Macross Frontier: Conspiracy

Chapter 6: How Will I Know?


March 20, 2059

Somewhere near Hue Lounge and Nightclub, San Francisco Area, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


It was already 8 PM Frontier time when crowds of people were seen lining up outside the various nightclubs in the San Francisco Area.

There was some pedestrian and vehicular traffic going around on a typical weekday evening. Sometimes, it was busy. Sometimes it was not.

No one seemed to pay attention to two person wearing motorbike helmets, black windbreaker jackets and gloves, jeans and black combat boots while riding on a 2022 Black Storm Metallic BMW R1250GS dual-sport motorbike.

"You sure you were told by some anonymous dude who pulled you in the middle of downtown to go to this place?" Marc asked Mikhail with the helmet comm system built into their helmets.

"You think if I was making this up, I'd call you up yesterday just to get me here?!" Mikhail sounded very pissed off that he's being accused of something.

Marc sighed. "Fine. Just let me know which alley I need to make a turn to."

"Should be here after we passed the nightclub."

"All right. Here we go."

Marc made a slow right turn at the alley. When he did so, Mikhail pointed to the first green dumpster on the right.

"Okay."

The ASE contractor parked the R1250GS to the side and got the kickstand up. He and Mikhail kept their helmets on when they approached the dumpster. The latter volunteered himself to slowly lift the cover.

"Just like he said."

"What what he said?"

Mikhail used his right hand to keep the dumpster lid up while he used his left hand to point the black garbage bag inside, tied up with some string to keep its contents from potentially spilling around.

"I see."

Marc took the garbage bag and untied the string in order to open it. He looked inside and...

"Holy shit..."

"What happened?"

"I think your mystery friend left us some presents just in case."

The two teens checked the garbage bags and saw that some combat knives and small arms were left inside.


1st Floor, Hue Lounge and Nightclub, San Francisco Area, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


Today was one of those nights when Catherine Glass has some time off away from Frontier Government work.

And it happened to coincide with some of her high school classmates inviting her out for a girl's night out since one of their friends is about to get married soon after a few months of being engaged.

That and they needed to unwind after the Vajra breached the colony ship.

"Hey Catherine!" Catherine saw four women were lounging around a glowing blue table inside the club, just as the DJ inside announced that he's changing songs. They wore casual clothes, including a mix of sneakers and slip ons.

"Hey girls!" The First Daughter greeted them when she came. For her part, Catherine chose to just wear a gray shirt, jeans and brown slip ons.

"Good to see you make it! May's about to get married. She accepted his proposal!"

"Wow!" Catherine smiled when she took an empty space in the couch. "Good to hear that!"

While Catherine was catching up with her friends and celebrating the engagement, Marc and Mikhail were allowed to enter after the bouncers denied them entry due to being under the age of 18. Marc showed him the name of a person from his smartphone. This made the bouncers nervous and they radioed back to inform management that they had visitors.

To conceal their identities, the two teenagers wore black tactical ballcaps with neck gaiters worn just to cover their mouths. Mikhail was seen with a gray crossbody-type shoulder bag.

The bouncers helped them clear a path to the nightclub offices located at the rear side of the club.


Management Office, 1st Floor, Hue Lounge and Nightclub, San Francisco Area, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


"Sir!" One of the bouncers opened the door to the management office, which seemed like a typical office that you see in any corporate office building. "The contractors are here."

"Alright, leave them be. I'll call if something comes up."

"Sir."

The bouncer told them that they sit at the nearest couch.

"So who's this guy?" Mikhail asked Marc after they lowered the neck gaiters covering their mouths.

"Someone who's a known info broker in the underworld." Marc sighed. "Trust me, I wouldn't go here if I had to."

"Now is that how you talk to a guy you've known in years?" The man turned around while seated in his swivel chair.

"Mikhail," Marc introduced the SMS contractor to the blond-haired man seated behind his desk. He was in his late 30s with a white business suit, red necktie, blue dress shirt and black Oxford shoes. "allow me to introduce to you Johnny Markham, manager of the Hue Lounge and Nightclub. It's owned by Night Entertainment Group back in Canada."

"If this is about the tip I provided ASE last time on that kidnapping case..."

Marc glared at him. "It's not about the tip that I'm pissed about. It's where you got the info from in the first place."

"Oh come on. Even though he's not that reliable at times, he was a big help at the end..."

"Only because the family chose to go to the FPB at the end."

Mikhail looked at Marc and his interactions with Johnny. He immediately noted that they have had some bad blood in the past.

"But I'd like to put that under the rug for now." Johnny was about to open his cigar box when he asked them. "I heard this is related to a NUNS Military Police case that happened a few years ago."

"Yeah."

Johnny stared at Mikhail. "I would assume that he's related to said suspect?"

Marc nodded.

"I see. My sympathies."

Marc kept his eye on the manager. As if he was waiting for him to say something important.

"Anyway, I heard about that case. So I had to dig around with some people in the information broker community who may know someone from the MPs or in the NUNS for that matter."

Johnny went to open one of the drawers in his desk.


?


"We have an update from the San Francisco Area."

"I'm listening."

"Looks like we spotted the Blanc boy accompanied by someone else. You should have received a surveillance photo from the nearest camera adjacent to the Hue nightclub."

"Understood. Make sure he does his job."

"Yes, sir."


Management Office, 1st Floor, Hue Lounge and Nightclub, San Francisco Area, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


Johnny tossed a green Manila file envelope, sealed with scotch tapes. Mikhail caught it instantly.

"Nice reflexes kid." The nightclub manager grinned.

"What's this?" Marc pointed to the envelope.

"It's a copy of the report made by the MPs after they initially started the case against his sister."

Marc nodded. Mikhail noted that he could easily keep the envelope in his shoulder bag.

"Just between you and me kid..." Marc and Mikhail were surprised to hear Johnny call them kids despite being teenagers. "You guys need to be careful. From what my source told me, the MPs were under a lot of pressure to easily close the case and call it a day."

"Do you know why?" The blond teen was alarmed by what the manager was telling them.

"I don't know. All I do know is that her death may have..."

Before Johnny could finish his explanation, a couple of men with balaclavas opened fire on Johnny with suppressed Glock 20 pistols.

"GACK!" Johnny tumbled down after the two contractors saw him fall down to the ground, face first.

"Get your hands up!" One of the armed men aimed his weapon. "And don't do anything funny!"

Shit. Marc noted who the masked men were. They guys are the club bouncers. Must've infiltrated as employees.

"All right. We're taking you guys outside at the back. Don't do anything funny or else..."

The other armed man showed off a detonator switch on his right hand.

"We'll have to play along." Mikhail whispered to Marc after they got their hands up.

"May as well."

Under the watch of the masked men, the teens were forced to go outside at gunpoint.


1st Floor, Hue Lounge and Nightclub, San Francisco Area, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


Catherine was having a good time celebrating with her ex-classmates that she nor the rest of the patrons were away that something bad was going down.

She caught a glance of a muscular bouncer getting a radio check at the entrance. She didn't know what it was, but the man immediately walked fast towards the management office.

Wonder what that's about? Probably club stuff that I'm not privy to learn.

"Hey Catherine!"

"Oh yes? Sorry, I'm trying to remember something..."

"May's wondering if you want to give a speech at the wedding."

If Caitlin didn't ruin my train of thought... oh well.

The First Daughter spoke to the brown-haired woman with short hair. "I'll think about it."


Near Management Office, 1st Floor, Hue Lounge and Nightclub, San Francisco Area, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


"This better be a false alarm..."

The bouncer was on the way to the club's rear to the management office when he saw the masked men force Marc and Mikhail to walk with their hands up to the dance floor area.

"Hey!" The bouncer shouted at the masked men. "What the hell are you...?!"

Before the bouncer could further challenge them (while taking out a pistol from a holster), he was grabbed from behind. The bouncer struggled to get out of the chokehold.

"Hey..." The masked man standing in front of the teens, shouted to get the third person's attention. "What are you doing? You're going to get us in to more..."

The bouncer was stabbed several times at the back. But while he was stabbed, he was able to fire off a couple of shots from his sidearm at the ceiling.

Everyone inside the nightclub began to take cover or run out to avoid being shot. A few people who were able to get to their phones to call the emergency hotline for the FPB.

The other bouncers moved in on the man who just stabbed the bouncer with their sidearms drawn out.


After hearing the gunshots, the armed men guarding Marc and Mikhail were instantly trying to usher them out of the corridor near the office and to the dance floor.

Around six masked men rushed into the nightclub from the entrance and the rear entrance near the dance floor. They were armed with submachine guns that were not suppressed. Likewise, they were in gray softshell jackets, black plater carriers, brown tac pants and boots with black gloves. Their faces were covered in balaclavas.

Marc decided to take the initiative while the armed men were being distrated by the civilians panicking after the bouncer got knifed in the back.

One guy in front and on my left and the other guy behind Mikhail from his right. It's now or never.

Without saying anything, Marc sidestepped to the left and executed an elbow strike at the man's right temple. He then drew out a karambit knife with a Griv-Ex-made blade from the sheath strapped on his back. A slashing motion was made on the man's throat.

"J..jack!" The other man with his suppressed Glock 20 aimed at Mikhail was surrprised at the sudden attack.

Here we go.

The SMS contractor also did an elbow strike at the man behind him. Mikhail followed it with three punches to the face and a kick to the chest.

"Ura!" Mikhail grabbed the armed man by the head and slammed his face to the ground.

Marc picked up the first armed man's dropped Glock 20 and fired the suppressed pistol at the second man's head.

"Did you have to?" Mikhail said, keeping his voice down for fear of someone trying to ID him.

"It's him or us. Come on."

Marc and Mikhail ran up to the dance floor, tossing to the latter the other suppressed Glock 20.


Catherine urged her friends to stay down and duck beneath their table.

"Oh my god..." May began to panic after hearing gunshots.

"May, May... Stay with me." Catherine was now trying to get her calm. She understands that the shootout going on is not something an average person should see in their everday life.

"I called 119 already." Caitlin said to the others.

"Okay. I'll take the lead. Just follow me, okay? Remember, don't stand up too high or you're going to be exposed..."


Dance Floor, 1st Floor, Hue Lounge and Nightclub, San Francisco Area, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


"Get them!" The masked man cocked the bolt of his Heckler & Koch UMP 45 submachine gun.

Marc raised the Glock 20 after he saw the UMP 45-armed man. The ASE contractor opened fire twice at his chest as he advanced to the steps leading to the dance floor's sunken floor.

"Dammit... How many are here to stop us?" Mikhail took cover behind an overturned table and returned fire by firing the Glock 20 over it.

"Search me!" Marc went prone, leaned out and fired the pistol again. "Come one! We gotta get out of here!"

The other five opened fire with their UMP 45s at their direction. Unfortunately, this forced them to stop firing and take cover before they could get shot.

Marc opened fire at two of the gunmen who had exposed their bodies. This gave him the chance to shoot and injure them. Mikhail followed up and fired a few more shots just to kill them permanently.

While the gunfire from the submachine guns continued to roar down at Marc and Mikhail, they heard someone get hit by gunfire.

Marc motioned to Mikhail to cover for him. The former crouched to avoid being targeted easily while he made a run for it towards the lounging area.

Oh shit...

He saw a familiar face tending to a wounded female. They were about to make it to another entrance when the woman got shot in the right leg.

"I was able to stop the bleeding." Catherine told Marc. His face was partially concealed, so she couldn't get a good look at her anyway.

"Get them to safety. I'll provide cover."

Catherine had suspicions on Marc's voice despite him being masked, but chose to ponder over it once she got her former classmates to safety.

"All right. Elly, help me carry Jennifer."

"I got her, Catherine."

The two women placed the wounded woman's arms on their shoulders and slowly lifted her up. Marc told May and the other woman to move out at once to the nearest exit since things aren't safe yet.

"Ma'am, don't worry about me. Just get out of here. You and your friends aren't safe." Marc advised May. Catherine called for the others to get moving with the sounds of gunfire building up.

Marc covered for the women as they evacuated from the nightclub with their wounded friend in tow.


Employee Lounge, ASE Frontier Branch Office, San Francisco Area, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


Phil was in the office's lounge, already working the night shift after he took over from Marc to watch over Sheryl and Grace for the day due to school activities and work that needed to be done.

"Boy that was tiring." The ex-SHIELD agent sighed when he leaned back on a vacant chair while a few ASE employees who have night shifts took a break from work or had just arrived to start the night shift by eating dinner in the lounge.

"Hey Phil. How was the shift?" Fred greeted Phil when he got in the lounge.

"A bit tiring. Reminds me of the VIP operations I did back in SHIELD."

The nearest HD TV screen mounted on the wall was tuned to the Frontier Broadcasting Corporation or FBC. Fred was busy with the coffee machine to set it up to make his espresso.

There was a breaking news update from the FBC when an African male anchor in his late 40s read a prepared statement that a shootout has taken place at the Hue Lounge and Nightclub in the San Francisco Area in Island 1.

"Anything on the news?" Fred asked when he took a seat next to Phil.

"Just a shootout at this nightclub." Phil replied, reading the text on the headline. "Apparently, shooting started from inside."

"Hopefully no one got hurt."

"That's usually something that we'd do. Didn't we do a risk assessment for another nightclub?"

"I think so. But I heard that it started before I got recruited."

"Maybe we can ask Marc. He should know. Heard that he spent some time in training after he got recruited reading up on the old risk assessment reports."


Dance Floor, 1st Floor, Hue Lounge and Nightclub, San Francisco Area, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


Marc covered for Catherine and her ex-high school classmates to take cover and make a break for it from the nightclub.

Right now, it was him and Marc against three more gunmen. The others were killed by Marc when they were briefly taken as hostages with the third gunman killed by some of the bouncers who initially responded.

Mikhail took cover and checked the Glock 20's mag while Marc opened fire at one of the gunmen who tried to rush them. He dropped dead a few meters near him after shooting him at the neck.

Which was a good thing since the dropped UMP 45 was, by sheer stroke of luck, positioned near Marc.

Five more rounds left.

"I got this!" Marc grabbed the UMP 45 by the sling and handed the Glock 20 he used to Mikhail. Marc took off the gunman's plate carrier.

Come on. Marc had to take a few minutes to secure it tightly over his chest.

"Thanks!" The newly commandered UMP 45 was being fired to keep the heads of the other UMP 45-armed men. He took a brief moment to reload it once after he ran out. The weapon was fired to provide suppressive fire.

Mikhail ejected the mag from the other pistol and saw that 10 more rounds were left. I really need to update my shooting profiency back at HQ when I can.

The Mihoshi Academy student heard some groan in pain after being shot. This was followed by the footsteps of someone running away.

Marc did a reload on the submachine gun after he ran out again.

"Come on!" Marc motioned to Mikhail. "Before the police'll storm the place. We can't get caught here."

"Right."

The two teen made a run for it, chasing the last surviving gunman who went for one of the emergency exit doors.


Back Alley outside Hue Lounge and Nightclub, San Francisco Area, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


Marc barged out of the emergency exit when he tackled the door since it was partially opened.

"Over there!" Mikhail shouted when they saw someone on the phone being covered by the same armed man, the former standing next to a parked SUV.

"Shit..." Marc used the nearest dumpster to take cover. Mikhail also took cover in the same position.

"We need to get that guy..." Mikhail was frustrated to find a lead, only to be held back.

"Got ya covered there." Marc was prone on his back when he dived from cover and opened fire, hitting the armed man covering the unknown person.

Mikhail fired the Glock 20 at the unknown person after he went prone, grazing the right leg since the other shots didn't penetrate the SUV. Dammit. Bulletproof.

Marc took aim with the UMP 45 again at the unknown person after he collapsed slightly, already inside the SUV. The smartphone he was using fell down to the street. The front passenger opened the door and fired at him with an unsuppressed Glock 20. Otherwise, he was in a shirt, jeans and sneakers with a balaclava.

"Not on my watch!" The UMP 45 was fired at the balaclava-clad man at his chest.

"Urgh!" The front passenger collapsed onto the ground.

"Damn! I'm not sticking around!" The SUV's driver shouted when he ran off.

Marc did another reload when he checked the plate carrier's mag pouches, revealing three more mags left.

"I got it." Mikhail picked up the dropped smartphone. For what it's worth, it appears to be in working condition. The only thing hindering him is that it's using a numeric-based passcode to protect it from unauthorized access.

The duo heard the sounds of loud police sirens.

"We need to move." Marc said after he turned around and saw the parked motorbike.

The glasses-wearing teenager pocked the smartphone when he ran to the vehicle.

"Gotta dump all this." Marc took off the plate carrier and dumped it inside an empty dumpster with the used UMP 45. Mikhail saw what he was doing and dumped the suppressed Glock 20 and spare mag.

"I'm surprised the benefactor left a fuel container for us." Mikhail remarked after he got a matchbox from Marc.

"Yeah, no kidding." Marc wore the helmet and got the BMW R1250GS on. "Matchbox too. It's as if we're expected to run into this scenario."

Mikhail looked inside the dumpster and saw that the interior was already soaked with gasoline. The only thing left to do is to light the match and toss it inside.

"I'm done." Mikhail got the other helmet after he tossed the rest of the matches (still inside the matchbox) in the dumpster and into the fire. "Let's get out of here."

Marc gave the thumbs up as they drove off away from the alley. They have no intention of waiting around to see if the evidence was burning throughly.


?


"Yes?"

"..."

"I see."

"..."

"Was anyone else involved?"

"..."

"Can the person be IDed?"

"..."

"For now, keep your head down. I'll have to inform the others."


March 23, 2059

Somewhere inside SMS Frontier Branch Office, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


Mikhail and Luca were walking inside the SMS office, already done with school work and spending the afternoon to get training. They felt exhausted celebrating the success of another training exercise at the Frontier branch of Nyan Nyan.

But today is another day at work.

"Luca... I'll have to show you something important." Mikhail spoke to the young SMS contractor after they entered the door to the shooting range.

"Is it related..." Luca knew that he was potentially asking him to help with finding info related to his sister's death.

"Quiet." Mikhail warned him not to talk so loud. "I'll explain the details later."

Luca was a bit nervous when Mikhail was warned to stop talking, but understood why he had to do it. "O-okay."

Mikhail wondered if Marc was doing any better after he registered the two of them to take up a couple of vacant stalls to practice shooting.


Somewhere in Frontier Police Bureau Headquarters, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


Marc was called upon as usual to provide personal bodyguard services, wearing the same type of clothes similar to when he first met the Galactic Fairy for the first time. Sheryl made plans to go to the FPB in order to submit herself to another round of questioning regarding the incident at Frontier Spaceport.

He was accompanied by a blonde-haired female close protection officer (CPO) in a business suit with no necktie just to show that ASE is mindful of mostly having Marc designated as the main CPO assigned to the Frontier and Galaxy Records contract.

In short, ASE wants to make a good impression that it's a equal opportunity employer.

The female CPO was stationed near one of the interrogation room to keep out any curious onlookers, civilians and FPB officers/staff members alike. Marc was with Grace since she went with Sheryl. The manager was also asked again about the incident.

"My apologies for the arrangments my employer had discussed with your superiors back at Galaxy." Marc spoke to Grace while Sheryl was still speaking to detectives about the suspect. "I'm only working with ASE on a part-time basis since I got school and all."

Grace did her best to reassure him that it was perfectly all right to do so. "I was told by the management and they understood. I also agree with them on the matter."

"And what about her? Does she agree to this arrangement?"

"Well..."


March 22, 2059

Penthouse Suite, 50th Floor, Ritz-Carlton Frontier Hotel, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


"Hey, Grace! Why am I just hearing that Marc's not going to be assigned as my bodyguard 24/7 or unless I have early time off from my schedule?!"

Sheryl was not pleased about the sudden changes.

"Listen to me, Sheryl." Grace was at wit's end on trying to explain things to make her pop star brain process the new information that just came in. "You know that SMS and ASE are very reputable private security companies and they have lenient policies on recruiting teenagers near or around your age in Frontier."

Sheryl waited for Grace to make her point.

"I think this is a good idea to show your fans that you care for the people who look after your well-being while we're staying at Frontier. It's a win-win..."

"Like what?"

"How about maybe just by being nice to him? Like... giving a gift?"

"I can give him some of my singles slash albums."

Sheryl pouted.

"But I don't know what kind of music he listens to. He may have taste in some genre that's suitable for old people."

The pop star stared at Grace.

The glasses-wearing managed sighed. "Please don't make me do anything unethical, Sheryl."


March 23, 2059

Outside Interrogation Room, Frontier Police Bureau Headquarters, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


Grace felt tired after she explained Sheryl's thoughts. "She saw things very clearly on how the management accomodated your boss' request."

"Good to hear. For a second, I thought that she'd be all snob. That's one way to bring the wrath of any Sheryl haters." Marc yawned after he took the earpiece on his right ear to take care of an itch.

Grace just looked at him, as if she wanted him to say something.

"I'm surprised Sheryl's willing to hand me some of her albums. To be honest, I listen to a variety of music aside from soundtracks..."

"Oh, like what?" The manager was getting a lead to help Sheryl.

"Why should I tell her that? I can't spoonfeed someone and expect them to just learn without doing some of the legwork."

"Hmmm..."

"Besides, this is just potentially asking for trouble. Well, I don't know, but..."

The woman felt that the bodyguard's remark might bring trouble. "I would suggest that you keep those other ideas to yourself for the meantime."

"Grace is right, Mr. Bodyguard. After all, I don't want to bring a lawsuit against your handsome face. You were great when you tackled that suspicious guy from ruining my face."

Grace and Marc saw Sheryl leave the interrogation room, brimming with confience. The detectives, on the other hand, felt that they need to double check on the suspect's personal details before they proceed to trial.

"Whatever." Marc glared at her. "This is real life, not some bodyguard drama you see on the internet nowadays." He mumbled, "Maybe I should've tripped her to ruin her clothes."

"Hm?" Sheryl wonderd if he said something.

"I didn't say nothing."

Sheryl raised an eyebrow.

The female CPO called for Marc. "We're good to go, but I think we need to hurry. I'm seeing the first journalists being dropped off outside the building via taxi."

Marc ran up next to her. "But we got uniforms covering for us, yeah?"

She nodded.

"Let's do the usual. Take the lead. I'll cover the rear."

"Understood." The female CPO spoke to Sheryl and Grace about leaving the building before more journalists arrive.

Meanwhile, Marc received an incoming SMS message. The smartphone's records indicated that it came from Catherine.

"What does Catherine want?"

When he opened the message, it had the following contents.

We need to talk. I'm not taking a no from you for an answer.

What's this about? Did she find out?

Marc grumbled his frustration and kept his smartphone on a belt clip.

His bodyguard assignment isn't over yet.


April 13, 2059


Marc was really anxious on whether Catherine would talk to him or what. So far, he and the other ASE contractors were kept busy with conducting CPO duties to protect Sheryl and Grace throughout their stay in Frontier. The duo were kept busy by Sheryl's concerts, press conferences to promote her songs, commercials and upcoming guest appearance in various FBC-based news shows.

The weeks were tiring, but it was a good call that he's been allowed to rotate every few days to ensure that he's been able to do his schoolwork.

"I'll see you guys later." He was walking out of Xavier School's main building when he got another message from Catherine.

Make sure you're available tonight.

"Crap. I need to see who can fill in for me."

Marc scrolled through his contacts.

"Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. Who can I contact?"

It would take about five minutes for him to contact ASE HQ on his smartphone and look for Phil.

"Hey Phil. It's me. Listen, I need to take off for a while tonight. Yeah, something personal. Yeah, I know... I don't like it too, but today's the day that I need to take care of it. I know, I know. Yes, I know. Tell her manager that I can make it back earliest by tomorrow."


Griffith Park Hill, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


Marc traveled by 8 PM after he stopped by the nearest KFC and get a coupel of Zinger burgers on the way to Griffith Park Hill.

Why does Catherine want to me up in that place? Is it because of her work?

He parked his BMW K1600GT near the steps going up the peak. After leaving the helmet in the bike's case, the teen climbed up the steps to the top. He did, however, raised his neck gaiter up to the nose.

There, Marc saw Catherine waiting for him. She was seated in a park bench. She wore casual clothes, including sneakers.

Hard for me to imagine Catherine going all the way casual. Seen her most of the time in NUNS uniform. And... oh hollly shii...

"Are you going to keep a lady waiting?" Catherine asked him, seeing that he was just standing there and admiring her looks outside of her usual clothes.

"Yeah. May as well." Marc shrugged.

Catherine looked like she wanted to yell at him.

"I'm kidding," Marc raised his gloved left hand. "I had to stop by and get a bite to eat."

He took his seat next to her in the park bench.

"Anyone else know you're here?"

Catherine shook her head. "Not even my father and Leon knows that I'm here."

"All right. Least we won't be watched. Is there something I need to know that can't be said over the phone?"

"Yes."

"I'm all ears."

Catherine began to speak directly to the point. "I know it was you who was at Hue Lounge a few weeks ago."

Marc didn't say anything.

"I'm pretty sure. I remember my father and I visited a traning session commissioned by the ASE on various shooter scenarios."

Oh yeah... We did briefly meet duirng that ASE session, but didn't stay long to talk aside from introductions.

"I saw the way you handled yourself with the guns when the shooting started at the club. They reminded me of the training session I visited a year ago. My father was impressed with your combat skills when we observed it. And there's one more thing..."


During an invitation to the Frontier government to observe an ASE training session, Catherine accompanied President Glass and Vice President Hoover as VIPs. Leon wasn't around due to a confidential meeting back on Earth with NUNS military leaders.

Once they were present, ASE representatives briefed them that they were conducting a force on force training session alongside the FPB and the NUNS forces stationed in the colony ship. They were currently in the midsts of conducting various anti-terrorism scenarios in urban environments for places like Island 1.

The trio were looking at the mock up city blocks from an elevated platform. The FPB and NUNS personnel were doing a scenario where a VIP is being transported due to the presence of a state of emergency. It was then that an unnamed hostile force would target said convoy.

Some of the ASE personnel would be with the joint FPB-NUNS team while others would be designated as the OPFOR team.

A convoy of four SUVs were seen traveling along an empty street when a couple of white panel vans suddenly stopped at the front and back by making sudden sweves.

"Contact! Contact!" One of the NUNS soldiers in a mixed team of FPB-NUNS-ASE personnel, acting as a VIP protection team, got out of the leading front passenger seat and opened fire with his Heckler & Koch G36K assault rifle. For the exercise, it was loaded with paintball rounds to simulate an actual attack.

The other SUVs were forced to stop. The occupants, all dressed in various clothes, formed up and assumed defensive positions in fighting off the ambushers. They were also armed with the G36K.

The gunfight, even though simulated, felt very intense. Catherine literallly felt goosebumps watching the VIP team score some "kills" on the ambushers with some of them being shot in retalation.

She saw someone going to the third SUV to get the right rear passenger seat open.

The person was wearing a black neck gaiter, tactical cap, jacket, gray tac pants and brown hiking shoes. A gray plate carrier was worn over his chest with an orange arm band on his right arm.

However, a hostile was seen trying to ambush him from behind. The cap-wearing person immediately turned around, disarmed him of his pistol and fired it against him. Two paintball splatters were seen on his jacket.

Said person afterwards ushered the VIP out of the vehicle. Placing his right hand on the VIP's back to get his head low, the G36K was slung on the back. He had to draw his Glock 17 from the left leg holster. He then moved to another block while some FPB/NUNS personnel joined to cover his rear.

"Just to let you know, ASE has some new recruits. For some of them, today's the first week on the job." The male South Asian ASE representative explained that bit just to get them familiar that the recruits are present in today's session.

"And is he one of the new recruits?" President Glass asked the ASE representative. "The one taking the VIP to safety."

"Yes. He's the youngest from the recruits straight from a civilian background. And by coincidence, today's his birthday."

Catherine watched the new recruit move fast down the streets. Two FPB officers and NUN soldiers acompanied him to watch his rear.

The president nodded.

"Are we allowed to speak to the ASE contractors later?" Vice President Hoover asked.

"Yes, you can. We'll let you know if we can allocate the time."

The exercise lasted more than an hour. Afterwards, the VIPs were allowed to speak to the ASE recruits. President Glass and Vice President Hoover shook hands with the new recruit. He was introduced by Phil and Fred as Marc, the new recruit.

Of course, Marc lowered the neck gaiter to make his face known and shook hands with the politicians. He also extended the courtesy to Catherine.

The said meeting laid the foundation of their professional relationship later on.


Marc was not liking that Catherine knew that he was involved in the nightclub shooting.

"And another thing. You didn't try to hide your voice back there."

Touché.

"What the hell happened there?"

Marc refused to say something.

"Is it related to Sheryl Nome or Grace 'O Connor?"


En route to Blanc Apartment, Shibuya Area, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


Mikhail was already on his way back via bus to the apartment after grabbing a bite to eat with some of the other SMS contractors, including Leon, at one of the nearby Japanese sushi places that just opened up a few months ago. They celebrated Leon's training in Frontier, given that any welcome ceremonies were postponed due to the Vajra intrusion.

The teen already changed from the office from SMS clothes to a just a white shirt, jeans and rubber shoes.

He was going to meet up with Luca, who had his own meetings a few hours ago with some of SMS' tech experts on potentially upgrading their VF-25s.

Should be here by now.

Just as Mikhail was about to cross the next block leading to the other block where his apartment was, a four-door gray sedan sped up and parked alongside him. The windows were slightly lowered.

"Mikhail Blanc?" The front passenger shouted.

Mikhail was suspicious of the sedan and its occupants. "Who wants to know?"

"You're being warned. Don't try to dig up further details than what you already know."

"Hey! Who the hell do you are..?"

"Don't make us repeat it again."

The sedan sped off even before the intersection light turned green.

"Goddamit..."


Mikhail... Better be careful. After the fiasco in the nightclub, you and I could be targeted by anyone who's got beef with us if they can put two and two together.

See if you can carry a piece with you. I'll try to do the same. Though it kinda sucks that I'm Sheryl's BG until she leaves.


Mikhail instinctlively reached for the IWB holster on the right side of his waist after he crossed the street to the next block. He walked as fast as his legs can take him.

Hope Luca's all right.

"Hey, Mikhail."

Luca was waiting outside the door to Mikhail's apartment building.

I think he's fine.

"Good to see you're doing fine, Luca." Mikhail greeted the younger MA student and part-time contractor before he asked him. "Did you see anyone suspicious on the way here?"

Luca shook his head and shrugged.

"That's all right. I wanted to be sure."

"So we're doing an all-nighter?"

"Depends. What about your sister?"

"It's fine. She knows I'm going to be out."

"Guess I better set up a space for you to sleep in."

Mikhail worked on opening the door to the apartment building before he got his personal keycard out of his wallet. "After you."

"Thanks."

"We'll order in." Mikhail then closed the entrance door. "Got anything in mind?"


Griffith Park Hill, Island 1, NUNGS Macross Frontier


Marc sighed when Catherine threw him the question on her mind ever since the nightclub shooting.

"No comment, Catherine."

Catherine was pissed when the contractor wouldn't answer her question.

"Listen. The less you know, the safer you're going to be."

Marc stood up from the bench.

"Besides, the president will likely have our company's head if he finds out that whatever I'm doing on the side gets you killed."

"Hey!" Catherine stood up from the bench, arms crossed. "I'm not a little girl anymore! I can take care of myself!"

This kind of attitude is what pisses Marc off.

"Catherine..." Marc decided to just plain reason with her instead of having a shouting match. "I don't know if the incident has anything to do with protecting the Galactic Fairy and her manager or if it has something to with organized crime, terrorists or just power grabbing thing in the government."

After all, he didn't want to invite some nosy person to "accidentally" drop in. And it wasn't a good idea if he destroyed one of his only professional connections with the colony's government.

"I see."

"But the reason I'm not letting you know more than what you've seen is that... Well, aside from your father wanting to gut me and get my head on a platter if something happened to you..."

Marc sighed.

"It's also likely the issue with your ex."

"Ozma..."

"ASE has a working relationship with SMS. As such, I know Ozma and some of the other contractors. And he's aware of the working relationship we have too."

The two were silent after Marc said his piece.

"That's why... I can't say a lot without getting you into trouble. Personally and professionally."

Chapter 6 END


PS - This update is overdue. I volunteered for Gawad Kalinga in their Manila HQ for almost 3 years now. That and COVID-19, I switched to doing remote internship while looking for full-time work since plans to go to Singapore aren't going to be done because my folks are worried until next year when things are manageable. Also, I can't find full-time work since moving back after I was fired from my first job in '15.

Nothing much with this update except I'm expanding the conspiracy angle that I wanted to portray for this AU story. Hopefully I can keep going while the workload for the internship is a bit light since I decided to be with them until December since my application to work in the British Embassy was rejected and it's hard to find work in Manila, except for maybe call center. But imagine that... an ethnic Chinese guy who studied in reputable schools ends up as a call center agent. Oh the irony...

FYI, I watched the Tenet trailers and while it's not showing in Manila yet (and I'm not going to risk my health since two of my relatives are okay, but they got COVID-19), I be spoiling myself now. Was impressed with the fight scenes with JDW in the movie during the unarmed combat sequences. It may or may not have inspired some of the fight scenes. Also jammed to Rukunetsu's CO SOLITUDE - LEGEND OF LEGACY RMIX and SF 25th Anniversary: Before Moon Tiger when I wrote the fight scenes.

In this chapter, you see more of the divergences here. Like Alto not joining SMS at all. Although I think I may be opening another love triangle, in keeping Macross traditions alive.

For the meantime, I think Alto's relegated to his relationship with Ranka.

Title is used by some singers out there in their songs, just another FYI.