somewhere in the room.
"Well, it does take some effort to build up to something like this."
"The body isn't an exact copy of you as of your last visit, by the way. We had to grow it, instead of creating a temporal twin. But, we had your memory crystal to reset it to that point."
"Haven't you all come up with a better name for those yet?" The crystals served as a magical backup of the contents of a mind, created by making a psychic mind bond with the crystal, that would then maintain the contents. It was much more complex than the technological means used in cloning chamber (and in the buffers for sizing chambers), in that sizing chambers were only capable of short-term storage, and cloning chambers either gave only rudimentary personalities, or required a donor mind hooked up.
"Well, 'phylactery' sounded too undead-creepy, even if that was one of the magical items that was researched to make them. And, 'horcrux' is just not gonna happen. You want to talk creepy, you need to see your boyfriend's crystal. When DT finally convinced him to make one, he had his shaped into a copy of the Mitchell-Hedges Skull."
"How is Derek?"
"On tour; he and his brothers haven't been able to be persuaded to retreat back to Essos or Omphalos for the duration of the war. They think having Amy & Regina with them is backup enough, given who their father is - not that it really helped in preventing the last timequake. Of course, we only have DT's word about what things were like before that hit, seeing as we were all affected, and you're one of the people whose biography changed the most when history got rewritten."
"Do tell... Did I actually marry Derek or something?"
"No, but not only did the Mary Sues not exist in the previous meta-timeline, but your sister was batshit crazy, and also your MOTHER."
"What the? How?"
"Your birth mother in this timeline never existed. They just reverted Mylene back to her original state and sent her home after Melanie were born, because of how Anna reacted. However, somehow she'd got the baby Melanie to mind merge and make the merge permanent, and she grew up plotting to get Steve back, and to eventually reclaim Mylene's body - and almost drove Mylene insane when she attempted it. She got pregnant with your analogue by using her powers to pull the Excalibur Seduction on Steve, after that failed." The latter was a reference to an old Arthurian movie, where Uther used magic to seduce and impregnate Arthur's mother.
"If that's bothering you, then I think I'll leave up to Derek to tell you the changes that occurred in his family from the shift. Only DT and Merlin were unchanged, and that's because they had a few temporal meta-seconds forewarning about the shift, and isolated their realm from the timestream in case they had to go unfuck everything. Even their kids had no warning and got changed with the rest of us - though it's not like we know anything other than this new reality as a result."
"Anyway, in the other timeline they eventually had to take Melanie back here and lock her into a time pocket. What's funny is that if they'd imprisoned her on Essos instead, that Melanie might have been brought over, and we're not sure if that would have meant two Melanies, or if it would have put both that personality and the Melanie we know into one brain."
"Can we start this transfer, before you mess with my mind any further?"
Mina was stretched out in bed on her stomach, sore from toes to scalp from the physical therapy and retraining. It was one thing to still have memory of martial arts, gymnastics and acrobatics training, but another to actually be able to use it by re-forging the neural connections needed for it, and the muscle memory for those connections to be transmitted. Her new body was a cellular clone, not a "grab a body from an earlier point in the timestream and duplicate it" clone, so none of the old muscle tone was present, nor the same cellular brain structure to overlay her old patterns onto - not that those patterns had been even remotely intact, given that getting torn apart on a simple-molecular level by the fold bomb had trashed her on a level even Zor and Karen hadn't imagined possible.
Denise & Sammy were helping her work out the cramps and aches, giving massages that had the occasional sexual tease in them. She was okay with Denise's playfulness, as the two had been lovers back when Mina was learning all kinds of sexual techniques from her (after all, sometimes being a 'Mary Sue' meant playing Mata Hari, and information sources come in both sexes). Sammy, though, was a bit creepy. When Mina was last here, Sammy was physically about the same baseline-human-early-teens level as Mina herself. Now, though, Sammy looked a very loli-hentai seven or eight, and apparently had developed a penchant for cosplaying a BDSM interpretation of her Tenchi Muyo namesake's magical girl persona. In fact, she showed up for the massage in her crotchless costume.
"Sammy, get that sex toy wand of yours away from my butt, or so help me...."
"What, you'll stagger around after me like a drunk? You're barely able to jog right now, even when you've not worked yourself to collapse. Besides, it wouldn't be right for me to violate your virgin new body - there's at least two guys out there that have right of refusal on those, and both of them would spank me if I jumped line on them - not that I wouldn't mind a good spanking from them..."
Sammy continued her teasing by relocating to where her legs straddled one of Mina's, and she began rubbing her obviously non-virginal privates against the back of Mina's thigh, as she bent Mina's knee on that leg to grab the foot, and began a foot massage, complete with sucking on the toes.
"Don't get her too frustrated, Sammy," Denise reprimanded her sister. "It's not like she's got the stamina left for much of anything, tonight."
"Okay," Mina asked, trying to get the subject off of sex, "tell me more about this other timeline that we don't remember. I've developed a bit of morbid curiosity about it over the last couple weeks."
"DT hasn't told us everything, of course, but there were some really odd things about it. Like, before it got wiped out, somehow the Black Hats managed to create a depraved, evil clone of Dad-"
"Depraved isn't that much of a stretch, but evil? That's pretty hard to pull off with us."
"Apparently they raised the clone in a pocket dimension on a steady diet of raping and occasionally snuffing bound victims meant to be breeding vessels. His mistress of pain was one of Jenny's girls that got surrogated in another dimension, and was kidnapped as an infant. In fact, most of the breeding stock were their own children, and they were raising their sons to be rape-happy sadistic psychos with high psi powers, training them on their permanently bound and helpless sisters. The boys that didn't make the psi-power cut got used as cannon fodder by the Black Hats."
"How did they get taken down?"
"One of the rejects turned out to be a psychic late bloomer, and went rogue on the Black Hats, constantly jumping from dimension to dimension to stay loose, with no knowledge of the real family other than bits he'd occasionally overhear. Of all people, it was Angel that first stumbled across him, on a world where she was pestering your temporal analogue and her half-brothers on a concert tour. When she brought her new boyfriend home to meet her mother, all hell broke loose. DT made a few attempts to try to backtrack his origins, some of which nearly got her killed from traps set up - like teleport redirects to things in deteriorating orbits of black holes within the Roche limit, if you didn't have the proper key on you for the intended landing point. Only her training from her husband in his megaversal cluster's dimensional magics saved her. Eventually, she ran into the "evil twins" in an alternate of Home where they'd altered history to where the Invid attacked Earth during the period when our grandparents were discovering Tisiphone Base."
"Yes, I know there shouldn't have been anything like the Karen we know anywhere but Home, from Zor's manipulation to create her, but they duplicated parts of that specifically to put her in that spot. Their intent, prior to DT stumbling onto that universe, was to grab the Dana and Noel analogues for the breeding pit, as well the offspring Scott had with Marie and Karen, as things got rather kinky with them as they led the Resistance against the invasion, and Karen never got revealed to Scott as being his niece until DT opened her big mouth - Grandma did have a crush on him back then, after all. Her arrival coincided with the Masters arriving to find the Invid mostly in control of Earth, and an uneasy alliance being forged between the Resistance and the Masters. She wouldn't go into more details than that, but the resulting furball led to some of those kids being relocated to Essos to keep them out of the hands of the Black Hats, and they survived when their artificially manufactured timeline ceased to exist with the time shift. We were able to piece together a few things about that place from them."
"So, what are they like?"
"Real hardasses. The alternate Noel and Dana had to bust out of Zand's labs, where he'd gone over to working for the Regent, then spent months playing a pair of Newts to the Invid aliens, until Karen finally detected them through the Invid hive telepathic shields. Along the way, they had rescued other test subjects, including several kids that in most timelines grew up to be Dana's colleagues or subordinates in the Southern Cross, and others that were military survivors of the REF that fought alongside Noel and Alex against the Invid. One of the kids was even an Invid simulagent that went rogue, that the Regis had planted in the kids Noel and Dana were rescuing."
"Yep, though by the time DT showed up, poor young Scott Bernard was caught in a love triangle between her and Marlene Rush. Like I said, they've not really opened up to us much about their lost homeworld, but it appears that the alliance with the Masters went south when Musica and Bowie had much the same effect on each other as here, and resulted in an uprising against the Masters - while Ariel did the same against her father, the Regent, after Black Hat agents manipulated the Masters into taking out the Regis. When that happened, the Black Hats saw their plans going awry, and triggered Haydon's Awakening as a cover for unleashing a temporal weapon meant to destroy the solar system, and DT's family and helpers with it. They almost got it to work."
"So, what happened?"
"Seth, the rogue, grabbed his brother's port-key while they were fighting, and he and Angel grabbed the universe-killer before detonation and jumped into his parents' pocket dimension - that's what triggered the reset when that dimension was wiped from ever existing - and since it didn't, neither did that reality splinter they created. Seth survived by Angel sending him to Essos before the wipe, but since she was there at the bomb, her past got reset, just like everyone else outside Essos. As a result, she didn't remember any of it, and Seth is having to romance her all over again. It's the time shift from that resulted in the current war, as Merlin and DT had to mobilize our time-traveling allies to present the kidnapping of Seth's mother and the creation of the clone of Steve, and of course that escalated everything, after their 'change' was tracked back to the modern time frame "
"So, even if I get fully healed and my memory back, help's still unlikely to come."
"That's a fair assumption."
"Any chance of getting that custom I asked for?"
"Not from us. It's too dangerous for you to act alone on that level. Who knows what bad guys you might trigger to make unexpected moves, or accidentally kill someone or something from the other side that might be instrumental in resolving things later. Besides, you'll need recertification in your new body for flight - that's your own organization's regulations. Your Cyclone, on the other hand, is not a big a risk to yourself or others."
"By some miracle your 'aunt' and her husband get that request you sent and act on it, that's fine. But, you'll still have to get local permission to fly."
"What about the pilot that arrived after I did?"
"We can't send her back - not yet, at least. But, we're still trying to stabilize that fraction of Gallia 4 you brought, and we're working on bringing the remainder of the planet through to restore it, then pop it back into its orbit. We'll need her to interact with the people that you caught on the surface when you brought it here, as she's from their universe, and we're not. Even getting the planet stable again probably will take weeks after you leave, though it being an ancient geologically inactive world in tidal lock should make it easier."
Mina woke up, the warmth of her cousins' skin on hers. After months of constant exercise and memory recovery sessions, this was her last morning on Omphalos, and the girls had decided to give her a going away party. After all, if things were as she felt they were heading, there would be little fun back where she was heading. It would be hard to leave this, after getting used to it again. But her family would always be waiting for her, and her new friends hadn't seen her in weeks, their time.
She grabbed a nectarine from the bowl of fruit in the room, and made her way to the hot springs the house had been built around. One last good soak and bath before jumping back to the fleet, and finding out what had transpired while she was gone. The others were waking and heading to the spring as well; a few more hours with them would be only a few minutes delay, she thought to herself, and smiled....
"Hi guys!" she called out, as she saw her classmates approach the theater for Ranka's live.
"Mina!" Nanase ran over, hugging her. "We thought you were killed in the attack."
"I was over on Island 14, and lost my ID and luggage in the attack. I tried to get Ranka's attention, to get help to get back home, but couldn't get past her security. How did you all make it back from Gallia 4?" She looked over at Michael and Alto.
"It's a long story - we're really not supposed to talk about what happened there," Alto sighed.
"Maybe, once I talk to you, you might consider talking."
"Are you hitting on Alto?" Michael snickered. "Or, perhaps me?"
"In your dreams, pretty-boy."
The chance to talk never came, though, as Cathy let out a scream that they heard from the neighboring booth, and they ran in to see what was wrong. She was covered in blood - Ozma's blood, trying to get him to respond. They quickly called Canaria for emergency transport, and as they waited, Mina managed to sneak in a psychic diagnosis. The blood loss was mostly superficial, and while he'd lost a bit, it was mostly external, unlike Folker's & Fokker's, from the timelines she'd studied.
"I guess this must be about Episode Seventeen or Eighteen," she muttered under her breath. She'd already put together a disturbing correlation of events in this Event to corresponding episodes of the Macross & Robotech television series they'd studied in their "Comparative Variant Timelines" course back in Sentinel School, that had been brought back from other timelines. There was the dramatic mid-air rescue, getting trapped in a forgotten bunker, the Miss Macross pageant, and a few others. Even the trip to Gallia 4 echoed the fold to the fleet, and the return home to Earth - especially since the Global was found there, INTACT, according to what little she'd managed to find out before recontacting her classmates - at least until it was carried off and dumped by the Vajra forces that barely escaped the fold bomb. The movie was out of sequence, of sorts, but in doing so it acted as the vehicle for Ranka's rise, since she didn't win the pageant like Minmay. This Event was coming off as either serious overboard fanservice, or (gods forbid) a fanfic universe.
"What was that?"
"Nothing important. Nana-san, get Ranka home and in bed, and don't tell her about Ozma's condition until morning when she's ready for school. She'll be too emotionally drained right now to handle this. Use your backstage pass, and tell her management where we're going - they should help."
Canaria came in with some EMTs, and they quickly got him to the city main hospital, the Quarter's facilities being too far. As he was being hauled out, Cathy was a mess, and was going with them.
"Guys, get back to the ship and have them send Cathy a change of clothes to the hospital. Ozma's seriously hurt, but he's not in any immediate danger. Once she's gotten herself straightened out, she'll probably want to make a pineapple upside down cake for him."
"It's an old joke - you're in Skull and never heard about the curse of the pineapple?" Canaria smiled. "Did Ranka ever tell you about how her earliest memories being of Ozma trying to make cake for her from Cathy's recipe? And, failing very badly at it. So badly, in fact, that it resulted in her first spoken words after her adoption, telling him just how bad it was."
"Why does that not surprise me?" Michael deadpanned.
"What do you mean, Elmo's not her manager anymore?" Mina asked Nanase, sitting outside the hospital.
"Sheryl's manager is; Grace."
"Grace DIED on Gallia 4!"
"What are you talking about? Grace came back with a survivor from Galaxy that was on Gallia 4. How would you know what happened there?"
"I was - oh, forget I said anything." Mina looked over Nanase's shoulder, and saw Sheryl confronting a very-much-alive Grace O'Connor on the upper balcony; and Sheryl collapse. "Then again... Nana-san, keep a VERY close eye on Grace and anyone else supposedly from Galaxy, PLEASE. There is something very, VERY WRONG going on. I need you to be my eyes inside Grace's camp."
"What are you talking about?"
"Nanase, I'll be blunt. I'm not really from Eden. I'm from a place you've at best heard rumors of, because the New UN spurned our diplomatic advances, except for the fleets that barely survived the Protodevlin War because of the NUNS refusing to come to their aid. And, I'm much more closely related to the commanders of the Macross 07 fleet than you could ever really comprehend. I look like my aunt Mylene because her parents are my grandparents - BOTH of them, not just Max.."
"I don't understand."
"Trust me - you probably wouldn't if I had a week to tell you about it. I was sent here to watch over the New UN government, in case there was trouble, and contact my grandparents to come to our aid. After all, who would suspect a high school student? But, that's not going to be possible now - especially not if this crazy fold idea passes. All it will do is weaken the fleet, so that when the Vajra DO catch up, it will be even more in danger. If you think I'm crazy, so be it. But, don't for one second let your guard down around Grace. She's not the person who left for Gallia 4 - just as Brera didn't just show up in that battle while I was missing. He was ALREADY HERE when 'Bird Human' was being filmed - in fact he's the one that saved Ranka and Alto from the Hydra. And, if you ever heard the boys talking about some mystery Valkyrie they encountered before then, that was probably him as well. Just who do you think that mystery guy Ranka kept talking about, before he suddenly was made her bodyguard? She'd already met him HERE before."
"Would he hurt her?"
"If what I think is true, probably not intentionally; but that won't protect anyone else. Plus, with him being a cyborg, he might have overrides in him to where he can be forced to do things he wouldn't willingly do. One last thing - NEVER mention me or any of this where Brera, Grace or anyone else from Galaxy can hear - and, being cyborgs, they can probably hear you through walls. With Grace in the building over there, I'm taking a huge risk even talking here, but that building's made to prevent noise transfer through the walls, for the patients' rest."
"I... I think I can do that. Mina, you're scaring me."
"You should be scared - because if we slip up, we're all probably good as dead."
Chapter Seven: Love Under Fire
*This problem is insoluble The answers seem impossible The logic ceases to exit Emotion is the beat we miss* -Asia, "Who Will Stop the Rain?"
Mina's new PDA buzzed. She had been on her way back to her apartment, trying to beat the scheduled rainfall, but someone had just accessed the same articles she had concerning V-type infections.
"Report IP location."
"Mihoshi Academy library."
"Patch into security cameras - find me a safe arrival spot for teleport, and show me who is accessing the files."
"The roof is currently empty. Displaying library camera feed."
Mina could see Michael at the terminal with a young girl, probably the SMS Zentradi with the genetic condition that made her Miclone body pre-pubescent. Staggering in behind them was Sheryl herself, who apparently caught them by surprise with her appearance.
Mina concentrated on the platform behind the mounted VF-1, and teleported herself and her motorcycle there. She hopped off the bike, and skipped through the rain to the stairwell, pulling up short when she heard Klan and Michael talking, after Sheryl had run off. After waiting for Michael to call Alto, she stepped down to the landing they were on.
"Michael, Klan...Sorry to interrupt."
"You weren't interrupting," Michael said, defensively, realizing how he'd about let his control slip in public.
"Yeah, right. Don't let him slip away, Klan."
"Do I know you?"
"Only in passing. Mina Sterling; I'm one of his classmates. Unlike you, I'm only quarter Meltran, and totally resistant to his charms. I gather the two of you saw the Cosmo Nature report, and the patient report on Sheryl."
"How??? Are you some sort of espionage agent? You look kind of young to be a spy."
"As a matter of fact, yes; yes I am - to both questions. I've had a bot watching those files since I found them months ago, right before Gallia 4."
"Okay... Why were you looking for them? And just who are you a spy for?"
"I was looking for weird patterns in the biographies of Alto, Ranka and Sheryl, and Grace's evil mug showed up. Who I represent is complicated. The easiest, though far from complete, answer to that are the interests of my grandparents. There have been multiple parallels in current events with what happened in 2009 on Italia Island and aboard Macross. If you don't believe me, go over to the history stacks, and look at the biographies of the Ichijos and Minmay."
"So, even if this is true, how did Grace factor in?"
"Go back and look at the Cosmo Nature picture again. That research team supposedly ALL DIED aboard that ship that Ranka and Alto found on that ship on Gallia 4 -"
"How do you know- ?"
"That's beyond your clearance level. WAY beyond. Note the age disparity for Grace."
"She was about the same age in it as she appears now," Michael noted. "Maybe even appearing older."
"You WOULD notice that," Klan chimed in, somewhat peeved. She looked at Mina. "So, is she a fraud, a clone, or what? Why would a medical researcher go into entertainment management?"
"Why did Dr. Chiba develop Sound Boosters? As for Grace, perhaps all of the above, I think; she's definitely more machine than human. Remember that there was no sign of Brera on Gallia 4, until he attacked Alto..." Michael glared at her again. "Yeah, more stuff I can't tell you how I know. He had NO time to go to Grace's rescue, and on top of it, no tandem cockpit when he showed back up here."
"Back here? His squadron didn't arrive here until that battle, but..."
"Yeah, despite Skull having encountered him multiple times since the rescue of the Dulfim. He even was the one that saved Alto and Ranka from the rabid Hydra during the filming. "But, back to Grace. All evidence indicates that the Grace that left the fleet with Sheryl DIED on Gallia 4, and that Sheryl was likely meant to be a martyr, that only survived from your intervention. And, there's evidence in my possession that Gallia 4's destruction was from a bomb that she had built by LAI from plans she provided, and was delivered there by Brera, which explains his presence."
"That's a pretty strong accusation - and I don't like that you're implying Luca might be connected somehow with Gallia 4."
"His brothers, more likely - and even so, they probably didn't know what that prototype was built for, or that it has already been used. You'll probably hear suggestions of the bombs being designed by them for use against the Vajra, when the technology's existence is announced by LAI. And, yes, I've hacked LAI Public Relations, so I've seen the drafts of the press releases to that effect."
"Why would Grace want Sheryl dead?"
"A martyr, since she'd already found a replacement for her. As you've no doubt figured out, Sheryl is entering terminal stage for her infection. If Alto hadn't survived, it probably would have been Brera valiantly rescuing Ranka from the Vajra on his own, and the combined miracle save with Sheryl's death would have made them even more endeared to the people of Frontier. But, there's even more to it than that."
"And that is?"
"Remember the picture, again. Grace worked for Sheryl's grandmother, and Sheryl's parents died mysteriously from an alien attack shortly after Dr. Mao Nome died. Apparently, Grace didn't know for several years that Sheryl survived. Given that Sheryl is V-positive, what does that tell you about the nature of the attackers?"
"Vajra... But, how did they get to Galaxy?"
"Following Grace's escape craft, most likely. There's probably more than just cosmetic and espionage reasons for Grace to become mostly machine. But, there's something that's escaped the notice of most, ironically from the actions of Ozma Lee and his once and future girlfriend, who had the political ties to pull it off - Cathy Glass."
"What about them?" Klan asked.
"The third woman in the picture with Grace and Mao is someone they knew well; a close friend of theirs, in fact. Ranka's MOTHER."
"How can that be?"
"If you don't believe me, you can go to Ozma, and see just how evasive he becomes when you mention Doctor Ranshe Mei. I'm not sure, but I think he was her protection detail when the 117th fleet was destroyed. Then again, I'm not sure I could guarantee your safety if you told him you knew who Ranka really is. One of the reasons Ozma is so protective of Ranka is that she shouldn't still be alive - she's been V-positive several years longer than Sheryl, but without any special medical treatment - and no symptoms, either."
"You're lying!" Michael said, in disbelief.
"Am I? Tell me... in this day and age, just how likely is it that someone could be an orphan, with no record of their birth, like Ranka supposedly is? SMS isn't tagging along with this specific fleet just to be doing it. It's doing so because Frontier was heading back toward Vajra space, and SMS is providing Ranka's medical care, trying to figure out why she's alive, when everyone else infected is terminal. "I still don't know Birla's motivations, but the obvious one is that if Ranka proves the key to an eventual vaccine or cure, she needs to be where such research would be immediately applied. It's also likely that her infection is what is influencing the Vajra, somehow - and that Sheryl was, in some way, Grace's failed prototype for influencing the Vajra, whose health started failing before Gallia 4. Ranka is being used, possibly by someone involved in the death of her family."
The two pilots' alert beacons went off.
"We'll have to postpone this. I'll double-check what you've told us," Klan said, staring accusingly at the pink-haired high-schooler that just shook the foundations of her status-quo.
"Of course - but for all that's holy, be a bit more circumspect than looking up stuff in a high school library. What if I'd been Brera, with orders to shut up any leaks - permanently? You and Michael might be military, but those other kids might have been collateral damage. Remember, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Don't let your guard down around the Galaxy survivors."
Mina went back to the roof, got her Cyclone into the freight elevator, and parked it in the space shelter, knowing that it would be only minutes before the few students studying after-hours at school would join her soon enough.
When the fold ended, hours later, she left the Cyclone in the shelter, and teleported home from an empty classroom. The school would be closed for the just-announced Appreciation Day for Ranka, and she'd have to come help set up for it. Riding the motorcycle would be a bit too conspicuous for a teen, with the conservation restrictions, plus the traffic would be too bad to drive it to the school and back after the concert.
The next morning, she worked on site, taking advantage of Grace being who-knows-where in her role as Ranka's manager. Michael was too busy with rehearsal for the show, but she managed to corner Klan, and tell her a more sanitized version of what she'd told them before the fold, mostly concerning her suspicions of how the two singers had been orphaned - and not bringing up Brera, as that would only make matters more confusing. Class One event or not, she'd already told Nanase too much, and came close to it with Klan and Michael.
"Don't run away!" Klan snapped at Sheryl, having caught her watching the concert from the woods near the stage.
"Why should you care?" Sheryl snapped back.
"Because I can feel what you're going through. I know about your condition; that you're dying."
"That's not enough to know what I'm feeling!"
"Then, how about how my own body betrays me, much as yours has done to you? When I'm not a miclone, I have my true, adult body. But, to be with the man I love, I have to be like this- and my genetics are so messed up I'm an eternal pre-teen like this. Zentraedi don't age like humans do, with their miclone form never maturing past the point the chamber puts them out. Not only do I have to deal with the hormones from this body, the man I love risks being thought some sort of pervert if we go out together. He sure as hell can't risk being intimate with me. In some ways you're lucky - at least you can kiss Alto; hold him like a lover. All I can do is sit and watch as Michael throws himself at women."
"Alto has Ranka."
"Does he? Girl, think for a second. He's a PILOT, in a WAR. There's no guarantee that the next battle will result in you and Ranka standing together over yet another empty grave over in Griffith Park, crying your eyes out on each other's shoulders. Life is too short, and not just for you. At least you can tell him how you feel and have the chance of it being reciprocated. Go to him; tell him how you feel. Ranka is at the start of her life - whether he's with her after you're gone doesn't matter, what's important is that you don't let your time with him slip away. You can't win by surrendering the fight."
"Listen to Ranka, though. How can I compete with that?"
"By being honest with yourself, and with them. Everyone dies, eventually. Someone said once that cowardice is like dying over and over, and the only way to truly live is to face your fears head-on."
"Can't, or won't? Go to him. He's up on the roof. Tell him your feelings. He cared enough about you to go to a place he swore never to step again - doesn't that say something? I'll walk with you most of the way, but once up there, you're on your own. "And, think of something else - you've repeatedly gotten involved with Ranka, trying to help her reach her dreams. She may now be your romantic rival, but do you really want to abandon her, when Grace is planning to use her up, just like she used you? According to a friend, you and Ranka are connected in multiple ways, not just through that half-mechanical monster of manager, with a hidden agenda. In a kinder world, you might have even considered each other cousins, or even sisters."
"What are you talking about?" Sheryl said, walking toward the school. Mina stepped out of the shadows. Klan looked at Mina, her face betraying that classic "Where did YOU com from?/How long have you been here?" look.
"I guess I better answer that. Grace chose to use you because of your grandmother. That you really are Mao Nome's granddaughter is a fact, no matter what she might have tried to say to hurt you. Even your Alpha blood type was only found in the Nome family. And, Ranka doesn't know it herself, but she's the daughter of your grandmother's chief assistant. They died together, while Grace, who worked with both, abandoned them to the Vajra, to pursue whatever it is she wants from those monsters - and probably led the Vajra to your parents, resulting in their deaths and your becoming infected by the Vajra virus, and living as a street urchin for years, before she finally remembered you for her own schemes. How else do you think Grace got her hands on Mao's earrings for you? Earrings that, according to Alto, are made with gems taken from inside dead Vajra."
"Seriously?" Emotions roiled in Sheryl, in a way that she'd never really felt before.
"Yes. You've got to live, if not only to try to win Alto, but to avenge your family. You can't give up, not now."
Mina hung back as Sheryl and Klan went upstairs; she had one of those uneasy feelings that usually portended danger, but as usual she couldn't pinpoint the source. She started looking around, feeling a bit naked with no weapons other than her innate powers - powers she couldn't use unless lives were at immediate risk.
Spotting nothing by the time the concert ended, she started making her way up the long staircase to the roof, taking the steps several at a time, having the muscles of someone raised in one gravity instead of Frontier's Eden standard of 5/6 Earth gravity. She was almost to the top, when she heard a cry, and saw someone falling toward her. She lunged forward, catching the stumbling Ranka as they both slid to the ground on the landing.
"I can't take this," Ranka sobbed, as Mina pulled her up. "I wish I was dead..."
"You don't mean that, Ranka. What's wrong?"
"Ranka, if you only knew, you wouldn't be so upset. Sheryl's not-"
Suddenly there was a piercing scream echoing through the stairwell, and the "oh shit" factor jumped past 11, and into total pandemonium, as within seconds gunfire and heavy weapons blasts erupted. Cries went up of "Vajra!", and Mina had to make a hard decision - go for her bike in the basement, or stay with Ranka. Luckily, after a few pistol shots, Alto and Sheryl made their way into the stairwell.
"You guys take over here - I've got to get something."
Alto glared at her, thinking Mina was probably running away; Sheryl, on the other hand, raised an eyebrow, wondering what Mina was really doing, given what Klan and Mina had told her, and what knowing such things might indicate about the source.
Mina switched stairwells on the landing, heading down to the shelter. One flight above the shelter entrance, she pulled the plain ring off her charm bracelet, slid it onto her finger, and jumped down the entire flight. In mid-air, an amazing transformation took place.
Mina's dress disappeared, replaced by a skinsuit and helmet, and pieces of armor followed, attaching to the skinsuit. The ring was actually part of a set of two, magically enchanted on her birth world of the NEMA-1 Earth, with one ring attached to the CVR-5 exoskeleton attachment armor. Putting on the ring caused the clothes on her to be exchanged for the ones on a mannikin back in her apartment - and the only reason why it worked for her (and only her) in this universe was because it had dimensional affinity with her - and even so would only work a few times before that affinity was corrupted, and a new set would be needed. Even so, because the skinsuit included gloves, she'd have to remove the suit manually to remove the ring, which had the benefit of conserving the times she could use it.
Her loud landing startled the few students that had possessed the presence of mind to make a break to the shelter, as the heavy ceramic-lined boots clanged to the ground, Mina dropping to a 3-point stance, She bounced back to her feet, the suit still making her total weight less than what it would be in Earth standard gravity. She ran in, hopped on her Cyclone, fired it up, and tore out of the shelter on the tires. But, at the start of the steps, she hit the transformation switch, the thrusters shooting it up the steps as parts started rearranging themselves around her. Because she had done this going up the steps, she got a good inches-from-the helmet view of each riser. She wasn't going to clear the last step without help, so she shot her hands out, and did a handspring off the top step into a crouch on the vertical wall, then using the kick off the wall to take the next flight in on step mid-way up. She continued the bounding until she reached the landing on the runway level.
Ranka was trying to sing, but it was clear her heart wasn't in it, and all her voice seemed to do was agitate the Vajra further. They had to get off the roof.
"Guys, this way! We need to get to the Quarter!"
"Mina, is that you?"
"Yeah. How do you like my motorcycle?"
"That's... a Cyclone...." Luca stammered, as they met him at the bottom of the stairs. "My brothers told me about them, that someone used suits like that to defend the Macross Seven fleet. They tried to duplicate the technology, but failed to make transformable suits. The EX-Gear is the best we were able to manage."
"Those were my big sister and my future mother-in-law, coming to the aid of my family. This is a civilian model, by the way, so I'd appreciate it if you could get me a gun soon. Otherwise, I just have this blade that's like your fighters' knives, and I'm not sure I want to get that close."
"Understood," Alto said, trying to reconcile the flighty student he knew with the armored warrior now in front of him. "There's weapons for the EX-Gear at the SMS base that should be the right size for that unit."
Behind them, Ranka was still a emotional wreck, while Nanase tried to encourage her, and Sheryl looked on, as jealous and confused herself over Ranka, as Ranka was of her. Luca mentioned the foldwave amplifier that was back at the base for maintenance, and they decided to make their move.
Just then, a Cheyenne Destroid got swarmed by the immature Vajra, and its chaotic fire as it fell slammed through the group. The concussion of the rounds knocked them all to the ground, and as they staggered back up, it was obvious that they hadn't escaped unharmed.
"Nanase!" Luca called out.
"I've got her!" Sheryl called out, holding the injured girl, that had been struck down by head trauma from debris kicked up by the errant weapons fire. "She'll be all right. Go!" Several soldiers were coming to assist. Mina thought of hopping over to help, but realized it wouldn't be a good idea to be seen in armor mode. She transformed back to cycle mode, and took off ahead of the others, hoping to clear a path, and that if any Vajra were in the area, they'd come for her, and not her unarmored friends.
*Desert white cloud Spirits they sing Rain falls from the big sky Onto broken wing* -Asia, "Who Will Stop the Rain?"
After several harrowing minutes, they found their way into one of the secondary tunnels into the facility sub-levels, as the main one had been blasted.
"Someone's up here!" Mina called back, seeing a body on the ground. "I don't think they made it."
"No; the blast door is closed. It's a woman, in SMS dress. It looks like she got wounded outside, and tried to make it in this way. She almost made it before she succumbed to her injuries."
The others came rushing in, now that the way was clear.
"It's Anne," Michael said, sorrowfully. "Why? Isn't it enough for soldiers like us to fight? To be killed? Why, dammit?"
"Get hold of yourself, idiot!" Klan shouted at him. "It's because of times like this; get a grip, Michael." She looked over to the door. "Luca, got that door yet? And, what is there for us?"
"Door's opening. There's EX-Gears down the hall, and weapons for them and Valkyries."
"Perfect," Klan thought aloud.
They ran down the hallway, and the room opened up into an armory, that also included a pair of sizing chambers. As they scrambled into the EX gears, the sounds of Vajra coming down the hall behind them became apparent - as was the fact that the armory was a dead end without heavier fire support for the hangar transit. They didn't dare open the hangar door on the opposite side.
"As soon as Klan's ready, we'll make a break for it to the mecha armory for Klan," Michael said, he and Alto looking rather strange, their school uniforms underneath the military exoskeletons.
"Hey, Michael," Klan asked as she undressed out of her 'little girl' dress, between Alto, Michael & Mina taking alternating shots down the corridor. "You've still not answered my question."
"Where's your heart? Where is your love???" Klan cried out, naked except for her panties and bandana, arms across her chest. Mina had a thought cross her mind, that in the moment Klan reminded her a lot of Sammy, with her mix of childish body and adult mind, though thankfully not as kinky. After all, if she had been, all the drama between her and Michael would haven't occurred.
"Missing in action. It's been missing so long, I'm not sure if I even had one to start with."
"I see... You're just a coward!" Klan punched him under the ribcage, making him bend down far enough for her to reach. Even though, she had to stand on tip-toe to kiss him. "I love you, Michael."
"Why? In a time like this?"
"BECAUSE it's a time like this; you can be such a fool, Michael. Remember it - you too, Alto!" She pointed over at Alto and Ranka, catching both of them off guard.
Mina had another one of those sinking feelings. Someone was bound to die, given the exchange that just occurred. In Events, people just don't MAKE that kind of exposition, without someone involved dying. Whether she could stop it or not, she couldn't even guess, until it happened.
"Michael," Klan continued, touching his face. "If you're afraid to die, how can you fall in love?"
With that, she ran, nearly naked, down the hallway into the hangar, to the sizing chamber.
"Wow..." was about all that any of the five others could say, as they slowly fell back towards the hangar themselves.
Once in the hangar's antechamber, Mina set up overwatch over Luca and Ranka, to allow Luca to do his work on the fold amplifier without having to split his attention. Just as Luca finished up preparing the amp for use, there was explosion above the control room, as Vajra came pouring into the larger room with the chamber containing Klan. They started attacking the chamber, and Mina's heart skipped. She started to focus to make a dangerous teleport jump into combat - only to see Michael charge to Klan's rescue, but in doing so leaving himself open to a tail spear that not even Mina's healing powers could hope to heal by themselves.
All she could do is watch as he finally opened his heart, then the dying Vajra near the wall had its organic reactor blow, punching a hole through to vacuum, and the decompression blowing Michael into space despite Alto's desperate attempt to grab him. Ranka broke out in tears, and it took all Luca and Mina could do to console her.
"What now?" Mina asked.
"We get to Island 3, lure the Vajra there, and destroy the island with them on it."
"And, how do you plan to do that? A fold bomb, like the one used illegally on Gallia 4?"
"The bomb that destroyed Gallia 4; the one that Alto, Ranka, Michael and Sheryl barely escaped. The one with the big LAI letters on it, detonated by some THING that called herself Grace O'Connor - the same person that's been conspiring for months with Leon Mishima."
"Search your heart... you know it to be true."
"I have to do what I must, to defend her. I've already failed her once."
"You do what you feel you must. I hope you can live with the consequences. While you can miclone the citizens and evacuate them, Island 3 produces a greater proportion of the fleet's food, water and air than most realize."
"The bomb is on Island 3 in the labs. It's too late; it can't be moved because of the Vajra."
"Have fun storming the castle. I'm not going to help you with that. I can only hope Grandpa can get here in time to save the civilians when you idiots exhaust the fleet resources with your fool's errand."
Mina had fibbed a bit.... She did go to Island 3 - just not with them. She hid in the shadows, and waited for the pilots to depart the bomb room and seal it behind them. Once they were safely away, she walked over to "Little Girl", and interfaced with it. Mina hooked the bomb into the fold control system for the ship, then began programming a series of coordinates that she had to override all the failsafes to get the computer to accept. As she finished up, she heard Alto going in for Ranka's extraction - her cue to leave. She needed more data on the Vajra, and this was the only way she could figure on getting it. All the tell-tales she'd been getting were indicating that Regina might have better luck figuring them out, than any normal human - provided that Denise had gotten the band to come home.
*There is no sense in turning back To wash the debris from the track World without reason without rhyme We fought for peace within our time* -Asia, "Who Will Stop the Rain?"
Chapter Eight: Stardust Memory
"What a mess!"
Mina was picking through what remained of her apartment, that between the near miss of the weapon attack that pierced the city's shields and the resulting decompression, had been shredded, much of the exterior walls blown out. The whole building was unstable, so she was suited up.
The dresser had been tipped over on the floor, then wedged into the bedroom door frame. The door itself was missing, apparently knocked off its hinges by the impact of the furniture. She held her breath as she grabbed the dresser by one end, and pulled, hoping that the wall, ceiling, or even the whole building didn't come crashing down on her head. Thankfully, the wall held, but there were several unpleasant noises generated by the move.
She opened up the bottom right drawer, and pulled out what appeared to be an ornate handcrafted leather backpack about two feet tall, including its bamboo frame. She set it down on the floor, and started emptying all of the drawers into it. After putting what should have been three or four times its capacity into it, she started searching through the rubble, eventually pulling out the mannikin that had once held the armor she now wore. The clothes that had transferred onto it were shredded. "So much for that outfit - and I just bought it, too..." She then lowered the entire mannikin into the backpack as well.
She found a few more items scattered around the wreckage, then decided it was time to leave. If it wasn't for her armor, she'd have been short of breath from the atmosphere being considerably thinner than normal. The neighborhood had been cleared of residents over the last two days, and cordoned off. So, it was a bit of a surprise when she saw movement off in the distance. She leaped down to street level, and transformed the armor back to a motorcycle.
She quickly realized that she couldn't leave the ride armor on, and stripped it off, putting it into the backpack, and pulled out a jogging suit to go over the bulletproof underarmor. She slung the backpack onto her back, then pushed the Cyclone into a gap between wrecked buildings, covering it with a holoblanket that made it look like an extension of the rubble. That done, she walked toward the movement, as stealthily as she could.
When she got to where she could see the source of the movement, she was surprised to see it was Ozma Lee and Cathy Glass. The last she'd heard before going underground, is that they were missing, and there had been an APB put out on them - and not one you'd expect to see for persons in distress, but one you'd normally expect to see for violent criminals too dangerous to apprehend. She decided to take a chance, and make her presence known.
"Permission to enter camp, Major?"
The two officers spun, weapons in hand, then relaxed when they recognized her.
"You're one of Ranka's friends, aren't you?" Ozma asked. "Is she safe? And, what are you doing here?"
"Yes, my name's Mina. Ranka is safe, though is worried about you, since you're officially missing. Given that there's orders to either detain you if caught in public, or shoot you if they can do it without witnesses, my guess is you're probably on the run, much as I am."
"Why would you be on the run?"
"I'm not your typical high school student, and in the process of helping Ranka get to safety during the attack, I had to break cover. Alto will probably keep my secret, but I'm worried about Luca, because of his apparent contacts with Mishima and O'Connor."
"Break cover?" Cathy asked.
"I'm sort of a deep cover agent - well, the intent was to get me acclimated here so that when I graduated college, I could step right into a diplomatic role for my grandparents here. Until then, I was to monitor goings on, in case something important came up, like evidence of the Protoculture, or the fate of the first Megaroad. We are, after all, only a few thousand light years from their proposed course, and my maternal grandparents have a vested interest."
"And, who might those grandparents be?"
"Geez, Ozma, you really know how to hurt a girl. You're a fan of Basara, and you can't see the resemblance between me and my aunt in Fire Bomber?"
"You're Mylene's niece?"
"Yes, but not as officially as I would like. Technically, my ties to the family are considered to be a state secret. When the problems started with the Vajra, I started sending one-way messages back home, and I've no idea if there's been any action on them. But, as a representative for my grandparents, with espionage training, I've made some disturbing discoveries that would make my life forfeit if Mishima or those traitorous bastards from Galaxy found out."
"Whoa - what about Galaxy?" Cathy asked. "We've suspected Mishima was working with someone from there, but is it really more than an individual?"
"Mishima's desire for usurping Cathy's father has been fed by people from Galaxy. Especially, one Grace O'Connor, manager for Sheryl, and now Ranka. After all, she's not just a concert promoter, but also a cyborg optimized for espionage - and apparently has backup copies. After all, she was on Gallia 4, detonating the fold bomb that destroyed the base there - at ground zero, cyber-linked to the bomb. Brera didn't rescue her there - he was too busy trying to keep Alto, Sheryl and Michael from reaching the safety of space, before making his own break for orbit. Sheryl was supposed to die there, a martyr for the cause. Ranka was her replacement, that Leon was all to willing to offer up to her."
"Replacement for what?"
"A means to influence the Vajra. Sheryl's terminal-phase V-Infected, As such, she gives off fold waves when she sings. The original plan, before Ranka, appears to have been for Frontier to be a sacrificial lamb to the Vajra for some nefarious end. As far as we know, Galaxy may have already been used up and destroyed in a previous attempt. But, Ranka's ability is far beyond that of Sheryl. My guess it's from being born from a V-Type infected mother. Yes, Ozma, I found out about Ranshe, despite your best efforts to obscure Ranka's origins. Didn't it ever occur to you that Ranshe's infection predated Ranka's birth?"
"Brera was already here, during the filming of Bird Human. He's the one who saved Alto and Ranka from the rabid Hydra. How long did it take you to realize that he's Ranka's brother? I don't think he even knows it, but he seems to sense it somehow. He's not exactly been following orders when it concerns her, which might be endangering himself."
"A week or two ago. The Harmonica he carries finally rung a bell."
"So, you've been just as guilty of burying your memories of then as Ranka. Is that why you've forgotten that Grace, like Ranshe, was one of Doctor Mao's assistants?"
A long pause came.
"Dammit, I knew she was familiar. She's supposed to be dead! I even forgot Grace was her first name on the Global."
"Like I said - my intelligence indicates that while it might have been her first death, it was definitely not her last, and she's still here. My research seems to indicate that she somehow escaped to Galaxy, Vajra in pursuit, and that might have been a catalyst for Sheryl's orphaning and infection. Some of Sheryl's information indicates that she had been sick since birth, but the dates don't match up. She's definitely a Nome, but Mao's daughter and son-in-law weren't infected, or ever involved with her research, so Sheryl should have never been exposed that early. There's even a published research paper from Galaxy on V-Type prophylactics that has a young Sheryl as its very visible, but unnamed, patient, that even Klan and Michael were able to find, before his..." Mina paused. "I'm not sure how to break this..."
"Michael's dead, isn't he?"
"Yes. He was wearing an EX-Gear over his street clothes, as was Alto, trying to get Ranka and Klan to safety, along with me. I had my survival equipment preplaced at school, so I was helping. Klan decided that the best way to get everyone to safety, was to use the SMS armory's experimental EX frame for mounting variable fighter weapons on Zentraedi infantry. Klan was helpless in a sizing chamber, and Michael died protecting her."
"Klan must be devastated," Cathy sighed.
"She's not the only one. Nanase, Ranka's friend that Luca has been struck on, but hasn't been able to admit his feelings to, is hospitalized in a coma. She got hit by shrapnel when an errant burst of fire from a Cheyenne went right through us, as the Destroid was overwhelmed - it's a miracle we weren't all killed right there. That split Sheryl off from us, and she and some of the ground forces got Nanase to the hospital. Between her and Michael, the effect on Luca, Ranka, Klan and Alto has been pretty bad. "This was on top of Sheryl's condition. You've probably suspected there's a bit of a triangle developing. Klan and I had convinced Sheryl to tell Alto how she felt, and make use of what little time she had left, and Ranka took it all wrong, when Sheryl collapsed from her condition, and Alto caught her, right before Ranka entered. It was right before the Vajra attacked, and her attempts to sing while in such turmoil only seemed to enrage the Vajra."
"Not again..." Cathy and Mina looked at Ozma. "When we found Ranka as a child, she thought she had caused the attack, somehow. It was part of her mental issues, that we were glad her fugue states made her forget. Given what we know about her affect on the Vajra, perhaps she knew more then, than we know now. And, that scares me."
"All the more reason her being in the care of Leon and Grace is something that is potentially a very big problem. So, why exactly are you two out here? Remember, I might be an 'illegal', but I'm still a representative for my grandparents, so if there's good reason, I can vouch for Cathy being the primary successor to her father in this emergency, not Mishima."
"Do you know of the evacuation tunnels?" Cathy asked.
"Yes. New Macross class colony vessels, of which Frontier is a variant of, have special tunnels for the evacuation of the government centers to their connected Battle-class ship. The exact layout differs from vessel to vessel, but only current and former government leaders, their families, and those charged with their safety, know the entry points. If I'd known where they were here, I probably would have tried to use them to get the others to Battle Frontier, instead of what ended up happening."
"Perhaps it was best you didn't. We were trying to arrest Leon for treason and plotting a coup, right before the Vajra attacked. In fact, the Vajra apparently killed the assassin lying in wait for Father, and the shock of their arrival allowed us to escape Leon's personal guard, who came in when we attempted the arrest. There was another group of assassins waiting at the end of the tunnel, that murdered Father and his men. I can't prove it, but I suspect his quick arrival on the warship means that Leon was there with them. According to Leon, the Vajra killed my father, but Ozma and I found the bullet-ridden bodies where they were left. You kids wouldn't have stood a chance."
(That's what you think, and for now, need to keep thinking), Mina thought to herself. (If I'd been there, Leon and his men would have been the ones without a chance - layered forcefields and projectile weapons are a very dangerous combination for those trapped between the fields).
"I just wish I could have stopped Luca. He did something very rash to stop the Vajra."
"How could Luca do anything by himself to stop them, even if he's an Angeloni?"
"Remember how I told you Gallia 4's inhabited area was destroyed by Grace? Well, she did it with an unfocused fold drive used as a bomb - one built by LAI from plans given them by Grace. LAI built more of them, but they hadn't the time to deploy them from their research labs. Luca and Mishima used Ranka to lure the Vajra to Island Three, which was evacuated, separated from the fleet, and the bomb detonated in place - despite Island Three's importance to the fleet ecology."
"Importance is an understatement."
"Cathy?" Ozma asked.
"One of the deep, dark, secrets of the fleet. Some ships are more important to maintaining the environment than others. The more ocean, the more oxygen. The more farmland, the more food, more organic waste processing, and of course, more oxygen. With the damage to or loss of several of the outliers, we were already in a severe resource conservation mode. Island Three was the biggest positive contributor to the ecology; in fact, its real primary purpose was to balance out Island One's excesses. Without Island Three, the intact fleet would be forced to stop to build a replacement, or divert to resource worlds for replenishment every few months. In its current state, the fleet will be dead in a few weeks without it - and that's not hyperbole. There will be food and oxygen shortages in days, and within a month, waste materials will choke the system. If the fleet doesn't land on a habitable planet by then, everyone on the fleet ships will die, though the Battle might be able to escape with, maybe, about as many people that the original Macross carried - as long as rescue parties fold to meet them."
"Can the New UN send help?"
"It's likely we're too far out for meaningful help, unless one of the other bio-fleets will sacrifice their counterpart of Island Three to save us, and hope they can make do without it. The fleet's only hope is to find a fully compatible world, to land on and draw the resources from directly. The only one that might have sufficed, at least on the charts, was Gallia 4. Operative word, WAS."
"I'm sure Canaria's probably already told the captain, and the scientists working for Mr. Birla have told him the same thing. The question is whether Leon is smart enough to realize it, or listen to anyone who would tell him. He probably has too many yes-men on staff."
"And, I shudder to imagine what he might do with Grace advising him - if they don't turn on each other." Mina set down her backpack, reached in, and pulled out a device the size of a soccer ball.
"Cathy, this is effectively an emergency log beacon. It's deliberately designed to broadcast a fold communications signal that Battle 7 and Chiba Labs will pick up, but not Frontier, unless specifically scanning for it. I've already added my report. Add one for yourself. It might not look like much, but it has the ability to build up a fold charge, and jump from star system to star system, recharging for a day and rebroadcasting the signal, before jumping again. It's all the help I can provide, given that what's left of the Galaxy Network is probably in the hands of the enemy. I pray it's enough."
A few days later, Bobby found them, and brought them back to the Macross Quarter. Once there, they were told the shocking news that Brera and Ranka had deserted, taking Ranka's pet Vajra with them, supposedly to take the juvenile alien home. Ozma and Cathy were taken to the bridge for debriefing, and insisted that Mina go to the bridge with them, much to the surprise of the other three officers that were to be present.
"So, who is the young lady?" Captain Wilder asked.
"Another avenue of contact with the other fleets," Cathy answered. "Mina, identify yourself."
"My cover name on Frontier was Mina Sterling, once of Eden. My real name is Mina Maria Jenius Freeman. The commanders of Macross 07 are my maternal grandparents."
"You have proof of this?"
"Proof enough. Doctor Bernstein. Did you get the package I sent you? 'Life is short, but the years are long'."
"'Not while the evil days come not...' Damn. That was you?"
"This young lady may or may not be who she says she is, but one thing is certain. The Jeniuses are not the only group she represents. That sign and counter-sign is from a group that has connections to more than just that one fleet, and has access to technology that would make the Angelonis green with envy. Mr. Birla put me in contact with them for some special training when I was recruited; training that lasted months, but only took one night."
"So, you were trained in Omphalos. It's a star system in a pocket dimension, ran by some of my paternal cousins."
"Then, I have some questions for you, later."
"Now that introductions have been made, it's time to get back to why we are here. Major, report on your activities during your time MIA, and why the government is gunning for you."
"Mishima assassinated President Glass as part of a coup, that by luck coincided with the Vajra."
"You sure it was an assassination?"
"The evidence has been lost, but at the time of the attack, we were confronting Mishima, with the intent of arresting him on charges of treason," Cathy replied." He had his personal guard come in and hold us at gunpoint, as he already had his assassin in place, and was waiting for news of the deed. However, the Vajra apparently interfered with the attempt, and the shock of that allowed us to jump the guards and escape. We attempted to get to Battle Frontier to tell its captain of Mishima's treachery, but he got ahead of us, and gunned down Father and his detail in the governmental escape tunnel. We found the bodies, and trust me, the only wounds were several dozen government-issue bullet holes." Cathy started cracking from reliving the events.
"So, that's why you were hiding out," Bobby said, drawing her to his chest in sympathy, as she started sobbing. "You were afraid of being silenced."
"I can provide some additional evidence," Mina chimed in. "The first indication of the Vajra arrival was right as the presidential detail was leaving. One of my classmates was almost hit by two items falling from the highest point of the Academy - half a corpse, and a sniper rifle. We had to step over both when we evacuated - we checked the gun to see if we could use it, but the barrel was warped from the fall. Initially, we thought he was part of the protection detail, but after talking to Cathy, I found out that the detail didn't have snipers. If not for the Vajra, it's likely we'd be in a civil war, as I don't think Mishima was really thinking it through. That would probably have caused similar destruction to what the Vajra caused, as part of whatever scheme his allies have duped him into."
"His allies?" Wilder asked.
"Grace O'Connor; once a xeno-biologist aboard the Gloval, now an espionage cyborg pretending to be a music promoter. And, might I reiterate, the same person that personally detonated a 'fold eater' unfocused fold drive bomb on Gallia 4, to prevent the fleet from using it to resupply, or call on the Zentradi there for military or disaster aid. A bomb just like the one Luca Angeloni detonated on Island 3. The plans for the bomb came from O'Connor, to Mishima, then given to the Angelonis. It's based on the doomsday weapons used unsuccessfully in the last years of the Protoculture Civil War against the Protodevlin and their mind controlled fleets, that were the original cause of many of the fold faults in the galaxy, and not a few asteroid belts in former Protoculture star systems. The use of the bombs was discovered by Mao Nome in the 2030s, but the discovery was suppressed out of fear of an arms race. My grandparents only found out about it because of the Protodevlin, as the latter's bodies were created as living weapons, that other-dimensional energy beings accidentally drawn here via fold weaponry experiments bonded to, in an attempt to survive here, where the rules of physics were so radically different than their home."
"There's something you all need to know," Wilder said. "I received a secret communication from Mr. Birla. The Mishima government is exercising its wartime option to have SMS dissolve, and its assets be merged with the New UN forces of the fleet. Therefore, we must make a choice concerning our own future, given what we know of Mishima's treacherous actions."
"I notice he's leaving it up to us," Cathy pointed out.
"I think that ring of his may have something to do with that," Mina replied. "Since all this has been over Vajra and fold quartz, don't you think that the owner of the largest piece of it in the galaxy might have some ties to it?"
Everyone looked at her.
"My guess is that whatever this conspiracy started as, it was something more benign than its current form. If fold quartz can be used in tech to break through fold faults and communicate near real-time, what does that say about its use in cybernetics like those possessed by Birla? Or Grace???"
The others still stared.
"Well, it would make for one heck of a shared network - totally secure from anyone who didn't know of it. But, on the same token, it would probably leave the individual members totally open to each other, or at least to the manufacturers of the tech. What was Richard Birla's interests before S.M.S.?"
"He owned an inter-colony shipping fleet," Wilder answered. "S.M.S. started out as the escort service protecting the shipments. Eventually, though, he seemed to lose interest in shipping, and became interested in developing better communications between the fleets. Then, his interests seemed to shift again, and he suddenly sold off his shipping assets, converted the escort service into S.M.S."
"Perhaps he thought he was the one now needing protection, because that interest in communications resulted in him knowing too much. Say, from someone like Grace and her allies."
"So, he can't order us to not obey Mishima, but trusts us to do what we think is right."
"Why else do you think he brought S.M.S. here? This would have seemed the least likely fleet to need a resident mercenary fleet - unless he knew that the Vajra were out here, and that someone was going to stir them up."
"Ozma, I have a letter from Ranka for you," Canaria interrupted. "I took the liberty of reading it. It seems she's started to remember most of what happened eleven years ago, and left to go find out the truth of what happened."
"She persuaded Brera Sterne to take her, apparently against the orders of his superiors. It seems she had a Vajra larva as a pet, and wanted to take it home, to find out why she has such a connection with the Vajra."
"And, he'd take her. I don't think he remembers it fully himself yet, but he was there when the 117th fleet was destroyed."
"Because he's her big brother - the one she saw die, that was part of the trigger for her mental condition. Apparently, though, he was only mostly dead, like Grace, and got rebuilt as a cyborg pilot."
"There appears to be a lot more to the events at Gallia 4 than what we originally thought," Captain Wilder stated. "I guess that makes our first destination after we leave here."
"The planet was destroyed."
"Perhaps. But, the debriefing of our pilots that were there, and their sensor logs, indicate that the remains of the Global were carried beyond the bomb effect by the Vajra command vessel. That ship arrived without it, so it was probably jettisoned right before the fold here. There's probably evidence we need of O'Connor's double life there. And, maybe the destination Ranka is headed for is in its records."
"So, you're coming with us, Mina?" Cathy asked, as the ship pulled away from Frontier.
"No, I'll join you there, on my own. I need to stay here a while longer."
"I told you. I was there when Grace detonated the bomb. I have 'special means' for transport."
"I'm still not really sure I should believe it. It's too late to leave the ship."
"Not really; and you're not the only ones leaving. Mishima just tried to assassinate O'Connor, and that failed spectacularly. Dulfim is leaving as well, but a bit more stealthily than we are. By the time Mishima realizes that the ship from Galaxy has an active cloak, and was nowhere near as damaged as was let on, it will beat you into foldspace. I'll see you on the Global in a day or two."
With that, Mina went to the middle of the Quarter's bridge, and made a spectacle of herself, springing up in the air with a telekinetic boost to head height in a full back flip. But, instead of landing on her feet, she teleported away in a flash of white-pink light.
"Where did she go?" Cathy asked. A couple seconds later, her phone beeped out a text. "Scan the park, back by the dock."
The image came up on high magnification. There, in the park, was Mina, taking a stage bow.
"I don't know, but I do believe Miss Freeman will keep her promise to meet us at Gallia 4," Captain Wilder pronounced. "I don't think I'd want to be the one to try to stop her."
Chapter Nine: Heart and Soul
Mina decided that the best way to passively find out what was going on with those that didn't answer the call to go rogue, was to go where they'd all eventually converge - Nanase's hospital room. Nana-chan's painting of Ranka as an angelic being, with wings both light and dark, was by the bed, and was eerily prescient given the conflicted emotions with which people looked at Ranka's departure. Mercifully, Nanase was spared knowing of any of it.
The room was much better than most people would have merited, given the emergency, but Ranka's campaign had made sure that their staff artist, Ranka's best friend, got the best. LAI took over that expense after Ranka's disappearance, thanks to Luca. Each day, Mina had come to visit, and had did her best to stimulate Nanase's body to heal, but so far the girl remained comatose, and unresponsive to even telepathic probes. At least one benefit, though, was that the inactivity of the injured eye from the coma allowed Mina to slowly piece together the eye in ways that the local medical technology couldn't - at least, not without removing it an replacing it with a cloned or cybernetic eye (both of which weren't an option in the fleet even when it was in full operation). With luck, if and when Nanase regained consciousness, the eye would, at worst, require a prescription change for her glasses.
Luca was coming in every chance he could, but each time he was there, Mina would disappear - literally. One of the mental powers Mina had, and had been well trained in, was the ability to cloak her presence from one or a few observers, and whenever Luca came in, he simply would not even register in his mind that Mina was present. It was fairly taxing, so typically she would slip out the door before it closed. And, given the personal nature of Luca's motivations, it wouldn't have been right to stay.
For the other visitors, she felt no such compunction.
"Mina. How long have you been here?"
"Well, most of the time. I'm like you, in that I'm not a local, but my apartment was destroyed. I still go outside for meals and the like, but she's my friend, and my being here gives her family the flexibility to get their lives back in order, knowing that they've got someone here for her. Are you here for treatment for your infection?"
"Yes, Luca and Alto insist on it, but..."
"You don't see the use."
"Of course not - the medication only reduces symptoms, while reducing my utility against the Vajra. You were right, of course. Ranka has an infection, but not like mine. Mine will kill me, even if hers may not. They want to act like she's some sort of traitor - but, I'm not so sure. She seems to have wanted to know the truth about herself - isn't that what we all want? That Grace has apparently disappeared in the wake of Ranka's departure makes me suspicious. But, they've come to me, to take Ranka's place as a weapon."
"Do you trust them?"
"Does it really matter if I do or not? Frontier is my home now, more than Galaxy ever was. It's almost like a religious conversion; baptized in the blood of Nanase, and paid for with the life of Michael. On, Galaxy, I was an orphan on the streets, then a test subject, then an unwitting weapon that fell short of my handler's goals, all while being fed a story that I was so important just for my singing. Here, I may still be a weapon, and on the verge of death, but I'm fighting for people that love me for who I am, not what I am. And, your words have made me feel connected to the family I never knew."
"My great aunt Sara, more so than Mao. Sara knew she had power, but the reasons why she had the power and what it was to be used for had gotten so corrupted over tens of thousands of years, that her instinctual attempts to use the Bird Human probably caused more harm than good. Now I have a power I really don't understand. How can I be sure that I don't get us all killed?"
"Mao also had that power, and even more untrained, helped save the UN fleet and the survivors of the island. That Frontier is here today is a testament to that; the last children of Mayan are here, having survived Bodolza on the Macross. This fleet is more family to you than you ever considered, prior to the movie being made."
"But, how can I know when I'm doing the right thing?"
"All you can do is trust your heart. As much as Alto feels betrayed right now, don't let it consume him - but don't let him come between you and what you feel you must do as well."
Mina went to the door shortly after Sheryl left, checking to see if Luca was going to stop by. Instead, she saw Alto having a conversation with his foster brother, about their father. She decided to hide behind the curtain for a while, before coming in. As Alto's visit went on, mostly a self-conflicted internal debate with himself that he was practically projecting, she spotted Klan watching from the door, similarly observing.
She slipped outside, and dropped her invisibility behind Klan.
"Can I talk to you in private?"
"Mina; any word from your grandparents yet?"
"No, not yet. Let's go up to the roof."
A minute later, they were looking over the devastation below. If Alto was true to form, he'd be up here as well in a few minutes.
"How are you holding up, Klan? I really don't want to see you going the route of Claudia Lasalle. Yeah, in an odd sort of way, your situation reminds me of hers."
"It will be hard for me to hit the bottle like that, even if we weren't under rationing."
"No, not that part. But, remember that the future is always in motion. While there's life, there's hope - and death isn't always an ending. I know you're doubting yourself, and the life you've chosen. But, consider that life is only what we choose to make it. You must take control of it, to be truly free."
"Who told you that?"
"Lynn Minmei, in one of her songs."
"I never heard that song before."
"You wouldn't have. It's from a different Minmei that you know. Not the one played in movies, and not the one from your history books. It's complicated. I'd venture that the only other person in the fleet that's heard that song is Richard Birla."
"You still confuse me. Just what exactly are you?"
"You'd have known more had you answered Ozma & Cathy's call - but then, we wouldn't be having this conversation now, if you had. As I told them, my past is a lot more confusing than I can tell in a simple conversation, and about have to get you cleared with my superiors to really tell you."
"I wish Alto would realize that the people talking to him about Ranka's motivations are just as much in the dark about her reasons as he is - maybe even more so. I can tell that just by listening to Sheryl talk about what those same people are telling her. Michael might have been able to get it through Alto's thick skull - or Luca's. But, for now it's left up to us, the living, to get them to understand."
"How can I, when I don't understand myself?"
"Then the time comes, you'll know."
With that, Mina poked Klan in the forehead, channeling a command to sleep. Klan slumped to the ground, and Mina pulled out an injector. She'd barely completed the injection, when she heard Alto coming towards the door. She teleported on top of the stairwell exit, letting the bio-manipulation drop.
Klan and Alto talked for a while, before the conversation turned to why they fought. In the middle of it, Mina sensed Sheryl come up to the top of the stairwell, and listen. So, with that convergence, it was no surprise to hear the announcement to prepare for an unplanned fold into a battle. She slipped on her special ring, and her armor appeared on her. She jumped down onto the overlook between Klan and Alto, startling them, and flipped up her visor.
"Remember, you two... Follow your hearts."
With that, she jumped off the hospital roof, and disappeared. The two pilots rushed to the rail, but Mina was gone, as if she had never been there. Chapter Ten: Kiseki no Umi
"I never thought I'd end up back here," Ozma said, looking over the shattered remains of the Global, and the more jarring remains of what had once been a habitable planet, now missing a huge chunk that was a substantial part of a sphere.
"Me either," a voice said, not over the radio but in his head.
"What?" He looked outside his cockpit, and Mina was there, hanging on by the cleats normally used to climb into the cockpit when in the hangar.
"Permission to come aboard?" Mina asked over the radio, having been in physical contact enough with the VF-25 to hop onto his frequency and encryption via her mind-machine interface power.
"Where did you come from?"
"Frontier... They were preparing to fold to the Vajra homeworld. It's quicker to come join you guys and fold in this direction."
"We've not got much time." Ozma opened the cockpit, and had the area behind his seat pull back as if a rear seat module was being installed, and Mina hopped in as unsecured cargo.
"A few hours, at least. Things have been getting worse in the fleet faster than I predicted, and frankly at the rate they're going, the fleet has three choices - dying in space without trying, dying at the hands of the Vajra, or running the gauntlet to the planet surface, and abandoning ship. If the Vajra don't destroy the ships on the ground, it will take a couple weeks to get the organic systems functioning enough to move the populace back aboard the population sections."
"I hope Mishima lives long enough for me to get my hands on him."
"I'll do my best to make your wish come true."
As Ozma, Cathy and Canaria (the latter two having come over in the Koenig-Monster) searched the computer archives in the labs, Mina decided to do something a little more personal. First of all, she searched through the floating debris in the lab, grabbing anything that looked like personal effects. Then, she used the computer logs to find the scientists' quarters, and gathered up as much as possible of Mao & Ranshe's family heirlooms, pictures, and the like, including things from Ranka and Brera's rooms. Canaria had cleared Grace's room - it was unlikely there would be anything that would be her "Rosebud", but it was quite likely useful data there.
"Mina, you said some of your people have interstellar-range telepathy?" Canaria asked.
"Yes - specifically, it's limited to my father's family, on his maternal grandmother's side. Communications to non-relatives is limited to about a million kilometers, and then only one in ten of our telepaths have that kind of range. Everyone else is limited to a few hundred kilometers between telepaths that have practiced together, or line of sight without practice or with mundanes."
"People who don't have the mutation; it's not even guaranteed to work with other types of telepaths."
"When are you going to tell the Captain and the others you're from a completely different universe? I only know it because your actually speaking the sign and countersign unlocked the parts of that training, though I was already suspecting it."
"If my cousins come through, it will become rather apparent. But, right now, there's an interdimensional war going on. That war is actually more of the reason for you getting your special training, as things can spill over in ways you least expect."
"We found Grace's plan; it's using fold quartz crystals as part of cybernetics, to create a galaxy-wide real-time thought network.
"That's got a few holes in it.... Like pissing off the Vajra, and not everyone will opt in for cybernetics in general, let alone one that lets you read minds. Even my people would go nuts if we couldn't shut down our telepathy. But, it does explain one thing."
"How Grace came back. They've probably got their prototype network running, and most of the conspiracy bigwigs probably have their brains hooked up via the network to persona transfer units from sizing chambers. So, they're constantly having mental backups running like online storage, so if something takes out one of their cybernetic bodies, they can just reload into a new body."
"So, how can we be sure we stopped them for good?"
"When they try to implement their plan, they'll reveal themselves. Then, it's a matter of tracing back, and they can't run forever. The hard part is staying alive and free to do it."
Later, they were back on the Quarter, and the true, horrific, implications of the super-dimensional network became obvious, that the central node could, in effect, control the entire network. The seeming unconnected plot versus the Zentradi was actually a vital part, as it would be too difficult to cyberize Macronized Zentradi, and they were also the best armed to withstand the eventual assault. If the node could coopt a Vajra queen, it could control all the Vajra in range - which would explain why so many Vajra fleets and the Frontier were being head-long into each other. The only remaining part was that Vajra communications were unintelligible to human... Everyone, except Ranka. Crap.
Everyone went to their stations, trying to get everything secured, and transmitted. After Ozma and Cathy left with the boxes of stuff Mina had brought back, Mina stood with the bridge girls and Bobby, trying not to disturb the romantic moment between the captain and Monica that seemed to come out of nowhere.
Suddenly, one of the consoles started going haywire.
"Gravitational anomaly from the planet!" Lam called out.
Everyone looked out the bridge windows, as the planet disappeared, replaced by a metallic object about the size of a colony ship.
"Mena, can you bring that up?"
"Got it." The object appeared on the screen, a silvered ball.
"That looks like the battlestation from that old science fiction film," Wilder thought aloud.
"That's no moon..." Bobby said, deadpan. Everyone went quiet, and looked at him. "What? Can't someone like me like classic movies? Han Solo was hot..."
As everyone looked away, the object disappeared, with another, bigger, gravitational anomaly hitting in a flash of fold light. When it cleared....
"The planet's back - and it's whole! That's impossible!"
"No, that's my cousins at work," Mina replied.."I TOLD you I died here. I died taking the missing part of the planet home, instead of it getting destroyed by the bomb." Everyone looked at her. "To mix movie quotes I was only 'mostly dead', but 'I got better'." Mina shifted from a Miracle Max voice to the Newt guy from "Holy Grail" without missing a syllable, then returned to her normal voice. "Canaria was right - I am much, MUCH more than I've let on. I'm not from another fleet - I'm from another universe entirely. I've been in a pop idol band with my boyfriend, his brothers and a couple of half-sisters in front of bigger crowds that Sheryl and Ranka ever performed for. I've got cousins that have 'phenomenal cosmic powers', but without the 'itty bitty living space'. Hell, I've got step-sisters whose grandfather is Zeus - yes, THE Zeus, or one from a dimension where the Greek gods actually exist. Though, putting that planet together probably took them a lot more time, relative to them, than has passed here since the detonation." "But, when it comes down to it, I'm just a teenage girl, that has limits, not the least of which is having my father bust my ass, or my grandfather send me in front of a firing squad, if I interfere too much with the world I'm stationed with, in ways that are unsanctioned. Do you think I liked spending the last few weeks with that reborn Grace running around? Until I get orders, which those cousins that knit a planet back together can't give, I can't touch her. And, frankly, with her fully custom body, I don't think I'd be the favorite in the fight."
Everyone just stood there, quietly, then Mena's comm unit bleeped again.
"That was a message from Ogotai. It's going to take them some time to get their ship ready, and join us. They're sending up some of their armor forces to join us for the trip; they'll fold to the battle coordinates when they're able."
"Acknowledge that. We'll leave as soon as they're secure."
"We've got another defold in progress," Monica noted. :"It's... It's a Battle class!"
"Jeffrey, you reprobate, do you have my granddaughter over there?" A voice called out as the screen lit up, revealing a ship's captain that only looked half his sixty-plus years.
"Jenius, is that you?"
"If it's not, then someone's been playing with the cloning chamber again."
"How did you get here so fast?"
"We've been chasing Frontier for weeks, ever since we got the message Mina sent months ago. We received another message from your squadron leader, via Mina's emergency homing beacon a week ago, and adjusted course, and of course, your last message a couple minutes ago. I thought this planet was destroyed?"
"I tried to save it back when the bomb was detonated - managed to take it to Omphalos with me, but died in the process. Once my cousins got me put back together, I came back, and they worked their magic, just like Tinya did with that one dimensional accident world she fixed and sent over to Grandpa Scott's dimension. Have you heard from him?"
"No, they're still busy with their own problems."
"Then I guess we locals will have to wing it."
"Wilder, you're more familiar with this situation - you take the lead in the fold. Mina, get over here - I have that fighter you requested."
"On my way, grandpa."
"Main gun incoming!!!" the scream went out, as a Vajra gunship pulled point-blank up in front of the Battle Frontier. Everyone knew that they were seconds from death, with no hope.
Then, suddenly, the Vajra ship seemed to implode from a beam strike. Looking toward the source, there was a fold window opening - the beam must have been fired when the window was barely open enough to allow its passage, but not the ship. As it widened, the shape of the SMS flagship emerged.
"We won't let you have your way anymore... Not with Ranka, or with the Vajra!"
"You took your time, Ozma," Klan said from the ruins of her power armor.
"We had some business to take care of - and we picked up some help, though they're a bit behind us due to their fold systems." He pulled up alongside Klan, along with a variable fighter type that she didn't recognize, but it had vaguely familiar elements, and was a shade of pale turquoise..
"Lieutenant Commander Ozma!" Luca shouted.
"That's Skull Leader to you, Skull Three."
"Ozma - Skull leader, I'll take Klan in - you get back to business."
"Fine by me, Diamond Leader. I'm still a bit wary about the idea of you getting into combat."
"Trust me, I cold fly circles around those Galaxy cyborgs, without a grav-suit on."
"Mina, is that you?" Klan asked, in disbelief.
"I told you I'd be back when the time was right. This is my big sister's Valkyrie from the Protodevlin war."
Meanwhile, Captain Wilder hailed Battle Frontier.
"We have returned, in order to crush the ambitions of Galaxy, Grace O'Connor, and those that side with them."
"Galaxy?" The captain of the Battle Frontier asked
"That's right. We were being manipulated by them. They are part of a conspiracy to take over all of humanity - isn't that right, Mishima?"
"What basis do you have to claim such an absurdity?" Mishima countered, startled.
"There's proof... If you want proof, it's right out here in front of you!" Alto cut in. "I saw the Dulfim going into that monstrosity, unopposed by the Vajra, when I was attacked by their fighters. I saw past the hologram when I ejected. Destroy the facade, and you'll see the true face of the enemy!"
The Quarter fired, easily taking down the modified spherical force field barrier that was being used as the projection medium for the giant Ranka hologram.
"Battle Galaxy!" went through the Frontier command center, as the hologram dissipated. "Wasn't it destroyed?"
."And, 'Your Excellency', Catherine Glass and I would like to have a word with you after the battle about how your assassination team left her father's body in the access corridor in a pile of bullet casings for her to find. You should really be more careful cleaning up the scene of the crime, if you're going to make a career out of killing people to advance yourself. Too bad your assassins got themselves slaughtered trying to assassinate O'Connor, I would have liked to have heard them testify against you."
Again, turmoil rolled through the officers, and Leon started to stand, looking for an exit.
"Not so fast, Leon!" Cathy said, popping onto the screen. With her appearance, proving that she was alive, the bridge security team immediately drew down on Leon, placing him under arrest.
"What now?" The Frontier captain asked.
"We regroup, and try to figure out how to survive this mess," Wilder replied. "The reason why O'Connor played on Mishima's foolish plans, is that she knew Glass wouldn't make such foolish decisions. We were meant as a sacrifice to get the Vajra immune to any weapons the UN would use against them."
"There's something going on... The Vajra have become disorganized, but Galaxy is launching fighters. They're Ghost V-9s!"
"Shit." The Ghosts could pull more Gs than any pilot could - even those of Galaxy's cyborg squadrons. Their AI, inferior as it was to the instincts of a living pilot, was more than offset by their ability to make moves to evade or attack that no human could adjust for quickly enough.
Meanwhile, on the Macross Quarter...
"Mina, what the hell have you done to me?!?" Klan said, stepping out of the sizing chamber. She was smaller, but not _SMALLER_... well, mostly. For the first time since puberty, Klan had retained an age-appropriate body as a Miclone, though proportionally her breast size was a D-cup, not the abnormally huge ones she would have had on an exact conversion. And, she knew Mina had something to do with it, because Mina had been waiting for her to emerge with a uniform that FIT.
"Giving you half your life back. You can't go through life, especially the extra-long life of a Meltran, living as a child - no matter what things you can get away with pretending. Look at what it's already cost you."
"If you had it your power to do this, why couldn't you do it before... before..."
"Because you'd not have believed me, and you'd have no way to explain it. I actually hit you with the gene-mod on the hospital roof, before I made my jump to Gallia 4 to meet Ozma. You had to go through a growth and reduction full cycle for it to kick in. By the way, your huge breasts were a different expression of the same broken genes that made you a Miclone child, so you'll have to get a whole new wardrobe."
"What is that Valkyrie of yours?"
"You don't know? Didn't you see any news of the Macross 7 fleet against the Protodevlin? Or at least, teach you about it?"
"No, we heard very little about it, other than they rescued the survivors of the Macross 5 fleet from captivity from some sort of biologic weapon left over from the Protoculture."
"Oh, gods... How fucked up is fleet-to-fleet communications?"
"Fleet commanders and colony governments have the ability to censor the Galaxy Network."
"Shit-shit-SHIT!!! That explains it even better. GALAXY ran the Galaxy Network! Only what Galaxy wanted the other fleets to hear, got transmitted, even before the individual fleet censors got their hands on it. Given the reach of their conspiracy, it's no wonder."
"I'll explain as we walk back to the hangar. The Protodevlin.... They weren't just 'leftovers from the Protoculture'. They were genetic constructs MADE from a mix of Vajra DNA, Protoculture Human DNA, and who knows what else. They were originally called the Evlin - perhaps even Sheryl's ancestor told stories of them, resulting in human legends of elves as evil spirits from another world. There was a civil war going on at the time, and something went horribly wrong on one side. "The Zentradi called that side the "Inspection Army", but their real designation would be closer to 'Investigative Research Division' - Zentran isn't really that good at terms that aren't combat-oriented, as you well know. One section was working on Vajra, which were creatures with a deep natural connection to the dimension we know as foldspace. Another lab was experimenting with other sub-dimensions, as the use of fold eaters had destroyed worlds, destroyed fleets, and each time, created the fractures crossing multiple layers of space-time, that we now call fold faults and fold fractures. They wanted to find an alternative space to travel through. "The Protoculture held the Vajra in awe. They'd already created biological mecha for elite Protoculture troops, to lead the Zentradi into battle, using Vajra DNA. Sheryl's ancestor arrived on Earth in one, and that was the artifact at the center of the "Bird Human" story. They had progressed even further, creating seven super-weapons that were Human/Vajra Chimeras, that could merge with each other to temporarily become more powerful. Two were almost human in form, and had a preferred monstrous partner to merge with - and when I say monstrous, they were as big as Canaria's mecha, and had all the immunities of a Vajra. There was another monstrous one that could further augment these pairs. The sixth was a pair of giant humanoids, two bodies but a fold-shared mind like the Vajra. The last was the largest, and meant as their ultimate weapon. They were meant to be the next evolution of weaponry beyond the Zentradi, capable of going head-on, one or a pair against a fleet, and win. But, that is what led to the doom of the Protoculture."
"The weapons went rogue?"
"If that was only it was that simple. The next lab over in the facility was the ones looking for a fold-tech replacement; remember? It turns out that there were native, energy-based, lifeforms in that dimension, and that some of them accidentally got sucked through to our side. They had two choices, without a way to get back. Either die, or find a body suitable to be a host. Their energy signature was close enough to fold energy that the Evlin bonded with them - but what they could not know was that the bonding was permanent, and they still needed to feed on energy - and the only energy that was suitable was the life energy of humanoids. That was the birth of the Protodevlin. "After killing the only people that might have been able to fix things, in their first instinctual feedings, they fought their way out, cutting a swath through the society that created them. Along the way, they found out that they could mentally control those that had been fed on, but not killed, and even impart a part of their essence to a willing host. Soon, the Protoculture civil war was over, replaced by the survivors of both sides fighting the living zombie casualties of those that fell into the clutches of the possessed weapons. Humanity was almost wiped out; the near-lifeless slaves couldn't reproduce after all, and the Zentran & Meltran fleets certainly didn't know about conventional procreation. The reason that less than twenty worlds have Protoculture ruins is that HUNDREDS of inhabited systems were utterly destroyed with fold eaters or worse, trying to stop the advance of the Protodevlin. Hell, one group got so desperate that they altered their genetic structure with that of their world's native lifeforms, to not be detectable by the Protodevlin. But, that only resulted their world getting devastated and their civilization being knocked back to using stone tools, when the Protodevlin couldn't feed on them. That was how Zola came to be. All seemed lost. Then, when all that seemed left was a few scattered fleets, the Protodevlin disappeared."
"No one really knows for sure. Something drained the Protodevlin of energy to the point that they went into stasis, something they called 'Anima Spiritua'; some sort of life energy that was different somehow than the normal 'Spiritua' life energy that was their sustenance. Whatever of whoever it was, collected the sleeping monsters, and deposited them in the Varauta system, and took steps to warn the remaining fleets of Zentran to never go there. Unfortunately, finding those warnings is what sent the Megaroad 13 fleet there to look for Protoculture treasures. Their presence was enough to awaken the strongest of the monsters, and the lead scientist, Ivane Gunther, willingly bonded with Gepernich, and fed his protection detail to him. The only one of his fellow monsters he was able to awaken initially, and it was one of the two he least wanted to waken. He had that one bond to the head of the detail, and from there, used the two to capture the entire fleet. It still wasn't enough, so they modified the fleet's fighters with means to gather Spiritua remotely, and ambushed the Macross 5 fleet right after they'd landed on Rax. The Zentran fleet put up a mighty fight, but still fell victim. Those that weren't mind-controlled pilots, were kept in stasis on Varauta, to be fed on as needed. Gepernich had an idea that if he had enough people that would submit to living in captivity, and find a way to cause spiritua recovery in those fed on, he could create a 'Spiritua farm' that could make the Protodevlin self-sufficient. But, the part of him that was still Ivane kept fighting, wanting to use the power to conquer the galaxy again. And, that's when they found the Macross 7 fleet, and that music, especially that of Basara and his Anima Spiritua, not only caused regeneration, but was capable of freeing those being mind-controlled."
"Music.... Why is it always music?"
"I think music has always been at the heart of it all. In fact, there's no way to know, but I suspect that Sheryl's ancestor was the Anima Spiritua that saved the galaxy from destruction tens of thousands of years ago. She chose Earth for her lonely exile for one reason that I doubt anyone really expects anymore - that the Protoculture originated there, but left it to allow the rest of humanity to evolve on its own path. It's the only way that the genetic relationship of the Protoculture to Earth can be explained. And, as her ancestors had been seafarers, she chose to live the remainder of her life on an island - she probably never intended to find love, but she ended up landing among the first seafarers of those that had arose after her ancestors. The legend of the Mayan islanders say she had to return to the stars, but the sad truth was that she flew the lower half of her ship to sea, and sank it into the Mariana Trench on a death ride, probably after her mate died. The head was on the island, in a cave connected by lava tube to higher points on the mountain, but that lower end of the tube system was flooded by the end of the Ice Age. I suspect that the bio-computer in that crew pod was supposed to advise the islanders, and serve to warn away any fleets that wandered into the Solar System, but that was lost with the flooding, and made moot by the arrival of Macross."
"So, that's an interesting hypothesis, but it didn't answer my question. What's your Valkyrie?"
"Eventually, the Macross 7 fleet scientists and technicians figured out a way to amplify the effect with technology. Normal singers could go from affecting a roomful to a range of kilometers, and Basara's special Anima Spiritua was amplified to where it could free whole squadrons of mind-controlled pilots in seconds - at least until the Varauta techs figured out a way to counter it. Yes, they had techs working for them, not as drained as the others - at least, that's what they claimed. There were always suspicions afterward, and want to take a guess which two fleets most of them relocated to after 2046?"
"Galaxy, and the 117th?"
"Bingo. Hell, the VF-27 is a linear descendent of the Zorene family of Varauta Valkyries, which were in turn highly modified variants of the VF-14 and VA-14. Anyway, while I was gone, I found out how Dr. Chiba got his Sound Boosters to work, especially considering they were mostly used in SPACE. The boosters used fold quartz as their vital component, though at the time, no one knew that fold quartz was made by the Vajra, and it was only after deciphering the messages left behind in the Rax ruins that people started figuring out the connections between the Vajra, the Protoculture, and the Protodevlin. Initially, only Basara had a custom Valkyrie, based off the atmospheric warfare VF-19A variant, and the first sound boosters were for his. Eventually, when they realized that the rest of the band was of use, they made a VF-17 trainer variant that the keyboardist and drummer could perform and run the soundboard, and a really over-the-top custom that combined elements of the VF-15 & VF-16 small-run designs with an extremely modified Thunderbolt airframe for my aunt, the bass player for Fire Bomber."
They arrived in the hangar, where Alto's backup VF-25 was being cabled behind Mina's blue MAXL and the VF-25 that was once Michael's.
"When my sisters arrived to help, they studied those designs, retreated back home, and used the resources there to build their own variants of those customs. Deety made a variant of Basara's Fire Valkyrie, and Melanie made a variant of Mylene's - only incorporating alien tech from home, that is decades, if not centuries, ahead of even LAI & Galaxy's tech. This is Melanie's custom from that war, that's been in storage back in the fleet. It finally caught up to me at Gallia 4, which is where I picked up the composite squadron that was transporting it to me." The last was a fib, but that could wait until after the battle to explain. "Let's saddle up, get in Luca's stealth field, and get this puppy to Alto."
With the carnage going on all around them, they managed to sneak right into the battle zone, to the derelict scout ship that Alto had taken shelter in. Once they released the fighter to Alto's control, they would have at most a minute before all attempts at stealth would become impossible, so they prepared for entering combat.
Mina reached down to the console, and put the sound booster relay system on standby. Unlike her "aunt's" version, Deety and Melanie had refined the concept, and built smaller versions of the boosters directly into their customs, rather than have to launch them separately and link up. Of course, they didn't exactly have official sanction back then like Sound Force, either.
After a short exchange between Alto and Sheryl, about a promise to rescue Ranka being kept, Alto synched up with his fighter, and as he slipped into his cockpit, they broke formation.
Mina engaged full throttle, pumping the active stealth settings to max, though that would be unlikely much use against countermeasures over a decade more advanced. However, one thing the fighters she was heading toward didn't have was Emaan inertial tech. She reached over, and flipped the master switch on the sound boosters, making her a bigger target if anyone actually tried to lock onto her using the fold signature of the sound system.
"At least it will keep the Vajra at bay..." Mina muttered. "Now, let's show those AI fighters that there's always someone better."
Within a minute, she'd got the attention of a half-dozen V-9s., and started to work on them. She could only imagine what must be going through the minds of the Battle Galaxy drone supervisors, as her manned fighters started making maneuvers that we making her pull 4G inside her cockpit, but without the Emaan devices would probably break the airframe of the V-9s - if they even had the thrusters capable of making them (which of course, they didn't).. Melanie has tricked out the design a lot different than the weapon load of their more-than-aunt, and the weaponry was almost all energy weapons, from the gun pod to the energy sabers, with only a half-dozen missiles in each leg. In fact, most of the weapons weren't even apparent, though she would hold the secret of those in reserve.
She kicked in her machine mind abilities, much as her sister had fifteen years earlier, and the Valkyrie became an extension of her body. With this, she didn't even have to use the stick, or even the transformation controls. The controls responded immediately, and she burst into a flurry of action.
The first move seemed like some sort of sensor glitch to the controllers on Galaxy, as Mina's mecha, shifted modes to its humanoid form, activated an energy saber in each arm, then changed her vector as if se was in one of those fabled UFOs of the 20th century, to a complete stop in relation to the drones, directly in front of one, with no time for the AI to react as it drove through the crossed sabers, quartering itself as it passed over Mina's head. Then, less than a second later, she was moving again, almost as fast as before - but still not in aircraft mode, vaporizing a second one with her laser gatling before it could shift more than a meter from her center of aim.
The remaining fighters started being more evasive, trying to compensate for the new target, their flight bosses insisting Mina's moves were impossible for a drone, let alone a manned fighter, even though she had the audacity to flip them off as she switched to jet again and shot two more with her dogfighting weapons, while in an intentional 3-axis spin, none of axes being on or perpendicular to her vector of movement.
"Mina, what the heck???" Luca stammered, watching her bizarre actions.
"What are you doing?"
"Blowing those Galaxy fools' minds..."
"You're not helping my sanity, either. That shouldn't be possible!"
"Don't argue about the laws of physics with me, because I never studied law...:"
"Get serious, this is a fight for survival."
"Yes, and I bet my actions are confusing the hell out of them. But, yeah, it's time to stop playing with them." With that, she transformed again, and sprayed the fifth drone even as she powered up her pinpoint barrier. She chased it, all the while keeping in mind the location of the sixth, and knowing she was being led into a trap. She issued a series of commands mentally to the fighter, programmed to start the second it detected her special move. At the last second, she teleported, mecha and all, made easier by the Emaan inertial reduction technology.
The first action after the emergence from the teleport was turning the mass of the mecha to its max, while turning up the cockpit controls for maximum crew protection. A fraction of a second later, the drone impacted, and shattered against the pinpoint barrier, as the time lag for the shot at the spot she would have been resulted in a total miss by the other.
The second action was made even as the drone wreckage still was around her, and the gun arm raised, firing at the last drone. The last action was dropping the pinpoint barrier, and throwing a spike mine at the probable evasion path of the drone, making it look as it was just a piece of harmless debris.
The spike mine as a particularly nasty weapon devised by Deety. If it connected with a target, it would latch on, make a last interrogation of the target hit and position, then generate an energy saber underneath the mine, in the direction of the most convenient energy source or conduit.
An explosion three seconds later meant that the mine had found its target. It didn't give off a recovery pulse, so it must have been destroyed. Time to look for new targets.
She plunged in deeper into the fray, gathering another group around her, when she decided to pull out the second item from the mecha's bag of tricks. She came to a stop, put up a spherical shield, and started another 3-axis rotation while waiting for her targets, half of which were VF-27s instead of drones, to converge. When they came within range, she sprang her trap. The verniers kicked into maximum rotational thrust as the shield dropped in favor of several pinpoint barriers, and two dozen small technowizardry lasers built into the hull at seemingly odd angles (ones that pre-determined the axes of rotation) started pulse firing.
"Suck DEATH BLOSSOM, Galaxy assholes!"
The spin lasted for six seconds, depleting the significant portion of her own power she had pumped into the weapons array. But, instead of spinning down like the movie namesake, the custom valkyrie suddenly stopped all rotation, pointed at a safe direction out of the mess of damaged mecha and destroyed drones, and took off on overthrust, thanks to the Emaan tech incorporated into the mecha.
But as she sped towards the enemy ship, something happened. A wave of near-invisible energy washed out from it, casing a high-speed ripple in space-time behind it. That ripple slammed hard into her mecha, and appeared to do so selectively only to those with fold technology that were in the attack wave, not the Vajra or Galaxy forces. She'd felt it from the fold quartz built into the sound boosters, as Melanie had never gotten around to install an integral fold engine, as those were inherently unstable at such size in this universe, and ones from Home weren't as efficient as the local ones. The pulse had actually moves the ships back thousands of miles, just from being touched by it, in a VERY non-relativistic manner of travel. Had it not been such, everyone in the fleet would have just been rendered into paste from the near-instantaneous relocation.
Worse, she could hear the cybernetic murmurs of Grace's network of conspirators, as the wave expanded and took them in as control nodes of the Vajra-empowered network Grace was establishing.
Then, she realized that part of it was being transmitted much more audibly...
"Hark, lowly pests!" Grace gloated. "We have taken control of the entire universe, through the power which even the Protoculture admired and coveted for itself. The power of the super-dimensional lifeform, the Vajra, that they worshiped as primitives, and tried to emulate in their ships and weapons."
Ozma fired the special anti-Vajra capital weapons against the emerging queen, that Mina could sense Grace had physically bonded with, only to have the weapons detonate against a shield made of shifting dimensional energy, as if a fold fault made physical in the normal universe.
"Now, prostrate yourselves before our godly power that controls your fate!" Half the Vajra fleet disappeared into fold. "FEEL OUR WRATH!!!" With that, every Vajra ship remaining fired on the fleet, destroyed over half the ships and severely damaging Island One.
Yet, in the wake of the weapons fire, suddenly Ranka's voice became audible over the fold sensors of Mina's valkyrie and the others, spreading out and wresting control of some of the Vajra from Grace. The attack suddenly drew to a halt, as the competing queens' loyalty struggled. Locally, it seemed, Ranka was winning. Then everything went funky.
Mina would later liken it to the astral plane, only with star fields instead of fog. She stood there, almost as if on a balcony, watching a projection of Ranka made its way to a similar projection of Sheryl. However, Sheryl was lying there, in the last moments of life, as the intense Vajra activity was causing the final, fatal, moments of her infection to metastasize. As if by royal command, Ranka brought the dying Sheryl to her feet, hovering before her. Sheryl seemed to be begging for release, to be allowed to pass on, her role done. Ranka responded with an idol bitch-slap the likes of which hadn't been seen here since the filming of "Do You Remember Love - the Lynn Minmay Story", and began berating Sheryl about how neither herself or Alto would have ever found their dreams without her, and proceeded to pull in Alto for confirmation.
Mina thought the whole thing amusing. She really shouldn't be here, but probably got yanked in from being telemechanically linked to her aircraft and its fold-quartz-tuned sound boosters. It felt slightly voyeuristic. She was sure this was probably only taking milliseconds of real time, as if it was taking longer, her sixth sense precognition of danger would have jerked her back out of this dream realm simply from the danger of the orbital debris she was surrounded be back on the material plane.
She watched as Alto told the two singers how he wouldn't be what he was without both of them, and that they were his wings, unable to fly without both of them. Ranka moved over to Sheryl, and commanded the Vajra symbiotic parasites to relocate to Sheryl's digestive system, which they did immediately, and Sheryl's projection seemed to immediately regain its color (Which was a pink tone like her hair highlights, much as Ranka's was shades of green to match her hair and accessories, and Alto's blue, matching his mecha. The three crossed their hands, as if making a vow, and suddenly, Mina found herself back in her body.
One thing was obvious - Ranka hadn't just cured Sheryl, she'd turned her into ANOTHER QUEEN, so now it was two junior queens against Grace's hijacked senior one. This was going to be interesting.
Alto was recalled to make quick plans for rescuing Ranka, and because of the Sound Booster, Mina got called in to fly wingman for him on the insertion. The plan was downright crazy. The SMS ship would make a dangerous headlong charge toward Battle Galaxy, using its unconventional design to evade all the way in, being almost as maneuverable as a shuttle.. At the last second, it would fire a glancing blow at the enemy ship, allowing Alto to gain entry and search for the lab holding Ranka. Mina would serve as backup, in case her more sensitive sensors were needed to pinpoint the location, or if fighters responded to the intrusion. Sensors seemed to indicate, though, that the massive ship was operating with a skeleton crew. Either the fleet had gone overboard with automation, or the conspiracy felt that they couldn't trust the Galaxy crew not to mutiny once the master plan was revealed.
Ranka started singing again, even more powerfully, in a duet with Sheryl, perfectly synched in fold transmission despite their being on opposite sides of the battlefield. She quickly keyed in the boosters to rebroadcast both, as the attack began. However, continuing to broadcast during the rescue itself would be problematic, as Ranka would likely be only audible over fold equipment after taken from the lab, if she was even able to sing through the rescue at all.
Mina had something else in mind for then, taking advantage of the fold quartz tech in the boosters, but it meant having to pull something out that this universe had never experienced, because the history of internet computing was so different. In fact, she'd only encountered this particular meme on the early 21st century Earth her band had performed on and interacted with (that world being the home of several anime & manga series, either natively or being the setting of someone's crossover fanfic - the "World as Myth" theory being what it is).
The state of the Vajra was still somewhat in flux - more and more of the individuals were being swayed by Ranka, but the ships were all firmly in Grace's control, as were the ones Grace had sent to other star systems. A few of the individuals seemed to be running interference for the Quarter as it dived in, as neither of the Galaxy fleet ships were able to seriously challenge, and were almost firing blind, unable to adjust for Bobby's piloting the SMS ship as if it were an oversized mecha. They feinted an attack on the gunship section of Battle Galaxy, then swapped arms with the barrier, using the gun nozzle to tear a minor hole in the larger ship's hull. They then took off at high speed, the enemy unaware that two fighters had remained behind. As Alto dove in, Sheryl switched over to one of her own songs, and Mina began her distraction.
In her position inside the Vajra queen, Grace was monitoring her network in the mental projection that emulated being in a control room, trying to coordinate her threats on all the other fleets and colony worlds, as well as far away Earth. Suddenly, a two-dimensional white cartoon cat with a pink hair bow walked into the room, as if stepping off a screen, wearing a suit of armor from a 20th century tabletop miniatures game.
"What is this?"
"I's in yur network, haxoring your system," the cat replied in Mina's voice, as suddenly the virtual display systems inside Grace's cybernetics were flooded by tens of thousands of cat pictures with silly captions on them. The cat gave a mock Space Marines salute, and vanished.
"GET OUT!!!" Grace reached out, trying to find the node that was dumping the stuff into the fold network, only to come up short when the node appeared to be somehow outside her system, forcing its way in. In fact, by the time she reached it, it had disconnected.
Mina flew away from Battle Galaxy, covering Alto's retreat with Ranka while trying to stifle a giggle. Originally, that package had been set up as a form of ICE, part of her computer's anti-hacking defenses, but it was infuriating enough to those that encountered it that she decided to try it in an offensive role, using her mecha's fold quartz system to create a momentary connection to Grace's network. The connection only lasted a couple seconds, but it was a fun denial of service attack while it lasted - and it had blasted out to all the individual nodes, not just Grace. If it created any doubt in Grace's abilities among her allies, all the better. Perversely, Sheryl had changed songs over to "My Boyfriend's a Pilot" as they exited from the rescue.
Grace was furious, and had every primary gun at her disposal target not the warships, but the relatively defenseless Island 1. There was no way the ship could survive - but before the weapons could hit, the Vajra under Ranka's influence created an overlapping shield of their own bodies, absorbing the impact, but at the cost of hundreds of their numbers, not being totally immune to their own race's weaponry. The impact had been felt hardest by Sheryl and Ranka, but even Alto felt it through Sheryl's earring he was wearing, and Mina through the systems she was interfacing with. As much as this terrified everyone in the fleet, it was somewhat a relief, as that kind of energy expenditure would take minutes for Grace's Vajra to recover from.
Suddenly, there was a series of flashes to the rear of Island 1, as several ships emerged from fold space. Everyone held their breath, hoping it wasn't a surprise attack like what occurred after the events on Gallia 4. Fear turned to relief, when the ships turned out to be a Zentradi Command Ship and an older-model Battle.
"Frontier, the forces of Rax, Gallia and Macross 07 side with you against the tyranny of Galaxy," Max Jenius hailed from the bridge of Battle 07. "Ogotai is especially eager to deal with those who attempted to murder his entire unit."
"Your assistance is welcome," Frontier's captain replied. "It's time these traitors were taken care of once and for all."
"We'll attempt to flank their position during your attack, and leave a fighter screen for your colony ships. Good luck, Frontier."
As Battle Frontier and Macross Quarter approached their foes, the two new arrivals swung wide, and Jenius' ship began picking off the Vajra capital ships still under Grace's control. Ogotai began driving directly at the Vajra queen , but that was just a feint, to cover Island 1's dive toward the planet.
Grace threw up the fold fault shield again, confident it would keep out the rabble - but the opposing Vajra settled on the shield, projecting their own fold energy to create a window large enough to allow the attacking ships in. Battle Galaxy, seeing the danger, made a snap shot out that window. With no time to really aim, the shot went wide, only managing to severely damage the cannon arm of the Quarter, and destroying the cannon ship of Battle Frontier completely. This caused a radical revision of plan.
Canaria dove in first, making a hard landing on the Galaxy gunship, and firing her 16-inch micro-nuke cannon shells at the bridge from point-blank range, at an angle that shields were unlikely to protect against, unless they had a pinpoint barrier that was really in the ball. As the warheads hit, she blasted away as best as she could, given that her shredded leg meant that she was having to fly the VB-6 in its Monster mode. Even as she drifted away, the two large ships made a desperation move. Quarter loaded its pinpoints onto its good arm, and did the modern version of the classic Daedalus attack on the cannon ship of the disoriented Battle Galaxy, then dove out of the way as Battle Frontier did the same with the hand that previously held its own gunship, and drove it through the chest of the opposing humanoid-form ship, shattering its torso and taking it out of the fight.
Meanwhile, Skull and Diamond squadrons fought their way towards the Vajra queen against the remnants of Galaxy's fighter forces. At this point the fighters from Dulfim and its sister ships came into play, as they had taken up positions surrounding the queen on the Vajra orbital halo construct..The fight became close-quarters, but at least the performance of the cyborgs was being degraded by their leader, Grace, being occupied. Eventually, it came down to Klan and Alto at the point of the attack, and they'd been stalled, forced to go Battloid to defend each other. Klan's fighter got hit in the back, and while she was unhurt, she knew she couldn't proceed further. She tossed her sniper gun pod, Michael's weapon, to Alto, urging him onward. Mina pulled into the area, and ordered two of her underlings, flying Zentraedi armors, to get Klan out, along with the only surviving armor from the Quarter.
Mina did her best to keep up with Alto, only to see him nearly fly into the gunsights of one of the VF-27s - until that fighter was blown apart by another VF-27, that of Brera. Satisfied that Alto was in good hands, Mina turned her attention to crippling the Dulfim, whom the other two had the audacity to fly THROUGH on their way toward the Vajra queen. She dumped her entire, relatively meager, missile load directly into the port thrusters of the ship, blowing them to shreds. She then parked in a crease in the construct, and reached out again for Grace's network.
Grace's world was crumbling around her, Alto and Brera having already severed her part of the Queen from the rest of the body, when Mina linked in.
"We meet again, Grace."
"Who are you?"
"Don't you remember our last encounter? When I turned your fold eater on Gallia 4 into a fold engine? Granted, neither your body there or mine survived the experience, but I doubt you were still uploading data to your backup."
"Really? Then explain how the 33rd Division is here attacking you as well, instead of being shredded to their component atoms by your bomb. Apparently you and your allies discounted the events with the Protodevlin fifteen years ago - where allies from another dimension came to help the Jeniuses when the New UN wouldn't, and before they left sent a message that humanity would be safeguarded, whether the government liked it or not. But, you're dying, and I've made sure you have no escape. I'm just here to gloat, and to relay a message from those you used. Burn in hell, bitch."
With that, Mina disconnected, and Grace's last view was that of Alto hovering above her, shooting her with an anti-mecha sniper rifle.
Mina flew in, catching up with boarding Quarter as it began reentry.
Klan was waiting for her in the hangar.
"Okay, the fight's over. Now, I'm going to kick your ass for doing this to me without asking."
"WHY!?!?!" Klan launched herself at Mina, only to be grabbed from behind by one of the power armor pilots that had hauled her VF-25 back in, that had flown under Mina's command.
"Wow, she's not taking this well," the one holding her said, in a familiar female voice.
"All those pent up emotions from missing puberty as a micron are taking their toll," the other, a male, said, also sounding very familiar.
"Klan, get a grip!" the female flipped up her helmet.
"Raramia??? You're dead!"
"Didn't you hear Mina? She was dead, too. But, thanks to those shots Canaria gave us a couple weeks before that battle, any of us that got killed before this battle got reborn back on her homeworld."
The other pilot took his helmet off, revealing his blond hair and disarming smile.
"Well, Klan, I think we can date now without me being seen as a pervert. Though, one of us is going to have to use a chamber after we land, first. I vote for me."
"Michael!!!" And with that, Klan burst out crying, as Raramia handed her off to him.
Meanwhile, a person who had transferred over to Battle 07 from Gallia 4 was talking to the bridges of the various Frontier ships, telling them about how Mishima had stood there, ordering his death, and how he woke up on an alien world. It would take another couple of days, but his identity would be confirmed as really being President Glass, and that he could thank the other-dimensional allies of the Jeniuses for his resurrection. That said, he said he felt like a fool, from how he had been manipulated, and made his departure from the office of president permanent, as soon as the government could be purged of Mishima's allies, and a suitable candidate found.
When he had come back from that other world, he'd brought back a pile of evidence of just how deeply the Galaxy conspiracy went, procured through his requests of those that had brought him back to life, after finding out that while they couldn't time travel, they could WATCH the past from there.
While Grace's mad scheme was only the latest, greatest, plan, the conspirators had their hands in illegal arms shipments for decades. Their tentacles could be connected to the various Neo-Zentran and human supremacy movements, from the malcontents fought by the Jeniuses in the 20s and 30s, to those fought by Isamu Dyson in 2040 prior to his transfer to New Eden, to those that steered Megaroad 13 to Varauta to look for alien tech, to the terrorists fought by the VF-X Ravens. If you really wanted to get technical, even the markings common to most of these groups could actually be traced as far back as the SV-51s used by the anti-UN forces on Mayan Island. Essentially, for over 50 years, the UN had been holding a viper to its chest, oblivious to the danger despite all the warning signs. If it wasn't human groups working against other humans, it was Zentradi groups being used as patsies, able to turn sentiment against the Zentradi but never able to truly succeed in their stated goals.
Odds were that the New UN was going to fail much like the original one, and that there might be a period of near anarchy until the housecleaning occurred, that would require outside assistance. But, thanks to a good long talk with Max during the fold from the restored Gallia 4 to here, he'd already taken steps towards that eventuality. After all, the conspiracy had made it personal - the supposedly isolated incident in 2047 where a woman drugged and tried to sexually assault Mylene (and record it) turned out to have been a setup to get blackmail material to use against Max and Miria by the arms trading faction of the conspiracy, who happened to also be the tech supplier for the illegal space wildlife hunters defeated over Zola with Basara's help - and those were completely separate events, other than stemming from the same organization. Just how many more threads of corruption they'd find once they got started scared them enough that they were going to send word with Mina to contract bodyguards from the organization of Mina's other grandfather.
As for Mina, once they'd gotten Michael back down to his normal size, it was apparent a lot of pent up emotions were being released by the two star-crossed lovers, and Mina and the others had to get them to calm down before they could do anything. Luca had flown to Island 1 instead of the SMS ship, and Mina felt that they needed to go there and collect him, before heading to landfall.
Luca had to use his credentials to make his way through the devastated city, finally reaching the hospital after the ship landed. He ran the whole way, even taking the stairs because the elevators were still shut down from the war alert and following landing. He ran into Nanase's room, to find the bed empty.
He turned around, to find Nanase standing there, already dressed, wearing a dress that she'd bought for formal occasions in her role as staff artist for Ranka, though after her hospital stay, it fit a bit looser on her than intended. Her hair was a mess, but all her bandages were off. She stepped up to him, and hugged him to her very ample chest.
"Mina's been sneaking in here every chance she could get, talking to me, and doing something that encouraged my body to heal faster. The doctors were saying I was going to lose the eye, but she even did something that saved it. The doctors had been keeping me in an induced coma, not knowing of what she was doing, otherwise I'd probably have been out of here a couple days ago - but with the battle, they were too busy to remember to dose me. And, yes, I was able to hear every word you said, you silly boy." She kissed him. "What took you so long to finally admit your feelings? You're just as bad as Michael."
"Then, who is that in the hall?"
Luca turned, and saw Michael there, with a gorgeous blue-haired woman practically draped over him. Several others were there, that defied belief, as they too should be dead.
"Am I dead, and this just a dream?"
"No, silly. It's just a miracle, of Mina's doing. That's what her family does for a living," the blue-haired girl stated.
"Yeah, when she was fixing Nanase, she was working on me too, preparing me for when she brought Michael, Rari and the others back. Mina's father's family are dimensional travelers, using a combination of technology, mind powers, and what could only be considered magic. Yes, Michael and the others really did die, but so did Mina."
Michael took over the explanation. "She stopped Grace from killing all the people on Gallia 4, but she literally had to kill herself channeling the energy to do it. But, she had a link back to her home, a magical realm where she would be reborn - and she made sure all of us in SMS had been injected with a similar tag. According to her family there, there's trillions of universes out there, and every reality is someone else's fiction, and we were probably someone's entertainment somewhere. Because she was here, when what was obviously someone's story started, she was afraid her presence might get us killed, when we weren't supposed to die, so she took precautions. Those precautions probably saved some of us who were going to die, anyway, but don't look a gift horse in the mouth. It's something we can all sit around discussing later - she's waiting downstairs to transport us over to where Ranka and Sheryl are waiting for Alto."
Epilogue: A Million Miles away behind the door
"I won't give up, Sheryl, not in music, or in love..." Ranka said.
"I accept that challenge," Sheryl replied.
They turned to watch Alto, who had managed to nurse his badly damaged fighter through reentry, only to bail out with his EX-Gear in the atmosphere. As he swept around, they saw a crowd approaching.
"It can't be..."
Nanase took the lead, running up and hugging both girls.
"I'm so glad the two of you are all right! The last I heard was that Sheryl was dying, and that you'd run off with an enemy pilot."
"The pilot turned out to be my big brother. We were finally able to get our memories back, and stand against Grace. As for Sheryl, once I came to terms with what I am, I was able to cure her."
"And that is?"
"The union of Vajra and human. They see me as one of their queens; Sheryl too, now that her infection is in the right place for a Vajra. We've got to be a lot more careful; until their new queens come of age, our emotional states might affect them." Ranka looked a little sad, thinking about how her fear as a child turned what should have been a first contact situation into a bloodbath.
"Is that really Michael, and Klan?" Sheryl asked.
"Yeah, it's a long story. Mina fixed Klan's genetic issue, and her family saved a bunch of people that died - don't ask me how, it makes my head hurt. But Michael's not the only one; they saved the entire group of Zentradi you performed for back on Gallia 4."
The news seemed to lift a weight off Ranka, as those troops had been calmed by her arrival, only to die from the unexplained fold eruption on the planet. They were her first real audience, and their loss had hurt.
"Enough dwelling on the past! We've got a new world to explore - not to mention a wardrobe to help Klan buy. She's only got the one suit on her back, everything in her room won't fit anymore."
"You would think of that," Mina piped in, somersaulting into the conversation.
"So, what are you going to do, Mina?"
"Well, my cover's blown, so before I can start being a diplomat, I've got some vacation time coming. I know some really great places for shopping in other universes, so I'll bring you all back some neat stuff. One of the things they're already talking about is a replacement for the Galaxy Network, and I might end up helping with its setup. Can I count on you ladies for some shows in the future, if I do?"
"Oh, and girls, something to consider about your rivalries. There's other options out there."
"What do you mean?" Sheryl asked.
"There's a population imbalance, from a disproportionate death rate - there always is after a war. And, Frontier is half based on the old American West Coast, where things weren't as hide-bound as the rest of the world, especially for celebrities like yourself and Alto. You two are connected through the Vajra, and through your familial history. Thanks to what you share, you'll always be closer than even twins, for the rest of your life. You've said it yourselves - you're a triangle, with Alto as the apex. Can you give me good reason why you both can't have him? This isn't Japan, or 20th century California - this is a new frontier, as wide open as California of the 1840s."
"And, what makes you such an expert?"
"My own experience. Through your connection, the two of you have a form of telepathy. Back home, nearly everyone I know is telepathic. It creates a very intimate atmosphere, even before marriage. My father has four wives, and they all love each other very much, as for there to be more than a couple, everyone has to agree to the relationship. And, maybe you haven't considered it, the very nature of how the Vajra symbiotes are transmitted means that no matter which of you ends up with Alto, one of you will have to do the same to him, that Ranka did to you, if you don't deliberately transmit it to him. And, all your children will be like you. "My father and his generation had to build their own culture from scratch, as their abilities made simply carrying on with what had been before not really an option. This put them through a series of trials, that forged them into what they are now, thirty years later. And the one thing they've found over those years is that love is the most important thing in the multiverse, that should never be denied - especially not because of silly things like what you think others might think. "You're now cast into a similar position, only with the fate of the Vajra in your hands as well. It won't help anyone, especially not the Vajra, for either of you to put yourself in a position of competition with each other, or worse, having Alto choose, and the loser having to deny her feelings. After all, you're not normal humans anymore - you'll always be able to sense each other's joy and pain. Hell, it was probably your conditions that brought the two of you together in ways that Sheryl would have never considered with any normal fan."
Ranka and Sheryl looked at each other - the last part was dead-on, even if the rest was... strange.
Alto had landed, and was walking up to the group at the time. He took one look at Michael, and staggered from the shock- especially when he also recognized Raramia, Anne and several other SMS personnel that had died in the last couple months in the group.
"Believe in miracles, Alto. We'll explain later. Meanwhile, you're going to have your hands full."
Ranka and Sheryl walked over to him, grabbed him from both sides, and kissed him on both cheeks.
"Your life is about to get more interesting, because I believe the girls have decided to share... Of course, the fun part is going to be how you three explain it to Ozma."
Postscript: This story is set at the far end of my fanfic arc, long after the events of the others I've worked on. I've not even typed the Rifts Earth stuff yet (and it has to undergo a LOT of editing and rewrites, due to the reality-shifting event referred to earlier - some of the fic is 20 years old on notebook paper that's MILDEWED from age and storage). Her father doesn't arrive there until 2385 (99 PA), her mother doesn't immigrate there for several more years to join Steve, and Mina herself isn't born until 105 PA, 6 years into the mission (And well off the current written part, no matter how much of need of rewrite), or about the same time as some of the vignettes in my RPG writeup for the group.
Now, since I covered official wife #2 at the beginning of this fic, I have to get back to writing the story of the other three wives (Anna, Beth, and Lynn-Karen), and the other relationships (such as position as consort to the Second Daughter of the Omphalan Court, which isn't exactly a marriage). Steve's love life makes Frontier's love triangle tame by comparison.