Departures, Alameda Spacy Base
Alameda, New Frontier
0927, 23 November 2059

"Alto!" With a wave of her arm a young woman named Sheryl Nome called out across a sunlit hall to a man with tied-up long, blue hair wearing a flight suit. He came to her readily with a gentle smile. Panoramic windows bathe the scene in a white late morning light and the vision of a clear, blue sky.

"You came," the young man said softly. His amber eyes met her blue.

"Silly Alto. That much is obvious," Sheryl smiled and took off her wide-brimmed hat to allow the sun to illuminate her long, strawberry-blonde hair.

"I'm just surprised is all, after everything you said about being busy all day today I wasn't sure you would make it. Ranka has already come and gone."

"I know, but really, I'm Sheryl Nome, I know how to work these things into my schedule," she said defiantly, then her voice softened and she started smiling all the more, "Besides, I didn't want to miss you off."

Alto returned the smile. "You know I won't be gone long. It's just a babysitting mission. The survey group will only be out there a few weeks."

Sheryl shrugged, "It was no trouble. After all, I certainly wasn't going to forget about today." She paused as she assumed a more indignant tone, "Even though it seems a certain princ-" Sheryl's voice froze as Alto pulled out a moderately-sized jewelry case clad with blue velvet and a stick-on ribbon bow. A blush spread across Sheryl's cheeks and her eyes turned from the box to Alto's eyes with a smile, "You didn't forget."

"That much is obvious," Alto quoted cheekily, "Happy birthday, Sheryl."

Sheryl timidly took the box and slowly opened it, and nearly dropped it when she gasped in surprise at its contents. Inside was a silver, tear drop shaped earring with an elongated purple gem dangling inside the charm's loop. A ruby flashed above, set in a cage of silver as an intermediary link between the jade stud of the french hoop and the charm. Sheryl's free hand darted to her right ear where dangled an earring identical to the one she held but for a sky-colored sapphire instead of a ruby. "Alto..." Sheryl looked up to his eyes, mouth slightly agape from the stunning gift.

"It just got to me twenty minutes ago, finally. I wanted to give it to you before I left, but it took a lot longer than I expected to find the right hunk of fold quartz for it. I hope you don't mind I had it set with a ruby, I thought it would help tell it apart from the original. I know it probably won't be able to replace the one I lost..." Alto went on as tears of joy came to Sheryl's eyes, but he had looked away.

"It's perfect," Sheryl told him, and she meant every word.

Alto turned his gaze back to her with a smile of relief, and they shared a silent moment together, staring into the other's eyes until finally Alto said, "Well, here." He took the earring out of its case and swept her hair back behind her left ear. Sheryl gave a small laugh as he slipped the cool metal of the french hoop into her pierced ear, finding it just a slight ticklish with Alto doing it.

"How does it look?" Sheryl asked as she held her head high and gave him a smile.

Alto shrugged in his uncertain attempt to judge, "You look... good, I suppose."

"Fool Alto, that's not at all how you tell a woman how she looks," Sheryl said with a playful tone. "Thank you."

Alto smiled as the last call for boarding sounded from down the hall. Sheryl sighed and they looked at each other for a long and quiet moment.

"I have to get going," Alto said finally.

"Alto..." Sheryl started, just to keep his attention. She reached up and took her right earring off, the original with the inset sapphire. "Make sure you bring this one back to me." Alto smiled knowingly and tilted his head to let her put the earring in his own pierced ear. "You brought it back once at least, so I expect you to do so again." Sheryl stood back and admired the earring for a moment, then she shrugged in an aloof manner, "I suppose you look good with it."

Alto shook his head with a scoff, "At least that means I'm not a wom-" And Sheryl suddenly threw her arms around him. Alto hesitated in his surprise, but ended up smiling and embracing her in return. They lingered there in silence with her cheek pressed firmly to his shoulder.

"I wish we could stay like this," Sheryl whispered as her arms tightened. Alto could only whisper her name in response. They came apart, and held hands for a moment while they gave one last look into each other's eyes.

And then he pulled away. Sheryl watched him walk away from her and she remembered a time when she knew she would never see him again. At the threshold he turned, their gazes met, and the earring gave a purple glint in the bright sunlight. He snapped a sharp salute to Sheryl, and Sheryl smiled in amusement and returned the gesture in a casual fashion. He crossed the threshold.

Sheryl watched the starry night sky from a wind-swept, grassy hill, still wishing they could have stayed like that forever. Somewhere up in that diamond crevasse was her Alto, either on the Macross Quarter or sortieing out in his Valkyrie, while down on the ground Sheryl could only stand and sing to the stars with her single earring sparkling in the moonlight far, far from him.

It was all she could do.

She clings to a sheet of paper, wrinkled from her grip and the wind that threatened to pull it from her grasp. Printed upon it was a transfer request bearing the seal of Mihoshi Academy from a Space Flight concentration to an Entertainment Arts concentration, written out for Sheryl Nome by Sheryl Nome's own hand. There were three signatures, one for each department head and one for the Dean of Academic Affairs. There was a fourth line, however, for the student, empty and waiting for Sheryl to put her distinctive signature down and make it official. Despite all sense telling her to sign it, she hadn't been able to do so yet.

"Sheryl..." Alto's voice said upon the same hill, but daylight now with the winds just as high. It seemed so long ago, and yet her own trepidation was as real as it had been all those months ago. "I uhh... I brought your earring back."

Sheryl smiled as she struggled to keep herself from crying, "Well it's about time you did something right, eh?" He held the earring out for her, and yet Sheryl couldn't quite bring herself to take it. "So, it's all over?"

"Yeah, mission accomplished and I..." Alto's voice hung suddenly. "And I made you a promise."

Sheryl's head turned sharply away from him, but she smiled as much as she could. She was happy, so happy she could have wept openly on the spot. It took all of her willpower to prevent it. "You don't have to say anything, Alto. It's a new world, a new life, and it's full of possibilities for you and Ranka... and..." She choked on the words.

"Sheryl..." Alto said solemnly, his face falling, "I'm not going to let you go alone."

"I'm not going, Alto, not anymore," Sheryl said as a tear fell down her cheek. She could no longer contain it. "I thought you would have recognized that by now. Alto..." she turned back to him with a tear-stricken smile, "I'm going to live."

Sheryl shot awake suddenly. A turmoil of emotion and memory ebbed away slowly along with the dreams. She faced a momentary dizziness, but it was replaced promptly with conscious awareness of the darkened room, an odd shortness of breath in her lungs, and an alarm clock blaring for attention and flashing 0600.

She slapped it with groggy annoyance and sat up. Her hands ran through her hair and brushed against her two earrings dangling from her ears. She had fallen asleep with them on again. She once again made a mental note to stop doing that, she worried that one night she might accidentally pull one of them out and lose it or hurt her ear.

The vivid dreams of her past soon faded into memories left to return to the corner of her mind where they resided, and as they did they left only the Sheryl of the present, an eighteen year-old woman and semi-former idol singer living in a penthouse on the south side of Island One. As a singer, she hadn't worked seriously on any new material in months, and she only did the occasional show when she could spare time from her studies at Mihoshi Academy, and even then most of her shows were for charity. She took only a small amount of the proceeds to cover her bills and living expenses for a short while.

She tapped the bedside lamp on and glanced at a nearby chair, where lay a school dress uniform and skirt of blue and white. She stared at it a while as if she couldn't believe it was still there, but she accepted it gratefully and rose from the bed.

She walked into the adjoined washroom, smacked the light switch, and ran water from the sink to splash at her face. Afterward, she looked at herself in the mirror, almost giving a chuckle when she saw how hellish she looked. Puffy eyes, a flushed face, messy hair, red marks on her skin from sleeping awkwardly, and a ratty old tank top she suspected had been one of Alto's all contributed to a view of Sheryl Nome in the wild. In scarcely an hour she'd be out the door confident she looked drop-dead gorgeous and ready to take on the world, and she knew that today she needed to be. She turned to the Sheryl Nome swimsuit calendar tacked haphazardly to the near wall by the light switch and followed the trail of Xes leading to the 27th of February, a date circled in pink.

Sheryl took a deep breath and gave herself a smile in the mirror. "Well, Sheryl, today is your big day."

It is the year 2060 AD, and mankind has spread across half a galaxy in an unending quest to colonize what few habitable worlds remain after hundreds of thousands of years of war between two great factions. One of these, the Supervision Army, is believed to have been annihilated by their rivals, the Zentradi, a race of giant humanoids bred by an ancient and now extinct race for one purpose only: to fight, a race who knew only war. They roamed the galaxy in great fleets of millions of ships in a semblance of a warrior tribal society, endlessly performing their final orders to search for and destroy every last vestige of the Supervision Army. A chance encounter with the Humanity of Earth led to the rebirth of civilian culture within their people, inspired by one young, aspiring singer, but it was not before the first Space War nearly exterminated the human race through an orbital bombardment that razed the surface of Earth and killed all but a few million people.

Having come so near to extinction, the people of Earth began a massive cloning effort using genetic archives and overtechnology to repopulate the species and launch all of them in great colony fleets into the void of space to seek habitable worlds in order to avoid the possibility of total extinction by another such disaster. Some of these fleets are never heard from again, but others succeed, forging thriving new worlds to rival the reborn Earth.

The 25th Long Range Colonization Fleet, Macross Frontier, was one such fleet to succeed. Having journeyed across the stars for decades, Frontier faced a race of hive-like, space-faring aliens known as the Vajra in war. The fleet only survived the conflict when a method of communication and understanding between the two sides was finally reached. With the fleet ecologically crippled by the war, the Vajra allowed Frontier to colonize their ancestral homeworld near the Galactic Core while they themselves continued their long migrations across the stars as they have done so for millions of years.

Now, the world of New Frontier seeks to forge a successful colony with limited resources. Its military, all but destroyed by the war, is the only thing that stands between the people of the colony and whatever threats may lurk in the uncharted reaches of the Galactic Core.

~ F2 START ~