A Robotech fan fiction story
Disclaimer: The show Robotech, if not its constituent segments, is owned by Harmony Gold USA, Inc. No copyright infringement is intended. The fic is based on the McKinney novels, bless 'em.
"You can tell a person by the company he keeps."
He couldn't remember when or where he'd heard that before, but it had stuck, as had so many other sayings, data and unimportant trivia.
However, if you're always alone, then what?
Rand moved closer to his crackling fire. Nights in the wastelands were cold and inhospitable, unfit for all but the hardiest animals and plants. And humans. Humans were used to surviving; they always had a knack for keeping themselves afloat. And Rand excelled at it.
Nevertheless, he was much grateful for the comfort provided by his lone tattered woolen blanket, and the warmth of the cheery fire that bathed his face and brought some feeling back to his numb fingers. He took a moment to look around. As far as the eye could see in the starlit landscape, there was only rock and dust and craters. Stark hills could be barely made out, silhouetted against the dark purple-blue of the incoming sun. Rand noted the similarities to some photos of the moon he'd seen in an old pre-cataclysm magazine -- give or take a few ravaged Zentraedi spaceship skeletons, thrust deep into the ground and standing tall, testaments to their past might.
No signs of other people, either, which suited him just fine. As with every other true forager, he was a lone wolf, and fully intended to keep it that way. The way he saw it, companions only meant unwanted complications and liabilities.
He was a short, wiry young man, with soft brown eyes, a mop of unruly red hair, and a mouth that appeared to constantly have a grin tugging at its lips. The coffee-colored shirt and loose pants he wore were just as weatherworn as everything he owned, but he was used to making do with few things. As he liked to say, the only things a man needed to survive in the wilderness were his tools, a good set of wheels, and the clothes he was wearing.
Not that a little luxury would hurt, but what the hey…
Besides him, kept upright thanks to its handy kickstand, was his most prized -- or rather, the only one worth a cent -- possession: his trusty old bike. It was a twenty-year-old thing given to him by his pop for his thirteenth birthday, and he couldn't remember spending a day apart from it since then.
Born after the Rain of Death of annihilation bolts, liquid fire, and unending destruction that slew over ninety-nine percent of the Earth's population, Rand was there when the Robotech Masters came to reclaim what had never been theirs to begin with. He vaguely remembered his father hurriedly packing their belongings, and them rushing southwards into the night after Supreme Commander Leonard issued the declaration of war.
A random skirmish between local political parties in the town they were staying in -- a common occurrence in those days, between the definitive fall of the United Earth Government and the Arrival of the Invid -- took his father, leaving him alone and rootless in an unfriendly world that seemed bent on returning to barbarism.
Gathering some small logs he'd left nearby, he absentmindedly threw them onto the fire. A multitude of sparks arose in answer, taking to the air like so many short-lived fireflies, but he paid them no heed, lost in thought.
No use crying over spilt 'culture, that was his motto. The first years by himself had been hard. It took a while to get used to the leery looks he received every time he reached a new town looking for shelter or a hot meal. In the wake of the Arrival, social and political structures quickly devolved in the few now-nearly-isolated cities and villages that survived the initial attack. Caste systems were adopted in some places, tribes came into being in others, and in a few areas, even technology started to be deified as the skills and know-how needed to use it was lost. Slaves were sold or simply given to the Invid in return for a deceptive freedom: to work on the fields harvesting the Flower of Life for the rest of their brief, miserable existences. Republics fell, and dictatorships were born. And among them, only those allied with the enemy prospered.
Outsiders were thus regarded as troublemakers, instigators -- or, in even the best cases, as just another mouth to feed. Soon, he was only too happy to stay out in the wilderness most of the time, weeks or months at a time, until he only came to the cities seeking fuel pellets for his motorbike (which insisted on depleting them faster than you can say "crap this thing used up all the fuel again argh dammit dammit dammit", unfortunately), a new book to read, or tools when the ones he owned finally gave out and marched on to greener pastures. It certainly didn't make for an easy living, but it was better than most and he was free to come and go as he pleased. And hey, it's better the Khyron you know than the Invid you don't.
That was another of his mottoes. He had plenty of those.
One of the first things he remembered doing was reworking his name; "Randolf O'Keefe" just wouldn't work for his new life. So he chose his father's favorite nickname, instead, which held more meaning in his mind. Besides, Rand sort of rolled off of your tongue much better in his humble, unbiased opinion.
Still, not everything had been sorrow; he had made some friends, learnt some things, and seen a lot. Plus, he was an optimist at heart -- an endangered species, these days -- and refused to give into depression. Instead of drowning in endless misery and moping around, like so many old-timers who remembered times when everything was better and the sun shone brighter and the birds sang louder, or holing up in a dank room in some out-of-the-way village, fearing his own shadow and waiting for The End, he preferred to live to the fullest and at least try to be happy in the meantime. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow an Invid steps on you, as he often said…
Boy, I'm just exuding the honest-to-goodness country-boy wisdom tonight, eh? he thought sardonically, shaking his head. Chill must've gotten to me under all that hair.
The young man had unthinkingly leaned back against a large rock as he recalled his past, eyes fixed on the night sky but not really seeing anything. To his surprise, dozens of stars suddenly started moving, snapping him out of his musings. They ever-so-slowly drifted downwards, marking their paths in fire. Shooting stars? he wondered. No, he answered himself after a minute. The fall was too controlled, too… unnatural. Very un-shooting star-ish, so to speak. Alphas, perhaps, if there were any left -- and men crazy enough to pilot them. Or maybe something bigger, spaceships of some kind, unlikely as that might be. At any rate, it was worth checking.
Hmmm… One, two days top, he guesstimated. Not too far away, and he had enough fuel for the trip.
Dawn was breaking, the wind sluggishly warming from freezing to merely cool, and the fire was quickly dying as it ran out of wood to consume. I'd better get going, Rand thought, making up his mind. The early forager gets the spoils, right? He hastily packed his meager possessions, shouldered his pack and fastened his goggles. A small hop later, he was on his bike, his hand already at the key, starting the engine. He twisted the throttle then, and the machine purred its agreement as it sped forward. Rand accelerated, performing a wheelie for effect, until he was going as fast as ever before.
After all, you never know what you will find on the road, if you ride long enough. As far as sayings went, that one wasn't half bad, he decided, smiling as the wind whipped his face.
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