Return of the Earth Defense Force!
Yayoi Schwael smiled as the tall, silver haired woman walked the halls of the rebuild Earth Defense Force wearing a crisp, pseudo-military looking uniform. If pressed the twenty something might concede that the jacket and skirt combo looked a little like something from a anime, but she liked it anyway.
In a very different and much more war-torn Japan Yayoi had been a Core Robot pilot, fighting to protect the world from the RaRa Army. When a injury sidelined her she became a trainer, assisting as the wore progressed, strange new mysteries were uncovered and alien forces unleashed. In the end her world and a more peaceful one were merged together to save both, and she had settled down to be a school teacher. Then the robot came back....
It felt strange being back there in EDF headquarters, what had once been a town hall on this merged Earth. But once the United Nations and Japanese government became aware of the robot Zinv, ancient alien civilizations and the possibility that they might return, the government had immediately taken steps to protect the Earth. Both Professors Ken Sanada and Hiroshi Rara were recruited, and they in turn built what would become the core of the organization and this building along with surrounding lands had become their 'new' headquarters.
The UN had also been given a very classified report on the parallel Earths, one that was not widely circulated beyond the security council. Yayoi had lived and fought on a world with giant robots and precursor aliens, and she occasionally found it hard to believe. So she could certainly understand the higher levels of the UN keeping a lid on the story. However they clearly believed in it enough to let Ken and Hiroshi recruit as many survivors of the other Earth as they could, using them as the core of the new EDF.
Yayoi checked her BlueDrop unit, noting that it was nearly time for her meeting with the UN representative just down the hall. Akane Yamano-Sanada was waiting looking out the window of her office, the black haired older woman dressed in a matching version of the EDF uniform, though her's had a UN patch on the shoulder.
Akane smiled warmly as she turned from the view, "Yayoi, I heard about your perfect test flight of Gunship-One. Congratulations!"
Yayoi blushed slightly at the compliment, but tried to maintain a military manner as she said to her gravely, "Thank you, ma'am."
In the past, Yayoi had been injured piloting a alien based mecha called a Core Robot, suffering a sort of feedback that had rendered her unable to pilot one again. However, the reformed EDF had discovered that the Core Robots and their control system were not rebuild-able by the technology they had available. That was a disadvantage on one hand, but on the other it had allowed Yayoi to return to being a combat pilot again.
"I read your report," Akane noted as she waved the younger woman to a seat and asked, "but what were your impressions?"
Yayoi took a moment to think about the space based combat system that she had taken on a test run a few days ago. "Gunship-One is fast, responsive and as well armed as we can make it with current technology," she told Akane, "The biggest issues I see so far are the main laser overheating and the limited area defense options."
Akane looked at her intently as she asked the critical question, "Could you take a Core Robot?"
"An Earth-based design like the one I piloted, certainly," Yayoi answered her promptly, "but against Zinv? Not a chance."
"That's what I thought," Akane sat back with a sigh. She quietly mused aloud, "The problem we face is that Zinv is the only measuring stick we have against a hypothetical enemy no one knows for sure is out there...."
"Hmm," Yayoi nodded agreement.
"Well," Akane shook her head, "even if no enemy comes, Zinv has helped become a unifying force for humanity. Why, just he and Kazuki alone have helped expand the International Space Station into a real base!"
Zinv was a bit of a blessing and a curse to humanity. While the existence of the giant humanoid alien robot was a constant reminder that there was a powerful alien race out there, Kazuki had set out to use the robot to benefit mankind. He did everything from hauling new defense satellites and technology into orbit to mining and assisting in building Earth based installations. He had even used Zinv to help lead the first human exploration of the solar system, tho admittedly that was mostly due to Ayuko Rara's interference.
"Remind Kazuki he has to take breaks, sometime," Yayoi pointed out gently.
"I'll try," Akane promised, silently acknowledging that Yayoi and Kazuki were no longer close enough for her to do so.
Once upon a time, Yayoi had thought she was madly in love with Kazuki Yotsuga, whom when she met him was just sixteen. He had come upon her when Yayoi had been injured piloting her Core Robot, and had taken the pilot seat to save her. What had followed was what Yayoi now knew was a incredible infatuation with her rescuer, coupled with shock over her loss of her purpose in life. She became practically a stalker over several months, even past the merging of worlds. Finally both Akane and Ken had called her on her actions, and eventually Yayoi got a grip on herself. She broke off her chasing of the boy and turned her attention to regaining her pilot license.
Yayoi smiled wryly, "How is dealing with Ayuko Rara going?"
Akane groaned dramatically, making Yayoi smile. "I suppose it could be worse," she smiled, "the woman could have a official job in the EDF and drive me nuts all the time. As it is she sticks her nose in everywhere she can unofficially as well as bothering her husband."
"She is a trifle controlling," Yayoi agreed. In fact the woman was a power mad bitch, in Yayoi's opinion, but she couldn't say that aloud.
"And a master at nibbling away at other people's power," Akane nodded. "But I think I've got her out of the critical areas. I just wish I knew if we could trust the Rara staff we absorbed."
In part because the EDF needed all the expert help it could get they had recruited many loyalists from the former Rara army. While they were certainly quite skilled they had started out with a primary loyalty to Rara, and there had been more than one clash with original EDF members.
"I don't think you have too much to worry about," Yayoi offered, "the former Rara army types are fiercely loyal to Mitsuki Rara more than anyone, and she is firmly behind the EDF."
"True," Akane brightened up a bit at that. She reached across the desk and shook Yayoi's hand as she said, "Thanks for seeing me. You're on break next?"
"I have a few days off," Yayoi admitted, "assuming nothing interesting goes wrong with D and Mitsuki Sanada's testing of Firefight-One and Armor-One."
"Then go enjoy them," Akane practically shooed her out of the office.
As Yayoi headed out of the office, she mused how the pilot corps had been almost evenly split between old school EDF and RaRa forces. There was her, Mitsuki and D, then from the other side there was Alice Sharome, Mena Fitzgerald and Ryla Phoenix. Despite the rivalry between their groups Yayoi had grown to like the three of them, even finding them good company.
The three were also unrepentant matchmakers, and once they found out Yayoi was just getting over a breakup, they decided to find her a date. Alice, Mena and Ryla had arranged several blind dates until Yayoi refused to go out with them any more, and then they started arranging 'chance' meetings in the base cafeteria. Of course, the match they made wasn't what anyone had planned....
The cafeteria was placed so that the afternoon sun could shine through the windows, and it's simple beauty and comfortable atmosphere helped explain it's popularity. Of course, another reason was the head of cafeteria services and chief cook, Mitsuki Rara.
"Oh, no," Yayoi balked as her three fellow pilots lead her to the table. She stopped cold as she growled, "You said you weren't going to do this again."
"He's a really nice guy," Ryla tried to urge her forward but Yayoi was not budging.
"And he works in flight engineering," Alice added, "you'll have lot to talk about!"
"Damn it," Yayoi blurted loud enough to stop conversations all over the cafeteria, "I said no!" Realizing they were the center of attention Yayoi dropped her voice as she continued steadily, "Look, I know you are only trying to help, but I'm not ready. Now go send you friend home because I plan to eat my lunch alone."
Mena tried to put a hand on her arm, "I'm sorry, just wait a minute and we'll send him off."
Pushing by all three of them Yayoi said flatly, "You might as well enjoy his company, because I meant it." Feeling everyone's eyes on her Yayoi got in line and collected her meal, walking over to one of the two seat tables at the side of the room.
Yayoi managed to eat about half her food when a shadow appeared in her peripheral vision. Looking up she saw Mitsuki Rara, who was giving her a apologetic smile. "Can I join you?" the beautiful brown haired woman asked gently.
It was very hard, Yayoi found, to be angry or resentful with Mitsuki. The woman was almost the personification of 'Yamato Nadesico' the perfect woman of Japan, from her sweet disposition and caring manner to her cooking and household skills. And she was so genuinely modest that you couldn't resent those qualities either.
"Sure," Yayoi sighed, "take a seat."
Mitsuki sat down, wearing a staff uniform rather than the combat variation Yayoi wore. She could have been a pilot, having fought on both sides of the war, but she had always been a unwilling fighter. She drank some of the tea she was carrying and put the cup down as she asked, "They weren't that annoying, were they?"
Yayoi drank her own tea as she fought back a sigh. "They've taken me out on ten blind dates, until I put my foot down about it last week," she told her patiently.
"Oh, dear," Mitsuki sighed.
Yayoi continued on relentlessly, "And after I refused to go on any more dates they started to arrange 'coincidental' lunch meetings with various available guys." She nodded to where the trio were talking to the bewildered fellow, "He's the fifth one this week."
Mitsuki looked rather sheepish as she noted, "I hadn't realized it was that bad." She reached out and patted Yayoi's hand as she told her, "I'll talk to them."
Yayoi smiled wryly as she told her, "You don't have to do that."
"The name 'Miss RaRa' still carries some weight," Mitsuki told her with some amusement, "they'll listen I think."
"Thanks," Yayoi told her sincerely. They sat there a moment as she ate, then Yayoi asked, "How have things been going with you? I know it must be strange being back in the EDF again."
"I like it," Mistuki smiled charmingly, "as long as I stay out of my mother's way."
"We all satay out of your mother's way," Yayoi joked, making the younger woman laugh. Conversation flowed easily between them, and Yayoi was stunned to finally notice the cafeteria was almost deserted. "I'm sorry, I held you up," Yayoi stood, smiling shyly.
"It's all right," Mitsuki reassured her as she stood too. "I enjoyed talking with you," she added as Yayoi rushed off, late for a test run.
Later that evening Mitsuki apparently had a talk with the three pilots, since all of them apologized to Yayoi and promised not to do it again. There was a pleasant surprise at lunch that day as Mitsuki joined them, but her conversation was mostly focused on Yayoi. Lunch, dinner, sometimes other times but every day Yayoi and Mitsuki tried to get together, enjoying each others company.
It took a while for Yayoi to realize that Mitsuki wasn't just being friendly, that the kindly woman had romantic intentions towards her. Like Yayoi Mitsuki had chased Kazuki, and also like her had been rescued by the young man. It seemed she had recovered from the crush sooner that Yayoi had, and rather unlike her 'twin' Mitsuki Sanada her interests now lay in a different direction.
Bringing her mind back to the present Yayoi smiled as she walked into the cafeteria. Sweeping the place with her eyes Yayoi saw the brown haired woman smiling at her from what had become their usual table, hurrying over at top speed.
"Yayoi," Mitsuki smiled sweetly as she hugged her, "you're back."
Mitsuki had been raised by Ayuko and Hiroku Rara, and while Hiroku had been a good man, mostly, Ayuko had been a monster. Ayuko manipulated her daughter into becoming 'Miss RaRa' symbol of the RaRa Army, controlled her and even brainwashed her at one point. That Mitsuki had emerged from all that as a sweet, kind girl was some kind of miracle.
"I've missed you," Yayoi agreed as she gently kissed her on the cheek, making Mitsuki blush.
Mitsuki pulled Yayoi into sitting, taking her hands as she leaned across the table. "If you had been much longer," she murmured, "I was going to shuttle up to the station and see you."
"There would have been a revolt down here after the first meal without you," Yayoi predicted with a warm laugh.
"Maybe I should threaten Commander Sanada," Mitsuki said with a shy smile, "if I don't see you regularly, he doesn't eat."
"Don't you dare!" Yayoi giggled. They were so comfortable together Yayoi often forgot they had fought each other and competed over the same man. She tried to remind herself that it was another lifetime ago, literally. "Do you want to go out when you're off?" she offered gently.
"Yes," Mitsuki squeezed her hands gently then let them go. She smiled, "Actually, dinner is basically ready to go. Would you like to sneak out now?"
"Please," Yayoi said as they both stood up.
My basic assumption is that the major players from Dual still remember both worlds before the merger. Mitsuki and Kazuki certainly seem too, and Ken Sanada and his wife also recall. It might also be that they were at ground zero of the reality change, but eh....
I'm trying not to use real product names, so BlueDrop is the local Blackberry.
The Kazuki/Yayoi relationship: I've always felt it was a rather unhealthy one for her, and that she was bordering on stalking the kid. It didn't surprise me when Ken Sanada didn't do anything about her as he was a VERY casual boss, but I was surprised Akane didn't take steps.