Authors note: Apologies for how long its taken to get this out. This chapter gave me a lot of trouble (I'm still not very happy with it, I'm currently debating going and rewriting sections of it), and work shifts being 10 hours long and running three different D&D campaigns doesn't leave much time for writing. Hopefully I'll be back on a once a month schedule now.
Despite the easy banter Lin and Cross had fallen into, the rest of their trip back to base camp had an underlying tension to it. Despite there being no obvious sign of pursuit by the Prone, none of them felt completely safe as they traveled, always wondering if the hostile aliens might be just out of sight behind them.
Fortunately, their worries were for naught, and after spending a night sleeping in a hollow Elma found in the side of the cliffs, the three B.L.A.D.E members and Tatsu managed to make it back to the base camp safely. Elma immediately disappeared to talk to the base commander and get on a secure radio with NLA, leaving Tatsu, Lin and Cross to their own devices.
"Wellll…" Lin droned. "Who wants some food?"
"That'd be nice." Cross answered. The rations they had when they were out hadn't been all that bad, but they paled in comparison to a home cooked meal.
"Oh! Me me!" Tatsu agreed while hopping up and down in excitement. "Tatsu hasn't had a good meal in forever!"
"Cool! I'll go cooked something up." Lin said. She sounded cheerful, but given what they had just gone through, Cross was willing to bet the young girl was just throwing up a facade and had been ever since the adrenaline had worn off.
Cross followed Lin as she walked to the camps small kitchen area. "I'll help. I've got to learn how to cook decent meals when I'm out on a mission without you right?"
Lin seemed unsure about the idea. "Uhhh. I guess so. But, shouldn't someone stick with Tatsu?"
Cross turned to Tatsu. "Hey Tatsu, why don't you go around camp and introduce yourself? Everyones only interactions with aliens so far is getting our home destroyed, so you should go make a good impression."
"Ohhh. Good idea." Tatsu nodded. "Mamapon always says that the first step to being a good merchant is to make a good first impression!" With that, the nopon walked away, toward a group of B.L.A.D.E's who had been eyeing him warily.
Cross turned back to Lin. "See, he's fine. Let's go cook." She then walked off toward the kitchen
"Sure, I suppose." Lin said wearily, as she followed Cross.
The two cooked, roast suid with a side of grilled vegetables, in relative silence for a while, only talking when Lin needed to give Cross instructions. Finally Cross broke the rhythm they had going and asked, "Are you ok?"
Lin turned away from what she was doing and looked at Cross. "I'm fine. Why do you ask?"
"It's fine if you aren't you know." Cross replied, ignoring Lin's question. "You have a right to be, after what we saw back there."
Lin sighed. "I… it's just. I know the world...universe I guess, is a scary place, and things don't always end well. I mean, Earth is gone, my parents are gone….." The young girl trailed off.
Cross waited patiently for Lin to continue, the young girl had never mentioned her parents before, but from their conspicuous absence Cross had figured they hadn't made it off Earth.
Lin continued "Anyway.. I knew that stuff, but even then, when I saw what those Prone had done to Nelson and his team. I...I….I don't get it. Why would they do that!"
Cross walked over and gave the young girl a hug. "I don't know. I suspect they have some sort of reason, but whatever it is, it's not one I'm going to accept. So you don't worry about a thing. Me and Elma will take care of this. I won't promise no-one else is going to die, but I will promise I'll do everything I can to stop the Prone and whatever other aliens they are working with. And if you ever need to talk about it, you can always come to me. I may not be the best at this kinda thing, but sometimes the most important part is to just that something's bothering you."
Lin nodded, and pulled her way out of the hug. "Thanks." She sniffed a little, but Cross thought she looked much better, more relaxed. "So, let's finish up those vegetables huh?"
Cross chuckled, and got back to work.
The three made it back to NLA with no problems, leaving South Janpath Base Camp on high alert against the nearby Prone base. Elma left Cross, Lin and Tatsu to their own devices at the entrance to the city, trusting the two humans to look after the small human. She had other matters to attend to.
In short order she made her way to blade tower, and after a short wait for the elevator, was in a private conference room where Vandham, Nagi and Maurice were all seated at a small circular table. Elma wryly noted that Vandham was seated across from Maurice, the two never had been able to get along. As the door sealed itself shut behind her, she sat down at the table's fourth seat.
Maurice spoke once she had done so. "Let's not waste time. Do you think these hostile aliens, the Prone I believe you called them, are with the Ganglion?"
"Most likely." Elma answered. "It's impossible to say for sure right now of course, the ones we met weren't exactly interested in talking. But the circumstantial evidence is there. There technology is on the same level as what the Ganglion employ, though perhaps a bit lower. But that fits, since they didn't seem to bright, and it's a common Ganglion tactic to rope less developed species into their organization by giving them weapons far above their technology level. Mainly, of course, is the fact that they very clearly said they wanted to kill all "Earth Aliens". I don't know of any group other than the Ganglion that would even care about you, let alone want to destroy you all and know where you are from."
Nagi sighed. "It's to be war then, isn't it."
Elma nodded in agreement. "Most likely. I've never heard of the Ganglion being so determined before. As I've mentioned before, they wouldn't normally send such a large amount of ships up against my people's fleets. Especially not for a single planet. The only way I can think of for a war to be avoided at this point is if that base is all there is of them here on Mira, or at least most of them."
Vandam tapped a button on the side of the table. The surface of the table shone, and an incomplete hologram of the base Elma, Cross and Lin had raided appeared above it, based off of recordings Elma had pulled from her Mim. He looked it over for a moment, then spoke. "Doesn't look like we're going to have that much luck. There's too much construction going on for this to be anything other than an expansion. No reason to make something like this unless you've got a lot more people and want more places for them to be useful. The geologists say there's probably some good mineral posits down south of Janpath lake, I'd bet there setting that place up as a base to conduct mining operations from."
A chorus of agreement chimed out from the other three before Nagi spoke. "The next question then. What do we do about it? I recommend a strike team. Take it out while it's still under construction. Or at least damage it." He pointed toward one edge of the hologram. "It looks like the area back here is much more finished. It may be too risky to go any further."
Maurice drummed his fingers on the edge of the table in thought. "As much as I am an advocate for peace, I feel that the destruction of our planet and the capture, torture and execution of our people is more than ample evidence these aliens won't be willing to negotiate. I'll agree."
"I agree to." Vandham said, slamming his fist on the table to punctuate his point. "It's time we started paying these bastards back, even if I don't think it's going to amount to much in the end. Any disagreements Elma?"
"No. I think it's the safest decision. They already know we are here, they already know our tech level, and the base is uncomfortably close to NLA. We should try and remove it while we can."
Nagi gazed at the hologram. "Three teams should do it. All in combat skells. Any recomendations for a leader Vandham?"
Vandham replied immediately. "Frye Christoph, Interceptor. He's got a military background, and has really made a distinction for himself here in the field already. Though his nickname is a bit odd. The 'Killer Ostrich' or something like that."
Elma blinked. "Isn't that a large flightless bird? Is it even a predator?"
Vandham shrugged. "Hell if I know what's up with that. Said it was a strange name didn't I?"
"Very well." Maurice pulled out his tablet, and started typing on it. "I'll send Eleonora a message telling her to put it on the mission board. Or do we want to keep this a secret?"
Elma winced internally at the mention of Eleonora's name. The blond woman was much too friendly seeming for someone who ran the kind of thing she did behind the scenes. She shook the feeling off, since now was not the time for such thoughts, and waved her hand dismissively. "There's no point. The South Janpath Base Camp crew already know about it, and by now they've told someone else. Better to have it be known we're doing something about the situation."
"We're in agreement then. Vandham, any pre-reqs you want on this other than access to a combat worthy Skell?"
Vandam thought for a bit before answering. "Ten, no, make it fifteen successful combat missions out in the field. And priority for anyone originally in the military. And make it clear that they are to disengage at the first sign of even moderate resistance. I'm not losing any more men if I don't have to."
Maurice nodded, typed some more than set down his tablet. "Done. Eleonora will have it on the board in the morning. That brings us to our third topic of business, the alien Elma and her team brought back with them. What do you know about it Elma?"
"Well, he call himself Tatsu. He claims that his species, the Nopon,are natives to this world. I don't recognize the race, so he certainly could be, but it's not like I'm familiar with every race in Samarrian space, there's just too many of them. So he might be lying. Either way, he's not dangerous. I doubt he could win a fight against an ovis."
Maurice stared her in the face. "I'll be blunt. Could he be usefull? With the high likelihood that there being Ganglion on this planet, we can't afford freeloaders."
Elma was about to speak, before Nagi angrily interrupted her. "Really Maurice? He's one alien, not even a very large one. Are we going to be that heartless?" He looked like he could have gone on, but Elma started talking. She knew how this went. Maurice never voiced his actual opinions, always playing, as the humans called it, 'devil's advocate', playing the no nonsense us above the rest of existence anything for my species leader. Despite how long she'd known him, she hadn't figured out why, she suspected it how he kept himself in check, but she wasn't sure, and had no reason or need to ask the man.
"Maurice is right Nagi. We don't have the luxury of freeloaders right now. But it doesn't matter anyway. As I'm sure the Director General Chausson," she barely stopped herself from rolling her eyes as she said the title, "has already figured out, if his people are natives they could prove an invaluable source of intel." She could have sworn she saw Maurice smirk before he answered.
"So long as we are all the same page on the matter. Is there anything else you feel we should know about him?"
"I'm not sure how relevant it is, but he gave, or loaned that is, us a reward for rescuing him. The "Follow Ball" he called it. It seems to...find things."
Nagi raised an eyebrow. "He loaned a reward?"
"They are a race of merchants. They only give things to family members. Doing so to anyone else is rude. Though I can't take credit for the revelation, it was Cross who made it."
"Huh." Vandham grunted. "She's full of surprises isn't she."
Elma nodded. "Yes. Speaking off, the 'Follow Ball' is some sort of ether based device. I'm not knowledgeable on the subject myself to comment, but Cross was impressed. At this point I'm willing to spare myself the headache and just take her word on it. I'll have her write up a report onec she's had a chance to give it a good look."
Vandham laughed and smacked her and Nagi on the backs. "'Have her write up a report'? You're becoming just like Nagi here. All formal and governmenty."
Maurice stood up. "Well, with that, I assume we're done here?" He waited for them to confirm before continuing. "I'll be in my office then. I'm going to have a lot more paperwork to do now."
"Ha! Sucks to be you don't it." Vandham said grinning as he to got up. "Hey Nagi, how bout we go get a drink."
Nagi smiled. "Sounds good Jack. I've got a nice bottle of sake waiting."
Vandham smiled wider. "Sounds fantastic."
Maurice clicked his tongue disapprovingly. "Unfortunately, most of the paperwork is B.L.A.D.E. related Vandham. And in light of recent events, it needs done today. And your part is going to take until at least eleven."
"Wah. Wahhh." Vandham sputtered.
Maurice turned to Nagi and Elma. "Mine however, should still only take till ten. See you then for drinks Nagi, Elma?"
Nagi smiled, barely restraining a laugh. "Sounds good to me. You in Elma?"
Elma rolled her eyes. Sometimes she wondered how they managed to keep the city together, with Vandham and Maurice's constant bickering. It helped that they at least kept it out of the public eye she supposed. "Only if you bring the watermelon flavoring. Makes it almost taste like a drink from home." She got up and left the room, smirking at the still sputtering Vandham. "See you tomorrow sir." Vandham just glared at her and muttered something about traitors.
Elma smiled once no one was looking. She didn't joke around often, but it did feel good to get a zinger in on occasion. And it helped keep Vandham in his place. The former chief engineer needed to be reminded that there were people who could and would fire back at his occasionally, "over the top", personality.
Next on the list of things today, go to the Mimesome maintenance center. The robot bodies may have been much more durable than one of flesh and blood, but even they had their limits. And using overdrive strained those limits, sometimes to the breaking point, so it was standard procedure to get yourself checked out every time you used it. The building was housed nearby B.L.A.D.E. Tower, at the southernmost end of Division Drive and directly across from the Frontier Nav offices. It didn't look like much from the outside, but it housed some of the most sophisticated diagnostics tools in the entire city, second only to the ones kept in the secure hanger down on the lower level.
Elma walked inside, and explained the situation to the technicians on staff. They hurried her along to a diagnosis room, and had her lay back on a clinically bare table while they began thoroughly examining her for any damage that might have occurred when she activated overdrive.
In most circumstances involving analysis and repairs on a machine, she'd have like to follow along with what was being done. But for something as delicate as this, it was best to leave things to the experts, and for once, that wasn't her. She may have originally been an engineer, but she'd worked on spacecraft, not on mimeasomes. She'd simply, well stolen, a large variety of technical manuals and similar things when shed gone to Earth, the technology behind Mim's amongst it, as well as a set of equipment needed to make a mim for the purposes of blending in if that became necessary, which it had
The tech wasn't even her own species originally, just something they'd acquired from one of the countless other races inhabiting the Samarian Federation. It wasn't used often, mostly for science expeditions to areas to dangerous to go in person; the use for military purposes, while perhaps obvious, was considered "dishonorable". Plus, there was the fact that any kind of cut in communications between the bodies outside of precisely controlled circumstances,, tended to end disastrously, resulting in a backlash of information to the original body that typically caused so many nerves to fire at once that something went catastrophically wrong. It wasn't a problem for the humans, as they currently didn't have brains to fry, just data stored in a computer, but it prevented her from simply offing herself and waking back up in the Lifehold Core, thereby solving their most pressing issue.
They sadly couldn't trace the signal either, as it worked on a form of quantum entanglement. Great for transmission speed, being instantaneous, but terrible if you wanted to trace the signal since there wasn't one. She frankly didn't understand it to well beyond that, and neither had the human scientists and engineers who had made the mimeasomes for the ELC, but that was the great thing about instruction manuals, you didn't have to understand the science to use them, just follow the steps.
She sighed. She also didn't understand why the humans insisted on calling the quantum entanglement device used an ansible. She suspected it was some sort of popular culture reference, but had never bothered to look into it or ask. It had never seemed important.
"Mam," one of the technicians voices called out softly, his voice snapping her out of her reverie. "Your examination is done. I'm sorry to say we found some straining in the mock muscle fibers and tendons aroud your knees. It's not going to have an immediate impact on your mim's performance, but it could grow worse with just standard use, and another activation of overdrive might cause the affected parts to immediately fail." He flipped a tablet around and showed her a picture of the strained areas highlighted red. "I'd suggest we get this taken care of now, but putting it off for a short time won't hurt. I understand you most likely have important work to attend to, and this will take a few days."
Elma spent a moment looking at the damage. The tech's assessment was spot on as far as she could tell. Not immediately debilitating, but certainly not something she should go into combat with. She really should just go and have it fixed now, but….
She sighed. It had been so long since she'd had time where she could sit back and relax with the few people who knew she wasn't a human. "I'll finish up my work and come back in the morning then." She said, her voice outwardly as calm as normal. On good thing, if you could call it that, about coming to earth was that she had gotten much better at lying. She thought she'd even be able to manage lying to her mother now, if they ever got the chance to see eachother again.
She waved at the technicians and made her way out of the building. The sun was starting to begin its descent back east, and some rain clouds were rapidly approaching from the south. Just enough time to finish her paperwork and still make it to Nagi's in time for drinks. Oh, and message Lin telling her she'd be out busy for a couple days. No need to have the young girl worrying over her about the her upcoming mimeasome maintenance, and if past experience had taught her anything, it was that when Nagi pulled out the drinks, not even a mim enhanced alcohol tolerance would keep you sober. Well, unless you turned some features off, but forgetting things you didn't want to think about was the point when you were drinking wasn't it? And right now she had managed to get a few things on her mind she'd rather not think about. Ah the glories of a mechanical device that was meant to replicate a living body as much as possible.
A little over a week later
Her blade bit into the leg of the cinicula she and three fourths of Irina's team where fighting. It was a young one, so it was only twice as tall as she was, and it gave an insectile cry as the appendage buckled, sending the beam of ether she could sense it was about to fire from its mouth off target.
Cross liked combat. It was a fantastic way to not think about things that she really didn't want to.
Gwin was out front, concentrating on holding the things attention with his hefty sword, one of the Sakuraba standard series, but he spared a brief "Thanks!" for Cross for throwing the indigen's last attack off. Irina was off to his side, firing away at it with her assault rifle, while keeping an eye on Gwin incase she needed to patch him up, or renew the protective either field she had set around him. Cross had been fairly impressed, and very surprised, at Irina's skill at using ether to heal people. It wasn't something she expected the cold and taciturn woman to be adept in. Not that she'd ever say that to her face; she'd seen Gwen get a death glare once now, and wanted none of that.
Like how she still couldn't remember anything new about her past. That was something that was starting to get to her. Better to not think about it and focus on the enemy.
The last member of their squad, Marcus, was in the one Skell(Cross thought it was a Formula model, but wasn't sure) Irina's team owned that wasn't in the shop, and was currently handling the other two young ciniculas that they were hunting. The plan had originally been to take them one at a time, but the creatures had kept to close together for that to work. Cross had been unsure about fighting alongside one of the giant machines, worried about how her lingering uneasiness about the giant machines would affect her combat skills, but it turned out having one block most of a volley of spikes the ciniculas fired from their shells was an absolutely marvelous way to build trust.
Or how she was having zero success making sense of how the Follow Ball worked. She had been so eager at first, thinking this was something she was good at, something she could call her own. But after four straight days of trying to figure out what the swarm of hexagonal ether foci that comprised the construct did had yielded nothing beyond confirmation of her initial guess that, yes, six were used to make it float and move. She hadn't even had the chance work on making a copy of the healing focus on her utility knife, since Lin hadn't managed to procure her a set of jewelers tools yet.
All things she definitely wasn't thinking about as Gwin let loose a flurry of quick strikes at one of the cinicula's tusks, cleaving it clean off. The beast stumbled from the pain, and Cross jammed her sword into its side and drug it sideways. A gash opened up, and purple blood leaked out. Already off balance from having its tusk chopped of, the cinicula staggered away from her. Cross followed, ramming her shoulder into it and sending it sprawling. Gwin switched over to his assault rifle, and both he and Irina fired a grenade at the insects face, killing it.
Cross looked over at Marcus, who seemed to have already finished off one of his opponents, and was in the process of impaling the second with a curved photon saber. She nodded, and turned to Irina. "So. What are we going after next?"
Before Cross even knew what happened, Gwin and Irina had manhandled her over to Marcus's skell, now and vehicle mode, and had begun dragging her up onto it. "Huh?!" she managed to blurt out, as Gwin plopped her on one of the machines shoulders. "What's going gone."
Irina nimbly climbed onto the other shoulder, and Gwin pulled himself up onto the same shoulder Cross was seated on. "We're heading back to NLA." Irina said in her usual no nonsense tone.
"What? Why? I'm good to go." Cross waved her assault rifle out at the open fields on her left. "I've still got plenty of ammo left."
Gwin rubbed his head awkwardly. "Yeah, ummm. Cross, I think you need a break."
"Gwin's right." Irina tapped the cockpit window with a balled fist, and Marcus began driving. "You've been trying to hard. You need a break. And besides, we've finished clearing out all the indigens we needed to for the setup of the base camp north of Janpath Lake. Its team to report back in."
Marcus voice came out of the skells external speakers. "Irina's right of course. Everyone needs breaks."
Cross sighed. A break was the last thing she needed. If she took a break she'd start dwelling on not having her memory and associated problems again. "Really. I'm fine. I'm sure there is something else we can do while we're out here?"
Irina didn't respond. Or at least not verbally. Instead she just glared at Cross. Her silver-grey eyes were cold. If Cross didn't know better she'd have sworn Irina was using some sort of ether based mental attack to try and scare the crap out her. The fact that it was working despite Irina not doing that just made it worse. Finally managing to pull her gaze from the icy grey pits of despair, Cross muttered. "Ok, ok. I yield. Let's go back to NLA."
Gwin patted her on the back. "You get used to the glare."
"I'd really rather not." Cross was sure she saw Irina smirk out of the corner of her eye as she answered Gwin.
"Oh…that's…..good? Because you don't actually get used it it."
Cross sighed again. "You're not very good at comforting people are you?"
"Not really, no." he replied nonchalantly. "That's Mathias's job. Shame he's busy with Aisha right now."
They got back to NLA a few days later, and she bid Irina, Gwin and Marcus farewell after they stopped by the mission board to pick up their rewards from Eleonora. Instead of returning to the barracks, Cross began to wander the city. She wasn't in the mood for a conversation right now, and Lin was sure to beg for all of the details of her trip. Ughhh. She was such a hypocrite. She'd made a big deal to the young girl about talking about your problems, and her she was, not knowing how to talk about hers.
'The worst thing', she thought as she wandered her way through the commercial district, 'is how nothing seems familiar. None of the buildings, streets, none of the city at all. It's only the small simple boring things; sandwiches, grass, the stuff you'd find everywhere, that doesn't manage to feel new somehow. It's like I've never been here before in my life.' A small gust of wind from a passing car hit her. 'And there's next to no wind in the city.' Cross looked up. The high wall of NLA loomed around her. They kept the city safe, but they also kept the wind out. She missed the feeling of the wind through her hair already. Maybe….. 'Well. It's worth a try I suppose.'
Not to long after, she had made her way back to the service tunnel she'd originally entered the city through. Not only that, she'd gotten directions from a passing tech on how to use it to get to the top of NLA's wall. There was a service hatch in the ceiling about one third of the way down the tunnel that lead to a ladder that lead to the top.
It was easy enough to find it if you were looking for it, and once she opened it up a small ladder dropped down, preventing her from needing to jump the first few yards. Cross was glad. She didn't think she could manage the kind of jumps Elma used occasionally in combat.
She stared up, the square maintenance shift lit dimly by scattered lights running up one edge. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea." Cross said quietly. "Thats a long way down if I fall." She shook her head. "Comon. I've fought murderous aliens just over a week ago. A little climb is nothing." She began climbing.
She was grateful to reach the top, and if how long it had taken was a good indication of just how high she was now, very very glad she'd managed to never looked down on her way up. Once she poked her head into the open air she was welcomed by a crisp breeze. Smiling, Cross pulled herself the rest of the way out, and found a nice slanted piece of metal to rest her back against and sat down, staring at the sky. The sky still struck her as bizarre, as the sun drifted back west, and the moons hung stationless in the sky. It was actually comforting though. The sky was supposed to be bizarre though. Even though NLA had been on Mira for a few month now, Cross still noticed people around town do a double take when they looked at it.
Cross let out a contented sigh, slipping her hands into her pockets to check if she had any food in them. She only found the Follow Ball. She drug it out with a much less happy sigh. The mild warmth of its inactive form filled her hand. "You make no sense, you know that?" she huffed.
"I hope that wasn't directed at me." a familiar voice said from off to her side. Elma was standing at the exit of the service shaft, wearing jeans and a red hoodie instead of her normal combat attire.
"Elma! What are you doing here?" Cross all but shouted. The follow ball zipped off toward Elma as Cross said her name. Cross groaned internally. The thing could get jittery, and start working if you thought to hard about something or someone, even if you weren't trying to use it. Like when they surprised you apparently
Elma deftly caught the orange sphere as walked over and sat down next to cross. "Making sure you are alright obviously. Irina told me how hard you have been pushing yourself this week."
"How'd you know I'd be up here?" Cross asked, hoping to avoid the topic Elma was trying to lead them into. She'd really rather not talk about it.
"Irina also told me how much you seemed to enjoy just standing in the wind. I hedged a bet and guessed you would be at the best place in NLA to feel some." Elma was silent for a moment, but it looked like she still had something to say, so Cross kept silent. "You're worried about your memories aren't you." It wasn't so much a question as a statement. One Elma's tone of voice said she wanted a reply to.
"Yeah." Cross admitted, voice quiet.
"Worried you'll never get them back?"
"You've been throwing yourself into B.L.A.D.E. work to distract yourself from the issue?"
Man, Elma had her problem down exactly. "Yeah."
"Hmmm." Elma looked thoughtfully at the sky. "Why do you like the wind so much?"
Cross blinked. That was not where she was expecting the conversation to go. "Ummm."
"Take some time to think about it. I think it might help you remember something."
Cross nodded, despite that Elma wasn't looking at her anymore. Why did she like the wind so much? Sure it felt nice, but that didn't feel like all of it. "I…" Cross trailed off, trying to think. As she did, a small smile spread across her face.
"I think…. I think there was a hill by our house. When I was a kid and lived with my parents. I'd go up there every evening with my mom. There'd be a breeze blowing in off the….ocean? Maybe a large lake? But we'd sit there, in the breeze. It was our time, away from….my two brothers? Yeah….I had two younger brothers. Where we could talk about… you know… girl stuff." Cross chuckled awkwardly. "I… I don't think we did it for very long. I wasn't interested in typical girly things for very long. But it was nice….the wind reminds me of my mom." Tears ran down Cross's cheeks.
Elma patted her on the back, smiling. "See. Your memories aren't gone. Just buried. You'll remember them in time. Overworking yourself isn't going to help anything."
"I...I know." Cross shook her head. "I've been bad about that haven't I?"
"I've gotten the impression that you're used to knowing what to do, and how to do it. You're used to being the kind of person others rely on. But that isn't working here, and you need to rely on others instead, and it's been so long since you've done that you're not sure how to."
"Maybe. That sounds like it could be right. I always did want to be a hero. And part of being a hero is that others can rely on you yeah? Maybe I took that to far and forgot that not even a hero can do things on there own."
Elma looked at Cross funnily. Whatever thoughts were going through the older womans head where indecipherable to her. Though, it almost looked like she was remembering something? "Yes. The worst thing a hero can do is forget to rely on others. It gets them killed. Anyway… I don't think it's worth fretting about not recognizing anything from NLA. I've….got a theory as to why you can't."
"Oh?" Cross said, unsure of what to make of that statement.
Elma took in a deep breath. "I didn't want to say anything, as there is absolutely no proof to back up this idea."
Cross, now having absolutely no idea what to say, just sat there as Elma paused.
"In short, I think you might be from another colony ship. No one seems to know who you are, you aren't in the records of the ship's passengers, you don't recognize a city you should have spent years in, and you've got a bit of an accent on you. That last one doesn't really mean much of course, with how much people moved around during Earth's last years, but it fits the rest."
"I'm...from another ship?" Cross was bewildered. "How is that possible?"
Elma shrugged. "We don't know for sure how many, if any at all, of the other ships made it safely off Earth. I'd like to think we aren't the only ones who made it. If you were referring to how we should know if there was another colony ship nearby, well, we were shot down. Another ship could have come along in the months since then, perhaps run afoul of something dangerous in the vastness of space, or even in this very system, it's certainly bizarre enough to throw off any pilot. There very well could be another colony ship crashed somewhere else on this planet. We do know there are smatterings of other continents across the world, so it might be on one of those."
"Wouldn't we have heard a radio signal or something from them?"
"Possibly, but if they don't know anyone else is here on this planet they'd have no reason to bother." Elma looked down. "Also, there is a very real possibility that this hypothetical other ship didn't have a safe landing. We barely managed to keep the city intact on ours."
Cross paled. "So….they might all be dead. I don't know how much I like this idea anymore. I think I'd rather not know where I'm from than more people be dead."
"It's only a possibility. The main thing is don't beat yourself up over why you don't recognize anything. It's not going to help."
"Yeah." Cross grinned, just a little, and stood up. "Thanks. I needed that. A good talk to get my out of my funk. Thanks Elma."
"Any time. I'm always happy to help."
"Want to go get some food?"
Elma shook her head. "I've eaten. Why don't you go out and make some friends? It would do you good to know more people than just myself, Lin, and Irina's team."
"That sounds like a good idea. I'll see you around Elma." Cross waved as she turned around to go to head back to the ladder.
Elma gazed out over the city. From up here it looked so small and fragile. Not wanting to go any further along that line of thought, she tilted her head back and looked up at the sky. Hopefully Cross would be alright. She really should have noticed something was wrong with the young woman earlier, but she'd been so busy over the last week she'd barely even see her.
Elma sighed. Speaking of, she had more work to do. Discussion over the results of the raid on the Prone base. She stood up, then turned around as a small crystalline tinkle sounded on the ground behind her. The follow ball lay on the ground by her feat. "Oh. I never did return this to Cross" she said as she scooped it up. The glowing core tingled a bit, and there was the faintest of breezes as the hexagonal panels drifted around her hand.
She glared at it. For all Cross seemed enamoured with the device, she couldn't bring herself to trust it. That's what thousands of years of cultural suspicion of ether usage beyond the basics did she supposed. At least it seemed useful. "If only you could help Cross figure out where she's from." Elma muttered.
To her surprise, the spheres glow brightened a little. It rose to her hand, hesitated, then slowly drifted off in the direction of the barracks. "Well, I guess it's not wrong." she chuckled, but in the back of her mind, she couldn't shake the feeling that while it was wavering in the air, before it had east-south-east the barracks, it had, for the briefest of moments, seemed to very deliberately start going north-west instead