Flight 102: Family Ties
Red-orange eyes dominated her vision when she woke up. Warm, soft
fingers caressed the small of her back. That melodious voice
tickled her ears like a teasing zephyr.
Sheryl stifled a yawn with her hand. She snuggled against
her. "Just a few more minutes..."
"Geez... you said that half an hour ago. You've been napping a
She looked tenderly into those fiery irises. "I can't help it...
there's such a cuddly girl next to me." It was true. She
loved waking up to the sight of Ranka's bedroom eyes.
"You tease..." Ranka's hand rose to caress her cheek. Her
thumb slowly traced the outline of her lips. Her Galaxy Fairy
looked so angelic while she slept. Even now, touching her like
this, she felt that she was dreaming. But her palm told her
otherwise. It convinced her of the silky smoothness of her skin,
the warmth of her cheek and the fullness of those shapely lips.
"Ai-chan said that Ozma-nii went out and that he'll come by Nanase's
around 8 or 9, so we can stay a little longer. But no more than
thirty minutes. We have to treat Nana-chan to dinner for looking
after Ai-chan and Hope."
The Fairy's lips caught Ranka's thumb and sucked on it gently.
She sent her thoughts. "Is that long enough for a quickie?"
Through her skin, she could feel Ranka's temperature rising.
"Since when have you been so insatiable?" whispered Ranka.
Sheryl winked. "Since you." She released her thumb and
captured her lips.
Once again, they gave in to their desire. After resting from
their amorous exertions, they reluctantly parted and commanded the
carrier to land. While it descended, they dressed up and packed
the sheets and pillows.
When they were ready, the door to the chamber opened with a gush of
fresh air. Their combined scent wafted from the chamber to the
Sheryl did not bother to hide her blush. "Ranka..."
"Yes, I know... we have to clean up." Ranka was blushing just as
From time to time, the Protoculture scientists would study the
carrier. Given their keen observation and intuition, they could
easily guess that the chamber was used for something other than
navigation. Sheryl took out the sheets from the luggage while
Ranka asked nearby Vajra to fetch water. A group of Vajra came
with water inside the discarded shell of a molted Vajra. Ranka
instructed them to wipe the chamber clean with the sheets and
water. Then she and Sheryl mounted a Vajra that would take them
to a nearby spring.
Fearing that Nanase would tease them mercilessly if she ever noticed
the musky scent about them, they took a quick rinse in the warm spring
waters. While they were bathing, a group of larvae gathered
around their luggage. When one of them extended little legs to
touch the pocket, which contained her underwear, Sheryl knew exactly
what they wanted.
"Shoo!" Sheryl splashed water at the larvae and caused them to
scatter. "Stay away from there or Ai-chan won't sing for you
The threat worked for a minute or two, but later on, a new batch of
larvae would wander over and repeat the same behavior. Behind
her, Ranka started to giggle.
"You're laughing now, but just wait till they get yours," said Sheryl
"Oh, I doubt that," replied Ranka slyly. "Larvae like your
"Eh?! How do you know that?" Sheryl quickly waded over and
trapped Ranka in her arms.
Between giggles, Ranka told her what happened on the day that Hope
stole underwear from her laundry bin. When she finished the
story, Sheryl pulled away in embarrassment.
Ranka smirked. She had seen Sheryl's reaction and felt her skin
temperature rise. She decided to embellish a bit. "And it
smelt really strong... and felt kinda damp..."
"It didn't! I... I was just excited to be with you the whole
day... even if we had lessons..."
Ranka wove her arms around her neck. She leaned forward until
their noses were touching. "How excited were you?"
"Now do you understand?"
Sheryl blinked several times before she caught the innuendo. "Why
you..." Kissing was the only option left to prevent saying things
that would embarrass herself even more, so she caught Ranka's lips and
kissed her until they were both breathless.
After the Vajra cleaned the chamber, they dressed up and gathered their
things. Then they left the crater and returned to Mihoshi
woods. From there, they took public transportation and picked up
some dinner before going to Nanase's house.
"Welcome back!" greeted Nanase as she held the door for
them. "Did you have fun?"
"Yes," replied Ranka. "We had lots of fun!"
"Glad to hear that!" Then she turned her attention to the brown
bag in Sheryl's hands. "That smells good..."
"Cathy recommended this restaurant. It's called The Steel
Chef." Sheryl unpacked the food on the table.
"Wow! This looks tasty! Is this Japanese food?"
Nanase licked her lips hungrily.
"A mix... it's sort of... a fusion... Well, stop staring and try
"You betcha! Anyway, what would you like to watch while we
eat?" Nanase held out two videodiscs. "This one is about
two young female circus performers who start out as rivals and then
become partners as they advance in their careers. It's got comedy
and drama. This other one is about a girl who becomes a
prince. She meets a girl who is secretly a princess and they
slowly fall in love. The girl prince fights many battles to
rescue her from her evil brother. It's a cross between action and
Sheryl and Ranka read the descriptions and looked at the covers of the
"This one sounds like us," remarked Sheryl.
Ranka giggled. "Yeah, it sorta does... How about this one,
"Phoenix Legends it is!" Nanase positioned the TV cart and popped
the disc in the reader.
They ate and watched as the characters' relationship changed from
strangers to rivals and then from rivals to partners. They
laughed at the clumsy attempts of courtship and wept when the older
girl met an accident that injured her shoulder and had to quit the
circus. They cheered each girl as she overcame obstacles in her
career. They wept once more when at last, the heroines, now young
women, performed together again, weaving a vow of love during their new
feat, the Phoenix Act. When the credits rolled, they clapped.
"That was really good," said Sheryl as she wiped her tears with her
"Here." Ranka leaned over and dried her tears.
The doorbell rang. As Nanase went to the door, Ranka glanced at
the wall clock. 9:17 PM. It was probably Ozma. She
gave Sheryl a quick kiss. Sheryl understood and looked for a
place to hide.
"Hey, Nanase! How's it goin'?" greeted Ozma.
"I'm doing fine, Mr. Lee. How about you?"
He grinned widely. "Feelin' great! Ready to go, Ranka?"
Ranka walked up with Ai in tow. It was rare to see her brother in
such a good mood. "Yeah. Thanks for having me over,
Nana-chan! See you at school!"
"Anytime! Good night!"
"Good night!" replied Ranka, Ai and Ozma in unison. They turned
and left the house.
Nanase closed the door and went to the window. She watched Ozma's
car until it was out of sight. Then she went to the dining
room. "They're gone now."
Sheryl stepped out of the closet while Hope waddled from under the
kitchen table. "I guess we'd better get going too." She
took out her phone and asked Erenmeyer to pick her up.
"So he still thinks that she's dating Alto?" asked Nanase who crossed
her arms over her chest.
Sheryl nodded. "We have to fool him, otherwise he'll keep
lecturing or grounding her."
Nanase shoved the Frontier Enquirer before her. "Well, he better
not be reading this. The media thinks that you and Alto are an
The flashy headline of 'Ace Pilot Gives Private Lessons' was enough to
get her blood boiling. "Damn it! Security was supposed to
keep them away from school!"
Nanase pointed at the pictures. "It won't be easy. See the
way this line curves near the corners? It indicates that a high
magnification lens was involved and this photo was probably taken from
a long distance. These aren't your average hide-in-a-bush
Sheryl had seen Nanase's photography exhibition in the Visual Arts
department, so her intuition was probably right. She sighed and
rubbed her forehead. "If we can't fool him anymore, we'll just
have to deal with it then."
When Erenmeyer arrived, Sheryl bid Nanase goodnight. As they
drove home, she stared at the starry sky.
"This can't go on forever, Ranka," thought Sheryl. "One way or
another, I'll convince him to accept us."
But that was the least of her worries. If the media knew of their
relationship, it may cause a scandal that might have a negative effect
on Ranka's career. Although the zentraedi would be likely to
accept it, not all humans would be open to a same-sex couple,
particularly when their favorite idol was involved. Sheryl leaned
back into the seat. "One day, we'll convince everyone to accept
us... but first... Ozma..."
She closed her eyes and prayed for luck.
The next day, Sheryl began studying for next week's exams. While
she was studying, Soffie announced a visitor.
"Mr. Yasaburo Saotome is here to see you, Miss."
Sheryl sighed. It was time to tell him. "I'll be right
She met Yasaburo at the sitting room.
"Hello, Sheryl. How are you?" Yasaburo offered a bouquet of
Sheryl accepted. "I'm fine. And you?"
"I'm doing well. I stopped by the hotel and they told me you
"Yes. I'm living here now. Cathy was kind enough to be my
"That's nice of her." He coughed into his hand. "Anyway,
your maid told me that you're busy studying, so I won't take too
long. I have tickets to the premier showing of Samurai
Seventeen. Alto has one of the lead roles."
Sheryl smiled sadly. He knew that she had never seen Alto act, so
he was tempting her to get a date. "I'm sorry, Yasaburo.
I'm the one who wasted your time."
For several moments, Yasaburo was speechless. Then he said
slowly, "What do you mean?"
She sighed. "Alto is kind. When he learned that I was
dying, he asked me what he could do. I told him... that I wanted
to experience life as a normal person. To live in a normal home,
to eat normal food, and to have a lover... to experience at least that
before I go. He was kind enough to do it. It was our
lover's game. But you know Alto. You knew he was just
acting. What you didn't know was... I was acting too."
"But why him? I was the one who found you on that rainy
day! I could've played that role!"
"It's because..." She hesitated for a moment to study him.
Could she trust him with her secret? As she looked at his honest
face, she felt she could. "It's because I'm infected with a virus
that's lethal to human beings. My previous manager, Grace, had
implanted it in me and lied that I had a genetic disease to cover up
the symptoms. I only discovered it when I stopped taking my
medicine that kept it in check. But unfortunately, I had kissed
Alto before I knew about it. Since he was already infected, he
was the only choice. Please understand... I didn't want you to
get sick because of me."
Worry etched on his face. "My brother is sick? Does he
"He's fine. He's been treated already and there's no trace of the
virus in his body."
"Thank god!" He leaned back and exhaled with relief. "You
could've just told me all that in the beginning. But why did you
keep pretending? Do you really hate me that much?"
"No! It's not that! I don't hate you at all... it's just
that... I love someone else."
He stared at her with a stunned look on his face before breaking into a
sad, bitter laugh. "I see... I understand now. You're
telling me this because there's no need for you to pretend
anymore. But what about your lover? Isn't he worried about
"My lover is immune to the virus."
"Does that mean that humans can become immune to it?" asked Yasaburo
She remembered the report on the Fairy Project. Out of the ten
girls who received the virus, only she, Fairy-9, survived.
Sadness filled her heart at the thought of those wasted lives.
"My lover and I are special cases. In all other cases, the
patients died after prolonged exposure."
His face drooped with disappointment. "I see. There really
was no chance for me at all."
He sighed and sat still for a few moments. Then he placed an
envelope on the coffee table in front of her. "I wish you both
happiness. Here are the tickets. Please go. Alto
would be happy if you went."
"Oh, I couldn't..."
He held up his hand. "Don't worry. It's on me."
After he left, she went back upstairs to tackle more Astrophysics.
Despite mental fatigue from the weeklong exams, Sheryl walked excitedly
to the wind tunnel hangar. Luca was tuning her new X-Gear
suit. She found him at the control room.
"How's it going?"
"All power-on tests pass and I made the dummy do some basic maneuvers,"
replied Luca. "Here's the airflow data."
Numbers swam in her vision. She should be able to understand the
measurements, but her mind was still exhausted. There was only
one option left. "Can you help me tune it manually?"
"Sure. Let me help you into the suit."
Once ready, Sheryl was lowered to the center of the tunnel. She
checked the readouts on the Helmet Mounted Display and confirmed that
all systems were engaged.
"I'm ready, Luca," said Sheryl.
Luca turned on the tunnel's engines that simulated a strong wind.
Sheryl started the suit's engines and let go of the tether. With
the controls sticks in the forearm compartments, she adjusted the flaps
and ailerons. As she flew the standard tests, she marveled at the
response. Finally, she had her own suit and did not have to
borrow Luca's or the school's.
"Does this model have variable swept wings?"
"Yes. It's on the lower right corner on the HMD. Just focus
your eyes on it and the Optical Control System will activate it."
Sheryl tried it. "I don't like it there. Can I add it to
one of the fingered buttons?"
"Sure. I can set it up now. Where do you want it?"
"Left and right pinky."
"Give me a few seconds..." Luca connected to the suit maintenance
circuit and routed the control. "All done."
Sheryl pressed the buttons and felt the wings snap back. Then she
released the buttons and wings extended in full. "Too much... I
need finer granularity. Can you also give me 30% more kinesthetic
feedback on the control columns?"
"Okay." Luca did not understand why Sheryl wanted it, so he
decided to ask her later. Their time in the tunnel was limited
since all the pilots wanted to test their suits before boot camp.
By the time Sheryl made all her adjustments, the suit's G-Force and
airflow data had drastically changed. The measurements indicated
that it was less stable in level flight. Luca did not trust
himself to fly it for precision maneuvers. However, Sheryl did
not seem to have a problem with it. She tried the standard
maneuvers and the test results were within normal parameters. As
they walked out of the hangar, he asked her about the wing
retraction. She simply shrugged.
"It feels better with shorter wings sometimes."
"But that's what the HMD data is for. It tells you which flap to
adjust if you're not stable. You can adjust everything without
sweeping the wings."
"It's fine, Luca. Sometimes, using the HMD is boring," replied
Sheryl with an enigmatic smile. "Ah, Erenmeyer's here. I
have a studio session, so I have to go. See you at camp!"
"Bye," waved Luca. Based on what she said, Luca hoped that he
would never have to do acrobatic flying with her.
A week after the exams, Ranka paid a surprise visit to the Glass
"Hello, Ranka," greeted Cathy. "What brings you here?"
"These are for you," said Ranka as she offered a bouquet of flowers and
a gift basket. "To thank you for giving Sheryl a home."
Cathy accepted the flowers and smelled some blossoms. "Mmm... a
fine selection... thank you." She handed it to Murine.
"Please, have a seat. Sheryl should be back from the recording
session." She waited for Ranka to sit before sitting down
herself. Then she continued. "I only did what had to be
done. We need to take care of each other during times like this."
"That's why I'm even more grateful. You were able to do what I
Cathy sighed. "It's Ozma, isn't it?"
She nodded slowly. "I love my brother. He's taken care of
me and so I don't want him to think that it's his mistake that I love
"It's not your fault and it's not a mistake to love her. In a few
years, both of you will be of legal age, and the law doesn't forbid you
from loving each other. He'll have to deal with it by then."
"I can wait until he accepts us. But while I wait, I can't be
with her all the time. She... she doesn't like to be alone.
So that's why I'm grateful that you can keep her company."
"But don't you have that?"
Cathy tapped her forehead. "The fold link."
Comprehension dawned on her face. "Oh... yes... but... I don't
want to intrude."
"I did too in the beginning. It's so easy to assume that because
she's the Galaxy Fairy, she wouldn't feel that way. But you and I
know differently. It's just a mask she wears. Worse yet,
she won't ask. No, she's afraid to ask. As her guardian, I
found out more about her past. After she was orphaned, she lived
in several foster homes. The last one turned her out onto the
street. And that's when Grace found her. So I think, she's
trying to strong, to not depend on anyone. If my hunch is right,
then it's up to you to be there even though she says nothing."
"Because you're the one she wants." She waited for Ranka to
reply, but when she did not answer, she asked, "What is a home?"
"It's a place where your family lives. Ah!" Ranka's hand
covered her mouth and understanding shone in her eyes. "I see...
it's the people you go home to."
"So the place doesn't matter at all." Cathy leaned forward.
"Both of you are very special. With the fold link, you can talk
to each other instantly, no matter where you are. Boot camp
starts tomorrow. You'll be apart for three weeks. Why don't
you knock? Maybe she'll answer."
"I will. Once again, thank you. I wish I could do something
to show my gratitude, but all I could do is say thank you."
She smiled gently. "There is something. Take her off my
hands when you turn 20."
Ranka's hair bobbed up. "I'll be more than happy to!"
Cathy laughed. Until Sheryl returned, they talked about ways on
how to deal with Ozma. When they heard Sheryl's voice from the
main hall, Cathy stood up.
"I'll have some snacks brought up to Sheryl's room. Enjoy your
Ranka bowed deeply. "Thank you again."
Sheryl entered the sitting room as Cathy left.
"Welcome home," greeted Cathy.
"I'm home," responded Sheryl. Her eyes lit up when she saw her
visitor. "Ranka!" With several strides, she was at her
side. They hugged each other tightly.
"Don't you have a photo shoot today?" asked Sheryl.
"I asked them to end it early," replied Ranka. She kissed her
lightly. "I just had to see you."
Sheryl returned a lingering kiss. "I'm glad. Wanna come up
to my room?"
Upon entering her room, Ranka's eyes went wide in admiration.
"Wow! It's pretty big! And a canopied bed! I've
always wanted to sleep in one of these!"
Sheryl went to the drapes and pulled them open. "The balcony's
over here." She opened the door to let Hope in. Hope
entered and looked inquiringly at Ranka.
"No, she's at home. I couldn't take her to work today. Do
you want her to come over?"
Hope's antennae twiddled in affirmation.
Ranka closed her eyes and asked for Ai-chan to meet them at Sheryl's
house. Then she patted Hope's carapace. "She'll be right
Hope chirped and waddled to the pet bed where she sat quietly.
Ranka's eyes wandered the room and rested on the picture frames on the
bedside table. She went over and picked up one that had a picture
of herself. "When did you get this?"
"Compliments of Elmo when I was doing charity concerts," replied
Sheryl. Actually, after Ranka left for the Vajra home world, her
popularity dropped and Elmo was stuck with lots of Ranka related
merchandise. When they started doing charity concerts, she helped
herself when he was not around.
"Something's missing..." Ranka flipped it over and took the
picture out. Then with a silver pen, she signed it.
To my dearest Sheryl,
With all my Love,
~ Ranka <3
"Umm... is that ok? The maids will see it," asked Sheryl in alarm.
"Cathy trusts them right? I think it's fine." When she
returned the picture frame to its original position, she noted that if
Sheryl faced the windows, the picture would be in her line of sight
when she woke up. The idea warmed her heart.
The other bedside table had a faded and dirty photo of a woman and a
baby. It was signed, 'Your granddaughter, Sheryl'. Ranka
picked it up.
"Is this your mom?"
Ranka gazed at the tender scene of mother and child. A soft smile
graced her face when she noticed that baby Sheryl was grabbing her
"I see... you like to play with hair back then too..." thought
Ranka. Whenever Sheryl caught her sleeping, she would move the
locks of hair over her eyes. She slept better when it was dark,
so removing the hair over her eyelids disturbed her sleep. Her
brother, Ozma, also did that when she was young, but stopped after she
threatened to stop cooking for him.
"Say, Sheryl, I've been wondering... why is your last name Nome?
Shouldn't it change when your grandmother married?"
"For most people, that'll be the case. But for my family, the
guardian bloodline is inherited through females. To make it
easier to trace our lineage, Nome women ask their husbands to take the
our last name."
"I see... so that means... if you ever get married..." She left
the sentence unfinished and blushed.
Sheryl lifted her chin and kissed her. She finished the
sentence. "My bride would take the Nome name and our children as
well. Is that alright?"
"It depends how well you propose. Your fiancee may want a proper
proposal," teased Ranka. She giggled at Sheryl's pouting face and
then tried to erase it with a kiss.
As she returned the photo to the table, her eyes landed on the photo
album next to it. Wondering if Sheryl had more pictures of her in
it, she picked it up.
"May I see?"
"Sure." Sheryl patted the bed. "Have a seat."
Ranka sat down next to her and opened to the first page. It was
full of pictures of her during the Miss Macross competition. Five
pages later, there was a single picture of her singing at Folmo
mall. As she remembered that day, she blushed
unconsciously. Aside from the competition, that was the first
time she ever sang in a public place.
The next set of pictures was from the movie set of Bird Human.
Then on one page, there were no pictures. Instead, it had pressed
flowers. She glanced up at Sheryl inquiringly.
"You gave me those when you visited me in the hospital," explained
Sheryl. "What made you pick these particular ones?"
"I just thought it looked nice."
Sheryl pointed at the daisy. "This one means Loyal Love."
Then she pointed at the pink rose. "And this one indicates a
message: Please Believe in Me."
Ranka blushed. "I really didn't know that it meant
something. I just wanted to see you that day and make sure you
Sheryl put an arm around her and kissed her. "Thanks for coming
over anyway. It really made me happy even though you didn't mean
Ranka kissed her back. "I mean it now."
Sheryl grinned mischievously and pushed her down on the bed. She
leaned over her and bent down. Just then, there was a gasp at the
door. She looked up to see a blushing Soffie at the doorway.
"Ummm... I'll just leave the snacks here, Miss. Excuse
me..." Soffie hastily put the snack tray on the nearest table,
bowed and left.
She berated herself for not closing the door and even more for
forgetting that it was open. Below her, Ranka started to giggle.
"What's so funny?"
"The look on your face... I've never seen you so pale..."
Before anything else happened, Sheryl walked to the door and locked
it. Then she crawled over Ranka. "If you think that's
funny, then how about this?" Nimble fingers attacked Ranka's
Ranka twitched in laughter as she tried to stop the tickle
onslaught. However, those hands seemed to everywhere. She
decided to attack the source. Her hand reached for the nearest
pillow and pulled it from under the covers. To her surprise, her
own face stared at her. She yanked it and used it to block
Sheryl. When the tickling stopped, she took several deep breaths
"Erm... that's... uhh..." She grabbed the pillow and moved
away. "It's mine!" When the pillowcase came out, she knew
that she could never get it without Grace finding out. It was
pure luck that she actually found one in Elmo's stash.
Ranka knew about the pillowcase with a picture of her in an orange
swimsuit on front and in a pink dress on the back. To promote her
new single, Elmo decided to raffle off 100 pillowcases to fans that
bought her single. She had seen photos of elated fans holding
it. However, when Sheryl hugged it, one hand ended up on her
chest and the other landed near her abdomen. Her imagination
helpfully supplied other possibilities and she blushed in embarrassment
"Are you sleeping with that every night?" asked Ranka in a low voice.
Sheryl gulped. Was she jealous of the pillow? If she was,
she had to answer carefully. "Ummm... sometimes... but not all
the time. I just keep it to look at..."
"How... how could you?!"
"I'm sorry! If... if it bothers you, I won't..."
"I want one too!!!"
"...sleep with... huh?" Sheryl stared at her.
"I want the one with the red swimsuit and the leather outfit!"
Her forehead creased as she tried to remember. "But... that's
been sold out a year ago..."
Ranka crossed her arms. "Then get them to make more and reserve
one for me! You're the Galaxy Fairy, right?"
"Aren't you being unreasonable?"
"If I am, hand it over." She extended a demanding hand.
Sheryl just stood there and stared at the hand and then at the
pillow. "No way!"
"See? Why should I suffer while you have one?" complained Ranka.
"You already have lots of posters..."
"It's not enough!"
Sheryl sighed but kept her distance while hugging the pillow
tighter. "Alright, I'll see what I can do. So, can I keep
"You have 2 months," replied Ranka. "If you don't come up with
it, you can't keep it."
A drop of sweat rolled down her temple. She hoped that it was
enough time. Just then, there was a knock on the balcony
door. It was Ai. Hope waddled out of the pet bed when
Sheryl let her in. Ai hugged Hope and lifted her as if she were
just a larva.
"I keep forgetting..." remarked Ranka. "She's technically a stage
3 Vajra, and just as strong even though she's my size."
Sheryl pinched Ranka's upper arm. "You're strong too, Miss
Quarter Zentraedi. Hey, how about it? I've been working
out!" She tossed the pillow on the bed, went to the table and
assumed the arm wrestling position.
"Geez, don't you give up?" Ranka sat down and gripped her
hand. "3 out of 5?"
"Yeah. This time, you're going down!" Without waiting for
the start signal, Sheryl pushed hard.
Ranka's arm swayed halfway to table's surface before muscles tensed
up. Through gritted teeth, her Cinderella challenged, "You sure
Her eyes narrowed. From her tone, Ranka had anticipated her
gambit. To her dismay, their tight fists slowly rose up to their
original position. She leaned forward in an attempt to gain more
leverage. Unfortunately, despite her best efforts, she only
managed to beat Ranka once.
Ranka flexed her hand. "Don't feel bad. Winning isn't
everything! Even though I won, I can't let down my guard. I
can feel that you're much stronger now compared to a month ago, so I'll
have to work out too."
"Oh, you don't have to do that," said Sheryl in fear that the goal was
slipping further away.
She shook her head. "Uh-uh. We promised each other that
we'd do our best in everything, no matter what."
Sheryl sighed and offered the cake from the snack tray. "Want
They ate the cake and exchanged showbiz gossip. When they were
about halfway done, a series of belches came from Ranka's purse.
Ranka pulled out her phone and squeezed it several times to read the
message. She looked at Sheryl sadly.
"Onii-chan is coming over to pick me up. We're going shopping for
dinner, so I have to go."
They finished the rest of the snacks and then spent the remaining time
kissing and cuddling in bed. When Soffie's hesitant voice
announced Brera's arrival, they stopped.
Hand in hand, Sheryl escorted Ranka and Ai to the front door. "I
might be able to check messages, so email me, ok?"
"I will," replied Ranka. She kissed her on the cheek. "Good
luck with camp."
"And you too."
Sheryl watched as they drove away. Then she went back to her room
to prepare her gear.
The pilots assembled in the school's main parking lot. After roll
call, Mr. Bernard, director of the Pilot Course, announced the camp
"First week is survival training. You'll be assigned to a team of
five. The team captain will pick your training area. For
the second week, it'll be aerial and combat maneuvers. If you're
good enough, you'll fly the VF-19 on the third week." Excited
whispers rose in the crowd. "Only if you're good enough.
Otherwise, you'll focus on your weak points during the third
week. There are exceptions, of course." His eyes went to
Luca who had already flown a VF-25 and who only wanted to attend boot
camp for the experience. Alto was excused from boot camp and was
rumored to be enjoying his free time flying as he pleased.
One of the instructors stepped forward and began announcing the
teams. As she listened intently for her name, Sheryl shifted
nervously from foot to foot. She looked at the teams forming in
progress. As each name was called, the pilot went to the newly
formed group. One female group already had two meltran pilots and
one human pilot. The other female group had two human
pilots. She hoped that chance would let her join the two.
"Sheryl Nome, Group E."
"By Miriya, why her?" moaned Tadyana Agreu, who was a third-year,
meltran pilot in her homeroom and simulator class. She was a tall
redhead with pale gray eyes and wore her hair in a braided ponytail.
"At least, we have Eriko," said the other meltran. She was half a
head shorter than Tadyana and had short silver hair and green eyes.
As she walked over, Sheryl cursed her luck at first, but when she saw
that the other female group got three meltran pilots, she wondered if
she actually got the better group. Compared to Ranka, a full
meltran was much stronger and their muscles sometimes rotted their
brains. Although she respected their flying abilities, Sheryl
preferred to avoid dealing with them. For now, she had to
"Hi. I'm Sheryl Nome." She extended her hand.
The silver haired girl shook it. "Aris Wesla, second-year."
Before she could introduce herself to the other member, their last
member joined them. To her relief, it was another pilot in her
homeroom, a half-meltran named Kanagi Shizedow. When all the
members were assembled, the team captains were chosen based on
"Group E, Eriko Ichijyo."
"Yakk!" cursed Tadyana under her breath as the dark haired girl went to
receive her badge.
Tadyana was ranked in the top fifty. Sheryl did not know Eriko so
she could not tell how good she was from a first impression.
Eriko was about her height and had shoulder length black hair with
bangs that obscured at least one of her blue eyes.
She looked around. There were 11 male groups and 9 female
groups. From her conversations with Luca, the ratio was about the
same compared to NUNS squadrons.
"All team captains step forward and pick your site," announced the
instructor who held out a box with folded pieces of paper.
Sheryl could feel the tension in the air as Eriko picked one. She
handed it to him.
"Diablo Valley," read the instructor flatly, but to Sheryl, it sounded
like the stuff of nightmares.
After the selections, each group boarded a bus that would take them to
the training site. Two male teams boarded the bus with
them. Sheryl eyed them warily and sat in the aisle seat next to
Kanagi. Despite her half-meltran heritage, Kanagi was just a
couple of inches taller than Ranka and a bit shy and timid. But
when placed under pressure, she somehow gathered enough determination
to make it through. Overall, she was an intelligent girl with
good reflexes. Across from them sat Aris and Tadyana.
Although Aris was in a different homeroom, Sheryl often saw her with
Tadyana during lunch.
Eriko stood before them and extended a hand. The yellow and black
badge on her arm indicated her captain rank.
"Hello. I'm Eriko Ichijyo, third-year."
"Sheryl Nome," replied Sheryl shaking her hand firmly. She was a
bit relieved that Eriko introduced herself as if she were just another
"K-kanagi Shiz-zedow... s-second-year" stuttered Kanagi as she shook
Eriko turned and introduced herself to Tadyana who shook her hand so
briefly that it seemed like a pat. Just then, the bus lurched
forward and Eriko quickly took a seat behind Tadyana.
"Everyone, sit down," said Mr. Neumann, their Astrophysics
teacher. "Listen up. I'm your proctor for this week.
Team captains, raise your hands."
To each captain, he handed a sheet of paper. "Here's information
about the site. The scenario is that you've crash-landed and only
have two days worth of rations with you and a basic survival kit.
You have a map that shows the location of the nearest outpost.
Get there within 5 days and you pass."
He handed a backpack to the nearest pilot. "Take a pack and pass
the rest. In addition to your kits, you may take one pound of
personal items that can fit in the sandwich bag inside the pack.
Items that aren't allowed are listed on the sheet. Put the stuff
you can't bring in the box provided. When you reach the outpost,
it will be returned to you. Any questions?"
While Mr. Neumann fielded questions, Sheryl began filling the sandwich
bag with items that Cathy suggested. While she was doing so,
Eriko looked over her stuff.
"Good choices," she said.
"Thanks," replied Sheryl.
Then Eriko looked over the contents of Kanagi's bag and told her to
include specific items. She did this for each member.
The bus arrived at Group E's drop off about thirty minutes later.
Mr. Neumann inspected the kits and personal items. When he saw
hers, his eyebrow twitched and Sheryl felt that he was staring at
her. She breathed a sigh of relief when he approved it. She
placed bag in the provided backpack with the kit.
"Everyone ready?" asked Eriko. "Good. Which you has taken
this test before or had any camping experience?" Tadyana raised
her hand. "Alright, you're vice-captain. We'll pair
up. Agreu, go with Shizedow. I'll go with Nome and
Wesla. Try to stay together. Don't go alone. Now, I
suggest that each of us find a walking stick."
"I can walk fine without one," said Tadyana.
"It's for self-defense as well. They did minimal terraforming in
this site, so we have to be prepared for local animals."
"Know-it-all," muttered Tadyana softly when she turned away from
Eriko. "C'mon, Kanagi."
After they found branches good enough for walking sticks, they climbed
a hill. Eriko unfolded the map on the ground. She pointed
at the map.
"This is where they dropped us off. Here's the hill. And
here's the outpost. Notice anything?"
"Of course. The map doesn't have any elevation info. Same
as last year," replied Tadyana.
"That's right. If we look from here towards where the outpost is,
you can see that we'd have to go over some hills and the mountain."
Tadyana surveyed the area. "So you want to mark where the hills
are and see if we can go around?"
"I'm not good at that. Kanagi's got a better eye."
"In that case, can you find water while we work on it?"
"Yeah." She turned to Aris and Sheryl. "Get their spare
When they were ready, they headed down the hill and walked
around. As Tadyana explained how to find water indicators, Sheryl
felt more at ease. During her first month in class, Tadyana would
often make derisive remarks about pilots who graduated from the course
using their family's influence, wealth or popularity. She never
said it directly to the intended recipient, but Sheryl knew what
Tadyana had to say about her. She was definitely going to prove
About fifteen minutes later, Aris pointed to a shallow trough.
"How about here?"
Tadyana scrapped the bottom of the trough with her fingertips.
She felt the dirt. "Too dry."
Sheryl's eyes followed the path of the trough. "The ground seems
to go downhill from here. How about trying further down?"
"All right, but we can't go too far," said Tadyana.
They followed the trough and tried to leave a trail behind for getting
back. They walked for about ten minutes and noticed that the
ground seemed damp. Using rocks and branches, they dug about a
foot into the ground and found water.
"Hey, Nome! You know Morse code?" asked Tadyana.
"Signal Ichijyo and tell her we found water. We'll be back in
"But there's a lot of trees here."
Those icy gray eyes stared at her. "Then climb one," replied
Tadyana in a condescending tone.
Sheryl stood up and dusted her hands. She left her bottle with
them and selected a tree to climb. Based on her past field
experience with the scientists, she avoided ones that had
She took out her mirror and tried to look for the hill. She
easily found it since a column of smoke was coming from the top.
Angling the mirror, she flashed the message and waited. When she
did not get a response, she tried again. Finally, she saw a
series of flashes.
"Roger. Map done."
With that, she returned to Aris and Tadyana.
"What took you so long?" asked Tadyana who did not look up from
"They didn't notice. I had to do it several times."
"Kanagi's sharp. You probably garbled it."
Sheryl held back her retort through gritted teeth. She knelt by
the hole and began to put together her own filter. "The map's
done. They're smoking the hill, so it's easy to see."
"Good. Now help filter water."
After they were finished filling the bottles and some plastic bags,
they returned to the hill. To their surprise, Eriko and Kanagi
were roasting some sort of lizard. It was about a foot long and
had six legs.
"It was sitting on a rock and the captain just sneaked up behind it and
hit it with a stick!"
Aris cupped her hand to her mouth and turned a shade of green while
Tadyana stared at it incredulously. "You're gonna eat that?"
"It was in the final lecture. It's edible. We only have two
days of rations and there's a mountain between the outpost and
us. The rations won't spoil, so we can use it if we don't find
anything to eat."
Kanagi turned to Tadyana. "Oh, yeah... sorry about the
message. I saw it, but I didn't want to move while the captain
"No problem. So, what's next, captain?" said Tadyana.
Sheryl noticed the derision in her voice when she said the last
word. However, if Eriko noticed it, she did not show it and spoke
calmly. Based on the elevation, she explained the planned route.
"Everyone make yourself a copy so that if we get separated, rendezvous
at the marked locations. For now, I estimate that we'll get there
around 3 or 4 days, depending on how bad the terrain is. It's
hard to see under the treetops."
"How sure are you? We've got a newbie tagging along," said
"As long as we provide the proper guidance, I'm confident that Wesla,
Shizedow and Nome can keep up with us," said the captain.
"Nice one," thought Sheryl. "Shifting responsibility to her
shoulders." Eriko was handling Tadyana's barbs very well.
A scowl briefly formed on the vice-captains's face. She kicked a
rock towards the lizard. "When's this done? We gotta get
"Soon. In the meantime, did you check your trackers?" When
everyone replied positively, she continued. "Good. Wear it
at all times. If you're hurt or in trouble, use it to call for
help. Don't worry about the rest of us."
"Hey, this is still a test, you know. If one of us quits, all of
us stop the test and we won't get full marks," said Tadyana. "I
prefer to keep my ranking, thank you very much."
Eriko's voice was low and controlled. "I don't think a bunch of
numbers is more important than the team's safety. My order
stands. Ring it for help."
Unconsciously, Sheryl took a step back. If they were going to
argue, she preferred to be outside the line of fire.
"Getting there before five days may be good enough for you, but we get
bonus points the earlier we get there. That's bonus points we can
use to qualify for the VF-19!"
"I understand. That's why we have to work together. The
instructors always mix senior and junior cadets in each team. We
have to know each other's strengths and weaknesses so we can help each
"There's a case of too much weaknesses."
From beneath those dark bangs, deep blue eyes looked her at
squarely. "Say it."
"Well..." Tadyana was silent for a few moments. Then she
blurted out, "Nome's a first-year..."
"As long as she meets the requirements, she can take the test. I
did it when I was a first-year."
"But usually, they don't recommend first-years to do it. You know
what it's like!"
"Yes, I do." Eriko faced Sheryl. "From experience, I have
to warn you that it's not going to be easy, Nome. You must keep
Sheryl answered with steel in her voice. "Don't worry. I
The captain nodded and checked the lizard. "This is good
enough. Let's wrap it up."
After putting out the fire, they started their long hike. As they
walked along, Eriko quizzed them on different maneuvers. When she
disagreed with their answer, she would demonstrate why by simulating
the flight with her hand, middle fingers together while the thumb and
pinky pointed out like wings.
"For the Low Yo-yo, you have to dive below the bogey so you'll get
enough speed to make a fast turn," explained Eriko as she traced the
planes' paths with her hands.
"I get it now," said Aris. "The two cases always confuse me."
"You just need to check whether you're above or below the bogey.
If you're above, dive. If you're below, climb."
For lunch, Eriko cut up half the lizard and handed them a
portion. Sheryl took one bite and fought the urge to throw
up. She decided to wait for her water to boil before eating the
rest and asked Eriko for permission to look for edible berries or
"No. We'll forage together later. Just keep boiling
water. Only three of us have cups. It'll get hotter in the
afternoon, so we'll need more water."
At her reply, Sheryl was glad for Cathy's advice. She would not
have thought to bring a light, titanium cup to boil water in.
Although the kit included purification tablets, it would not be enough
to kill all parasites.
For a few moments, she watched Eriko eat the lizard meat. Her
face did not show any revulsion at all. Sheryl stared at her
portion and braced herself once more. She bit a piece and chewed
it as fast as possible so that she would not taste it.
After lunch, they resumed the hike and the quizzes. About midday,
they started to sweat more. Sheryl unzipped the sleeves from her
shirt and the lower part of her pants.
"That's handy," remarked Kanagi who rolled up the sleeves of her
t-shirt. Last week, they were told to wear comfortable clothing
for the survival test. Most people came in t-shirts and jeans or
Tadyana, on the other hand, simply took off her shirt. Her
breasts bulged out against her soaked sports bra. When she saw
their shocked faces, she shrugged, "What? It's just us girls."
"You have a point. We have to prevent dehydration," agreed
Eriko. She took off her shirt too. Aris did the same.
When the captain was a good distance away, Tadyana smirked under her
breath. "At least, I have the advantage here."
Compared to the rest of them, Eriko had the smallest breasts, which was
typical for young Japanese women. Sheryl stood up proudly.
In that respect, hers was just as large as Tadyana's and Aris'.
Kanagi's was in between. With a smile of amusement on her lips,
Sheryl continued hiking with her half-naked team.
Meanwhile, at City Hall, Cathy received an unexpected visitor.
"Uncle Flex!?" exclaimed Cathy as she stood up.
"Yes, it's me, kitty Cat!" Senator Felix E. Glass caught his
niece in a bear hug. He drew back at arms length. "Let me
look at you... all grown up to be president... and I thought you wanted
to be in the military!"
She led her uncle to the couches. "Things happened, uncle.
But I'm not really an official president. I'm just an emergency
one until things settle down. After the new constitution is
ratified, another election will be held at the beginning of next year
to elect the first president for the united colonies of Frontier and
He sat down. "Oh yes, I'm well aware of that. I wouldn't be
Cathy sat across from him. Her Uncle Flex was her father's older
brother. Even though he did not wear a mustache, he bore such a
resemblance to him that the sight of his face almost brought her to
tears. But her father was gone. At least, she still had her
"I see... you're one of the delegates." She gestured to her aide
and asked him to bring refreshments. "Have you reviewed the
"I'm almost done. It's quite thorough. How much of it is
"About half. Lehr and Verneuil, the previous Galaxy president,
did the rest."
"You sure you don't want to be president?"
She held out her hands. "Look at me, Uncle Flex! I'm just
24! Before becoming president, I just did minor jobs for Daddy
and the Office of Internal Affairs! Who would want a young,
inexperienced woman for president?"
"You do have a point there, kitty Cat. Maybe some other time in
"By space, uncle... You better drop your standards."
He smiled widely. "Can't do that. You've got Howard's genes
She blushed slightly. "At least, someone has more confidence in
me than I do," thought Cathy. She decided to change the
topic. "You're cut from the same cloth. Don't you want to
be president? With the Glass name and your reputation, you have a
big chance to make a difference here than on Earth."
Her uncle seemed surprised at her question. "Me...? Hmm...
I don't know... I'll think about it."
"He didn't say no," thought Cathy excitedly. "Maybe there's a
chance. But first, I need more information." She cleared
"So... what's the latest news from Earth?"
Felix leaned back and intertwined his fingers over his stomach.
"Well, now... Frontier caused quite a stir back home. In fact..."
Cathy leaned forward and eagerly listened to his news. From his
stories, she had a feeling that it was going to be an uphill battle
with the Earth Senators.
When the sun was halfway down the horizon, the captain suggested that
they make camp.
"We can still go on. There's still light left," argued Tadyana.
"We have to setup a shelter and gather firewood, unless you want to
sleep without a roof over your head in a forest with strange creatures
in the trees above you."
Her mouth melted in to a grimace of disgust. "I'll do the
shelter. I'm good at that," said the redhead.
"I'll help," offered Aris.
"Shizedow, help them out. Nome, you're with me," said
Eriko. "We need to get firewood. If you see anything
edible, get it or kill it."
Sheryl cringed at the idea of killing anything. She hoped that
there would be berries or fruit nearby. The lizard meat was
Unfortunately, they did not see any. They returned to camp to see
two lean-tos in progress. The captain put the bundle of firewood
"Start the fire and boil water. I'll help them," said Eriko.
Sheryl did as she was told and prepared the campfire a good distance
from the lean-to's. While waiting for the water to boil, she
gathered leaves that would be used to insulate them from the
When the lean-tos were done, they sat by the campfire for dinner.
Sheryl pulled her shoes off. Her feet were sore, but not
blistered which was a good sign. After wearing the shoes all week
long, her feet got used to them.
Kanagi was not as fortunate. The skin by her big toe and little
toe was blistered. By the condition of her shoes, it was obvious
that it was new.
"When did it start hurting?" asked Eriko.
"I-it's okay. I'll be fine," said Kanagi.
Eriko rummaged through her pack. "If it bursts, it'll count as an
injury. You'll slow us down. Next time, tell me if it
starts to hurt. Don't wait." She offered some gauze.
"Here. Before you put your shoes on, use this to pad the
blisters. Make sure it doesn't chafe."
"Th-thanks..." replied Kanagi as she accepted the gauze.
"Anyone else?" She glanced at Sheryl's feet for a few moments
before looking at Aris'.
"We're fine," said Tadyana airily. "Meltrandi are tougher than
Eriko did not say anything and distributed the rest of the
lizard. After she was done, she asked for their opinion.
"We need a squadron name. Any suggestions?"
The camp was silent except for the crackle of the fire. Finally,
"That's too common," argued Tadyana.
"How about firefly?" said Kanagi.
The redhead snorted. "We're not insects. How about
viper? They're swift and dangerous."
This time Eriko spoke. "I'm against slithering creatures. I
don't want to be associated with anything that crawls on the
ground. Not my style."
"Stingray?" offered Aris.
"Stingrays are wide and flat," said Sheryl. "I don't think it
projects a good image."
"I agree," said Eriko. "Plus it's wet and slimy. We're
pilots, so our name should be related to flying."
Back and forth, names were suggested and rejected. As she tried
to think of a name, Sheryl stared at the fire. What name could
project the image that they wanted and not seem lame or overused?
Just then, a breeze fanned a dying ember and a burst of flame rose from
it. The sight of the flame rising from the ashes inspired an idea.
"How about phoenix?"
All eyes turned to her and considered.
"What's that?" asked Aris.
"It's a mythical bird that's made of fire. It turns into ashes
when it dies, but it gets reborn again," explained Kanagi.
"So it can't be killed and breathes fire, right? Hmmm... kinda
dangerous. I guess it's okay," said Tadyana.
"It's a bird, so it matches up with our image," said Aris.
"Alright, any objections to phoenix?" asked Eriko. When nobody
voiced any, she held out her hand towards everyone and declared, "Then
it's decided. We're Phoenix Squadron."
Aris reached out and placed her hand on top of Eriko's. "We need
callsigns, right? Tadyana can be Phoenix Red and Kanagi can be
Phoenix Green." The callsigns matched their hair color.
Kanagi hesitantly placed her hand on top of Aris. "Th-then you're
Red put her hand on top and smirked. "As appropriate, the
captain's Phoenix Black." She glanced at Sheryl who was about to
place her hand and noted her hair color. "And Nome is... pink."
Sheryl placed her hand down and stared incredulously at Tadyana.
She expected to be yellow or gold. "What?"
Aris nodded. "Yeah, definitely pink. Right, Shizedow?"
"Umm... uh..." Kanagi's purple eyes shifted away from them.
"It's obviously pink, Kanagi," said Tadyana.
"Ah... yes..." squeaked Kanagi.
"Just wait a..." protested Sheryl.
"Then it's settled," said Eriko. "From now on, let's use
callsigns. We need to get used to them for aerial training."
After dinner, Tadyana lit a branch. "Kanagi and I are going to
fetch some water. Give me your cups."
"You found some?" asked Eriko who handed her a cup.
"Not exactly. I found a bunch of plantain type trees, so I cut
some down to build the lean-tos. Then I hollowed out the
stumps. They should be filled with some water now."
"Good job. How long before it fills again?"
She shrugged. "Around thirty minutes."
Eriko stood up. "Let's all go see where it is. If you're on
watch, wake the next person at the end of your watch and both of you
get water. Then the person on watch should filter and boil it."
After they agreed on the order of the night watch, they decided on
sleeping arrangements. Since there were only two lean-tos, two
people would sleep in one. To her relief, she would share the
lean-to with Eriko and Kanagi.
Since they had a water source, they took turns taking a sponge
bath. As she wiped herself behind the solar blanket that served
as a makeshift curtain, Sheryl felt strangely vulnerable. She
stared into the dark forest and hoped that no wild animals would bother
As usual, the starfire ring glowed on her chest. Her fingertips
ran across the cold metal.
"How are you doing, Ranka?" she wondered. Her hand closed over
the ring. "I miss you..."
When she was done, she started the first watch. Time passed
without incident and she woke Kanagi for the next watch. After
fetching water, she crawled in with Eriko. She signed heavily and
shifted her sore muscles. It was good to finally lie down even on
For several minutes, she lay there listening to the sound of Kanagi
moving around and the various chirping noises around them.
Unfortunately, she could not seem to sleep. By the time she
shifted for the third time, a familiar voice whispered in her mind.
"I must be really tired..." thought Sheryl. "I'm hearing her
voice in my head."
For several seconds, her mind tried to sort itself out of
confusion. She lifted her wrist to check the time. Her
watch illuminated to show 11:42 PM. What if it really was
This time, she answered, "Ranka?"
In her mind, Ranka stepped into view. "May I come in?"
"Yes, of course!" She hugged her image and Ranka hugged
back. She could almost feel that petite body against her.
"Horrible. Dirt's stuck under my fingernails from digging and I
had to eat this nasty lizard. Right now, I'm sleeping on a pile
of leaves with only this flimsy solar blanket for warmth." Given
Ranka's jealous streak, she did not say that she was sharing the
lean-to with Eriko.
Ranka kissed her. "Oh my poor Galaxy Fairy! You really
should've transferred to PA. We're in this beautiful Victorian
mansion on a hill. There are fountains in courtyard and musical
instruments and paintings in each room."
Her Cinderella shook her head. "I'm not. Open your mind to
me, and I'll show you."
Sheryl relaxed and let Ranka's thoughts flow in. Images formed
around her and she found herself standing in front of a large
mansion. Her jaw dropped. With its graceful architecture
and sculpted landscaping, it was an amazing sight.
"You're staying here?!"
"Yes. The PA director wants to inspire us for boot camp so he
booked this mansion. He believes we'll be more creative this
way." She grabbed her hand. "C'mon. I'll give you the
Sadly, she shook her head. "I'd love to, Ranka, but I'm really
tired right now and the captain wants us up at dawn."
"Oh..." Her drooping eyes indicated her disappointment.
However, it was brief and her hair bobbed up. She sat down and
patted her lap. "In that case, let me sing you a lullaby."
Sheryl smiled gleefully and placed her head on her lap. The scene
around her shifted once more and reformed into a golden meadow with a
small garden. The sky was painted with a soft orange from the
sunset. Dandelion wishies floated about. It looked
"The meadow behind the lab in the 117th fleet. My mother would
often sing me to sleep here," replied Ranka as she stroked her Fairy's
"Oh! I think I remember now... we visited Grandma here
once. Grandma kept a garden and I used to pick flowers from
Ranka leaned down and kissed her forehead. Then she began to
sing. Sheryl closed her eyes and let that calming voice carry her
It was not long before Ranka felt the flow link weaken. The
meadow was dissolving slowly. She bent down and planted a kiss on
Sheryl's cheek before she lost the link.
"Good night, my sweet Fairy."
While waiting for Cathy, Ozma wandered listlessly in the Glass
mansion. He came upon a hallway full of pictures on its
walls. Some were dated back to the 1800s. He read the
labels on some of them.
Abraham Glass, Sheriff,
Norman Glass, Judge, 1846
Earl Glass, Chief of
Galvin Glass, Mayor, 1906
He skipped to the current Glass family. There were pictures of
the former president Howard Glass at various events. He smiled at
a picture of a young Cathy at a charity dinner. She looked so
awkward in her pink dress and ponytails. Sitting next to her was
her uncle, Earth Senator Felix E. Glass.
Then his eyes found the latest addition to the wall. It was a
picture of Cathy and her running mate, Wilhelm Lehr, at the end of
their inauguration ceremony. His eyes shifted between the picture
of the young Cathy and her presidential photo.
"You've come a long way..." muttered Ozma. "Who would've thought
that a Miss Macross would be president someday? In another time
and place, maybe... you could've been my..."
"So this where you're hiding," said Cathy as she walked towards
him. She patted her wet hair with the towel around her
shoulders. "Dinner is ready downstairs. I'll be down in a
A few minutes later, they were having dinner in the screened back
porch. Candles and moonlight illuminated their meal. Ozma
felt a little out of place. He was too used to having meals in a
noisy mess hall or in his home's dinning room with Ranka and
Brera. But with both of them at boot camp, the house felt
empty. On impulse, he decided to call Cathy for a date.
Somehow, he ended up here.
"So how's Lehr doing?" Vice President Lehr was over seventy and
had a tendency to get sick. However, his reputation was still
strong in the senate, which was why Cathy convinced him to get out of
retirement and be her running mate during the emergency
elections. Given the Glass name and Lehr's experience, they won
by a big margin.
"He's fighting a cold, but he was able to help me out with the
"Are the Galaxy senators giving you grief?"
"A bit, especially about the implant law. The debate was long,
but Lehr stayed for all of it. If it weren't for him, I'd have
made some mistakes."
As they talked about the new laws, Ozma could not help but notice
it. "I swear... sometimes I can hear your Dad talking."
Cathy leaned back and sighed. "Dad's legacy. You always did
say that I keep ending up with his dirty work. Right now, if I
can use the Glass name to win the public's trust in the government and
unite everyone towards colonization, then I'll shoulder the burden."
They continued talking about politics until about halfway through
dinner. Ozma cleared his throat and decided to breach the topic.
"So... what made you decide to be her guardian?"
"Why not? Dad asked me to take care of her in the first place."
"You didn't have to keep doing it."
"Let me put it to you this way. We have two very unique girls who
can have a great impact on Frontier's future, and quite possibly, the
rest of the galaxy. Given what they're able to do, they can't
live normal lives even if we try to shield them. Fate won't leave
"Ranka is very lucky that she has you. Sheryl, on the other hand,
had been isolated from any family for a very long time. I want to
be there for her just like Dad did for me. One day, there'll come
a time when she'll have to make a big decision and I want to make sure
that it won't be one that she'll regret. That's why I want to
guide her until she becomes a responsible adult. Only then can my
The thought of a mix of Cathy's personality in Sheryl's popped into
Ozma's head. The resulting image was a more bossy, brattier
Sheryl. He lost his composure and chuckled at the image.
"What's so funny? You think I can't do it?" asked Cathy.
He rubbed the back of his head. "On the contrary, I think she's
in good hands. It's just that... you really hated her in the
Cathy stabbed her steak. "Anyone would with that attitude of
hers! By space! She was so annoying..."
"How's she now?"
"She's nicer and more considerate. Before, she was like a wild
child underneath that wholesome idol mask. Her company just let
her do whatever she wanted as long as she made them money. It's a
miracle that someone was able to tame her."
"It can't be helped. No one can resist my Ranka's sweet nature,"
boasted Ozma proudly.
Cathy's eyes twinkled with mirth when he took the bait. "So it's
good that she and Ranka met."
He choked on his food and gulped down some wine. "I didn't say
that! Look, it doesn't go both ways! Sure, I'll admit that
she encouraged Ranka, but I don't want her bratty side corrupting
her. Ranka is perfectly fine without her!"
She was too tired to argue. "If you say so. Oh yes, I just
received word that Admiral Hayase has arrived. I'll be meeting
with him tomorrow."
"That's good." He pushed another set of glazed pearl onions to
the side of his plate.
"What are you doing? Don't waste it!" She reached over and
impaled several with her fork. The onions met their fate in her
Ozma laughed and popped the rest in his mouth. He fought the urge
to spit them out and swallowed forcefully. Across the table,
Cathy broke out into laughter. He laughed with her.
Perhaps, he could get used to this sort of meal for the rest of the
Flight 103: It Came From Diablo Valley