Disclaimer: I do not own Robotech or its characters. This fan fiction was written for entertainment purposes only. No infringement is intended.

Love looms in times of war

Chapter 20


Luckily for Scott, the time between his mother requesting the mysterious woman to come in and it actually happening was short. He tried to remain calm, lest a beep from a vital signs monitor prevent the meeting. All he had wanted since he woke was to see Ariel.

But, to his surprise -and continued quiet monitoring- the woman who had waited each day outside of this room was not the Invid. He should have known.

Grace Hopkins blushed and shrank under his parents' scrutiny. It was just curiosity, Scott knew, but his mother's stare never failed to intimidate. Dana grinned and herded the older Sterlings out of her convalescing brother's room.

Finally, Grace's eyes descended on him. She looked relieved once the others left and even managed a tiny smile.


"Commander, I'm glad to see you awake."

Scott was silent, ordering his thoughts took longer than he wished. He didn't expect Grace Hopkins to be his visitor and she didn't fail to notice his discomfort.

"This is a bad time, I should go," she said.

"No, no, it's fine," he replied and they fell silent.

"I guess this has taken both of us by surprise," she restarted.

"It has, I'm sorry. I'm glad to see you, Lieutenant," he spoke, "thank you for all you did." She nodded, bit her lip and kept quiet.

"I owe you..." he started again.

"No, you don't. Not really," she said. "Look, Scott," she sighed. "What I did," she paused, "it was my duty. I might have thought otherwise at some points, but I know differently now."

"General Grant was here, I know what happened. You tracked them day and night, alone, risked yourself. You went beyond your duty," he said.

"Maybe," she conceded, "but it was the right thing to do. Besides, wouldn't you have done the same for a friend?" She left it at that and he understood. She came closer slowly, then she offered him her hand; he shook it. After, she hugged him gently and he held her too. The it wouldn't have worked, went unsaid.

"I know who you care about," she whispered. "She survived," Grace assured him. "She's fine."

"Thank you," he said softly, deeply relieved for the first time since regaining consciousness.

Cooper heard the guards coming for her.

"Take the prisoner for questioning," said one. "Admiral's orders"

Opportunity, you have come! Lorna thought and she precisely mapped the route in her mind.

She remained calm and apathetic as the guards undid her bindings. She was quiet as they hoisted her up and re-bound her wrists behind her back. The guards flanked her. She walked across the room and out the thick doors.

Outside, amidst two other guards, was Isabel Iskandar. Handy, she thought as guards and prisoners walked in a tight unit and had to suppress her glee from showing. Flashier too, she continued to savor her plans.

Unbeknownst to her guards, Lorna carefully morphed her hands, they shriveled as if boneless, rendering her restraints useless. Who knows, maybe I'll manage to throw Hayes Hunter or Grant in as a bonus! But she didn't want to get too far ahead of herself.

Lorna knew the base well. Once inside the isolated interrogation room it would be too late. She had seconds to act while she stood at the threshold of her destination.

With no regards to her current body, Lorna Cooper made a show of inhuman strength. She backed up violently onto the guard closest to her and removed his gun from his hands. His companion shot her, and while the impact did slow her down a fraction, she still blasted away with the stolen gun. Isabel Iskandar was at close range.

Lorna's eyes searched for Hayes Hunter. Wouldn't it be a blow to the humans if their beloved leader just died? Oh yes, it would! Yet, the admiral's guards reacted and shot Cooper over and over again. She fired and several fell, but she did not reach her intended second target. Even with her unnatural strength her body finally succumbed.

"Medic!" a voice called as Iskandar's and Cooper's unmoving bodies lay on the floor. Cooper had been shot repeatedly, as was her intention. Her blood pooled and seeped under the porous floor right in front of the entrance of the interrogation room.

It was emerald green.

Over gasps and stunned silences, Lorna Cooper's body started to shrivel as it emptied.

Free, she thought as she scurried away beyond her captors' reach.

Since Ariel woke up, the Invid finally had a conduit to communicate with the Regess. Even though all Invid shared a link with their mother, those links were not equally attuned. Ariel, as the first stage five Invid, possessed the strongest link among them. But knowing the risk of igniting the Regess' ire, Ariel had taken care of lessening the animosity between surviving Invid and their former allies before contacting her mother. She stressed the efforts a lot of humans did to save and restore them. Her attempts to paint the situation fairly met with success and even some Invid, those with stronger human attachments, chose to remain. She had been meeting those Invid for several days, to aussage their doubts or simply support them.

Will you be joining us? Telduint asked.

Not at this time, Ariel replied and sensing he was about to argue, made her determination known to him. Previous to their meeting, she had been busy writing to her friends on earth. She has just finished reading their letters and watching a holovid of Rook and Rand's little girl. Just the memory made her happy and a little unguarded with her thoughts. She couldn't bear the idea of not ever seeing them again some day. Telduint felt it.

Sooner or later they will turn on us, on you. Their kind can't be trusted, Telduint insisted, but without much force. He realized the futility of his efforts.

He turned to leave and the door opened to show another visitor waiting.

Telduint, Ariel called, stopping him, please don't spark the Regess' ire. We have lost enough, she pleaded.

She sensed Telduint considering her words, but then he resumed walking. Be safe Ariel, was his goodbye.

Likewise, she wished. For a moment, she looked at the pictures on the table. But remembering someone was waiting, she looked up to greet the person.

It was Lieutenant Grace Hopkins.

"Invid!?" Miriya went rigid and Max, who sat next to his wife, immediately put his hand on her back. Slowly he rubbed circles on it. It never failed to calm her, but it had to be done very subtly.

Scott knew his Zentraedi mother wouldn't be pleased, but Dana had convinced him that the sooner the cat was out of the bag, the better. Now, he was beginning to doubt it. It was too soon to tell them and it was too much. His face fell. One more disappointment, he thought and almost voiced it. Scott missed the look that passed between Max and his wife.

His mother reached out to touch and comfort him.

"You caught me by surprise, my son," she said taking a deep breath. "If you are as much in love with this woman as it appears, she must be something special."

"She is, mother."

"Then I will be happy to meet her and know her better," she said. Miriya Sterling was not going to allow anything to get in the way of having her son back in her life. It was time to close rifts, not to open new ones.

"A the moment we are not exactly in friendly terms. But I hope in time, I'll be able to introduce her to you both as such."

It warmed Miriya and Max's hearts to see their son spirits lifted.

"Can you tell us about her? What is her name?" Max asked.

"Ariel," Scott provided.

"And she's pretty," Dana offered jovially. She appeared along with Angelo Dante and seemingly in a very good mood. Angelo politely greeted all present.

"Well, I'm glad your announcement is all out of the way, little brother. Feels good, doesn't it?"

Scott snorted. "You have no idea. But where were you guys? A little late for lending support, don't you think?" Scott said but he was smiling, he was too happy for serious recriminations to his sister.

"Well, I'm a busy girl, Scott. I haven't been laying around off duty on account of recovering or something like that," she stuck her tongue out. Dante chuckled.

"So, sweetheart, it's been a day for announcements, "Max decided to intervene. "When are you going to make yours, I wonder?" He eyed his daughter and Angelo Dante amusedly. That comment and those looks turned Miriya's head in Dante's direction. Her gaze morphed instantaneously from a mildly interested one into a full critical examination. He straightened up.

"Daaaad," Dana whined. "Can you believe him, Angie? The nerve!"

"Actually, sweetheart, I have been wondering the same thing..." Dante teased.

"Angelo Dante! Don't encourage him!" Dana laughed, but didn't fail to notice the look in Angelo's eyes. He was dear to her, and he was good for her. Yes, maybe an announcement of their own would follow shortly.

"Careful what you wish for, Angie, " she said, but instead of the trademark smirk that would have followed a comeback like that, she gave him an honest smile.

"My God, I haven't recovered enough for this," complained Scott.

Dana threw a pillow at her brother.

"Children!" that was Miriya.

The sound of her heels as she walked was met with silence. The last stretch of hallway leading to her destination was empty. Lisa liked her privacy. Security was very strict, but she had crossed the last checkpoint. With each step she took a breath. She left behind her work and its crises, a myriad complaints and decisions that awaited her; she forgot alien paranoia and war nightmares. Then the door opened in front of her and she crossed it, feeling lighter.

"Good evening, Admiral."

"Good evening, nurse Romero," she replied. "How were things today?"

"Very peaceful, Admiral. All continues to evolve well." Lisa nodded.

"I'll take over, Flora. Get some rest," Lisa smiled.

"See you tomorrow, Admiral," Flora said.

Lisa Hayes hummed a tune as she went around the room. She took of her jacket and put down her work pad. She quietly got off her heels and felt much more comfortable. She fiddled with the light settings until she was satisfied. "You always told me that you love it when I hum to myself," she told the man on the bed as she moved to check the room's temperature controls. Lowering the current setting by half a degree she added, "that should be perfect, love. I know you prefer the room temperature on the fresh side," she smiled.

But he remained still, sleeping peacefully. Lisa could see the gentle movement of his chest with each breath he took. All by himself, she mused. Where she should have been discouraged and broken at his lack of response, she felt hopeful. He was out of danger, now he just had to recover. She sat on the sofa bed that had become her home away from home. Jean had it moved closer to Rick's bed. Lisa held his hand. It was big in hers and not that cold. All will be well, my love, she thought.

"I'm here, Rick," she told him and squeezed his hand lightly. "I need you," she added. At first she thought she had imagined it. Then she felt it again. Lightly, barely, Rick squeezed her hand back.

"Dr. Einsler, what news do you have?"

"General, it's all very preliminary, but a few things have been ruled out."

With Karl Reed's demise, Mars Base was using the brilliance of Dr. Enisler, rescued from the SDF-3, on the quest to unravel the mystery of Lorna Cooper's curious aftermath and rather familiar colored blood. The doctor showed Vince Grant his team's work on a video screen.

"This here is a tissue sample from Lorna Cooper's days at the academy," Einsler showed. "100% human," he explained. "Now, this one here is Invid tissue sample," he pointed to another graph. "This third one was recovered from the remains of Captain Cooper."

"Those last two are very similar," concluded Vince.

"Yes, but not identical," the scientist superimposed the images."See the marker here and the one here?" Vince nodded. "The tissue on the second Cooper's sample is not Invid, it's synthetic. The captain, or her replacement, I'd say, was created. "

"This thing was produced?"

"Yes General, and what's worse, there might be more of them."

Around them, planets and stars shone behind the transparent dome cover of an observation platform. They were alone.

"You stayed... why?"

"I have my reasons," she said trying to keep calm. "They are not what you're thinking," she added at the intent look he gave her.

"And what am I thinking?" For a moment Scott wondered if Ariel could actually read his mind.

"What you are probably thinking." She turned away from him. I can do this, she told herself, just like she had repeated in her head after she finally accepted meeting him for something other than strictly work-related issues. She understood that they needed to feel at ease with each other in order to work together. She wanted to show him that she could behave with professionalism, no matter what happened with both their personal lives.

"I saw lieutenant Hopkins," she said.

He cleared his throat. "Oh..."

"We had a conversation," she said. Mostly one sided, she thought. He loves you, Grace had said bluntly. You can't leave, the human had added and earnestly tried to persuade Ariel -who wasn't planning to leave at all- to remain on Mars. During her speech, Grace had also revealed Scott's true parentage. Half Zentraedi! Ariel was still shocked; a lot of things started to make more sense, and yet, she realized, another great obstacle existed between Scott and her. Why are you telling me all this? Ariel had asked. Do Invid believe in Karma? Grace had said and then left Ariel to contemplate her words.

"But that doesn't really matter," The Invid told Scott. That's not good, he thought. "What matters is that she seems to care a lot about you -"

Is she trying to give her blessing? Scott thought. That's is definitely not good.

"- and to be a very nice human."

"Hmmm, yes... I have learned to appreciate Grace," he said. "She saved my life."

"I heard," but she wasn't looking at him.

"There' s nothing more than friendship between Grace and I," he told her prompting her to look back at him. "She knows my feelings always belonged to someone else," he elaborated but stopped short of voicing the "to you" that was on the tip of his tongue.

The confirmation of Hopkin's revelations scared away Ariel's speech. It must be true. Sticking to her original plan would be difficult.

"Why did you stay Ariel?" he asked again.

"I told you I wanted to help end the war. I meant it. I'm here to protect earth," she sounded convinced, yet...

Earth was visible among the silent stars in front of them. "So you're staying to protect it..." he said, looking at the blue planet. Among other things, she thought but just nodded.

"My friends... Our friends are there," she said.

"I miss them," he told her.

"Rand and Rook had a baby girl. I have pictures," she told him.

"I'd love to see them," he said, she offered to forward them.

Conversation was at a standstill again.

"I wanted to say that I'm very sorry about the friends you lost, about Uld," he told her. He might have hated Uld's guts for a while, but Scott was grateful for what the Invid did for Ariel.

She nodded. The memory of Uld's sacrifice intruded painfully. Uld had sacrificed himself for her to live, and she couldn't but feel the weight of it. "About what you saw-" she choked. "It was not like that... We weren't..."

"I'm very sorry." He moved her towards him and was surprised when she did not resist. He hugged her. "You don't need to explain," he whispered.

She cried. Her tears were for Uld, for Koreen, for Scott and for herself too. "It's not your fault," she said. "You did all you could to help all of us." He held on until she calmed. "Uld… " she whispered while nested in his arms. " I couldn't return his feelings."

He brought his face to hers. "Look at me Ariel," he said and gently caressed her cheek. "I know it is too late. I have no right, after what I did and the things I said to you, but I have to tell you this. I was mad that you put yourself in danger," he started. "From the moment I left you with Lunk and Annie, I just wanted you safe, away from battles and death. Imagining you happy and protected kept me sane all these months. When I saw you here, that hope went away. I wanted to protect you at all costs but I was worried and pushed you away. And you almost died."

She remained silent while she relished the comfort he was giving her and slowly let herself relax in his arms. They stayed like that for some time.

"I read your letter," she revealed after a while.

"I wasn't sure you ever would. When did you read it?" he asked softly.

"Just before I got implanted."

If her reading it was a good or a bad thing, he was not sure. He was sure, however, that his feelings had since become much clearer. "I wrote it because I thought I'd never see you again," he said.

"I know," she gently caressed his arm. Her gesture was soothing.

"If I had to do it all over again -" She stilled. "- I would not let myself cling to hate, I'd let myself love again, sooner."

She burrowed deeper into him. It felt good to be this close, this calm with him. Professional intentions be dammed.

"If you let me," he paused. "I will make it up to you, Ariel, I promise," he said.

"I'm planing to let you", she told him lastly.

70R[\]4 examined her new body. She extended her consciousness and felt all her circuits working in the proper order. Mechanical perfection she was. No needs, no feelings, no sensation. It was relieving to be free. Yet, deep in the recesses of her new robotic processing units, she would miss that organic shell she had left behind.

"You seem distracted," 71S3|| addressed her.

"Merely assessing the new me." After a bit, "so, are your operatives in place?"

"Exactly as planned," was the reply.

Were she still organic, 70R[\]4 would have smiled.

The end.