"This is an unmitigated disaster! The Zentraedi showing up just as we're trying to broker a peace with these people! Do you know how many there were?"
"We only saw the few ships they had. Only a flag ship, a dozen battleships and patrol ships, and a handful of carriers."
"Why? Why me?" Richard Bailey, a pudgy-looking man past forty as evidenced by his balding and crooked stature dressed in a business suit, paced his office anxiously. Michael stood before him, watching the man get worked up as he paced like an impotently angry lion. "How do we even proceed?!"
"First, we send a message back to Earth with what we found. Hopefully they can send some reinforcements. But until then, we're the cavalry for these people and they need our help."
"But what help can we possibly give them?! We'd need at least a Macross-class ship to take on a Zentraedi fleet, and so far all of the Macross ships are either still being built or are now escorting colony fleets!"
"There is one that we might be able to use." Richard turned and looked at Michael. "The SDF-2 Overlord should be finished being reconstructed on Earth. It's an older model, but-"
"Older nothing! That ship wouldn't make it here in time. What we need to do is to pull out. Yes, that's the most prudent course of action, to leave this sector of space and get back to Earth as soon as possible and let the professionals handle this!" Michael stormed to Richard and grabbed him, almost slamming him into his chair.
"Listen to me, ambassador!" he asserted, Richard looking at him with a sudden visage of fear. "This can work to your advantage."
"How?" he asked in a small voice as Michael smiled.
"Because you'll be the one bringing in the big guns to help the Lylans fight back the Zentraedi. Once that happens, imagine all the doors that would be open to the man who, not only secured an alliance with Lylat, but also earned their eternal gratitude in the process. Doors that could lead, say, to the senate!"
"The senate?" Richard asked, perking up.
"Yes," Michael responded. "And after that…"
"After that...the presidency!" He shot up to his feet as his own imagination worked images of him in the Grand Office, sitting in the literal seat of power as the Sol System, and all its colonies, were in the palm of his hand.
"That's it, Mr. Ambassador!" Michael responded, taking Richard by the arm and embracing him to his side. "When the election rolls around, whom will the people vote, but the man who might very well end the threat of the Zentraedi once and for all?"
"But Michael, how do we get the Overlord here?" Richard asked. Michael looked at him with a knowing smile.
"You can handle that, Mr. Ambassador. You're a powerful, powerful man, able to make things run fast and smooth, if you know the language. I'll get everything set up, and all you have to do is relay the message, word for word, to Earth central. And then, doors will open."
"Alright, I'll do it! I'll get the Overlord here, and then I'll get to the senate!"
"There is one thing, though," Michael replied. Richard looked at him. "The Lylans are asking what we're going to do. How do we respond?"
"Oh, of course." Richard cleared his throat as he remembered. "I want you, your ARMD, and half of the fleet sent to Lylat and provide them with whatever support you can give them until the Overlord can get there."
"Of course, sir."
"So let's see if we got this straight. You talked to the ambassador and he's going to somehow get an SDF into this system, not even going to entertain how he's going to make that pull, and in the meantime the only aid we can give these people in taking their planet back from the Zentraedi is six ships, ours included?"
"In a layman's terms, yes."
"OK, so...do you plan to hold our funeral here in space or sprinkle what's left of our ashes on Earth?" Michael had the Black Knights before him on the bridge of the Lexington as he relayed the ambassador's message and orders to them. As usual, Jack replied with his usual retorts and flippant attitude that belied a genuine sense of concern. Throughout his career in the UN Spacy, he developed a callous, even morbid, sense of humor that some might find to be off-putting. But his personal belief is that if he didn't find the humor in everything, what's to stop him from eating the barrel of his sidearm? Quint and Van on the other hand were silent as they processed the information they were given. Quint with his usual calm and cool calculated mind always rationalizing everything into tiny little compartments for easier, simple, management for the sake of convenience and force of habit. Van, on the other hand, felt his warrior's blood start to burn just a little bit at the thought of facing insurmountable odds once more.
"If you're lucky, maybe both," Michael replied. "Anyway, we're heading to Lylat with half of the fleet, should be there in an hour...ish."
"Ish?" Quint asked.
"Hey, it's not my department to know exactly when we're going to reach somewhere, just to boss you guys around when we get there," Michael replied with a smirk and a shrug.
"As usual, your leadership skills are unparalleled," Jack added.
The Lylat System was a binary star system with a blue giant and a red dwarf orbiting about it, with nine planets orbiting them. The fourth planet, Corneria, is a blue and green world and is the heart of political and military power in the whole system and its surrounding colonies. It has seen uprisings, seditions, and war that nearly tore the system apart and yet it still stands, unbowed. But now, a fleet of alien ships appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Six ships folded close to Corneria, just outside of her orbit. The lead ship, a slightly modified ARMD named the Lexington hovered closer to its atmosphere, almost entering it. However, it stopped just short and a handful of smaller craft exited from the side-mounted hangar along the brick-shaped hull. A winged, angular shuttle flanked by three smaller craft entered Corneria's atmosphere and headed right for Corneria City. The city, the capital of the planet, and the system, resided next to an oceanic body of water and a valley, with views of an ocean and a fertile forest on either side as sky scrapers reached almost a mile tall, smaller office and apartment buildings filling out the rest of the 2 mile square radius of the city. As they got closer, more details could be made out, and it was when they were less than a kilometer above the city that they were able to see its inhabitants clearly, and they were taken aback, at least most of them were. Michael guided the shuttle down and saw on a monitor the inhabitants of the system and saw what they were, taken by surprise by their likeness. His entourage, the Black Knights, felt similarly.
"You guys seeing this?" Jack asked.
"I see it, but I don't believe it," Michael replied.
"They're...they're canines. Bipedal canines," Quint added.
"But how? How the hell could dogs walk upright like this?!" Jack asked, his emotions starting to get the better of him. He, like the others, had heard about the true nature of the Lylans, but to actually see them, to see canines walking and acting like humans, was enough to shock them. "You mean these are what we've been communicating with?!"
"It's not that farfetched when you think about it," Quint replied. "After all, humans started from a simple ape-like ancestor that evolved from lower animals that would become the ancestors of all mammals. Life here simply took a slightly different turn than on Earth."
"Oh yeah? Well take another look, Quint! I see something else walking upright that isn't human or canine! Felines! They have felines as well. And birds! All of them are walking!" Indeed, on their monitors, the group can see the diverse inhabitants of Corneria City, ranging from caniids, to felines, to avians, and some they couldn't recognize. Only Van remained stoic. He had seen the face of the Lylans before, and seeing them now only made him think of one Lylan in particular, and couldn't help but wonder what Krystal was up to.
Meeting with the Lylan military leadership on their home turf was something of a humbling situation for Michael, as well as Van who stood next to him. Both were in the elaborate office of General Pepper himself. The office was at least a hundred feet by fifty, with large paintings of what looked like various spatial phenomena and military vehicles on the walls, while a view took the place of an entire wall behind the general's seat and desk. The general himself was a bloodhound-looking caniid with a typical long snout and jowls, his face starting to take on a weary-looking expression, despite the slight smile he put on for his simian-looking guests. He wore a red military uniform and white gloves, a red cap resting on the desk next to his arm. "So I'm to believe that reinforcements are on their way from Earth?"
"With all speed, general," Michael replied haltingly. "The Zentraedi force occupying your colony-planet cannot be fought with the forces we have here, unfortunately. It'll take at least an SDF-class to put a dent in their numbers."
"Super Dimension Fortress. It's the largest and most powerful warship we have created. We have made only a handful since our dealing with the Zentraedi, but I'm confident we can at least get one out here within a few days. We should find something out by this time tomorrow whether or not it's on its way."
"Excellent. I'm sure that our people on Boran are eagerly awaiting us to rescue them. They can only last for so long in the emergency shelters."
"Uhm, can I ask you something general?" Van interjected. Pepper looked to him curiously, but never losing his smile and while Michael looked to him sharply. "You seem to be taking this quite well. Aren't you worried about your people there?"
"Of course I'm worried. But knowing that I, and by extension we of Corneria and Lylat, have allies willing to aid us in this way makes me feel secure, even confident, in our efforts to take back out colony. Preferably before any more people get hurt."
"I see," Van replied.
"You'll have to excuse him, general. He's not quite used to people acting so...cavalierly during a crisis like this."
"Of course. He's a much focused young man, one who takes his duties seriously." General Pepper rose from his seat and extended a hand to Michael. Well, then captain. Until we receive word from Earth, feel free to browse about our city, and we even have some lodgings set up for your accommodations. Our planet is yours." Michael took the hand with a smile and firm shake.
"Thank you, general. May the news we receive be fortunate, and be the next step in retaking your world."
"I gotta hand it to the Lylans, they do know how to treat their guests." Jack commented, flopping himself onto one of the beds in the hotel room. The room was one of the penthouse suites, provided by the military, that comes with two bedrooms, with two beds each, a den and kitchen area and two bathrooms. "It's like a hotel in Vegas."
"Well don't get too comfortable," Quint replied. "Either the SDF gets here, which is the longest of long shots, or the Zentraedi figure out where the Lylat system is and head directly for here. Either way, we're screwed the moment we have to face them again."
"Even with an SDF on our side, we'd still have little more than a dozen ships to take on a Zentraedi fleet. We don't know how much of their forces are left from the first Space War, for all we know we've only faced a fraction of their full forces. The fact that there are still active Zen operating this close to our solar system makes me nervous."
"You? Nervous?" Jack asked incredulously. He was grabbing for his ruck sack and pulled out a small device, like a laptop, and opened it up. "Since when did you get nervous?"
"Since I saw a Zentraedi fleet set up shop on a planet barely a few light years from here. What do you have there, anyway?" Quint asked.
"Ah, I borrowed some movies from Van…well, more like he copied them and gave them to me. Have you seen his movie collection? Guy's got literally almost every movie ever made on several hard drives."
"One of the aspects of the Zentraedi; their hunger for culture," Quint replied with a shrug. " Maybe we can do to these ones what we did back then."
"You mean the "Minmay Attack"? Wasn't that just a myth?"
"Maybe. When I first heard of it, I thought so. But after seeing Van,"
"Yeah. Maybe we'll hold a film festival and that'll convince them to give up the planet," Jack replied with a smirk.
Corneria City was the kind of city that never slept; its inhabitants were busy during all the hours of the day and night, travelling either by hover-car along the roads or between buildings on unseen lanes, or on foot via sidewalks. Among the crowd, walking among the gaggle of differing life forms was one who did not belong, yet drew no attention to himself, the people already used to seeing alien life. Van walked with a purpose, driven by a compulsion that was implanted into him by that blue woman, the one he met months ago and thought about incessantly since. He thought it gone, just as soon and abruptly as it arrived, but the images and emotions still remained, like a scar upon his mind and heart. What's more, he can feel her presence on this planet, and he homed in on her, to where she was.
The Great Fox lied in dry-dock, receiving maintenance and check-ups of all types, a process that would take, sometimes, a day to perform. As such, the Star Fox team booked at their favorite hotel not far from the space port. While it was not as high-end as those in the heart of the city, it was by no means a rundown-hole-in-the-wall apartment building that had recently been converted into a motel. Krystal was in her room, meditating, when she heard the door chime, rousing her. The bellhop at the door told her that someone was waiting for her in the lobby. Piqued, she headed down to the lavish lobby that was teeming with multiple persons heading to, and leaving, their rooms up and down elevators and flights of stairs. Krystal saw someone at the desk, its back turned to her. Only when she got near did it turn, seeing that it was the human that she met months ago. He also took notice of her and straightened himself as she got closer, feeling uneasy. "Uhm, hi," he said tersely.
"Hello," she replied, leading to a brief awkward silence until Van broke it. "I need to talk to you."
"About you being in my head!" he whispered harshly, gesturing to his temple. Taken aback, she looked about to make sure that no one was watching them before taking him by the arm.
"Come with me."
"I don't understand what your problem is. The effects of the melding have faded away long before now."
"Then why am I still thinking of you?"
"What?" Krystal was brought Van back to her room, thinking it best not to let her teammates know about this, and had lightly placed her fingertips on the sides of his head, lightly melding her mind with his.
"Ever since I met you, I've been thinking of you almost every day. It's starting to get distracting."
"Thought about me, in what way?" she asked, curious.
"I keep on thinking about you, what you might be doing."
"I see," she replied, removing her hands. "Well, it's not because of the mind meld. Have you ever…had a crush?"
"A what?" he asked.
"Have you ever been attracted to someone?"
"Not really, I've figured it would get in the way."
"Of what?" she asked with an incredulous smile.
"My life as a warrior."
"Do all humans think like that?"
"I wouldn't know, I'm half-Zentraedi."
"What?" she replied, surprised. "I thought you were fighting the Zentraedi."
"It's kind of complicated, but a war was fought almost two decades ago, and humans won that war, but it destroyed about seventy percent of Earth, our home. And since Zentraedi and humans are almost completely identical, right down to the genetic makeup, both intermingled and guys like me are made."
"Right, but what does that have to do with you having a crush on me?"
"It doesn't. Again, I think it's from the meld we've had. Zentraedis don't have…"crushes"."
"Right…well as far as I can tell, there are no residual effects from the meld. But, you know what could help with your crush problem?"
"If we got to know each other a little bit better. It's what friends do."
"Friends?" Van asked.
"Yes, friends. You have teammates, right? And I'm sure they know things about you and you know things about them, which is what I'd like to do with you." She took a seat across from him, cross-legged as Van sat on her bed, confused by the sudden turn, and didn't know how to proceed. "How about I start?"
"Ok," Van replied.
"I was born on a planet called Cerinia…