Flight 101:  A New Era



"The Department of Ecology and Planetary Science has studied the orbit and rotation of Frontier and have concluded that we're in the middle of summer.  Therefore, we'll be adjusting the school calendar to coincide with the new Frontier calendar.  You have a question, Rudel?"

"Since it's summer, are we finishing the semester soon?" asked Frankie Rudel.

"I'm sorry to say that we won't be.  We've lost too many school days because of the war."  He held up his hand when the class groaned in unison.  "Don't worry... there's enough summer to go around.  Unlike Earth, Frontier has a very temperate climate so the summer season will last long enough to catch a decent break.  Any other questions?  Yes, Nome?"

"Why are we changing it?"

"To mark the seasons, of course.  It gives farmers a reference of when to plant crops.  It also indicates when the new year starts.  By the way, this year is year 0.  When Frontier completes its orbit, that day marks year 1."

Their homeroom teacher pressed the update button on the control panel to broadcast the new calendar.
 
"When Macross Galaxy's Main Island lands three days from now, that day marks July 12, Frontier Year 0.  From then on, all dates will be relative to our local year instead of the Earth year.  There are some exceptions.  For legal purposes, birthdays of those born prior to July 12 are still calculated via Earth calendar.  For more details, see the notes in the broadcast.  That's all I have to announce." 

He checked his watch.  "Today is combined swimming with PA class 2B.  You have five minutes to get ready."

Chairs scraped and papers rustled as each student made his or her preparations.  As Sheryl headed out of the classroom, a smile stole over her face.  PE was one of the few classes that she and Ranka shared together.

When all the students were assembled at the pool, the swimming teacher informed them of the day's lesson.  "Today, we'll focus on the breaststroke.  Those of you who need a refresher, come to the lanes 0 and 1 and I'll go over it with you.  Everyone else, partner up and practice."

Sheryl asked, "Which lane do you want?"


Ranka glanced at the male classmates near them and those lurking in the bushes beyond the chain link fence.  Given her idol status, she should be used to the attention.  However, she could not help but be annoyed whenever their eyes wandered over Sheryl's body like hungry wolves over a stray sheep.  The middle lanes would be best in terms of putting distance between them but since Sheryl was not a very good swimmer, she had to compromise.  "Lane 8.  I don't want you crashing into the wall again."

The Galaxy Fairy's lips molded into a pout.  "I haven't done that in a while!  We can swim in lane 9 if you want."

Ranka took her hand.  "I also don't want anyone 'accidentally' falling in when you're nearby.  C'mon, let's claim a spot.  You guys coming?"

"Lead the way!" replied Nanase brightly.

They selected a spot near the pool's edge and began practicing.  Luca and Nanase paired up while Ai went with Alto.  Brera was excused from swimming due to his cybernetic body and studied in the music room instead.

Since Ranka had learned the breaststroke at her previous school and Alto was a pretty good swimmer, they corrected Sheryl, Ai, Nanase and Luca.  Time passed quickly and the instructor blew the whistle, which signaled the end of the lesson. 

"You go ahead," said Ranka.  "I'll practice by myself for a bit."

"Ok," replied Sheryl.  She climbed out of the pool and wrapped herself in a towel.  While the rest of the girls went to shower, she watched Ranka's lithe form slice through the water.  During the filming of Bird Human, she took to the water like a fish in the sea.  After filming, Ranka often swam for a few minutes to relax.  During those times, Sheryl would watch her secretly as she floated on her back with eyes closed as if in meditation.  Just looking at that serene face brought a similar feeling of peace to her heart.  Sometimes, she wished that she could go out there and float with Ranka.  However, she wanted to remain neutral so that no one could accuse her of trying to advance Ranka's career.

When Ranka did her seventh lap out of her customary ten, Sheryl headed for the locker room.  She took the shower pouch and towel from her locker and selected one of the corner shower stalls.

After the tenth lap was done, Ranka climbed out of the pool.  Most of their classmates were already making their way to their next class.  Ranka hurried into the girls' locker room to shower.  A quick shampoo and rinse later, she toweled dry, wrapped the towel around herself and got out the shower.  She walked to her locker and opened it.  Just then, arms trapped her waist and a familiar voice whispered in her ear.

"Gotcha..."  A warm tongue licked her earlobe.

Ranka shuddered at the sensation.  Panicking, she threw her thoughts into Sheryl's mind.  "Sh---Sheryl...!  They'll see us!"

"No one else is here... I checked."  This time, supple lips wandered over Ranka's glistening neck.  Hands rose to her chest.

"Aahhh... why do you always do this?" asked Ranka between gasps.

"It's your fault," accused Sheryl.  "You know I can't resist a freshly bathed Ranka, and yet you insist on showering after everyone else is gone."  She held the younger girl closer and marveled at how her petite frame fit so nicely against her own.

Ranka's face flushed and she did not argue.  Instead, she turned in place and wrapped her arms around Sheryl's neck.  Then she captured her lips for a deep kiss.  While she got her attention, her left leg slowly positioned itself between Sheryl's.  Her hand slid down the Galaxy Fairy's shoulder and over the arm to rest on the hip.  In a coordinated motion, her hand lifted the towel slightly while her thigh rose to the junction of Sheryl's legs.  As her thigh slid against her, Ranka smirked when a surprised gasp escaped from the Fairy's lips.  

The door to the locker room opened and they immediately separated.  Nanase's voice echoed across the room.  "If anyone's still here, Mrs. Kaviroff says to hurry up!"
 
Sheryl stole a quick kiss as she hurried to her locker.  "You naughty girl..." came her parting words.

"And who started it?" whispered Ranka.  When Sheryl disappeared around the corner, Ranka drew a finger over the slick moisture coating her thigh.  Then that finger slipped into her mouth and tickled her tongue with that luscious taste.  Reluctantly, she withdrew the finger and controlled herself.  If she had any more, she would not be able to pay attention in class.  With renewed focus, her hand reached into the locker for her uniform.

When they were ready, they found Ai, Nanase and Luca waiting for them outside the pool's gates.  Alto had already gone ahead.  Nanase grabbed Ranka's hand and started walking.  "You gotta watch your time.  Let's go before we get detention."

"Sorry..." responded Ranka contritely as she was dragged along.  She turned and yelled over her shoulder.  "See you later, Sheryl!  Luca!"

Sheryl and Luca waved back.  "Later!"  Then Luca checked his watch.  "Yikes!  We better hurry too!  Do you mind if we run?"

"No, not at all!  Let's go!"  Together, they raced back to class.


-----


After school, Hope, Sheryl and Luca waited near the gate for Nanase, Ranka, Ai and Brera.  While they were waiting, Luca's butler walked over with a dog on a leash.  A wide grin brightened Luca's face and he knelt down with arms open.

"Titus!  Here, boy!"

The dog leapt forward and licked his master's cheek.  Luca laughed and hugged him lightly.  He removed Titus' leash and turned to Sheryl.  "Sheryl, this is Titus.  I got him six months ago as a puppy.  He's unusually shy around lots of people, so I've been training him to get used to it.  This is the first time I'm taking him out."

Sheryl patted his black and white head.  "He's a nice dog... what soft fur!  So what kind of training did you do?"

"The basics... as well as some hunting skills."

"Hunting?"

Luca nodded.  "He's a Munsterlander, a good breed for tracking and retrieving game.  For example..."  He removed his watch and handed it to Sheryl.   "Please hold this while we walk over there."

Sheryl complied.  Luca and Titus walked about 30 feet away.  Then he let Titus sniff his hand before saying, "Titus, go find!"

Tail wagging, Titus trotted toward Sheryl.  When he was about a foot away, he stood stiffly, lifted his right leg and pointed his muzzle towards the watch. 

Luca walked over and patted him.  "Good boy!"

"Wow!  Can I try?" asked Sheryl.

"Sure!  Just give me something that belongs to you."

Sheryl removed her beret.  "How about this?"

"That's fine," said Luca as he accepted the beret.  "I'll walk over by the tree.  When I get there, just let him sniff your hand and say, 'Titus, go find'."

"Ok."

Luca jogged over to the tree and crouched with Sheryl's beret before him.  He watched as Titus smelled Sheryl's hand and trotted towards him.  He grinned expectantly as the dog drew near. 

"Hey, Luca!" called Nanase. 

Luca turned to his left towards that heavenly voice and waved.  "Nanase!  Ranka!  Ai-chan!"  Then he resumed his original position to praise Titus, who surprisingly, was not there.

"Umm... whose dog is this?" exclaimed Ranka with unmistakable apprehension.

Luca's eyes widened when he saw Titus in the signature hunting stance, pointing his muzzle towards the left side of Ranka's skirt.  He shouted, "Titus!  Heel!"

Titus' tail drooped down and sad eyes stared at his master.  Luca realized that Titus expected to be praised but instead, he was treated as if he made a mistake.  Luca walked over quickly and tried to recover by patting him as a means of positive reinforcement.  "Good boy!"

"What's going on?" asked Nanase. 

"Er... I was just showing Sheryl some of Titus' hunting skills."

"Titus was supposed to find my beret," explained Sheryl who just walked over. 

"Really?" asked Ranka.

"Let's try again."  Sheryl let Titus sniff her hand.  "Titus, go find."

The dog wagged his tail and pointed in Ranka's direction.  Meanwhile, Luca's quick mind was already connecting a handful of assumptions and inferences.  "Dogs tend to track a stronger scent than a weak one.  So, does that mean Ranka has something that belongs to Sheryl?  Maybe she has a towel with her sweat?  But wait... we had swimming.  Unless..."  Then he remembered waiting for them to come out of the locker room.  His imagination presented many scenarios and his ears burned at his thoughts.  Suddenly, he felt a jab on his lower back.

"Whatever you're thinking, stop it right now," whispered Nanase hurriedly.  She knew that Luca subscribed to some of the naughty series that were published by the manga club.  Because of this, she did not believe that the perpetual blush on his boyish cheeks was due to pure, cherubic thoughts.  Judging by his ears, his thoughts were far from innocent.

Luca gulped and returned Sheryl's beret while he patted Titus.  "It looks like he needs more training."

"But he did a good job finding your watch," added Sheryl.

"Like I said, he's still shy around people, so maybe he got confused," explained Luca.  "Anyway, Nanase and I are taking him on a walk around Golden Gate Park.  Do you want to come?"

Sheryl shook her head.  "Cathy is picking me up for a meeting.  She'll be here in about ten minutes or so."

"I'm waiting for onii-chan, so I'll stay here with Sheryl," said Ranka.

"Well then, have a good weekend!" said Nanase who hooked her arm with Luca's.

"You too, Nana-chan!" replied Ranka.

"Have a good weekend!" said Sheryl.

With that, Luca, Nanase and Titus left with the butler.  Sheryl and Ranka selected a nearby bench and sat shoulder to shoulder.  Meanwhile, Ai and Hope were flying around the treetops.

Sheryl's voice echoed in Ranka's mind.  "If we weren't in public, you'd be sitting on my lap."

"No, I won't," argued Ranka.  "You'd be sitting on mine."  Although she heard Sheryl's giggle in her mind, Sheryl still lifted her hand to her mouth and her shoulders shook a bit.

"Now that would be quite a sight... I'm much taller and heavier than you."

"Not a problem in zero gravity."  A seductive smile stole over her lips.

"It's a date then?"

"Of course."

"When?"

"Tomorrow, at 2 PM.  Meet me at Nanase's house."

"Don't be late."

While they waited, they planned the details of their date silently.  Brera was the first to show up on his motorcycle. 

"Are you ready?" asked Brera as he handed the spare helmet to Ranka.

"Is it okay if we waited until Cathy comes?"

"Ok."

They engaged in pleasant conversation about school until they saw Cathy's limousine turn at the nearest intersection.  After Ranka and Brera said their farewells and rode off, Sheryl walked to the curb.  The limousine stopped before her.  Cathy opened the door.

"How are you?" greeted Cathy.

"I'm fine.  And you?"  As soon as she closed the door, they drove off.  Silently, Sheryl asked Hope to follow them.

Cathy sighed.  "Could be better.  Anyway, I've received word from your relatives.  They're happy to take you in."

"But they're on Earth."

"Yes, which is why I made my suggestion.  Of course, you are welcome to select any other foster family to stay with until you're 20."

"What about Alto?  He lived in his own apartment."

"Cosigned by his brother Yasaburo who's over 20.  He also paid for Alto's living expenses until Alto started working for SMS.  There are exceptions among young celebrities like you.  Money isn't a problem for you so you can get your own place easily, but I think that you don't like being alone.  Am I wrong?"

Sheryl opened her mouth to protest, but closed it.

"I didn't invite you to stay with me at first because I didn't want to intrude on your privacy.  But ever since school started, you've invited Pvt. Porter or Lt. Maxwell to dinner and karaoke almost every night."

Cathy took out a sheaf of paper from her briefcase.  "I'm your temporary guardian for now, but I don't mind being your official one.  My family's estate is well guarded and you'll have your own room and maid.  There'll always be someone around."

"Why are you doing this?"

"Hmmm... good question, especially since you were such a spoiled brat when we first we met."  Cathy looked at her directly but Sheryl did not meet her gaze.  Instead, her hands gripped the edge of her school bag tightly. 

Cathy continued, "Who in her right mind would invite a child like that into her home?  If I only knew that about you, I certainly wouldn't."  She leaned back and steepled her fingers. 

"But the Sheryl with me isn't the Sheryl then.  You've changed.  Ever since your farewell concert, you slowly began to change.  As a teen idol, it's easy to think that world revolved around you, so you were used to people taking care of you.  How do I know this?  Because I used to be one."

"Over these past several months, you cared for someone, you did things for that person without any benefit to you and you took care of an injured girl.  I can only guess that something changed your perspective in life.  You no longer expected only to receive and you learned how to give."

Cathy extended her hand.  "We had a rocky start.  So let bygones be bygones and let's start over.  Besides, I'm an orphan.  You're an orphan.  Let me welcome you into my home."

"My case is different," replied Sheryl coldly.

"I won't pretend that I suffered what you suffered, but the feeling of loss is the same.  When my father was killed, I felt like I'd lost my anchor in this world.  I think I understand how you feel.  I can't be a mother, but I can be an older sister.  I want you to know that if you need someone to talk to about anything, I'll hear you out."

When Sheryl remained silent, she added, "And as family, your friends are welcome to visit.  As long as you don't make a ruckus, your friends can stay over, even overnight."

Sheryl sat up slightly, but she maintained her composure and shook Cathy's hand.  "In that case, I'll be in your care.  Thank you."

Cathy smiled smugly and handed her a pen.  She had a good idea which friend Sheryl had in mind.  "You're welcome.  Here's the final paperwork.  Sign at the highlighted blanks."

After the papers were signed, Cathy activated her digipad.  "Now that's done, let's review your finances... you have 169,143 credits in the bank.  Do you know why that is?"

"Well... I did spend some on jewelry..."

"Yes, I see that, but it doesn't account for the disparity between your earnings and savings.  I had my aide run some earning estimates from your concerts and royalties.  You made several million over the last two years.  Where is it?"

Sheryl's forehead creased in concentration and she lifted her hand to her mouth.  "Ummm... Grace once said that my treatments and medicine were expensive."

Cathy's fingers danced over the digipad and flipped it over to show Sheryl.  "Dr. Zore found your medical records.  I asked him to estimate your medical expenses and the total was around 300,000 credits."

Her eyes glanced over the numbers.  "I... I don't know where it went...  Grace handled my finances."

"And therein lies the problem," concluded Cathy.  "With a little digging, the Galaxy investigators found out that Grace bought a lot of products from cybernetics and bioengineering companies.  I hate to say this, but I think she embezzled you.  There's little we can do about it now, but at least, we can take steps to prevent this from happening again."

"How?"

"You'll have to learn to handle your own finances.  First off, I'm moving most of your cash to another account."

"But... what if I need it?" asked Sheryl in alarm.

"You can't rely on making millions every year.  You have to learn how to save in case of an emergency.  Besides, I'm not taking your money.  I'm moving it to a high interest college fund.  You are planning on going to college, right?"

"Well... yes..."

"Good.  I'm leaving 1000 credits so you have a bit of spending money to decorate your room.  Every week, 100 credits will be transferred for your allowance.  Beyond that, let me know when you need tuition and school supplies."

Sheryl felt like she was being treated like a child.  "You don't have to do this!  I can handle it!"

"Do you want to be fooled again?"

"No!"

"Then watch your money.  When you have so little, you're going to care a lot more."

She still fumed at Cathy's interference, but she did have a point.  In the past, she bought anything that she wanted and assumed that Grace would take care of it.

"Besides," continued Cathy.  "You're going to college in a couple of years, so you need to learn to be independent, especially if you live in the dorms.  So if you have spare time during the weekends, ask Erenmeyer to teach you how to drive."  She gestured towards their driver.

Her eyes went round.  "Drive?"

Cathy nodded.  "Even if you can hire your own driver, it's useful to know how to drive.  Once you get your license, you can buy your own car."

Sheryl leaned back into the seat.  Before she stepped into this car, all she had in mind for the future was trying to graduate from Mihoshi.  But now, Cathy gave her more things to think about. 

The car stopped in front of her hotel.  Cathy opened the door.  "We're here.  Erenmeyer will schedule the movers to pick up your stuff tomorrow, so show him what's packed and what isn't."

They went up to Sheryl's suite.  Erenmeyer made notes while Sheryl showed him her belongings.  Meanwhile, Cathy sat at the dining table and was going through some paperwork. 

After Sheryl showed him the last drawer of clothes, he asked, "With your permission, several maids will pack your belongings tomorrow."

If the maids would do it for her, then she could go on her date without any worries.  "That's fine.  Thank you."

"In that case, please pack enough for two days."

"Alright.  Give me a few minutes."

He bowed slightly and went to Cathy.  As he asked what she wanted for dinner, Sheryl found an empty suitcase and began to pack.  When she was done, she walked over to Cathy with the suitcase in tow.

"I'm ready."

Cathy stood up and swept her work into the briefcase on the table.  She smiled warmly.  "Let's go home."

-----

The Glass estate was located in a gated community.  As they drove over to the mansion, they passed by manicured lawns and small gardens.  In the distance, Sheryl noticed a uniformed guard patrolling near the stylish iron fence.

Victorian architecture defined the mansion and its interior.  Sheryl followed Cathy to the door while the butler carried her luggage.  At their entrance, a maid greeted them.

"Welcome home, ma'am, miss."

"I'm home," responded Cathy.  When Sheryl did not reply, she looked at her sharply.

"Erm... I'm home."  The words felt unfamiliar on her tongue, but when Cathy nodded as if in approval, she felt more at ease.

"Sheryl, this is Murine, the head maid.  Murine, this is Sheryl.  She'll be living here from now on."

"I'm pleased to meet you, Miss."  She gestured towards an approaching maid.  "This is Soffie.  She will be your personal maid.  If there's anything you need, please let her know."

Soffie bowed slightly.  "It's nice to meet you, Miss.  Allow me to show you to your room."

Sheryl followed them up the stairs.  When they reached the top, Cathy stopped.

"I'll see you at dinner," said Cathy.  Then she turned to the left corridor.

"Please follow me," said Soffie who turned to the right. 

They went into the third room from the stairs.  The room was nicely furnished with some antique furniture.  Soffie pulled a cord and revealed the door to the balcony.  "Ma'am said that you may use this to bring in your pet."

Currently, Hope was perched on the mansion's roof.  Sheryl smiled gratefully at Cathy's thoughtfulness.  "Please thank her for me."

Then Soffie showed her where to find various linen and bath accessories.  After that, she gave her a quick tour of the mansion.

"If miss needs anything, just press the intercom in any room."  She pointed to the recessed unit on the wall by the door.  "Is there anything you need, miss?"

"Hmm... not right now."

"Then I shall go and help with dinner."  Soffie bowed slightly and left.

When she was gone, Sheryl went to the balcony and slid the glass door.  Hope flew down from the roof and landed next to her.  As Sheryl patted her green carapace, she suddenly remembered something.  "I'm sorry... I forgot to bring your bed.  It'll be here tomorrow."

Hope chirped and crawled to her bed.  Sheryl laughed and flopped down.  "You're bigger now!  I need more room."

Hope made a series of low chirps and sat on a corner of the bed.  Ranka gave Hope Ai's old pet bed.  Sheryl sighed.  It was her fault for forgetting.  She could share the bed for one night.  Hope was one spoiled Vajra.

As she lay on the bed, her thoughts went back to the conversation with Cathy.  She lifted her hand and stared at it.  Did she really change that much? 

During her farewell concert, the Frontier fleet was trying to save the Macross Galaxy survivors.  Macross Galaxy was the closest thing that she could call home.  As she stood on stage, she could not help but wonder what would happen if it were destroyed.  Suddenly, the stage felt so big and a terrible feeling of loneliness filled her heart so much that she shivered involuntarily.  The stage morphed into Galaxy's wide empty streets where she once wandered aimlessly as an orphan.  Tears fell from her eyes and a cry for help lodged in her throat while she denied the feelings in heart.

When she was about to surrender to despair, that clear, pure voice resonated in her ears.  "Sheryl!"


Despite the crowd and the darkness, sky blue eyes locked on to red-orange.  The space between them seemed to fold and Sheryl spoke to Ranka as if she was standing right in front of her.  Even though she addressed everyone, she uttered the words that were both a statement and a plea to the one who mattered most.

"I want you... to sing with me."

And sing they did.  Despite the chorus of other voices, Ranka's song echoed across the distance and those beautiful notes calmed her worried heart.

"Could it be... that you changed me?"  She clasped her hands to her heart and closed her eyes.  The image of Ranka standing among the audience burned brightly in her mind.  "That day... was our second duet."

"Let's sit over there," came Cathy's voice from beyond the balcony.

Sheryl sat up and went to the balcony.  In the garden below, Cathy was walking down the pebble path.  Her eyes widened when she saw her companion and she hid behind the curtains.  What was Ozma doing here?  Did he come to talk to her about Ranka?  She watched as they sat down at a table under a gazebo.  A few moments later, Murine walked down the path and served them coffee.

"Hope... I need your help..."

Hope's antennas lifted in curiosity.  Sheryl instructed her to leave stealthily and to hide in the bushes near the gazebo.  Hope obeyed and when she was in place, Sheryl opened her mind.

"...do you think?" asked Cathy.

"It's about time.  He's been passed up 'cause he won't play nice with politics.  He's his own man."

"Which is exactly what I need.  I don't want someone who'll blindly follow orders."

"Did you talk to him already?"

"Yes," nodded Cathy.  "Grand Admiral Misamoto Hayase will be here in a week.  I'll run the paperwork and ask Admiral Hayase to make it official.  Earth senators will also be here to go over the new constitution for the united colonies of Frontier and Galaxy.  If all goes well, he'll need to train his replacement on the Quarter."

"Oh, no... don't look at me like that."

"Why not?  You're the most experienced senior officer.  Isn't that the normal career track for a squadron commander?"

"I'm not ready to leave the sky yet."

"Are you sure?  You get a lot of perks as captain.  There's a salary increase and housing allocation..."

"In return for being chained to a boat?  No, thanks."

"I thought I'd try anyway," sighed Cathy.

Ozma whistled.  "Rear-Admiral Wilder.  It's got a nice ring to it."

She handed him the digipad.  "What do you know about his second choice:  Commandant Khellen Clang?"

Ozma picked up the digipad.  "Her?  She's famous among the meltrandi.  Tough gal.  Strict.  Clan is a pretty good ace, but her mom's way better."

"I'm thinking of having Wilder take command of Battle Frontier and the first battalion.  Khellen will command the Quarter and the second battalion."

"She'll work out.  I hear she takes care of her people."

She reached over and pressed the digipad.  "There's a few more personnel changes on the Quarter."

"Huh...  Lange's serving under Wilder... no surprise there... What the?  Margot as XO?!"

With a hand over her mouth, Cathy stifled her laughter.  "Wilder said that he was interested in command.  So I figure, I'll invoke the probationary duties clause and have him try.  If his performance falls short, he can go back to the helm."

Ozma chuckled.  "Can't wait to see Khellen's face..."  His eyes returned to the digipad.  "So Clan's going to take her mother's place as commandant?"

"Didn't she tell you?"

"She told me that she's leaving active duty until she gives birth to Blanc's baby."

"Blanc?  Not Rora?" exclaimed Cathy in surprise.

He leaned back into the padded chair and sipped coffee.  "Seems that Blanc saved his DNA a month before the battle and willed it to her if he died.  That's why she went to the cloning facility."  He chuckled.  "That Blanc... even when he's gone, he still got his girl.  But besides that, she might have a tough time training the meltran recruits.  She ain't much older than them."

"They'll change their mind when they see her skill."

He stared at the digipad.  "So Rora's serving with Clang... figures...  Damn, I'm gonna have to build up another meltran squad.  Wait a minute... who's at the helm?"

"I was hoping you could make some recommendations."

"I'll hold a test and get back to you."

"Thanks.  Let me know as soon as possible.  By the way, would you like to stay for dinner?"

"Nah, Ranka's making me somethin'.  She's been cooking all sorts of food since she joined some cooking club."  Ozma checked his watch and stood up.  "In fact, I gotta get goin'.  She doesn't like it when I'm late."

Cathy stood up as well.  "I see.  Maybe tomorrow?"

Ozma started walking down the path followed by Cathy.  "Yeah, sounds good.  Ranka's goin' to visit Nanase."

Sheryl left Hope's mind.  She just heard some really interesting news.  If Cathy and Ozma would be going out tomorrow, she and Ranka might get extra time for their date.  When Hope confirmed that Cathy and Ozma were out of sight, she asked Hope to return.  After she flew in, Sheryl closed the balcony door and began to unpack her suitcase while humming the song 'Your Sound'.  She could barely wait for tomorrow to come.

About 30 minutes later, Soffie knocked on her door.  "Miss, dinner is ready."

"Thank you.  I'll be right over."

Dinner was chicken Marsala and sautéed vegetables.  While they ate, Cathy talked to her about the Macross Galaxy preparations.  Since Galaxy's main island was landing in the western ocean, they had to be prepared for the subsequent tsunami.  For the past two weeks, she, Ranka and Ai assisted the naval engineers in building a temporary reef to absorb the tsunami's force. 

"Once again, thank you for helping out.  It would've taken twice as long without all of you," said Cathy.

"We're glad to help.  After all, the colonies and the Vajra will be living in the same world."

"It will certainly show the public that Vajra are good neighbors.  Anyway, how's school?"

"I'm keeping up with the theoretical classes, but I'm still not used to the physical stuff.  I'm just hoping I can survive boot camp." 

"Is it next week?"

"No, it's the week after.  They're just holding written exams next week."

"I know some good tutors in math and science, so if you need help there, ask Erenmeyer to hire them.  I've also gone through military training, and I'll be happy to share my experience with you."

Sheryl sat up slightly.  If she could get an idea of what to expect, maybe she could prepare for it.  "The instructor said that it's a combination of survival training and aerial combat maneuvers."

"Survival training, huh?  It's probably going to include a long hike.  Did they give you any details?"

She shook her head slightly.  "No."

"They'll probably tell you at the last minute.  For now, expect a hike.  Here are my suggestions..."

Sheryl listened attentively.  By the time dinner was done, her worries about boot camp were lessened.  She thanked Cathy and bid her good night before going to her room where she spent a few hours writing up notes about their conversation and doing some research.  As she reviewed their conversation in her mind, she wondered, "Is this what it's like to have an older sister?"

It certainly was a relief to have someone to talk to about her worries.  Cathy listened patiently and offered advice that she would not have thought of on her own.  A smile stole onto her lips.  Although she was a bit imposing and bossy, Shery felt that she did not mind having Cathy as an older sister of sorts.  With that in mind, she worked on the notes diligently.  When she was satisfied, she prepared for bed and went to sleep.


-----


The next day, Sheryl arrived at Nanase's house and found that Ranka was already there.  Hope immediately waddled over to Ai's side.

"Thanks for watching over them.  We owe you one," said Ranka.

"Oh, stop that!  In fact, I don't know what you're talking about.  Now, go on... have fun!"  Nanase shooed them out the door.

Ranka looked around.  "So... where's Lisa?"

"I didn't ask her to come.  I hope you don't mind... but can we go there by bus?"

"Sure!  I don't mind."

Sheryl pulled out a map with several highlighted lines.  "These are the transit routes."

Ranka examined the map.  "Let's see... we take #38 Geary and get off at Market.  Then we transfer to #2 Shibuya-Market.  After that, we get off at Shibuya station and catch the #9 Yamanote.  Then it's just one stop to Harajuku."  She adjusted her baseball cap and shades before holding Sheryl's hand.  "We can catch the bus at the next corner."

They walked to the bus stop with the FUNI symbol at the street corner.  A few minutes later, a long bus stopped.  The words 'Frontier Municipal Transit' were painted on its side.  The bus was made up of a primary cab and a smaller secondary cab, which was connected, to the primary by an adjustable platform.  Instead of metal hinges, a flexible accordion-like rubber shell surrounded the platform.  It reminded Sheryl of a mechanical caterpillar.  They boarded the bus and Ranka paid their fare.  She handed her a ticket, which displayed the date and time.  

"A ticket can be used on two buses, so we can use this to transfer at Market.  Keep it, ok?" said Ranka as they took their seats.

"Do you take the bus a lot?"

"Not as much anymore.  Onii-chan's here, so he drives me around.  But I used to take it to school everyday."

"I see."

"Why did you want to take the bus now?"

Sheryl smiled sheepishly.  "I guess... I want to be more independent and to get out more.  Grace kept me so busy that I really don't know how the world works out here.  I want to know what life is like beyond the stage."

Ranka smiled and squeezed her hand.  "In that case, let's find out together."

A warm glow filled Sheryl's heart as she gazed upon that adorable smile that was only meant for her.  With Ranka as her guide, she wondered what they would discover together.

They got off at Market Street.  Ranka led her to the cable car.  Sheryl's hand gripped the brass bar as she sat down on the wooden seats which faced the center of the car instead of the front.  Compared to the modern bus, she felt like a time traveler.  The cable car jolted to a start as the driver pulled on a long lever that protruded from the floor.  The sound of metal against metal clanked from below.  Although she had ridden the cable car with Alto, she was more focused on sight-seeing rather than learning about the transit system.


"Why are they still using this?" asked Sheryl.

"Hmmm... I guess it's kinda nostalgic.  This was used in San Francisco, which was one of the model cities for the colony.  This particular car survived the zentraedi attack on Earth.  Maybe it's a way of saving the past and reminding people about Earth?"

"Since you put it that way, it is kinda cool."

"Hold on.  We're going down."

Sheryl craned her neck towards the front of the car and her eyes widened.  The car was about to go downhill, and it was very, very steep.  Seconds later, the car tilted and the driver applied the brakes.  Since she was closer to the front of the car, the descent caused Ranka to slip down the seat and press against her.  Her hands gripped the nearest brass bar and her shoulders cringed unconciously as metal brakes screeched against the rails.

Ranka's arm slipped around her shoulders.  "Don't worry.  They installed a backup modern brake system just in case the rail brakes don't work."

"That's good to know," said Sheryl with relief as she took the opportunity to lean against her.  A slight blush crept onto Ranka's cheeks.  The other passengers stared at them in curiosity, but Sheryl was too distracted by Ranka's soft, warm body to notice.

The cable car trip took much longer since the route went over several hills.  Finally, they reached Shibuya station.  Ranka led her downstairs and they bought tickets for the Yamanote line.  Once again, Sheryl felt like she traveled in time as a high-speed train stopped in front of them.  They boarded the train and took their seats.  The doors closed with a soft whoosh and it accelerated so smoothly that she barely felt it. 

Ranka pointed to a display.  "That red dot shows where we are.  Those arrows show the train direction.  So if the arrows are pointing in the wrong direction of where you want to go, get off and take the train on the opposite platform."

As buildings whizzed by, Sheryl wondered how fast they were going.  She got a clue when they passed a highway with a speed limit of 100 kmh and the train seemed to be moving faster than the cars. 

A short six minutes later, a computerized female voice announced, "The next stop is Harajuku.  The next stop is Harajuku."

They got out of the station and climbed the stairs to street level.  Sheryl was surprised to a see a lot of teenagers dressed in various outfits.  Some wore colorful ones while others wore black but heavily decorated with lace.  A young man walked by with a tomahawk hairstyle and a multitude of piercings.  At the park across the station, a group of teenage boys spun on their backs as loud punk music played.

"Harajuku is famous for its unique sense of fashion," explained Ranka.  "This part of the colony is modeled after Tokyo, and Harajuku is one of its wards."

"It's pretty unique all right," remarked Sheryl.  Her hand dug into her purse and extracted directions to My Maiden's Secret.  She showed the map to Ranka.  "It's here."

"Hmm... looks like we go this way."

They walked several blocks and found the store. 

"It's a lingerie shop?!" exclaimed Ranka.

"Not just any lingerie shop," said Sheryl who opened the door.  They walked into a garden of colorful fabrics and delicate silks.  "It has a great selection of specialty lingerie and is very popular at Macross Galaxy.  I was really surprised to find a branch here."

"Welcome," greeted a brown haired meltran with intense red eyes.  "May I help you?"

"Yes," replied Sheryl.  "My friend is looking for a bra."

"Sheryl!" Ranka's voice echoed in her mind.  "I thought you needed one!"

"I do, but we might as well get you one too," replied Sheryl silently.

"I... I don't need any!  I already have a lot!" protested Ranka.

"What's your size?" asked the clerk as she walked around the counter.  A measuring tape dangled from her hand.

"Ummm... 38A..." said Ranka, blushing slightly.

"Actually, she's almost a 30B."

Once again, Ranka's protests rang through Sheryl's mind.  Meanwhile, the clerk raised an eyebrow as her eyes flitted between them.  Then she held out the measuring tape before Ranka.

"If you want, I can check your size."

Curious, Ranka raised her arms and allowed the clerk to measure her. 

"Hmmm... a 30B might be better for you.  We carry a brand that has adjustable wire and straps.  You can customize it for your size now and adjust it later when you've grown into it."

"Does it have a front closure design?"

Once again, the clerk's eyebrow twitched.  "Yes, we also carry those.  Come this way, please."

They followed the clerk to a clothes rack.  The clerk picked a daring design with thin fabric and red lace.  "Is this too early for her?"

"Hmm... no, that's fine..."  At that instant, an embarrassed Ranka elbowed her in the ribs.  Sheryl winced.  "Ah... but maybe something more conservative would be better... pastels would be nice..."

The clerk gestured to another rack.  "How about the Petite Purity brand?  It's specifically designed for younger maidens... moderately cut, but with a sense of adventure."

Sheryl grinned wolfishly.  "Perfect."

Meanwhile, an irritated Ranka fumed silently.  "Why is she asking her opinion instead of me?  I'm the one who's going to be wearing it!"  Then a thought dawned on her and she looked at the clerk in horror.  "Oh no!  Did she figure out our relationship...?  Then she wants to know what Sheryl wants me wear?!"

While they were making their selections, the door opened to admit a young girl with brown hair and green eyes.  A young woman with green eyes and midnight blue hair held the door as the girl walked in with a box in her small hands.

"Mama!  Mama!  Look what I can do!"

The clerk knelt down and kissed her forehead.  "That's nice, Shizuki.  Now go help your Mom unpack the boxes in the back."

"Ok," replied the girl cheerfully.

As they passed by, Sheryl noticed the logo on one of the boxes carried by the young woman.  "Is that Applause lingerie?"

A sly smile formed on the clerk's lips.  "Ah, you know your lingerie well.  Yes, it is.  We just got a fresh batch from Macross Galaxy."

"May we see?"

"Of course," said the clerk as she took the box from the blue haired woman.  She went to the counter and emptied the box on it.  "Is there anything specific you want?"

"Well... underwear for me and for her.  And also a bra for me... 34D."

"Let me measure both of you for your waist size then we can separate the ones that will fit you."

After the measurements were done, the clerk picked out the ones that would fit them.  "Feel free to look at these while I put the others away."  With a sweep of her hand, she scooped up the rest of the lingerie into the box and brought them to the back room.

Sheryl selected a matching pair of purple and black bra and underwear for herself.  For Ranka, she picked out light green underwear with a white lace and small, red ribbon in front.  "This one should go well with your bra."

Ranka looked at her suspiciously.  "Sheryl... what are you up to?"

She winked in reply.  "It's a secret."

The clerk came back after assisting another customer.  "Have you made your selections?"

"Yes.  We'd like to get these please."  Sheryl offered her card.

"Are you going to be shopping in the area?"

"Yes, for a while."

"For a small fee, we can wash your lingerie while you shop.  It will be ready to wear once you're done shopping."

The wheels in Sheryl's head were turning and she licked her lips.  "How much?"

"Only 10 credits."

Ranka's voice protested in her mind.  "That's a lot!  If we stop by my house, I can put them in the washer..."

"Ok."

The clerk smiled and rang up the total.  "What kind of scent would you like?"

"Scent?"

The clerk showed her an illustrated list.  "We can add a complimentary scent during drying.  These are the choices."

Sheryl searched the list.  "Hmmm... How about lily?"

"Subtle, yet alluring... a good choice.  Please return in an hour."

As they exited the store, Sheryl asked, "Is it ok if we picked up some hiking shoes before going to the spa?"

"Sure, but why do you need them?"

"Just in case it's required for boot camp.  I want to break them in ahead of time."  She showed Ranka the map.  "This is the closest shoe store."

"Oh, it's not that far.  Let's see... we go... this way," said Ranka as she took Sheryl's hand.

They found the store easily and fifteen minutes later, Sheryl bought a pair of hiking shoes.  Then they walked to the spa. 

"Sheryl... how did you know my bra size?" asked Ranka.

"I checked yesterday," winked Sheryl in response.

For a few moments, Ranka wondered when she did it.  Then she remembered where Sheryl's hands were in the locker room.  She colored visibly and squeezed her hand harder, causing Sheryl to wince at the pressure.  "That's for doing sneaky things!"

"Oh, don't get mad!  You got a new bra out of it!"

"Hmph!"  Ranka looked away and pretended to pout.  Her reaction only caused Sheryl to giggle.  At the sound of her twinkling laugh, her irritation slowly faded.

When they arrived at the spa, they each ordered a massage, a body scrub and a facial.  After their treatments, they lounged lazily in the spa's indoor onsen.

"Aaah... this feels good..." said Sheryl as she leaned her head on a towel-covered rock.  She closed her eyes.

Ranka scooted closer to her and intertwined their fingers before leaning her head on Sheryl's shoulder.  In response, Sheryl put her arm around her and cuddled closer.  Time seemed to stop for them as they basked in each other's presence, acutely conscious of each other's body even through the hot water.  The onsen was silent except for the splashing of water from the fountain and the occasional bamboo beat from the shishi odoshi.  They rested in that position until the timer clicked audibly. 

Sheryl sighed.  "Looks like we have to get out."

"Just when it was getting comfortable..." said Ranka sadly.

She chanced a peck on her forehead.  "Don't worry... we can cuddle more later."

A slow leer formed on Ranka's face and mischief danced in her eyes.  She projected her thoughts.  "I hope to do more than just cuddle."

"Really...?  I guess you'll just have to show me what you have in mind..."

Sheryl waited for Ranka to stand up first.  Her eyes followed the rivulets of water that streamed down from her shoulders, to the small of her back, over her buttocks and between the inside of her thighs.  The steam from the onsen added an ethereal effect  and the scene reminded Sheryl of a water nymph rising from an enchanted pond.

"What's wrong?" asked Ranka as she took as step towards the exit.

"You're really filling out nicely.  I can't wait to see you all grown up."

Ranka lowered her eyes as she adjusted her towel.  "Sorry... I must look childish..."

She leaned forward like a panther studying its prey.  "It's fine.  I like this part of you too."

Her blush was visible even through her flushed skin.  "I'm going to shower now."

She opened her mind.  "Shall I join you?"

"Sheryl!"

She laughed at her reaction.  "Go ahead... I'll shower in the next stall."

After leaving the spa, they picked up their lingerie.  Then they headed back to Nanase's house.

"Back already?" asked Nanase as she let them in.

"Just stopping by.  Did Ozma-nii call?" asked Ranka.

"No."

Sheryl picked up their luggage.  "We're going out again.  We'll be back in an hour or two."

They left Nanase's house and went to the woods near Mihoshi Academy.  When they had walked far enough from the main road, they summoned a Vajra to take them to the Queen's Crater.  By agreement with the Frontier government, the Vajra territories were composed of land 100 miles from the crater, the ocean with depths of 50 miles or more and airspace 20 miles from the crystalline ring that surrounded the planet.  Any human or zentran entering these territories must have permission from the Vajra queen who happened to be Ai.  Of course, Ranka and Sheryl had her permission and were allowed to pass by the Vajra patrols.

When they arrived at the crater, they transferred to the unmodified Vajra carrier.  By their command, the carrier ascended into orbit.  Meanwhile, they prepared their makeshift hammock out of bedcovers and linen.  When they were done, Sheryl handed Ranka the bag with her new lingerie. 

"Wear this.  I'll wear mine too."  She began to unbutton her blouse but Ranka stopped her hand.

"Allow me..."

As nimble fingers danced over buttons, Sheryl watched those half-lidded red-orange eyes.  Even in the dim purple glow of the reactor, those verdant lashes failed to conceal the restrained flames within her irises.  As each button came undone, the flames slowly grew in intensity.  When her blouse slid off her arms, a sigh escaped from Ranka's lips and the flames seem to flicker against an unseen force. 

She guessed what Ranka would do next.  Her hand came up and gently touched those quivering lips that was just inches from her own.

"My turn," she explained.

The flames in those eyes smoldered and those lips drooped in disappointment.  Sheryl felt bad for denying her and planted a kiss on that smooth white forehead.  The flames flickered again and a shy smile returned to her lips.

Deft hands undid the buttons and lifted Ranka's blouse over her head.  With a careless toss, it floated away. 

Just then, Ranka moved forward and her hands felt along the waistband of Sheryl's skirt to find the zipper.  One hand slid the zipper down while the other moved her body upward to free it from her skirt.  As the skirt floated away, Ranka cupped the Fairy's face and kissed her hungrily.

Between those fiery kisses, Sheryl managed to remove Ranka's skirt.  The soft velvety texture of Ranka's tongue almost made her forget her original intentions.  The gentle prodding of the bag near her arm was a reminder.  Reluctantly, she broke the kiss.  Ranka moved in to continue, but she brought the bag between them.

"Wear it and there'll be more."

As if in a drunken stupor, Ranka obeyed and began to remove her underwear.  Sheryl darted behind the reactor so that she could get the full effect of seeing Ranka in the new lingerie for the first time.  Within seconds, she changed to her new lingerie and adjusted it.  A subtle fragrance rose from the cloth and tickled her nostrils.  The clerk was right.  It was an excellent choice.

Patiently, she waited behind the reactor until Ranka called out.  She floated around the reactor and her breath caught in her throat. 

Whatever claims of childish appearance were shattered before this green-haired beauty before her.  Before her was a maiden on the cusp of womanhood.  With the delicate lingerie protecting her modesty, she could easily be mistaken for a fairy tale nymph bred from sea foam and clad in fragile wisps of seaweed.  Sheryl felt very lucky to see this part of Ranka and looked forward to seeing more in the future.

With a light push from her foot, she floated over to Ranka and gently moved the arms that attempted to hide her chest.  Meanwhile, Ranka did not meet her gaze and kept her eyes lowered.

"Let me see you," she entreated. 

Ranka glanced at her demurely and moved her arms away from her torso.

Sheryl floated a few feet away to better enjoy the view.  Her eyes followed the curve of her neck to the hollow of her collarbone and down to her chest where Ranka's starfire ring hung on her necklace and sparkled with its mysterious brilliance, casting slivers of colored light on the bra.  Joy filled her being to see the token of her love worn over her beloved's heart.  Her hand rose to touch her matching starfire ring, which Ranka specially commissioned with Mayan designs.

Her eyes floated over the bra, which nicely accentuated the gentle swell of her breasts and was cut low enough to tease.  Sheryl's hands itched to remove it, but her eyes were not finished with their journey. 

Lower still, her new underwear exposed more of her hips.  Sheryl vividly remembered the swimsuit event during the Miss Macross competition.  She was glad that she decided to wear her glasses instead of contacts.  Her glasses had special liquid lenses that allowed adjustable magnification just by tapping on the side of the frame.  With it, she was able to get a closer look at Ranka discreetly.  A quick mental comparison revealed fuller hips and a slimmer waist.  In a year or so, Ranka would undoubtedly sport a nice figure 8.

Then her eyes wandered over the area decorated with lace near the junction of her thighs.  The layers of lace began with green and ended with white.  It reminded Sheryl of petals on a flower.  Unconsciously, she licked her lips at the thought of uncovering the nectar within.

Meanwhile, Ranka managed to get over her embarrassment at wearing something so adult-like and revealing.  Compared to her new lingerie, her underwear was simple and conservative.  However, compared to what Sheryl was wearing, her own seemed modest.  She had chanced a quick glance at Sheryl and her cheeks immediately flushed at what she saw.  Gathering her courage, she lifted her eyes from the floor.

She had often accompanied Nanase to art museums and galleries where they saw numerous paintings of goddesses and angels.  However, none of them could compare to the image before her.  Freed from the pull of gravity, those golden-coral tresses seemed buoyed by an invisible aura and gave her the impression of a heavenly being descending from the sky.  Those luscious lips parted slightly and tip of that agile tongue would sometimes slip out to moisten them.  Patches of pale skin peeked through the thin mesh of embroidered silk on her black and velvet bra, which barely contained that generous bosom.  Without gravity, those soft, full mounds seemed to float toward her like tempting fruit that made her mouth water at the thought of taking them in.  The matching underwear, which she would not even dare to wear herself, was composed of a very skimpy thong of thin silk with just enough thickness to confer modesty where her thighs met.  Although seeing this vision of loveliness filled her with excitement, it was sky blue eyes that watched her and only her, that thrilled her to the core. 

When Sheryl's eyes had their fill, her hands were freed from self-imposed restraint and rose for the encore. 

clap CLAP clap
clap CLAP clap clap

Ranka's underwear split at the seams and floated away.  Sheryl grinned wickedly in triumph.

"Aaah!!!  What happened?!" cried Ranka as she vainly tried to catch the pieces.

"It's Applause lingerie," explained Sheryl.  "You can program a clapping sequence on it.  When it detects the right sequence, it unravels at the seams.  Would you like to try?"

"And make my own bra fall off?  No way!"

"I meant on me.  Mine will fall off if you guess the right sequence."

Ranka's hair bobbed up.  "Well... in that case, give me a hint."

"The sequence is a combination of 5 soft and loud claps.  Each sequence represents a number between 0 and 9.  One number will undo my bra.  Another number will undo my underwear.  For example, this sequence is 3." 

clap clap clap CLAP CLAP

Sheryl lowered her hands and was looking forward to seeing Ranka's face scrunching up with frustration.  Instead, Ranka merely smirked and delivered her answer.

CLAP clap clap clap clap
CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP clap

Surprise flowed into her face as the lingerie peeled off her body.  Ranka went to her immediately and captured her lips.  Red-orange flames of victory flared in her eyes. 

"How did you... guess so quickly?" mumbled Sheryl between kisses.

"Ozma-nii taught me Morse code... when I was a kid.  And... since it's you... you'd pick those numbers..."

Sheryl giggled.  "You know me so well..."

"Now take it off," commanded Ranka.

Instead of clapping, Sheryl lowered her head and bit the center of Ranka's bra with her teeth.  With a small tearing noise, the microhooks came undone and the bra flapped open. 

"You picked this style because you just wanted to try that, didn't you?" accused Ranka. 

However, Sheryl did not reply.  Instead, she attacked her exposed flesh.  Ranka gasped as sensitive nerves were subjected to blissful torture.  After about half a minute, Sheryl broke off her attack and bit the strap to guide it down her arm.

"Just use your hands," complained Ranka.

Soft kisses traveled up Ranka's arm and over her collarbone.  Her skin tingled at Sheryl's gentle ministrations and was left wanting for more. 

"We haven't had a chance to be alone for over three weeks.  Give me some time to enjoy you."

Ranka turned toward the covered hammock, but Sheryl stopped her.

"Let's do it here."

"Out here?"  Although Sheryl had seen her naked before, Ranka still felt exposed without a blanket over her.  Blood rushed to her face at the thought that their bodies would not be covered.

Sky blue eyes pleaded.  "Is that alright?"

It took a few moments for Ranka to overcome her embarrassment before replying.  "Ok." 

Whenever Sheryl looked at her like that, Ranka could not refuse her.  Despite her inhibitions, a warm ache grew within her and so she took Sheryl's right hand and sucked her thumb lightly.

"She's really impatient today," thought Sheryl.  By the time the bra floated away from them, Ranka had finishing sucking all the fingers on her right hand.  Then she guided that hand to its desired destination.

Sheryl just allowed her hand to rest there while she hugged Ranka closely.  Lips sought the curve of that graceful neck.

"I missed you so much, Ranka," she murmured against her pale skin.

Ranka wrapped her arms around her and intertwined their legs to cover as much as skin as possible.  "Me too..."

Because of school and work, they did not get a chance to date.  Even at school, they were limited to holding hands and secret kisses.  But now, that long wait was over.  With all the restrictions lifted, they luxuriated in each other's touch, pressing skin against skin and lips against lips to quench their longing.

Sheryl cupped Ranka's face with her left hand.  "Have I told you how much I love you?"

Ranka nibbled on her lips.  "Not enough..."

"I love you..." whispered Sheryl as she planted a gentle kiss on those petite lips.  "I love you..."  Another kiss landed on the tip of her chin.  "I love you..."  This time, the kiss settled on the crook of her neck. 

With each confession, Sheryl's lips journeyed lower to her chest.  When she got there, she kissed each top of her nipples, causing Ranka to shudder slightly.  Then with her tongue, she began to trace the Mayan word for 'love' over that sensitive flesh and her heart.  As she did so, she marveled at how smooth and soft her skin was.  The spa did a really good job.

As she traced the word, Ranka's fingers threaded through her hair in a slow caress.  She paused to enjoy the soothing feeling as she did so.  When she finished with the word, she continued tracing with her tongue down to Ranka's abdomen.  There, she traced the Mayan word for life.

The image of the little girl from the lingerie shop flashed in her mind.  Then her thoughts strayed to the news that Clan was pregnant.  As she finished the word, she could not help but wonder if she and Ranka would ever have children.  Hope formed in her heart when she remembered that Clan went to a cloning facility.  Perhaps, it was possible even between girls.

Her left hand went to Ranka's waist and lightly pushed her up.  Then her right hand moved slightly from where Ranka placed it to push against her thigh.

"Shouldn't we do it together?"

"Let me go first." 

Before Ranka could argue, Sheryl's lips dove down and attacked.  Ranka gasped loudly at the contact and her legs jerked inward.  Sheryl pushed them back and adjusted the younger girl's hips.  As she explored those nether lips, she was surprised at how moist and warm they were.  The combined scent of the lingerie's fragrance and Ranka's own tickled her nostrils.  Her tongue slid out to lick the abundant cream around it.  When it was all gone, her tongue probed deeper for more. 

Given their current position, there was no way they could attempt this on the planet.  The last time they tried this position, her neck cramped due to the awkward angle. But in zero gravity, with just feather light adjustments, she could position herself and Ranka comfortably to achieve maximum effect.  Her efforts were rewarded with each cry that escaped from Ranka's lips.

"Aaah... aahhhh... ohhh... aaahhhhh!  My god... aaahhhh!  Aahhh!!!"

Ranka's hands clutched empty air.  If they were on the bed, she would be gripping the bedsheets tightly as she tried to bear the intense sensations rippling between her thighs.  Instead, she crossed her arms over her chest and gripped near her elbows.  Then Sheryl's tongue slid across a particularly sensitive area causing her to cry out and clutch her arms in reaction.  She winced as her fingernails dug into her skin. 

Sheryl's voice whispered in her mind.  "Don't cover yourself... let me see you..."

Her arms unwound to her sides and she vainly tried to think of something to do with them.  However, her brain, drunk from the potent stimulation coursing through her body, refused to work.

Just then, soft cloth nudged her hands, which gratefully latched on to it on impulse.  Her hazy eyes shifted to her right side.  It was a pillow held by a tentacle.  On her left was another pillow.  Sheryl nuzzled deeper and a strong pulse emanated from within her causing her to arch in reaction while her hands gripped the pillows tightly.

Her eyes rested on Sheryl and her cheeks flushed at the sight.  Without the bed covers, Sheryl could see all of her.  She felt exposed and vulnerable but strangely free and liberated as she floated without the restrictions of gravity.  In here, it was just the two of them, and they did not have to worry about causing a scandal.

"Is this why...?  So we'd be free..."  thought Ranka.  "But I have... nothing to hide.  For you... I'd give you... everything..."  Then her legs relaxed and spread out more.

Sheryl noticed and her tongue took advantage of the increased access, thus eliciting another series of gasps and whimpers.  One hand slid up Ranka's torso and fingertips found that erect nub of flesh.  With small, circular motions, her fingertips played with it and it became even warmer to her touch.
 
Teased and tortured with pleasure, Ranka's fingers dug into the pillows and almost yanked them from the tentacles' hold.  Tears beaded up on her verdant lashes and floated away as she tossed her head back. 

"Oohhh... aaaahhhh... more... there... ohhh... ohhhhh... aaahhh..."

For some reason, it was getting harder to breathe and she drew a lungful of air as her body stiffened and relaxed in response.  Her abdomen felt like a swirling whirlpool.  Muscles swelled with pleasure, and ached for release.

"Sh---Sheryl... p-please... ahhh... haaah... aaahhh..."

Her Galaxy Fairy granted her request and plunged into her depths.  Her cry caught in her throat as waves of contractions surged through her body.  Her right hand managed to leave the pillow and reached towards Sheryl.

When she saw her hand, Sheryl knew that Ranka wanted to be held.  She floated over Ranka and was surprised at how warm she was when she hugged her.  This close, she could feel the rapid rising of her chest, hear the rush of her breath and sense each tremulous quiver from her beloved.  She grinned wolfishly when she noticed the faint glow from Ranka's abdomen.  At first, she was alarmed when she saw the glow for the first time.  However, after reading Dr. Zore's reports, they learned that the V-Type microorganisms repond to very intense emotions by glowing.  There was no doubt why it was responding now.

When her breath began to slow down, Ranka guided her hand and whispered in her ear.

"Touch me..."

"Wasn't it enough?" thought Sheryl in confusion.  Feeling disappointed, she complied and slipped slender fingers into those slick folds. 

Then Ranka caught her left thigh between her legs and pressed against it.  With small, short motions, she rocked against her.  Within seconds, tense muscles contracted forcefully around her fingers and the resulting loud cry from Ranka rang her eardrums.

Sheryl kissed her forehead.  "I see... you just needed a little bit there, where I couldn't reach before."

Her Cinderella's eyelids lifted slightly and dazed red-orange irises adored her with gratitude.  She leaned foreward and kissed her tenderly.

"I love you..."

Then her eyes closed again and she smiled so contently that Sheryl glowed with pride.

She bent over Ranka's earlobe and tickled it.  "Don't go to sleep on me..." she whispered.

"Just a few more minutes," replied Ranka while hugging her tighter.  Waves of delight were still flowing within her.

They held each other quietly while basking in their shared warmth. 

-----

Ozma paced as he waited for Ranka to pick up.  A muffled crackle later, the phone's speaker sprang to life.

"Hello."

"Hey, Ranka, it's me.  How's it going?"

"I'm fine."

"That's good.  Listen, I'm going out for dinner, so don't wait for me."

"Ok."

"Err... if you want, you can hang out with Nanase and I'll come pick you up around 8 or 9.  How's that sound?"

"Ok."

"I'll give you a call.  Bye!"

"Bye!"

He hung up and put the phone near his pants.

"Are you ready yet?" called Cathy from the bath.

"Yeah.  I told Ranka not to wait for me."  He sauntered in.  Cathy was already sitting in the Jacuzzi.

"That's good.  Now get in here.  The water's cooling."

"Yes, ma'am!"  Ozma flung his towel on the tiled countertop and obeyed the order given by Frontier's president and commander-in-chief.

-----

Finally, Ranka switched places with Sheryl and floated over her.  A faint glimmer caught her eye.

"Did we spill something, Sheryl?"

A sly smirk curved up her lips.  "Oh those?  Those came from you."

Ranka stared in disbelief at the numerous pearly beads floating beneath them.  "I cried a little... maybe sweated a bit... it must've come from somewhere else!"  She looked around.  "Maybe the carrier has a broken vein..."

Sheryl's free hand scooped up some nearby beads and licked them.  "Yes... definitely yours..."

Ranka covered her face with her hands in embarrassment.  "No... it's... it's not... it's too much!"

Her husky voice whispered seductively.  "You don't believe me?  Then explain this..." 

The Galaxy Fairy's fingers curled into a slight scoop and swept out, causing Ranka to gasp at the motion.  Then her fingers flicked away from them, sending a spray of pearly white beads into the air. 

Ranka's jaw dropped and her cheeks flushed at the sight of glittering beads floating around them.  She could not refute Sheryl's explanation.  Then her lips drew taut with determination and her eyes blazed with challenge.

"I hope you're ready... 'cause I'm going to top that."

Sheryl kissed her soundly.  "Then show me what you've got."

A wide grin revealed the slightly pointed right canine that was proof of her zentran heritage.  Pert lips descended to capture Sheryl's.  The Galaxy Fairy closed her eyes and surrendered to Cinderella's touch. 

Sheryl's lips felt like they were on fire.  Meanwhile, feather light touches caressed her skin, leaving goosebumps in their wake.  One hand slipped through the tresses of her hair while another wandered to her chest.  She gasped into Ranka's mouth as nimble fingers stroked and fondled that stiff flesh.  Stimulated nerves lit up in excitement and a thrill went down her spine to ignite a new flame below.  In response, her thighs squeezed together as warmth began to spread.

Then Ranka's tongue slid against her teeth to request entry.  Her lips parted to welcome her and that agile tongue danced with hers.  The hand behind her head shifted to deepen the kiss and the intensity of their dance made her forget to breathe.  When Ranka broke off the kiss, she drew in gulps of air to clear her dizzy head.

"Aaahhhnnnn!!!"

The velvet texture of that agile tongue swirled over that stiff nipple.  Her hands rose to cradle that moss green head.  As that warm, moist mouth covered more of her breast, the tip of her right canine scratched her skin.

"Don't... aahhh... leave... haaaah.... aahhh... marks..." she implored.

However, Ranka did not seem to be listening as incisors nibbled lightly, causing a mixture of pain and pleasure.  The hand behind her head slid down her back slowly before moving to her abdomen.  Sheryl took a moment to breathe as Ranka released her flesh.  Before she had enough air, Ranka had already moved to the other side and subjected that area to the same blissful torture.

A leg slipped between hers and parted them.  Then Ranka slid down to her belly button and gently sucked on the skin around it.  Meanwhile, the locks of that verdant hair spread out like pine needles over her sensitive skin, causing her to shiver.  Unconsciously, her hand went to the top of Ranka's head and pushed towards her thighs.  When she realized what happened, she pulled her hand back and diverted it to a nearby pillow, which was subjected to more abuse.

As her tongue swept downward, Ranka felt the push.  She glanced up at the Galaxy Fairy and smiled evilly, knowing that she got her in this state.  As usual, her Fairy was getting impatient.  In revenge for what she did earlier, Ranka decided to take her time.

How she loved the sound of her whimpers as she sampled that ripe flesh which was now floating freely, pointing its glistening pink tips upward.  The feel of that rushed breath that cooled her flushed cheeks was fueled by the rapid rising of that endowed chest.  And just below, the scent of lilies and musk beckoned her.  With one hand on the Fairy's hips, Ranka moved her up and examined the blossom before her.  More warmth spread to her cheeks as she wondered whether she was like this, slick and overflowing with nectar.  Her tongue slipped from its berth to find out. 

"Aaahhh!!!  Haaaa.... aaaahhh!  aaaahhh.... aahhnnnn.... aaaahhhh!!!"

Legs pressed against her and Ranka threw a thought.  "Don't do that!"

Sheryl's eyes flicked open when Ranka's shout startled her.  Against the impulse of her muscles, she spread her legs more.  Fingers gripped the pillows as slivers of delight emanated from her abdomen and traveled up her spine, sending thrills over the nerves of her arms and neck.  She threw her head back and tried to remember to breathe.

A hand pressed against her thighs.  Ranka's voice was softer now.  "Don't trap me."

Through the haze of pleasure, she managed to reply.  "I... I'm trying... aaahhhh... aaahhnnn... haaaahhhh... Aaaahhh!"

When her legs flinched inward again, she felt gentle tendrils wrap around her ankles.  Slowly, her legs moved apart.  Then sensitive muscles were stroked, causing her legs to jerk.  But this time, the tendrils kept them in place.

She was not prepared for what came next.  Suddenly, her abdomen came alive with thousands of tiny prickles.  Her loud cry echoed through the reactor chamber as those prickles probed and tickled everywhere.  The insides of her thighs were subjected to the same stimulation.

"Noooooo... s---stop... aaaahhhh... haaahhh... iiit'ssss... toooo... muuuuchhhh..." she sobbed.  But Ranka was not listening.

Her legs jerked as her body thrashed at the insane stimulation.  Each sliding motion moved hundreds of tiny wiggles, spreading the sensation everywhere it went.  She gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes, releasing beads of tears to mingle with the other pearly beads around them.

She felt a tendril wrap around her waist.  Then Ranka's hands rose up to land on her chest.  Nimble fingers began their performance.

"N-no... moooore... c---can't... aaaahhhh!  Aaaahhhh!"

Her body arched as her nerves lit up with delight.  Her dizzy mind was only conscious of the burning inferno that yearned to be released.

"R--Ranka... haaahhh... Raankaaa... p--pleeaaase... Aaaahhh!"

But Ranka did not stop, and continued to drive her over the edge.  Finally, the inferno flared and escaped, expanding through her body.  Her legs stiffened straight and her body shuddered in ecstasy.  Meanwhile, her abdomen glowed warmly.

She did not know how much time passed before she noticed that Ranka was resting her head on her chest with an ear pressed against her skin.  She stroked that vibrant verdant hair and her fingers immediately got tangled in several wet, sticky locks.  When she realized what happened, her hand rose to cover her mouth.

"Oh my god... now I remember..." she whispered hoarsely.

Ranka lifted her head and kissed her.  "Well?"

A languid smile acknowledged Ranka's victory.  "You won, but I don't think I lost at all."

Ranka kissed her again and drew back, her shiny eyes reflecting a faint image of the Galaxy Fairy's sleepy face.  "That's good.  Can we nap now?"

Sheryl nodded slightly and tried to move, but her muscles felt sluggish.  However, she did not have to since Ranka guided her to the covered hammock.  There, they wrapped themselves in swaddling linen like infants in a cradle.  Cuddled in each other's arms, they fell asleep, happy and satisfied.

 

Board Flight 102:  Family Ties