Disclaimer: Muv-Luv, Total Eclipse et all are the intellectual property of age and Kouki "Lord of Despair" Uchiyama.
It's 1998. Kyoto is burning. The US Army has abandoned the Sadogashima garrison. The Imperial Royal Guard has been badly mauled, and the BETA are bursting into Kyoto. You are Takamura Yui. Your Zuikaku's crashed. Your friend Noto Izumi is dead. Your last friend, Yamashiro Kazusa, is trapped in her cockpit, begging you to kill her. All around you are Tank-class BETA. You're both going to die.
A clean death is better than being eaten alive, but you can't do it. You can't bring yourself to kill your rival, your best friend. Your pistol rattles in your shaking hands, and your vision goes blurry as your eyes fill with tears.
And then there is the roar of jet turbine engines, the thunder of assault cannons, and 36mm shells rain down on the BETA around you, as two American F-18 Hornets descend. One goes to extract Kazusa from her cockpit; the other lands and the pilot opens his cockpit block, urging you to come inside - and then shooting dead a BETA you hadn't noticed.
He is an American, and all that entails, but your feelings are conflicted: the American Army might be cowards who ran away, but the American Navy are, in their own way, just as samurai as you are.
His handsome face is a mix of all sorts of emotions, but he is kind when he speaks to you, gentle as he straps you in, concerned as he checks you for injury. For an American, you think, he isn't too bad at all.
As he drops you off at the rally point, he tells you his name. You tell him yours. And despite the morning chill, you feel a certain warmth in your heart, as the Hornet jump thrusts away. It's all hard utilitarian lines, with none of the elegance of the Shiranui or the Takemikazuchi, but in that instant, the Hornet is the most beautiful TSF you've ever seen.
Years later, when you're the Project Manager for the XFJ Plan, and you're to choose a test pilot, it is without hesitation that you offer his name.
"I want Yuuya Bridges."
It's 1998. Kyoto is being devoured. And waiting on the catapult, you can't help but feel your life - growing up in the Deep South, the racism you went through, joining the Navy - all of it was building up to this moment.
Funny. Your sperm donor (you refuse to think of that deadbeat as your father) was a Jap. And here you are, half-Jap, half-redneck, on the flight deck of a carrier named after a Yankee, preparing to fly out and try to save your sperm donor's country.
The Theodore Roosevelt's air wing has been launching round the clock strike packages. Flights of four, Tomcats and Hornets, all sortieing to do what you can. The CAG made himself clear: the Army might have quit and run, and that might have been the practical choice, but that's the Army and we're the Navy.
Conventional wisdom says that Laser-class deny the air to everyone. You can't fly TSFs with Lasers around. Everybody knows that. In response to that, one thought runs through your mind, and the minds of your fellow naval aviators: Bitch, watch me.
The cat shoots your Hornet forward and you rise into the air, forming up on your flight leader. You're loaded with AIM-54s and maximum guns. Lasers try to deny the sky - you hug the ground, where they can't shoot you. BETA herds appear in your way: you give 'em a taste of American lead. Destroyers try to stomp you; your flight pops up, salvoes Phoenixes into the mix, and pops back down. Balls to the wall, pedal to the metal, fingers on the trigger: that's how you fight. TOP GUN didn't just teach you how to fight TSFs, didn't just teach you how to fight BETA: it taught you to fight.
You've culled a herd, you're on your way back to Teddy R, when you hear a call on the radio - a frantic mayday that goes silent, an IRG flight that's gone down near Kyoto's main train station. It's not too far away from your course, and you manage to convince your flight lead to let you divert - and when you get there, that's when you see her: a lone figure in yellow, standing before a white Zuikaku, surrounded by hungry Tank-class BETA.
That scene would be bad enough, but your camera zooms in and shows you the yellow figure in detail.
She's just a girl. Just a kid. She can't possibly be older than 15, tops. So young, so terrified, and about to be swarmed over and devoured.
Fuck that shit.
You have barely 350 rounds left in your assault cannon, but that'll be enough. You descend like the fist of an angry god, shooting your way through the Tank-classes, getting your wingman to extract the poor girl's wingman from the downed Zuikaku, and then you pop open your cockpit block, and urge the shellshocked girl to get in- and then before you know it, your .45's in your hands, smoking, and you've just drilled a Soldier-class that tried to sneak up on that girl. You hop down, wrap an arm around her, bundle her into your cockpit, strap her in, take off, and once you're in the air you try to talk to her, try to calm her down, try to be nice to her.
You guess that she's probably on her first combat hop, just like you, but she's had the worse of it.
You might hate Japan and all it stands for, but even you aren't so much of an ass that you'd be a shit to a shellshocked kid.
You talk a little, as you fly to the IRG rally point to drop her off. You stifle a flicker of anger on hearing that she's fourteen, and started AOCS last year at thirteen. You share a little bit about yourself, trying to keep her mind off what she went through; she shares a little bit of herself. As you part, she tells you her name - Takamura Yui. "Call me Yui," she tells you.
Yui. That's a lovely name, you think to yourself.
Years later, sitting in the XFJ Plan's briefing room, seeing your Project Manager for the first time, there's a smile on your lips as you make eye contact, and whisper her name.
In time, you will both meet in Alaska. In another world, you would start your relationship with hostility and acrimony. In this world, that won't be the case. The XFJ plan will run smoothly, as you both work together, because you understand the stakes..
But that's not the important thing..
What's important is that, after all these years, you've found each other. And this time, you won't let go.
Author's note: What's this, I actually wrote something new? :p
The idea for this drabble - which was basically speedwritten with no BETA and minimal edits - was a conversation on IRC with one of my friends, where we wondered how well Yui and Yuuya would have gotten along if they'd met before. Then it escalated to meeting in Kyoto. Then a rescue romance. And the waifuing commenced. :p
Yuuya being Navy in this verse is partially one of those altverse flip of the coin paths. It's also partially a lampshading of his variable service branch; in the Total Eclipse LNs, Yuuya's said to be US Navy, but in the Total Eclipse anime and VN, he's depicted/retconned as being US Army. I decided that I could use that; Yuuya being Navy meant that his participation at the Battle of Kyoto wasn't completely implausible, given that TSFiA and the Total Eclipse anime show the USS Theodore Roosevelt's air wing heading into Kyoto to support the IRG.
As a note, officially the AIM-54 Phoenix missiles are only listed as being used with the F-14 Tomcat, though there's hints that a number of Sukhoi - excuse me, Sufoni - designs are compatible with the AIM-54. I figured that logically speaking, you ought to be able to mount Phoenixes on the Hornet. (Also, where are my Hydra rocket pods? Where are my Zunis? Kouki, I am disappointed, those would be so useful on TSFs.)
Anyhow, this is a one-shot for now. I might expand it further, though that remains to be seen; as it is, I think it's probably okay on its own. Maybe it's not a steak dinner like Comet or DYRL, but at least I'd like to think it's English fish and chips. :p Cheers!