Lisa watched intently at the screen while the fighter scouts surveyed the planet. She could hear the pleased reactions of her crew around her. It was like they were looking at Earth once again, the one before being devastated by the Robotech War.
"Can you believe it?" one of the bridge staff asked out loud, reflecting everyone else's sentiments.
"Is this going to be our new home?" another one asked casually.
With that question, Lisa snapped out of her dazed state. She realized that this could turn into a problem once word got out. She had to minimize the impact of this discovery and had to act quickly.
"It's beautiful," a familiar voice said beside her. "I can't believe there's one like our home way out here."
She turned to look into the familiar blue eyes and saw the same longing in them that she knew she and all who have seen it so far have. But she needed to be the pragmatic one so she asked the scouts to return to the ship. She heard the collective disappointed groans of her crew and assured them that as soon as they can determine the viability of life on the planet, they'd see more of it. That seemed to suffice for the moment.
"What's the matter?" Rick asked as he followed Lisa to her office.
"This can become a problem," she pointed out to him.
"It could jeopardize our mission," she explained. "Once word gets out about this, I'm afraid people might want to stay here and abandon ship. I don't think I can blame them. Who knows how long before we find the Robotech Masters' home planet."
"You're thinking too far ahead," he said, trying to dispel her fear. "I think many of the crew and civilians still believe in our mission." He moved next to her and gave her shoulder a quick squeeze. "This may look like home but it isn't. We all know that."
Lisa looked up and smiled in appreciation of Rick's support.
"Is it true?" Emil asked excitedly as he entered the room with Cindy hot on his tail.
Lisa tilted her head to let Cindy know that it was okay. She watched her ever dependable assistant give Emil a quick disapproving look before returning to her desk.
"Oh great, word's already spreading," she said, exasperated by the speed news was getting around.
"So it's true then," Emil insisted, ignoring her evident concern.
"You can study the samples they gathered when the team returns," she conceded, trying not to quash his enthusiasm. "You can tell me what you learn from it as soon as you can. And Emil, please keep this on a need to know first. I can't afford having a mass exodus of people wanting to settle on the planet just yet."
"I can't believe it either!" Emil exclaimed. "It's all artificial; nothing is sustainable on the planet."
Lisa and Rick took turns looking at Emil's microscope to confirm his findings. He had explained that nothing on the planet could sustain life because nothing would grow on its soil to replenish what was currently there.
"Who would go to such lengths to create this?" Rick wondered.
"Maybe it was one of the Robotech Masters' experiments," Exedore speculated as he moved forward to peer through the lenses. "Or maybe a ploy to lure us into a trap."
Lisa considered both possibilities, too, and she concluded that the latter would be more logical. The Robotech Masters must have anticipated that they would survive the war and attempt to reach their home world. This appeared to be a ploy to slow them down. She must admit that it would've worked if they hadn't done their due diligence and controlled the dissemination of the news.
"I think we should explore it a bit more," Emil suggested. "We may find some clues as to what they intended to achieve with it."
"Is this edible?" Miriya looked at the berry between her fingers. Knowing that things were artificial, she wondered how it could look and feel so real. When she squeezed the berry, its juices flowed down her fingers.
"They are edible," Emil assured her. "But once all these are consumed, we can't reproduce them." They all scanned the abundant food source and agreed silently that it would only sustain them for a limited time.
"It looks too good to be true," Lisa noted quietly.
"But just for a short time, it was a glimpse of home," Rick said. He gathered some yellow flowers and offered them to her. He was rewarded for his sweet gesture by her beautiful smile.
"We should head back," she said, noting that they hadn't learned much after several hours there.
"Shouldn't we at least harvest the food?" Miriya asked, not wanting to pass on a good opportunity.
Before Lisa could respond, the ground started to shake violently.
"Earthquake?" Emil noted in disbelief.
The group started to run towards the clearing where they left the Veritechs. But before they reached them, the ground shook more violently and a sinkhole appeared in front of Rick. He quickly reacted by reaching out to Lisa who was in front of him but only caught air.
"Lisa," he called after her as she disappeared into the hole. Their companions ahead of them stopped only to watch helplessly.
Lisa woke up to the sound of a steady drip of water near her. She opened her eyes and after acclimating to the dark, she realized she was in a small room. She tried to find the door and jumped back when it opened and a faceless androgynous being came in.
"Who are you?" she demanded. "Where am I? Where are my companions?" With each question her anger grew and she prepared to fight her way out.
"Your companions have gone," the being replied, surprising Lisa by speaking with ease in her language.
"They wouldn't leave without me," she countered.
"They would if they don't know you are still here," was the being's blunt reply. It pointed to a screen that began playing surveillance video of when they arrived on the planet until the team left with her doppelganger.
"What have you done?" she asked, tears streaming down her face.
"My mission was to replace you." With those final words, the being collapsed to the ground lifeless.
"Why?" she asked, shaking the lifeless being to no avail. She knew it was useless and tried her best to get herself together. She needed to find a way to get back to the SDF-3, her home and her family.
"Lisa!" Rick yelled out her name as he helped lower Miriya into the sink hole. He was glad that she had the presence of mind to quickly run to her VT to get ropes to launch a rescue. He could barely see Lisa but instinctively knew that Miriya would soon reach her and get her out.
"Ready!" Miriya hollered after securing Lisa to the harness.
Rick, Emil and another soldier pulled with all their might to get both women back up. When Rick saw that Miriya was on stable ground, he ran over to Lisa's unconscious form and held her hand.
"Nothing looks broken," Emil said with cursory inspection.
Lisa began to stir and she opened her eyes. She gave Rick her signature smile before he helped her to her feet and hugged her. He gave her a quick kiss before stepping back to look her over.
"What happened?" she asked, still a bit dazed from the incident.
"You fell through a hole," Miriya answered for Rick.
As if to remind them of the planet's volatility, it began to rumble again.
"Let's get off of this planet," Lisa suggested and they all ran to their awaiting VTs.
"Mommy!" both kids shouted with glee as they ran towards her in the flight deck when they landed. The kids let go of Cindy's hands as soon as they saw her.
Lisa turned around and awkwardly looked at the two kids staring up at her.
"Mommy had a small fall," Rick explained when he noticed that she hesitated instead of kneeling to hug the kids like she usually does. He then lifted Roy and tried to hand him to her but the little boy refused to reach out to her.
"Daddy, mommy looks different," Risse complained. "She's not the same."
"That's probably because she fell through a sink hole and is still a bit shaken," he explained, handing Roy to Cindy instead.
"What's a sink hole, daddy?" the little girl inquired and tugged at his sleeve.
"It's a hole on the ground Risse," he answered. "Why don't we give mommy some time to get a shower and we can all go for ice cream later ok?" He quickly motioned for Cindy to take the kids away.
"Are we going to the bridge?" Lisa asked.
"No, let's go home first," he answered then led her to their quarters.
"Rick, I really think I should go to the bridge and check on things," Lisa said as she came out of the shower.
"I'm sure they'll manage without you," Rick assured her from the living room. "Besides, I think you need to rest after that fall."
"I'm fine," she insisted joining him in the living room. She was surprised to see Jean there with him.
"I think I'll be the better judge of that," Jean said with a smile as she gave Lisa a quick hug.
"What are you doing here?"
"Oh, you know Rick; he's always worried about you. Besides, I think you're overdue for a physical."
Lisa's eyes widened as she watched Jean prepare the needle to draw blood from her arm.
"Do you want me to hold your hand?" Rick offered with a knowing smile.
"Why can't I go to the bridge?" Lisa complained to Rick after days of idyllic living on the ship.
"Doctor's orders," he reminded her. "Besides, don't you like spending time with me, alone?"
"Of course I do," she assured him. "But this ship can't run itself."
"Don't you worry about a thing; we've got it all under control. Just relax for once."
Lisa sat on the sofa with a pout on her face that made Rick wished she was her old self.
Their domestic bliss was occasionally interrupted by Jean who came to do more tests which she said was necessary before she could be cleared for bridge duty. Lisa anxiously awaited to get the all-clear to get back to work.
Lisa stared at the bunch of berries she had collected on a large leaf and wondered how much longer she could survive. After learning that she had been replaced by her clone, she had tried fruitlessly to find a way to contact the SDF-3. All the while she knew that the being was right, she wouldn't be missed because of her replacement. The tears fell freely now as she realized that although the planet couldn't sustain the SDF-3 for long, it could sustain her indefinitely. She saw the irony in her situation; she wasn't going to starve to death but she was all alone on the planet. She wished that the Robotech Masters had at least created a companion like a puppy for her. But that made her think of Rick when he stood her up on their date. It was then that she began to sob because she missed him the most.
Not expecting anyone around, Lisa hadn't paid attention to the sound around her. If she had, she would have recognized the distinct noise of VTs landing not far from her. Instead she was startled when she heard branches breaking when two figures approached her. She instinctively grabbed a piece of wood and got ready to defend herself. As one of the figures loomed closer, she raised the wood to swing only to have it pulled away from behind her. She turned around ready to punch but instead came face to face with Miriya.
"Miriya!" she exclaimed in disbelief.
"Hello Lisa," she greeted with a cool smile. "I can't let you smack him with this." She dropped the wood to the ground and tilted her head toward the duo that just arrived.
Lisa couldn't believe her eyes. There he was standing with a big smile with his arms wide open waiting for her to run into them. She hesitated, wondering if her mind wasn't just playing tricks on her.
"Go on," Miriya nudged her. "We're really here." Her firm push confirmed for Lisa that she wasn't imagining things.
"I can't believe it," Lisa said between soft sobs in Rick's warm embrace. "You're really here."
"Yeah, we're really here to take you home," Rick assured her. After she calmed down, he gave her a sweet kiss that made up for all the days they've been apart.
"I think we should be going," Miriya suggested, interrupting their reunion.
Rick agreed with a nod and took Lisa's hands in his to lead her to his VT.
"What about her?" Miriya asked, reminding him of Lisa's clone.
"I'm sure she'll figure out how to survive here," Rick declared angrily. "It's what she expected Lisa to do."
"Rick, that's harsh," Lisa warned, showing compassion that surprised everyone including herself.
"I don't care," Rick said unwavering in his resolve.
"You need not worry," the clone began to say. "I have failed in my mission. Failure was not an option." With one step, she crumpled to the ground lifeless.
Miriya bent down to confirm and shook her head. She was baffled that a being could be engineered for one purpose and gives its life up when it failed. She was glad that she has learned better from her friends.
Lisa luxuriated in the bath that Rick drew up for her. She let the water melt away all the anxiety that had built up during the time she was away. She closed her eyes and willed all the bad memories away so she can move on.
"Lisa, what do you want for dinner?" Rick asked as he opened the bathroom door.
"You're cooking?" she inquired with a knowing smile.
"Unless you want pancakes for dinner," he shot back with a matching smile.
"I'll eat anything; anything but berries," she corrected herself. When Rick gave her a quizzical look, she explained how she subsisted on berries and was tired of them.
"Alright then, pancakes with no berries whatsoever," he declared and gave her a quick kiss. "Now it's my turn, welcome home."