A Ranma ½ / Robotech crossover
DISCLAIMER: Ranma ½ belongs to the brilliant Takahashi Rumiko. Robotech is owned by Harmony Gold USA, Inc. No copyright infringement is intended.
This story is based on McKinney's books. C&C desperately needed.
Chapter 4: Countdown
Ranma was only a few meters away from the Guardian, and still couldn't see any movement in its cockpit. He glanced at the Zentraedi lying motionless in the middle the street. The alien corpse still clung to the Robotech craft, looking like a shipwrecked sailor grabbing his life preserver. For a few moments, Ranma stared intently at the horrible sight, forcing himself to see what his lack of control might have caused.
The skull-insignia Battloid that had killed the gigantic alien minutes ago started moving again. The pig-tailed martial artist watched, amazed, as it shouldered its massive weapon. There was so much casualness and grace in that single movement that Ranma felt like rubbing his eyes. How could a machine move so fluidly? He wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes.
The Earth craft gently prodded the alien's dead body with one of its metallic feet, checking for any signs of life. It found none, of course. The Veritech Gattling rounds had done their job, piercing the Zentraedi trooper's armored chest with terrifying ease. Then, the Battloid stood still for a couple of minutes, seemingly waiting for something. Ranma decided that making his presence known to the pilot was the best course of action. After all, he might be able to help him look for Minmei. However, before Ranma could do anything to draw the pilot's attention, the war machine quickly switched to Guardian configuration, as if urged by some unknown signal. Like a rocket, it took to the air and headed for the SDF-1.
A deceptive peace settled upon the street after the sleek aircraft left. The battle had apparently moved to the outskirts of the town, as the Veritechs slowly but surely pushed the invading troops back. The sounds of explosions and fighting were still there, but they seemed muffled, deadened somehow. It was only this relative calmness which allowed Ranma to hear the sudden rumble that came from the SDF-1's direction. He whirled around, not knowing what to expect any more.
The SDF-1, the ship that had finally brought peace to the Earth, was slowly raising up into the air after a decade of waiting. Its rocket boosters flared intensely, giving off a torrent of white-blue fire that, foot by foot, propelled the huge spacecraft upwards.
´They're leaving! Now I'll never be able to get inside!´ He sighed. His whole plan was falling to pieces, and there was nothing he could do.
In that moment, another thought struck him. If the SDF-1 went away, the Veritechs would probably follow it. And with the pods still lurking in Macross, it would be very dangerous for Rick to stay here. Ranma might be the best martial artist in the world, but there was no way he could face a dozen of those alien machines. ´Well,´ thought Ranma, ´at least not if I'm taking care of the kid at the same time.´
He hurried to the downed Guardian and, with a single powerful leap, landed gracefully on the fighter's nose. Looking down, he finally saw Rick. He was slumped against the instrument panel, head resting in his arms and unmoving.
"Hey, Rick! We gotta get outta here!" The boy didn't seem to hear him.
"Rick, you okay?!" asked Ranma a little louder. There was no answer. ´What the heck's wrong with him?´ he wondered, somewhat worried. He didn't seem injured, and the canopy was intact, with absolutely no signs of an attack that might have hurt the pilot. He strained his ears in the hope of perceiving something, but to no avail.
"C'mon, kid," said Ranma, trying once more to get Rick's attention. "Snap out of it!" The young pilot was unresponsive, but looked to be breathing properly by the way his nostrils rhythmically flared in and out.
As his gaze roamed around the cockpit, Ranma realized to his surprise that there was someone else in the fighter. A young raven-haired woman was slumped in the rear seat, her head tilted to one side, resting against the canopy. Long locks of hair covered her pale face, making it hard for Ranma to see her features clearly. But, for some strange reason, he found her awfully familiar. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she seemed to be about the same age than Minmei. Besides, she was wearing very similar clothes. Actually, she had just the same hair and build…
"Oh, no! Minmei!" She wasn't moving, either. Perhaps they had both been knocked unconscious when they crashed into the pod. He needed to check them and see if they were injured, but he didn't know how to open the canopy. Sure, he could shatter it; he wouldn't need more than a simple punch to do so. But then the fighter could be rendered useless, and that was something he could not permit. The Guardian was Rick and Minmei's only means of transport, and losing it might prove fatal. Walking was out of the question—a Battlepod could step on them without even noticing—, and it would be too dangerous to carry both of them through the battleground Macross had become. Especially if one of them was injured.
´Think, Ranma, think! There has to be a better way!´ Some god must have taken pity of him, because Minmei stirred slightly, right on cue, finally coming to her senses. Almost as if by magic, Rick also seemed to wake up, shaking his head lightly in an attempt to clear it.
Thanking whoever it was that looked after him, Ranma sighed in relief. "Hey, guys! Open up!" he called. To say Rick was startled by the sight of Ranma standing on the plane's nose while looking down at him would be an understatement, but he managed to calm himself enough to comply after a few seconds.
"W-w-wha…" Rick cleared his throat, and tried again, "What're you doing here?"
The pig-tailed man couldn't help but grin at the sight of Rick's bewildered face. "I came to see how many buildings you've destroyed since I left for the shelters, but I lost count when I reached a hundred."
"A hundred? I'm surprised you can count past ten without using your toes!" riposted Rick, effectively wiping off the superior smirk from Ranma's face.
At that moment, both men heard laughter coming from the cockpit, and quickly turned around—to see Minmei giggling, completely awake.
"You guys're just too funny," she said, wiping her eyes.
"Er, thanks… I guess," muttered Rick, before facing Ranma once again. "Now tell me, how'd you get here? Macross's packed full with aliens! Heck, even I almost didn't make it—and I'm in a Veritech!"
"I just walked, okay? In fact," he glanced at Minmei, a hint of reproach in his voice, "I came looking for a girl that thought she knew better than her uncle and aunt. You wouldn't happen to know her, by any chance?"
Minmei had the decency to blush at these words. "Sorry," she said, smiling meekly.
"It's not me who you gotta apologize to," Ranma said, shrugging. "Save it for your aunt; she was almost in tears, y'know? Next time, think before acting."
´I can't believe I just said that,´ thought Ranma, marveled at his own maturity. If only Akane could hear him…
He turned back to Rick. "Now, what're you gonna do about this big, bad boy down here?" he asked, pointing to the alien's dead body. "He's got you grabbed by the ankle, and he doesn't look like he's gonna let go any time soon."
"Um, I don't have a clue."
"Tell me something I don't know," muttered Ranma.
Overhearing him, Rick crossed his arms and snorted, "Ha! There're so many things I wouldn't know where to begin."
Ranma narrowed his eyes. "Oh… Oh, yeah?" he drawled. A second later, though, he gave a sigh and relaxed. "Aw, shut up and let me think. Or d'you want to stay here forever?" he asked, before turning his gaze back at the dead Goliath with a dismissive wave of his arm. Ranma scratched his chin, gazing at the firmly clasped hand. He thought of cutting it off, but then decided against it—it'd be too messy. Besides, it wouldn't do to have the Veritech flying with an enormous hand firmly attached to it.
"What're you both talking about?" asked Minmei, curious, and started leaning forward.
"No! Don't look!" cried Rick, not wanting her to spot the gigantic corpse.
Reluctantly, Minmei backed down. "Why?"
"Don't worry 'bout it," said Rick hurriedly, "it's nothing. We've gotta get going now. I'll take you back to the shelters."
"Hey, didja already forgot about the alien?" asked Ranma shaking his head in disbelief. "Jeez, you're clueless…"
As Rick prepared himself to start arguing, the ground started vibrating, signaling the arrival of a new machine. Loud sounds of footsteps could be heard, metallic feet impacting on the ground with unthinkable strength. Almost unconsciously, Ranma modified his posture, falling into a relaxed but ready stance. Outlined against the smoke produced by the smoldering buildings, a large shadow could be seen slowly approaching the Guardian. Ranma tensed, wary, but immediately calmed as a gentle breeze swept the smoke away, revealing the now-familiar form of the skull-insignia Battloid.
The Guardian's comm suddenly turned on, and the image of Roy Fokker's face appeared on the instrument panel's screen. "Sorry to interrupt you, Little Brother, but the party's over. If we don't hurry, they'll leave without us. Let's go!" He paused, noticing Ranma. "Who's your friend?"
"He's not my friend!" growled Rick. "He came for Minmei."
Ranma butted in, peeking from the side of the cockpit, "Hey, this is great! I can see him and speak to him at the same time. Hi, I'm Ranma."
"Hello, name's Roy. I'd shake your hand, but it might be dangerous for your health right now, I'm afraid."
"Probably," said Ranma, smirking. "Well, nice to meet ya. I'll be going now; see ya." He turned around, ready to jump down to the street.
"Hey! Where d'you think you're going?" came Roy's amplified voice over his machine's external speakers.
"Uh," hesitated Ranma, confused, "well, as you're taking care of these kids, I thought I should go back to the shelters."
"What? In case you didn't notice, there's a war going on here, my friend. I can't leave you alone; you wouldn't last a second without a great pilot like myself keeping you safe," boasted Roy, the Battloid pointing at itself. "C'mon, get in the Veritech with the children and I'll take you to the shelters later."
"But I—" started Ranma to complain, but Roy didn't let him finish.
"No buts," he said, and there was a hint of seriousness in his voice this time, "I can't let you wander through Macross. It's too dangerous."
"If you insist…" Ranma trailed off, and headed to the cockpit. ´At least this way,´ thought Ranma, ´I'll be able to keep an eye on Minmei.´ "Move over, kid."
"We won't fit!" protested Rick, as Ranma sat down his next to him. Or, at least, tried to. The Veritech's seats hadn't been constructed to accommodate two people at the same time, so Ranma ended up sitting on Rick's lap in a very awkward position.
"Oh, sure you will—you'll just have to be friendly," said Roy, grinning widely beneath his blue-visored flight helmet.
"If you want, I can sit with Minmei…" suggested Ranma, grinning.
"Don't you dare!" yelled Rick, furious. He quickly calmed down, though, when he realized what he had just said. "Err, I mean, uh, we don't want to bother her, right?" He looked nervously towards the rear seat, where Minmei was looking at him with wide eyes. Quickly turning around, Rick tried to keep himself from blushing. "But how am I supposed to pilot with this big, fat old-timer here?" asked Rick, obviously upset.
Ranma snorted, "Pilot? Don't make me laugh. Try to pilot, you must mean."
"Oh, yeah," drawled Rick. "I'll have you know that I won the World Freestyle Flying Competition eight years in a row."
"And how many people were competing? Two?" asked Ranma in the most irritating mock-curious tone he could muster. "Or maybe it was just you? No, no, I get it; it was a model airplane making competition, right?"
Seeing Rick beginning to fume, Roy cut in, "Don't worry, Rick, you won't have to do anything; I've got a better idea."
The Battloid extruded one of its metal tentacles and, much in the same way in that Ranma had seen before when Rick craft had been repaired, used it to open a small panel in the side of the Guardian. Its three passengers suddenly felt themselves shaken around as Roy's machine gently took the cockpit in its metallic hands, separating it from the rest of the aircraft. Using a fitting especially built for the purpose, Roy attached it to the side of his Battloid's right arm.
"Neat, isn't it?" said Roy, pride evident in his voice.
Ranma nodded his agreement, amazed.
"Incredible," muttered Minmei under her breath.
"Yeah, really nice," said Rick. "Now, please, hurry up. It's getting really uncomfortable in here!"
"Oh, don't be such a baby—and stop moving, already!" yelled Ranma.
"Argh! Your elbow is digging in my ribs, idiot!"
"Stay quiet! Hey, keep your hands to yourself, you sick pervert!"
"Will you SHUT U—"
Roy shut down his comm, his ears ringing. How two people could be so loud, he would never understand. Minmei would go deaf soon if those two didn't calm down. He had better get to the SDF-1 as soon as possible, before they killed each other. Or maybe he should wait until after they had killed each other to return. That would certainly save everybody a lot of trouble.
The Battloid mechamorphosed to Guardian mode and rose smoothly to the air on its foot thrusters. The Robotech craft hovered there for a few seconds, as Roy glanced one last time at the war-torn streets of Macross, and then jetted off towards its mother ship.
Lisa Hayes frowned as the last fighter docked successfully with the spacecraft. She couldn't keep out of her mind the fact that she had ordered a civilian to fly a Veritech. It was a big mistake, and she knew it. That Veritech shouldn't have ever left the exhibition grounds—and it was her fault.
However, it was also true that that boy ought to have said something. Why didn't he come clean and say he wasn't a pilot? ´Idiot,´ thought Lisa, shaking her head. Well, there was nothing she could do now. She just hoped that Commander Fokker could save the boy—she didn't want to have a death on her conscience. Besides, she planned to have a few words with him.
Lisa sighed, tired. The last thing she needed that day was more surprises.
A sleek fighter rose swiftly out of the earth's atmosphere. As the air thinned and the sky blackened, the utmost silence surrounded the small craft. No sounds could be heard but the ones coming from the Veritech, and Roy enjoyed a rare moment of peace as he closed his eyes.
It was easy to forget about the war in times like this. Easy to avoid thinking of the new threat—the same one he had the feeling would put humanity in jeopardy once again. So damn easy to keep out of his mind those terrible words: kill; die; survive. He had learned long before to master his fear, to control his feelings. Otherwise, he couldn't have fought for so long; he wouldn't have been able to see so many of his friends die. But, even now, he sometimes needed to relax and just… forget.
He switched his comm with the dismantled Veritech back on, and the expected argument greeted his ears once again.
"Watch out where you put those skinny legs of yours, lil' flyboy!"
"And you go on a diet, old man! You're so fat that my legs're hurting!
´Will they ever get tired?´ wondered Roy, finally opening his eyes. He decided to stop the bickering—if that was even possible. He opened up a communication screen to the other ship and said, "Hold on for a second, guys. We're arriving." Seeing them closing their mouths for the first time in long minutes, he radioed, "This is Skull Leader to SDF-1, over."
A new screen popped up in both ships, and they could see the face a woman in it. She appeared to be in her mid-twenties, and had long brown hair coiled at her shoulders. Her small, elegant features made her very attractive in the minds of many men, but a frown twisted her face in that moment. Her gaze slowly roamed around the crowded cockpit, looking in turn at Rick, Ranma and Minmei, who was leaning forward, trying to see the screen. After a few seconds, however, she seemed to recognize Rick, and settled for glaring at him.
"Is this our mysterious pilot?" she asked, not really expecting an answer.
"The one and only," answered Roy, grinning.
Lisa scowled, "Well, I ought to congratulate you, Mr. Hunter. You almost did more damage than any of the invaders."
Rick was in no mood for taking any more insults, so, purposely rising his voice slightly, he asked, "Who's this old sourpuss, Roy?"
The woman recoiled at hearing this, as if someone had punched her square in the face. It wasn't long, though, before her features contorted in barely contained rage.
Rick had touched a nerve, Roy noticed, and couldn't help but laugh aloud. "That," said Roy, a smirk plastered on his face, "is Lisa Hayes, the ship's First Officer. And I wouldn't call her old, Little Brother. Women are like good wines: the more mature, the better; you should know that already."
Ranma decided that was the right moment to get in the conversation, and commented to Rick, "He's right, you know; she's not that old! I mean, I'm probably older." Lisa started to relax, but only for an instant, as Ranma continued talking.
"But she does look like a sourpuss, I'll give you that," he concluded, not really knowing what he was saying and unaware of the danger he was in.
Lisa couldn't take it any more, and snapped, "Argh, that does it! What is your name, you smart-mouthed idiot?!" she yelled at a confused Ranma, shaking with anger.
If there was something Ranma had learned throughout the years, it was to recognize the instant a woman was truly and dangerously angry, and this was one of those moments. Of course, he had never learned what to do to appease that anger, but no one is perfect.
Another lesson Ranma had learned was that first impressions were most important; so if he wanted to ever be able to enter the SDF-1, he had better stay in good terms with its First Officer—whatever that was. Thus, Ranma hastened to answer in the most friendly tone he could manage, "Ranma Saotome, Ma'am." He offered her a winsome smile, but it had no effects in the young woman. ´Damn, that's supposed to melt her like fire to ice,´ thought Ranma, disappointed.
"Listen to me, y—"
Henry Gloval was a troubled man.
After knowing of Armor Two's grim destiny, he was convinced of the fact that the Super Dimensional Fortress One was the only one that could face the offworld enemy. Unfortunately, that didn't make his actual situation any less gloomy. He was going to fight a probably unequal battle against an enemy of unknown resources, with an untried ship and an inexperienced crew. Bad odds, indeed.
Besides, as the captain of the SDF-1, it was his duty and his responsibility to face this new threat. He knew that if something went wrong, he would be the one to blame. That was a lot of pressure, even for a seasoned captain like him.
So, in order to stay calm and rational, he focused in the tasks at hand: Macross' inhabitants were already safe, and by sending the evacuation order in time, a carnage had been avoided. The next step was to counterattack, as ridiculous as that might sound when faced with the number of ships of the enemy fleet.
But, even through this ordeal, Gloval couldn't help but think of a more personal business. He had been supposed to meet and old acquaintance that day. He was the son of one of his best and oldest friends, and though he hadn't seen him for the longest of times, there had been a time when he had been like a son to him. He could still remember that cute, innocent face; those beautiful blue eyes, that kept going this way and that for hours, seemingly wanting to look at the whole world at the same time; that ever-present cheerful smile, or the little ponytail that fluttered about as the little rugrat ran free around his legs. Those had been the times…
Unnoticed by his bridge crew, a nostalgic smile crept to his face as Gloval indulged himself with a moment of remembrance. His eyes gazed at one of the situation monitors, but his mind was miles and years away. He had made the arrangements for him to be allowed inside the ship during the celebrations. For some reason, the boy hadn't shown up, and nobody seemed to know his whereabouts. ´I should've known this could be a dangerous day,´ Gloval silently berated himself. He just prayed for Ranma to be safely waiting in the shelters. If something happened to him, he would never forgive himself…
Besides, Nodoka would kill him. Literally.
Something distracted him from his musings, and he looked up to see what was going on. Apparently, there was some kind of discussion going on in the bridge. He paid attention, and was able to hear a voice he had never heard before—a male voice. For some reason, though, it seemed awfully familiar. He just couldn't put his finger on it, but he was certain he was missing something really obvious. In fact, he could swear that he had just heard the owner of the voice saying his name was Ran—
"RANMA!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, shocked. Gloval jumped out of his chair and rushed to Lisa's board, where two different screens were displayed. One of them showed Commander Fokker's familiar face, trademarked nonchalant look included. Of course, Gloval knew appearances could be deceptive, especially in Roy's case. He had known the young fellow for more than a decade now; actually, Roy had been one of the few survivors of the group that had explored the SDF-1 when it had first crashed. He couldn't be considered his friend, not at all—but he knew perfectly that flying wasn't a game in the blond youth's mind. Sometimes, he knew, you had to build a facade in order to keep the horrors of war at bay.
The other screen was cramped with three startled faces. Two belonged to teenagers: a boy and a girl. A mop of dark hair covered the boy's forehead, and he was staring at him with his big brown eyes. In his opinion, the kid was in desperate need of a comb—he would never understand this obsession young men had with messy hairdos. It seemed all his pilots wore long hairstyles, regardless of their rank. Hell, he was certain they would mutiny if he ever forced them to visit the barber's.
The girl was entirely another matter. She had jet-black hair, and such a charming face he wished for a moment to be a couple of decades younger. Whoever this beautiful girl chose would be a happy man, that was for sure.
The third face's owner was a man. Gloval didn't doubt for a second that he was Ranma. His face was sterner, having lost its baby fat long ago, and a pig-tail had replaced the pony tail; but there was no confusing those blue orbs that stared right back at him, perplexed and questioning.
"Yes," answered the man uncertainly. Yet, a glimmer of recognition showed in his gaze then, and he continued hesitatingly, "Uncle Henry…?"
He was right, it was Ranma. ´Thank God, he's fine.´ Gloval sighed, relieved. But a second later, he winced as he recalled what Ranma had called him. He could already see the members of the bridge bunnies covering their mouths with their hands, trying to stifle sudden fits of giggles. Only Lisa seemed serious, although she was looking at him with wide, incredulous eyes.
´Why'd he have to remember _that_?´ he thought, cursing inwardly. Years ago, Ranma had given him that nickname. He hadn't said a thing at the time, of course—but, in his opinion, it was silly and embarrassing. Gloval looked around, and the women that formed his crew hastened to put straight faces. He could still see the mirth in their eyes, though.
Drat! He would never live that down.
"Yes, Ranma, it's me," he said, smiling warmly. As an afterthought, he added, "Captain Gloval," putting special emphasis in the "Captain". Maybe he would get the hint…
"Great to see ya, Uncle Henry! I thought I'd never find you!"
Okay, maybe not.
"Do you know him, sir?" asked Lisa in a strange tone.
"Yes, of course, Lisa. Why do you ask?"
"No special reason, sir."
Switching his attention back to his "nephew", Gloval said, "Come to the ship, Ranma. You can tell me later what happened to you." Ranma nodded, and Gloval turned to Roy, "Bring Ranma here safely, Commander." There was no time to take Ranma to the shelters back in Macross. Besides, if the enemy was as dangerous as he thought, then Ranma would as safe in the SDF-1 as anywhere else.
"Done, sir." Roy looked at Lisa and said, grinning all the time, "You heard Uncle Henry, Lisa! Give us a bay number, over."
More giggles could be heard, as Lisa responded, "Roger. Bring your plane into bay zero-niner."
Roy nodded. "Thanks—you old sourpuss," he said, and signed off, the screen going black.
Gloval saw how Lisa clenched her fists, as her eyes narrowed. He made a mental note to get Roy spaced, and proceeded to think of ways to overcome the current crisis.
As Roy drove them along the famous starship's interior, Ranma arched his neck back, trying to get a glimpse of the distant ceiling. He couldn't.
"I'll drop you off near the Captain's quarters. Stay there. The Captain will probably have to stay at the bridge for a while, but I'll let him know you're waiting for him, 'kay?" said Roy, accelerating. The engine roared, and the green and brown troop vehicle raced into yet another empty compartment.
"Sure, no problem."
They traveled for a few more minutes, constantly entering new holds of titanic dimensions. Rick and Minmei, both sitting in the rear seat, remained quiet, mesmerized by the sheer vastness of the ship. What could they use so much space for?
With no warning, Roy jammed on his brakes, and the vehicle abruptly skidded to a halt. Rick and Minmei gave a yelp of surprise, thrown off balance. Ranma, though, remained impassive, apparently unaffected by the inertia. Being a top-class martial artist had its advantages; he had long ago learned to bend some of the laws of Physics.
However, his sensitive ears were hurt by the squealing of the brakes, and Ranma couldn't help but wince at the high-pitched sound. ´Oh, well, ya can't win 'em all,´ he thought, rubbing his sore ears. Rick sent Roy a hateful look, but didn't say anything as he helped Minmei back on the seat.
"This is your stop, my good friend. That hatch over there leads to Gloval's chambers, but I'd wait outside if I were you—the Old Man likes his privacy," said Roy, and Ranma hopped off, taking his backpack from the back seat.
"Bye all," said Ranma as Roy started the engine once again.
"Bye, Ranma." Minmei smiled and waved as the car sped away.
"See you later!" yelled Roy, not looking back. Rick just grumbled something, teeth locked.
Ranma waited patiently for some time, a pleased smile in his lips. In his mind, the same mantra was repeated over and over again: ´My Uncle's the captain! My Uncle's the captain!´
He couldn't believe his luck; Uncle Henry was the captain—the captain, dear gods, the CAPTAIN—of the SDF-1. If he played his cards correctly, he would be able to stay in the ship for as long as he wanted, do his business and leave with his conscience clean.
While he stood brooding on the strange twists of fate, the ship's PA system blared out, "All hands to emergency stations. All hands, emergency stations. This is not a drill; I repeat: this is not a drill. Prepare for fold operation in T minus five minutes and counting. Mark!"
At first, Ranma didn't know what to do of this unexpected announcement. Whatever a fold was, it sounded important—maybe even dangerous. Perhaps it would be better if he looked for his Uncle. As the officer in charge, he, more than anyone else, had to know what was occurring, right?
´Um, where would this 'bridge' place be?´ asked Ranma to himself. He didn't know anything about spaceships—or about ships in general, for that matter. The only bridges he knew were the ones built over a river…
´Let's try the Ryoga approach,´ he decided, and started walking in a random direction. He wandered along the cold halls for some minutes, his footsteps resounding soundly in the metallic floors. Apparently, that area of the ship was deserted, and so Ranma wasn't able to find anyone who could help him.
The SDF-1's internal speakers went on again, and a female voice reverberated throughout the whole spacecraft: "Attention, all hands. Fold in T minus two minutes and counting."
´I'm running out of time! What'm I gonna do now?´ He ran a hand through his hair and looked upwards, frustrated. There, hanging on the steel-blue wall, a sign read in big, bold letters: "BRIDGE"; a red arrow pointed towards his right. Ranma blinked twice, and then blinked one last time; the sign remained in its exact same place, so he concluded that it actually was real. Turning right, Ranma resumed walking, shaking his head in disbelief.
One day, he would find out why these things always happened to him.
As Gloval stood unmoving next to his seat, the bridge gang struggled to keep the doubts they had about the usage of the fold system out of their faces. It was an untested device, one of the most complex of those found in the ship. Gloval's decision to take the SDF-1 down over Macross Island was also risky, and he mutely prayed not to be making a mistake.
A thousand things could go wrong, and all of them—Gloval included—knew this. So they waited silently, the tense atmosphere killing any possible idle dialogue. Just then the hatch opened with a hiss, and a smiling young man entered quickly.
"Wow, I thought I wou—" started Ranma, but was promptly stopped short by a fuming Lisa.
"What're _you_ doing here?! This is no place for civilians!" snarled Lisa.
Ranma crossed his arms. "Hey! I came to visit my uncle; d'ya have a problem with that?!"
"Yes! You better leave this place immediately or—"
Gloval broke in, barking, "No time for that, Lisa! You too, Ranma!" Both Ranma and Lisa looked at their feet, ashamed. "Be quiet, or leave!"
"Sorry, Uncle Henry," said Ranma meekly.
"But sir, he can't stay here. It's against the regulations for a civilian to stay in the bridge," Lisa reminded Gloval, glaring hatefully at Ranma.
Gloval took in a deep breath. "I know what the regs say, Lisa, but there's no time to take Ranma back to the quarters. He'll have to stay here until this crisis is over."
"That will be all, Lisa!" Gloval cut in, firmly.
"Yes, sir," said Lisa with a straight face.
"Serves her right," muttered Ranma under his breath. Gloval glared at him, and Ranma decided that being quiet was the most intelligent thing to do. Seeing this, Gloval turned around and calmly headed to his seat.
The seconds slowly ticked away as everyone waited in complete silence once again. After what looked like a year, Claudia, the SDF-1's brown-haired Bridge Officer, began the countdown: "We will enter fold in ten seconds… nine…"
"I hate you," said Lisa quietly, looking at Ranma from the corner of her eye.
Ranma snorted, "Oh, yeah? Well, I'm not too fond of you, either."
"Lisa!" hissed Ranma.
"I just wanted to know… What's a fold?"
Lisa allowed a small smirk to reach her lips. "You'll find out soon enough, won't you?"
A globe of energy surrounded the SDF-1, so bright that hundreds of sailors—witnessing the event from the supercarriers Prometheus and Daedalus—were blinded by it and forced to close their eyes. With the same intensity as a hundred supernovas, the globe expanded, soon enveloping the whole island of Macross. The city, the harbor, the shelters; all of them were swallowed by the white energy and lost in an ocean of light.
Then, without warning, the incandescent sphere disappeared. For a second, everything seemed to stop, as the elements waited frozen around the sudden vacuum. It didn't last long, though, and water and air wrathfully rushed in, filling the gap produced by the SDF-1's departure in mere moments. Soon, no traces of Macross were left.
In a small pond, in a valley somewhere between one of the largest Chinese mountain ranges, a bright mote of white-blue light shone for a second, and then was gone.
And in a secluded village, not far from there, an old, wizened woman halted in mid-step and looked at the black clouds that were slowly gathering in the sky. ´Bad omen,´ she thought, and strode off to her hut.
And in a dojo, a beautiful young woman stopped sweeping the floor as a chill ran through her body.
And in a forest somewhere in the south of Japan, a traveler put away the map he had been holding and, pulling back his worn-out hood, gazed seriously towards the ocean. Or, at least, towards where he thought the ocean was.
The SDF-1 had left the Earth. And it had taken Ranma with it.
To be continued…
Editor's Notes: Latin_D wants very much to get reader's opinions of the story. If you have anything to say at all, send your comments to him. The address is at the top of the main page.
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