Eighty Eight Miles Per Hour
Chapter Ten

by Jared Ornstead
aka Lionheart
aka Skysaber


As far as I can tell, the entire Robotech series is up on youtube, put up by Manga Entertainment, which makes me guess they are the current holders of the copyright.

You can probably learn all you want to for context of this story by watching the first twenty minute episode, even the first three minutes will show you all you need to know about the ship I describe here. Just do a search for "Robotech Boobytrap" it should be top of the list.

I'd post a link but is nuts about stripping those out.


There came a beep as the bulkhead door swished open, announcing the entrance of a guest. Doc looked up from his work to see Willow standing there dressed in the uniform of one of the SDF-1's bridge officers.

She smirked as she gave him a sharp salute.

"Everything alright there, Doc?"

The older man who had once been Xander smiled. "Just fine, Willow. How go preparations for your wedding?"

"To tell you the truth, I think Xander, my Xander that is, is still a bit amazed we are getting married," the young bridge officer told the man as she gracefully took a seat at his dining room table, opposite the half he had carpeted with papers. She appropriated his carafe of hot cocoa and filched a clean cup, pouring herself a dose of the delicious beverage. After blowing over the cocoa and taking her first sip, she told him, "But really, though my body doesn't look it thanks to those mushrooms, I just hit thirty. And, well, at a certain point in a girl's life she wants a little stability."

Doc nodded along, saying nothing, but doing the math in his own head; she'd been sixteen at the start of their little journey through dimensions. Then add on to that the one year training disaster under Genma Saotome where the girl had fled from the man's verbal abuse and gone off to play Catwoman. Five years more training under Genma's girl-side clone learning the Anything Goes fighting style. Another five years under the Amazons getting her flaws and weaknesses introduced under that tutelage trained back out of her again, then now five more years graduating the Robotech Academy as a bridge officer.

All that added up in his mind to a round thirty-two. But he supposed, even going back to the Ranma universe to partake of mushrooms that reduced their physical age, Willow was a girl and those were not above lying about how old they were.

Especially when it came down to things like dating and marriage.

"Say, I've been meaning to ask," Willow bubbled, now having finished half her cocoa. "The layout of this ship is nothing like the version of it I snuck through in the future. Do you know why that is?"

"Certainly," Doc smiled, laying aside the latest plans he'd been working on. Leaning forward, he placed his elbows on the table and laced his fingertips together. "First a brief history of the ship is in order. Originally, in *this* timeline, in a far distant galaxy three alien races went to war. Race One, the Zentraedi, were the first to show up here on Earth, but they are simply cloned giants developed as super-soldiers by Race Two, the Robotech Masters, to help them fight Race Three, who were the Invid.

"Now all those races first went to war after a brilliant young scientist by the name of Zor discovered the amazing properties of an energy source used by the Invid, and the rest of his race killed most of the Invid race to get it. This is important to you and me only because Zor basically developed all of the technological breakthroughs that created the Zentraedi in the first place, and gave both them and the Robotech masters all of the nifty toys they use, like antigravity, tremendously powerful lasers, and transforming mecha. And this ship we are on right now, what we call the SDF-1, was originally Zor's personal battlefortress."

Seeing Willow choke on her cocoa, Doc grinned. "Yup. The man who, at least as far as we know, developed all of the technology we've been trying to steal out of the first two alien armadas to invade Earth built the SDF-1 as his own private ship, and at the time he built it, it was the most sophisticated vessel in any of the three alien armadas, because he included technological tricks and breakthroughs he didn't share with anyone else."

Doc exhaled, and leaned backwards in his chair. "Then, of course, he died and for reasons of his own he sent this ship fleeing across the universe. The Robotech Masters sent some Zentraedi to chase it, and it wound up in a series of battles that, quite frankly, it lost. Despite its technical superiority, Zor's battlefortress was outnumbered literally billions to one, and even the small fragment fleet the Zentraedi sent after it while the main force stayed behind to deal with the Invid had it millions to one. At those odds, not even Happosai could have won against untrained schoolchildren. Despite his greater abilities, he would have done a great deal of what this ship did: hiding and running. Still and all, Zor's battlefortress was able to escape each encounter, until it arrived here where, battle damaged and its crew already having died, it crashed, and the people of Earth recovered it. Now you have the necessary backstory. Are we clear so far?"

Willow nodded, happily nibbling on a doughnut she'd snatched out of his supply.

"Good." Doc concluded. "Because as good a job as Earth did in rebuilding this vessel, our scientists did not really understand what they were doing. They were studying something brand new and didn't even have perfectly working systems to start with. The battlefortress was already shot up pretty badly when it got here. Add to that the fact that it entered Earth's atmosphere so violently the shockwave of its passage alone was enough to completely annihilate entire cities along the path of its descent, then it hit Macross island with greater force than a nuke, vaporizing half of the island on impact."

Doc waved a hand airily. "Now I want you to picture, if you will, heating a car up until the metal glows cherry red, then dropping it a great distance. The crash broke even more things than the previous battles had. While the hull absorbed the brunt of the damage, anything inside that could be burned or shattered probably was. Frankly it is a miracle of engineering that so many of the sophisticated techno-systems survived, or could be repaired."

Doc poured his own cup of cocoa, claiming the last glass full before Willow could drain it all. "So now Earth enters the picture, and at least at first everything we know of this new super-technology was learned by taking apart, trying to repair and study this ship. Some parts we did pretty well on. Our individual combat mecha are far superior to anything the Zentraedi had... well, with one or two little exceptions. But on the whole, what didn't survive the crash we never did learn how to replicate properly. So the ship is a hodgepodge, a hybrid of Earth and alien technology."

"So what did survive?" Willow, now done consuming his doughnuts, filched an apple out from his fruit bowl.

"It would be easier to tell you what got completely lost," Doc told her honestly. "Whatever was mounted on or outside of the main armor belt of the hull got burned away or crushed during the initial crash. That cost us just about all the ship's weapon systems outside of the colossal main gun, and virtually all of the original sensors. And the human replacements we devised did not measure up to the originals. The SDF-1's secondary weapon systems and sensors were at a serious disadvantage to the enemy's the entire war. The main armor belt had also sustained so much damage that it had to be entirely replaced, and our replacement was not nearly as good as the original. Then the highly advanced medical equipment of the original ship did not survive the crash. Those are the things we know about, that we lost."

Doc grinned at his dinner guest, and it had the old slightly demented edge to it. "Or, at least, those were the systems that got destroyed during the unaltered timeline."

Willow blinked and perked up with interest at his suggested temporal adjustment.

The scientist grinned right back at her. "Oh yes. I interfered. I have no problem with Earth's technology. It's just the alien's stuff is so often better, at least in the narrow scope they use it in, that I really didn't want to pass up a chance to learn all of it I could. Unfortunately for us, the 'narrow scope', our enemies devote themselves to is combat, and it is never a good idea to be less technologically advanced than your opponents in war."

Doc put down his cup with perhaps more force than he'd intended, startling Willow, as he learned back in his chair, lacing his hands behind his head as he spoke to the ceiling. "The very best parts of the SDF-1 had always been those left over of the original battlefortress. Mostly the main gun and hyperspace-fold transportation system. Every part of this ship we had to replace with our own designs sucked by comparison to the original, or our enemy's. So I thought, why not save as much of the undamaged tech as possible?"

Willow, who had the mind of an ingenious thief, thought for a moment, then declared. "You got to the ship before it crashed!"

Instead of Doc answering staying still, he got up to make more cocoa, "Essentially, yes. I went to the future to record the point of entry into local space of the alien battlefortress, then traced the trajectory and speed it would have taken as it crashed."

Doc leaned to the side against a counter as he took a piece of fruit out of the fast diminishing bowl. "At first all I was going to do was set up space cameras around the course to take pictures of the ship before it entered the atmosphere, then again as it made its descent," He shrugged. "Just a few close-up photographs of what the outer hull looked like before it got baked, bent and smashed up in the crash would have been an enormous help in trying to figure out some of those systems we lost there. After all, a puzzle is always hardest when you don't have a picture of what the final product is supposed to be. Even watching parts as they melted or slagged off during the descent would have told us something about the metallurgy that made them up, so would have been of use."

"But that's not what happened, was it?" Willow perceived. "Why?"

Doc gave a little self-deprecating shrug. "As usual, the space agencies were giving us all sorts of trouble scheduling a mission they couldn't see the point of, and we were not about to give them our real reasons because that would involve revealing our ability to time travel, which would at minimum get us nationalized as a strategic asset, if not get the whole planet destroyed as dozens of separate organizations ran their own secret missions to alter major events of the timeline in their favor, generating cascading paradoxes that might quite literally destroy this entire universe."

Willow smacked her own lips and said, knowing how her oldest friend thought, "So you ran back in time just long enough to make your own space agency."

"Of course!" Doc agreed with a manic grin. "Just a little one. But then as we were arranging to set up those space cameras I got an idea out of looking over the repair logs you brought back out of the future that showed how the original reconstruction of the ship went."

Doc bit into an apple. "Basically, I did it to know where in particular to focus our cameras. But looking over those reconstruction logs reminded me once again that the only systems Earth was able to fully restore were those that already worked despite all of the damage the battlefortress had sustained. An antigravity system was one of them, although originally there were some errors made during reconstruction, so that failed the first time it was used. Nevertheless, I knew from those future logs what it was, how it worked, and more importantly, *that* it worked when the ship first arrived on Earth."

Willow finished munching on her apple that she had stolen out of Doc's hand, then declared, "So you and probably your wife, knowing where the battlefortress was to arrive, were there waiting for it and boarded the ship when it first emerged out of space-fold, and before it crashed on Earth. Then you used your knowledge to activate the antigravity system!"

Doc gave her a decisive nod, acknowledging her summation as correct. Then he said, "We couldn't stop the ship from crashing entirely, it was far too damaged, and already going far too fast for that. But we were able to bring it down much more gently this time. No massive shockwaves destroying whole cities, for one. No annihilating half of Macross island when we set down, for another. We soft landed, setting down about as gently as a shuttle flight."

"So, the reason the internal layout is not the same..." Willow gasped as she realized

"Correct!" Doc beamed. "It's because the copy of this ship you went through in the future was one that followed the original storyline. It emerged, already damaged, then crashed badly, getting even more banged up. But the SDF-1 we are in right now has been spared much of the trauma it originally would have gone through, so it is far more intact."

Willow put down her apple core, then cast her eyes around for more fruit. Finding none, she went to open the fridge. While peering inside, she asked, "So what are the differences?"

"More of the original weapons systems and sensors survived, for one." Doc agreed with the redhead's search for food and brought out a half-eaten cake. "Most of the armor belt survived intact, for another, allowing us to analyze and mostly duplicate that, so the current incarnation of the SDF-1 can survive far greater punishment than the one Earth would have put into service if the timeline had remained unaltered."

Doc divided up the chocolate cake between him and his oldest friend, knowing that she would steal half of what he took for himself. It was part of the program. Being martial artists of their level used up enormous amounts of energy, so they had commensurate appetites, and she was eating like she'd exercised lately, while he'd been stuck inside all day working on plans and reports. "The end result is, with the ship that much less broken, and us already knowing all the super-technology Earth had gleaned out of the crashed starship in the first timeline, Nodoka and I became the experts leading the reconstruction project and were able to restore and learn several times as much of Zor's original systems and technology."

"Yeah. I've been meaning to ask," Willow gestured around to the rather spacious cabin with her fork. "How did you get to be chief engineer of the SDF-1, anyway?"

"Simple. I own it." Doc shot her a smile, then added detail to the explanation, "Alright, by now going back in time and setting up a few patents to secure funding is getting kind of ordinary. It's routine, really. You need more money, you start more companies. We did that to start our own space agency, and we did it to buy Macross island, too."

Willow blinked up at him over her now half-empty plate."But why buy the island?"

"Salvage rights!" Doc beamed, munching lightly on the small piece of cake she'd left him. "What lands on my land is mine. By purchasing the island on which the alien space vessel would crash, before it crashed, then, provided we had salvage rights, when it crashed that alien space ship legally belongs to us. And we were *very* careful to own salvage rights, along with a number of other legal advantages," Doc clarified.

"Yeah. But it doesn't mean anything. No government on Earth would respect those rights," the catburglar cautioned. "Not when it comes to something like this. Most governments talk a good game, but very few of them would let their own laws prevent them from getting what they want, when they really want something. And this would qualify!"

"They are not required to respect it, at least not yet." Doc admitted. "No, all those rights were supposed to do was get me involved. I own the space agency that first discovered, then intercepted and boarded, the alien ship. I own the island it landed on, and was on the vessel before it has even set down on Earth, long before Earth's governments settled their differences and got a first contact team to the site. That got me access, and with what I know, not only of the technology, but of the ship itself from the records we memorized out of the future, I could work wonders in 'discovering' aspects of how the alien derelict worked! All together, that made me irreplaceable in the reconstruction project that turned the crashed alien wreck into the Earth's first space battlefortress!"

"And," Willow smirked slyly, "Being the legitimate, if unrecognized, owner, you won't feel bad when you steal it."

"Precisely!" Doc shouted, thrusting a finger into the air.

Then he settled down almost instantaneously into a relaxed pose in a chair. "But we pretty much had to go that way. There was no way we'd ever have rebuilt this ship on our own. In the show the announcer says flat-out that it took the entire resources of the planet over a ten year period to transform the crashed alien wreck into a functioning starship, and having lived through and largely directed that process now, I can tell you out of personal experience, he was not far wrong! It boggles the imagination how much work went into this, and I've had the pleasure of starting with a much more functional ship! I can't even imagine how much more of a headache it would have been if we hadn't meddled in the timestream to get a much better starting point. The reconstruction project took everything the Earth could handle as it was!"

The Doc relaxed into a much more casual posture. "Still, I guess a big part of that was my fault, as I knew going into this project that whatever didn't get done right the first time will probably never be done. We certainly are unlikely to have another opportunity like this one to direct so much resources to have things built to our specifications."

"Such as?" Willow lofted an eyebrow, thinking about the mischief he could've gotten up to.

Doc saw her mind just as friends of many years often do. "Crew comfort, for one. In most every way imaginable, this ship now exceeds our former luxury liner. It even has surfing!"

At Willow's plainly disbelieving look and lofted eyebrows raised in challenge, the scientist expounded, "Zor, who built this ship, was a member of the race that came to be known as Robotech Masters, and that race more or less gave up living on planets, as those were too hard to protect from the massive hordes of Invid. So it is something of an irony that by the original design specs, the city in the SDF-1's belly was meant to be there. In the show one was built as an afterthought, constructed by refugees picked up out of a horrible accident. But all battlefortresses and motherships built by the robotech masters for their own use had one, and without the horrible catastrophe of slamming into a planet at full speed, enough of the original city remained we not only learned it had been there, we were able to restore it! We sold the concept of reconstructing it to the Earth council under the excuse of giving the SDF-1 a secondary purpose as a colony vessel, and under that kind of budget it wasn't too hard to sneak in a few 'standing wave' generators luxury liners use to allow surfing!"

Willow blinked, not only mollified by his answer but surprised by how easy he made it sound.

Doc spun around so he sat in an entirely different, yet still relaxed, posture. "For another example of a good change, the SDF-1's original compliment of veritech fighters on the day they launched it in the unaltered timeline was one hundred and twenty, or ten squadrons. During the year or so they had in space, they got that up to a little over double the starting amount, despite replacing constant losses. But those limits were first an artifact of human thinking, then scarce resources. The space available on something like this is enormous! Comparable Zentraedi vessels host more than a hundred times that many fighting mecha, and their single pilot vehicles are many times as large as ours. They have to be. We only built our veritechs as big as they are to stand roughly the size of the enemy *pilots!* As their craft are built to contain those pilots, it is simple logic that for there to be anything to them *but* pilots, they've got have more size. And Zor's original battlefortress design included space for a good twenty thousand of them, or more. No, the space was there to do much better, but all we managed to get Earth's government to allow was for us to prepare capacity on this thing to carry and manage five hundred squadrons of veritech fighters. That's six thousand planes. Not really a patch on the original craft complement, or the thirty thousand or so that a Zentraedi ship of the same size would be carrying, but then we do still have other surprises on this vessel."

Doc winked at her. "A matter of interesting trivia, but regardless of our capacity, we've still only got those original ten veritech squadrons assigned to us. The Earth Council decided in their wisdom we couldn't possibly need more under our current conditions."

Willow could understand his amusement. Under strength meant fewer people on board, which made it that much easier to steal when the time came. "So, you just want the ship to do its job, but better," she summarized.

"Exactly!" Doc cried out, excited by her insight. "And there were so many opportunities to do just that! When the derelict that was to become the SDF-1 first crashed on the Earth, humans knew nothing of the sophisticated alien technology it contained. In the act of rebuilding it they learned a great deal, but that was still incomplete; and what they couldn't figure out, they just patched together with human systems, only those didn't always work out right. They certainly didn't perform at the level of the super-science they were replacing!"

Doc's shoulders appeared to catch fire as his eyes gleamed with excitement as he posed with clenched fists over the table. "But THIS time! I knew EVERYTHING the Earth had figured out concerning this great vessel before it even arrived!"

"So, you're thinking," Willow purred approvingly, "That if Earth, say, learned forty percent of the science they *could* have learned working on this ship, that you, having come back in time already knowing that forty percent, could make that the starting point, not the end, of what we gained out of study of that crashed derelict. So you might have, say, pumped up the total knowledge we gained of its super-science to, say, eighty percent?"

"Wouldn't that be nice?" Doc grinned, imaginary flames disappearing from off his shoulders. "Sadly, we'll probably never know the true numbers. Most of the advances made are just doing the same tricks it already taught us the first time a little better: More efficient power generation, better transmission of it, stronger lasers, better alloys, and so on. But there were one or two real gems in that gold mine we never expected."

"Like what?" His old friend appropriately rose to the bait.

"Medicine primarily," he grinned. "Cloning, medical stasis, and techniques that assure virtual immortality are now all not only possible, they could be routine, although I have no plans to release that last one." Doc climbed down off the table, shaking his head, "Mostly for fear of corrupt leaders ensuring they'd never die, as happened among the Robotech Masters. To be honest, I never anticipated half of the civilian devices we found in the wreckage of that Robotech Masters city. It is going to revolutionize our standard of living when they finally get around to releasing more of it to the general public. And I have to admit, it was wonderful figuring out things Earth never got right the first time: Better antigravity, sensors, materials technology and that sort of thing, than Earth had achieved without our interference. There is so much more here than how to make a human body never grow old."

"But didn't we already have that?" Willow pointed out. "Just a quick trip back to that Ranma universe and take a mushroom."

"Wouldn't it be nice not to need that?" Doc asked. "Think about this: What if we get trapped somewhere, and couldn't return to that universe? Now we have a way to avoid growing old with medicine instead of magic. It can't be used to shrink yourself down to a child, but that doesn't make it totally useless."

Willow grew thoughtful.

Doc cast his eyes around the room, checking for a piece of uneaten food, since this latest energy surge had gotten him hungry again. Sadly, there were none, so he sighed and continued, "I also went back in time to found certain manufacturing companies that 'just happened' to be ideally situated to take advantage of the new opportunities rebuilding the giant battlefortress presented. These not only gave us opportunity to have 'brilliant insights' that allowed the technology assimilation to leap ahead, it also gave us better control of the ship's restoration. All of this meant better ability to rebuild the SDF-1 to something closer to its original capacity. Knowing everything that went wrong with the ship before we'd altered the timeline, we even found ways to correct those errors. Heck, the shields we installed this time work so well they are actually a little scary."

Doc chose not to mention that he and Nodoka had returned to that Invid-haunted future to spend several weeks in foxholes just inches away from the force fields surrounding the Invid hives, studying those shields using every instrument they could manhandle there and back. While Earth's scientists had eventually worked out on their own enough about force fields to construct one, even a moderately good one, as the primary defense mechanism of the SDF-1, what he and Nodoka had learned out of studying the Invid's force fields had magnified those until, as he'd said, what they could do with them was really a bit scary.

Going by the Lang scale, if the previous incarnation of the SDF-1's main barrier shield could absorb sixty thousand units of hostile incoming energy before failure, the new system they'd provided could handle more than three million. A result fifty times as powerful as Earth would have achieved. And they'd fit on four complete and separate sets of shield generators, with their own independent power systems, for in case one failed. They'd also overcome the problem in the TV series where the ship could not fire its main cannon while a full barrier shield was activated.

Sometimes it really benefited one to be able to go back to the future. The study of science where literally everything ever discovered could be at your fingertips, could really become rather heady. At this point he really began to suspect this ship *could* take a hit from the Death Star's planet-killing laser, should such a thing ever become necessary.

And Doc had gotten in a fair amount of study on that Invid Genesis Pit, too.

Doc summarized for Willow's sake, "What all of this means is that while the main gun is the same, because that one didn't need our help to work right, having survived mostly intact in both timelines, in all other ways, the SDF-1 is more powerful than it would've been without our intervention. It is still basically the same ship, and does the same things. It just does them better now that more of the original technology and systems have been preserved."

Here the good doctor snorted, surprising his friend. "Not like it matters. Even if this version of the ship is fifty times as powerful as what Earth would have produced without us, and in many ways it is, it's still only half as good as what Zor built in the first place, and that original version of the ship still got its behind kicked across several galaxies by the crushing hordes of its enemies. No matter how good the SDF-1 is, the Zentraedi fleet still outnumbers us, literally billions to one. The only hope the Earth has to survive the upcoming conflict is for there to be no conflict. And the only way that could happen is if the aliens have no reason to attack, which means this ship can't be here when they come looking for it."

"Which happens in..." he looked up at a colander, "ten days."

"So our plans are still on to steal the ship to prevent everyone fighting over it," Willow confirmed.

"Are you ready?" he asked seriously.

Willow laughed. "Why *else* do you think I spent years at the newly formed Robotech Academy learning how to pilot this thing? I certainly didn't attain command rank to help my looks. Have you seen what those senior officers look like? And I'll tell you up front, I didn't do it for the pay grade, either. Most couldn't afford to live without base housing."

The catburglar's eyes narrowed and gleamed, catlike. "No, I am fully qualified on every aspect of how to operate this thing. Hearing it from you just confirmed things and cleared up some mysteries. You'd better believe I am ready to steal this ship."

Doc's fresh pot of cocoa whistled, and he poured them both a cup. "Then let us toast to our success in this effort. For if we succeed, the population here will be spared annihilation."

The two clinked together their glasses


"Enter the Angels!"

Xander stood up in his contestant's chair. "Now, representing the Anything Goes style, the White Knight!"

Tossing the scaled-down version of a medieval knight in white armor onto the energized playing field activated the electronics in the little toy, and caused it to become animated, to the cheers of the crowd as it posed and landed with unusual grace.

This game was called Angelic Layer, where thought-controlled dolls called Angels fought to the amusement of crowds larger than pro sports usually brought in, and Doc was pretty certain the game didn't exist in the local universe before their alterations to the timestream.

Scientifically, the game could have come into being in this universe with the advent of the improved super-science mecha controls copied out of the less damaged alien starship. But Doc said that wouldn't explain how the technology, event sites and especially the major players of the game, all matched so precisely the anime series about the game.

Xander had to admit - he didn't much care. Dimensional physics and crossover theory made no difference to him. It was all so much techno-babble, stuff where a PHD in physics would only get you halfway to understanding the basics of it.

Which meant Willow loved it, of course.

No, he was here because this was a fighting game where, with enough experience, the foot-high doll you controlled could feel like it was yourself on the game floor. Most players didn't go that route, preferring to observe from their own sets of eyes, but Xander had a different motivation - namely that Doc had adopted that Ranma universe as his own, and they couldn't go back there until they had the ability to take on several A-rank foes and win.

This Robotech universe didn't have the high-level martial artists they needed to practice against in order to get their own level of skill up there to where they could take on Herb and his Musk Dynasty and win.

But they did have Angelic Layer, and on the layer, the dolls fought almost identically to the skill and power levels shown by some of the better Ranma universe martial artists.

Xander was well aware fights using an electronic doll as your proxy didn't do anything for the muscles of your own body. However, by sinking deeply into the thought-control apparatus so that your perspective switched, and the doll felt like your own body, the skills and experience gained by going up against top-ranked opponents was the same.

What was embarrassing was he'd never ranked in the top three contestants of this game. Unless he was on his better days, he didn't even rank in the top ten. But then, that's what he was playing this for, to learn and grow by the experience of going up against superior fighters - even if one of the players who beat him regularly was a girl still in kindergarten.

But then, unlike them, Xander's skills and power followed him back into real life. One of the better players in this year's tournament was a middle school girl who admitted to having no athletic ability or talent at all outside of the game.

But on the layer, her doll was beating up veterans with several times her experience.

Xander could hardly complain, as his assistant/advisor at the national games was a teenage idol singer who could hardly beat up a teddy bear in real life. The reason he'd invited her to assist him was so that on that pretext he could insist they do practice fights using their dolls against each other. She'd agreed. The reason that was so valuable to him was the girl had figured out how to fight using wind to transmit the power of her blows over long distances, and in those practice matches together he'd picked up those vital techniques from her, and after a bit of work translating the skills, could now do that in real life.

That sort of thing was the whole reason he fought this game in the first place!

Xander's real body slumped down in its seat, as though deeply asleep, while the boy felt his thoughts and perspective take over the doll on the playing field as if it were himself down there.

The layer flashed and became a glacier, holographic terrain having been added as a new feature to this year's national games, with enough force fields and whiz-bang tech involved so that, for the dolls, the terrain was absolutely real.

So much the better. For his mind, currently possessing the doll, feeling the icy chill of wind on his skin made for that much better a learning experience.

"Let's have an angelic fight!" The announcer cheered, starting the match.


Author's Notes:

When you are trying to come out of a writing slump, you write whatever story wants to be written, following ideas as they come. There is no other good way of restarting the flow of ideas that I know of.

So, this formerly dead story seems to be getting a second chance, just because it had a bunny that was willing to nibble on me in an otherwise dry time.