Disclaimer - The Muv Luv and the Macross Franchises are the respective copyright of their creators, Kouki Uchiyama and Shouji Kawamori, and I do not own the characters, storyline or respective settings of either franchise in any shape or form. All other references to pop culture likewise belong to their respective copyright holders.
Wild Goose is the most awesome beta reader, ever.
Muv Luv: Do You Remember Luv
Short Story Collection
-Miracle of Flight-
"The airplane is just a bunch of sticks and wires and cloth, a tool for learning about the sky and about what kind of person I am, when I fly. An airplane stands for freedom, for joy, for the power to understand, and to demonstrate that understanding. Those things aren't destructible."
- Richard Bach, 'Nothing by Chance,' 1963.
Life as a refugee was hard, and ten year old Nastassja Ivanova knew this better than anyone. Living in a hastily erected tent city in the middle of Alaska wasn't the best place for a child to grow up. It was bitterly cold and living conditions were atrocious, but with her homeland of Georgia long since overrun by the alien menace, Nastassja didn't have much of a choice.
Furthermore, she also grew up without her parents. Her father and mother had been 'forcefully enlisted' into the Soviet Army when she was six, and she hadn't heard from them since. Her older sister Lydia had also been conscripted to the Far East Soviet Army at around the same time.
It was a sad fact of life that Nastassja had long since accepted the fact they were all likely dead, and had been that way for a long time. Then again, the ten year old could probably list about a dozen other children her age who had been orphaned in the exact same way, so she couldn't really complain. In fact, she considered herself blessed, for she had one little advantage over everyone else.
"Grandpa, the food's being cooked," she said happily to the withered old man. Nastassja stirred the small tin pot where she was cooking some ingredients included expired cabbage and rat meat, over a makeshift campfire outside their small tent. It wasn't restaurant quality but Nastassja had learned to make do. "It'll be ready in ten minutes."
"Bless you child," the wizened man said, from where he sat on the wooden stool beside her. Her maternal grandfather, Ivan Litvyak, was her sole surviving relative since her younger sister Katya had succumbed to illness nine months ago. Well into his seventies now and was too old to fight, Ivan had escaped the draft where her other family members had not.
In truth Nastassja considered it a small miracle that God still saw fit to bless her with his presence, especially considering his age and the poor conditions he lived in. To her, Ivan was the father and mother she never had, and she loved him dearly for that.
"What are we having child?" Ivan asked.
"We will be having borscht tonight," Nastassja lied, hoping he wouldn't call her on her obvious bluff. "I hope you don't mind, grandfather."
"Child, anything cooked with love and care will taste good to me."
The two refugees were clothed in nothing more than layers upon layers of dirty clothing and lived in a tent so spartan, it would make even a cave look luxurious. Their humble home was set a bit away from the rest of the tents, almost on the border of the nearby forest, as Ivan was distrusted by the other refugees. Ivan was a veteran of the Great Patriotic War and had apparently served with distinction during that period. Unfortunately this had not been enough to spare his daughter, Nastassja's mother, from the draft. It had also served to alienate them from the rest of the refugees, who did not care for a 'great Russian hero' like her grandfather being in their midst.
Nastassja didn't mind that at all, and neither did she blame them for it. The refuges could hardly be blamed for finding an easy scapegoat in her grandfather, especially when so many of their number had already been drafted into the Army and sent off to die. In her mind, it was the BETA's fault that their world had come to this.
"You remind me so much of her," Ivan said suddenly. Nastassja looked up from her cooking to see the old man studying her with keen eyes.
"Look so much of who, Grandpa?"
"My cousin who served in the air force. She was like a sister to me growing up. Unless these eyes of mine are failing me, you just like her when she was your age, sans the dyed hair."
"You mean Great-aunt Lydia?" Nastassja set down the old wooden ladle she had been using to stir the broth as she gave her grandfather her full attention. "She died fighting the Germans in the Great Patriotic War, didn't she?"
"She was a real fighter. Never quite met another like her." He nodded, seemingly satisfied with the resemblance. "I never did tell you about her did I?"
"No Grandpa, you haven't."
Quietly, she felt her heart quicken with excitement. Nastassja loved her grandpa's stories about the war. The stories about brave men and women triumphant against incredible odds and sacrifice against the evil German Nazis helped her escape from the bleakness of the world they lived in, and gave her hope that one day, the terrible BETA would one day too be beaten back.
"Your Great-Aunt Lydia was a fighter pilot. An ace in fact. One of the best," Ivan closed his eyes and nodded, a small smile playing on his lips as the old man slipped into memory.
"An ace?" Nastassja tiled her head in confusion at the term. She had been dimply aware in the back of her mind that her great-aunt Lydia Litvyak had been some kind of great hero, but in bleakness of her day to day existence it had slipped her mind.
"A term used to describe the best fighter pilots. Your grand-aunt Lydia was the highest scoring female ace during the Great Patriotic War. The champions of the skies," Ivan supplied and turned his head skyward and pointed. "They would soar among the clouds like the angels. Even a sharpshooter like me was in awe every time I saw them take to the skies."
Although the sky was darkening and overcast, Nastassja couldn't help but look up and be swept up by the majesty of what he had just said. She was a ten year old girl listening to her grandfather's story and her imagination ran wild.
"She loved it you know, flying. I remember this one time, when I was in her airbase getting ready for a parachute drop, she finished a mission so she buzzed the tower and gave everyone air show," Ivan recounted with a smile. "We all loved it."
"Wouldn't you get in trouble for that?"
Ivan nodded, his smile growing even wider. "The commander was furious, but she didn't care. Fighter pilots can be an eccentric bunch, and your grand-aunt was no exception: She used to put bouquets of flowers inside her cockpit."
By this point, Nastassja was completely captivated by the image of this woman, this champion of the skies who flew through the clouds with bouquets of flowers in her hands. Lydia Litvyak, the woman who walked in the realm of the gods, in defiance of the very laws of nature themselves.
It was a beautiful dream.
"You have to understand Nastassja. To her, flying wasn't a job or a duty. It was her way of life," Ivan sighed as he remembered how that story ended. "She stayed true to it right up until the very end."
"She must have been amazing," Nastassja replied, turning back to her broth which was almost done.
"The world doesn't have people like her anymore," Ivan said sadly. "The BETA own the air now. Air power is pointless. We won't be seeing anymore of her like in the coming days."
And just like that, the dream was over and reality set back in.
The vision of the woman in the clouds was gone, and Nastassja was back on the cold uncaring Earth. Such was the reality that she lived in today.
"The food's done," Nastassja said, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice. She carefully spooned the broth into two small clay bowls she had set out for them, and then handed one to her grandfather. "Grandfather, eat it while it's hot."
"Bless you child." Ivan smiled wearily, taking the bowl from her, and the pair began to quietly eat their modest meal in silence, the warmth of family fighting off the cold that surrounded them.
It would not last.
In the years to come, tragedy would visit upon Nastassja Ivanova. Her beloved grandfather would pass on in his sleep, and she would be drafted into the Far East Soviet Army like her parents and sister before her. While Nastassja had already been independent for her age, the horrors of war against the BETA would force her to grow into adulthood long before she should have. She would eventually find a new home among the children of the 211th Zhar Battalion, and a new mother in her commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Fikatsia Latrova.
Captain Nastassja Ivanova, a hardened warrior, would eventually forget about that small, wam and carefree conversion with her grandfather.
But in the back of her mind, somewhere in the deepest reaches of her consciousness where none threaded, that small ten year old that cared for her grandfather, and listened to his stories, remembered.
Muv Luv: Do You Remember Luv
Short Story Collection
-Bounce Valkyrie Pilot-
Her name was Second Lieutenant Bernadette Le Tigre De La Rivière, a proud member of the French 131st TSF Group. Despite her young age, Bernadette was one of the most skilled TSF pilots of her generation. She held the position of Storm Vanguard in her squadron, a much coveted role among her peers that spoke of her potency in battle and the trust her comrades were willing to place in her.
Bernadette knew some would have called her arrogant, but she saw no harm in being that way since she had the skills to back it up. Indeed, many among the younger generation of TSF pilots considered her a benchmark of what a model knight should be like, and for her there was no greater honor.
Today, Bernadette was heading down to Dover Base to see a 'friend', or more precisely, her rival. Her Rafale flew gracefully across the English countryside as it made its way to the stronghold of the JA44 Cerberus Battalion. Although Bernadette was flying alone, she was in no danger; few would dare challenge a member of the French Army's elite in broad daylight, especially one as famous as her.
"Huh? That's odd… Adler-107 to Control. I see this weird looking Typhoon heading towards the Base. Sending you a visual now. Please advise."
When Bernadette heard that Ilfriede von Fuelner had finally gotten out of the mental hospital and had been cleared for active duty, she had been rather relieved at the good news. As uncouth and unruly as Ilfriede was, Bernadette had to admit that Ilfriede was a kindred soul. Under that vulgar exterior was the heart of a true warrior, and Bernadette respected that. Ilfriede hadn't been as experienced or as polished a soldier as Bernadette was, but the German had the heart of a lion and that was le petit tigre counted as most important.
"Adler-107, that's a French Rafale, not a Typhoon. The one belonging to the 131st that was due in today. Continue on your patrol. Nothing to see there."
"Oh realllllly? So this is the palmtop tigress I've been hearing so much about? Guess I ought to welcome her then!"
"Wha-? Huh? Huh? Wait a second! Friday, don't you dare!"
"Sorry tower, can't hear youuuuuuuuu-"
Bernadette would never admit it aloud, but when she had heard the news that Ilfriede had become ill of mind and had to be taken from where she belonged, the front lines, she had been greatly saddened by the news. So it was months later when she had received word that her old rival had recovered and had returned to the front once more that Bernadette had taken it upon herself to travel to Dover to convey her feelings in person. Bernadette had a few choice words for her rival when they finally met again after all those months. She-
"YIPPIE-KI-YAY, KITTY CAT! WELCOME TO DOVER!"
And that was when Lieutenant Junior Grade Ilfriede von Feulner decided to do a cold six bounce on the rival of her alternate self at supersonic speeds. The VTF-0(2) Valkyrie passed within mere feet of the Rafale, the surprise, vortices and jet wash from the supersonic fighter sending poor Bernadette flopping through the air like a beached salmon.
"FIRDAY! GET YOUR ASS BACK HERE!"
"The new Tranche-4 Typhoon is going to be so much better than the Over Eagle."
"You're just saying that because you can get into close combat with it."
Tarisa Manadal, UN test pilot attached to Project Valkyrie, and Melvina Vidya Advani, a civilian contractor that had gotten mixed up with some unsavory business involving one Lilia Kjellberg, were on their way to the PX after running some computer simulations on Project Valkkyrie's upgraded Typhoon. The premier R&D platform for TSF development, Project Valkyrie was unconventional in many ways, not least in their development methods.
"I'm telling you, if the projections about the Typhoon are right, I would have done a hell of a lot better against those RLF bastards in Yukon," Tarisa huffed dourly. "I'm a CQB expert that was dumped in a Gun Sweeper machine."
"I dunno about that. That Typhoon looks like it's going to have serious problems staying in the air without all the computer assistance," Melvia said as she kept pace with her friend. "Really, 17 dedicated systems just to keep it from falling out of the air like a brick?"
"Hey, hey, hey, we're talking about the bleeding edge of technology here. Of course there are going to be hiccups," Tarisa shrugged. "By the way, did you find out what the commotion was about in Zone Four?"
"No, not yet. There was a lot of people in the control room, but most of them were too distracted to say anything. Mostly Cerberus guys. I… I think they were placing bets."
"Huh, now I'm not sure if I want to know." Tarisa shivered.
Relocating from Yukon to Dover saw many changes in Tarisa's life, chief among them being that Dover Base was a madhouse like nothing else. Yukon may have had its eccentricities, but Dover Base was on a whole different level. It was as if Queen Mab had decidened upon the castle to place a curse itself on the building. This was a place where one of the junior pilots wanted to marry her Typhoon, one of the flight leads was so FABULOUS that he could spontaneously cause a room to break into song and dance at will, the entire base was shipping two of its command staff together and was actively trying to play matchmaker, and one of "their" aces had a tendency to ambush anyone in her way just for kicks.
Yuuya had commented that Ilfriede was more stable and reserved while she was IN the mental hospital as a mental patient than she was loose in this castle, and Tarisa was inclined to agree with that sentiment. Checking out your sanity at the door was practically a requirement for working here.
"So what are you planning on doing tomorrow?" Melvina asked. "You're all off duty right?"
"VG's gone to visit his sister and Stella's catching up with her old friends in the Swedish Army. As for me, my cousin is serving with the Brigade of Ghurkas. She's been asking about me, so I might as well drop by to see her," Tarisa explained. Being attached to a rear line research unit, the members of Argos Flight had much more leave when compared to combat units. It was one of the perks of the job. "Man, I haven't seen her in ages!"
"Can I come along?"
"Oh. Yeah, your family is all the way in Australia," Tarisa winced sympathetically when she remembered the circumstances behind Melvina's arrival in Dover.
Melvina shook her head. "No actually, I just want to get off the base for a while." The aboriginal girl shivered, barely restrained terror only just hinted from under the surface of her bubbly personality. "Friday… has costumes."
"Uh, huh. My thoughts exactly."
Both girls were short, flat chested and, in Ilfreide's own words, 'adorably cute'. Tarisa and Melvina had found themselves often the victims of Ilfriede's 'affections', be it the German appearing out of nowhere to hug them, put them in strange costumes or do all sorts of other trauma inducing activities.
"Damn, what rotten luck. I hope something pops up to distract her before I catch the first ride out of here." Tarisa said, honestly fearing for her dignity at that point, with Melvina nodding her head in agreement. "The last thing I need is for more pictures to end up on the-"
A disheveled young blond that neither Tarisa nor Melvina had seen before darted around the corner just meters in front of them and crashed straight into Tarisa, knocking both the Ghurka and the blonde to the floor in a tangled heap.
"Tarisa!" Melvia exclaimed.
"Hey, watch it!"
The stranger had been running like all the hounds of hell had been at her heels, and if the wide eyed, deer in the headlights stare she was giving Tarisa and Melvia was any indication, the two obstacles suddenly being in her path clearly threw the stranger for a loop.
From the uniform, the girl was clearly a member of the French Army. Unfortunately, she was missing trousers, her hair was mussed and her dress jacket and shirt were unbuttoned. The Frenchwoman was pawing the ground helplessly on all fours like a helpless kitten, a sign that she wasn't in the right state of mind. Whoever this was, Tarisa knew for a fact that she was the latest victim of the Dover Castle curse.
Before either party could react, the sound of singing came from somewhere behind the newcomer.
"Now there's no welcome look in your eyes,
when I reach for you~"
Tarisa and Melvia shot each other horrified looks, recognizing the owner of that voice install. "Oh, fantastic. It's Friday."
"Oh, non! Non, non, non, non…" The Frenchwoman was now deathly pale and breaking out in cold sweat, her eyes darting around desperately looking for any avenue for escape.
"HIDE ME!" The Frenchwoman practically screamed into Tarisa's face.
"And now you're starting to criticize little things I do~"
Thankfully, they were coincidentally right next to one of Dover Castle's many broom closets, which were coincidentally not locked.
"In here!" Melvia threw open the door, and motioned the stranger inside.
"Merci!" The stranger quickly obliged, practically hurling herself into the small room. Melvia quickly the the door closed.
And not a moment too soon, for the object of the stranger's terror rounded the corner a moment later.
"It makes me just feel like crying,
'Cause baby, something in you is dying.~!"
Around the corner skipped Ilfriede von Feulner, known to her friends' as 'Friday'. Clad in her VTF flight suit with her helmet hanging off a waist strap, the young woman looked positively ecstatic this fine day. In Friday's right hand was a tiger striped leotard. In her left hand was an orange hairband that had a pair of cute cat ears on the top.
But it was the pair of dark aviator shades that Friday was wearing, the same ones she always wore whenever the blonde was up to some kind of mischief, which really sent alarm bells off in Tarisa's head.
"Hey there, girls!" Friday greeted with a wide smile, skipping to a stop right before Tarisa and Melvina. "You two won't happen to have seen a short blond Frenchy run through here would you?"
Tarisa and Melvina shared a concerned look.
"Er, what are you looking for her for?" Mervina fidgeted in place, trying her best not to draw the attention of the hungry predator that was just a few feet from her.
"Revenge!" Ilfirede chirped, the wide smile never leaving her face. "That little small timer barged into the hangar make all sorts of nasty comments about me and my new bird after I took the trouble to welcome her-"
"Which I take to mean you bounced her on the way in like you do with everyone else who visits."
"-into the base, so I went and challenged her to a duel like a good knight of the Glorious German Air Force out to!" Ilfriede finished, not even pausing to acknowledge Tarisa's comment.
Well, that explained why people were taking bets in the control room about something happening in training zone four. "Friday, you're Army."
"Oh? Well, shucks. Sorry, I keep forgetting." Ilfriede shrugged her shoulders, showing she cared nothing about that. "Army, Airforce, same thing right?"
"Any member of the USAF or RAF would kill you if they heard that."
"Hello? I'm Space Navy. This is how many F*cks I give. Anyway, yes, DUEL. Her in her Rafale, me in my Valkyrie. We fought. I won!" The glint of her aviator shades as Friday said this gave Ilfriede a very sinister look. "To be honest, she was pretty good. It's been so long since I've had to cut loose on someone."
"So she lost, and has to do me one favor. I'm going to put her in THIS." Ilfriede brought up the tiger striped leotard, the ominous glint of her aviators now so bright it was almost blinding. Tarisa and Melvina couldn't help but take an involuntary step backwards in fear.
It was almost exactly their size.
"Where did you even get that?" Melvina asked with a quivering voice.
"Natalie had it. Can you imagine the costumes she has in that bar of hers?" Ilfriede cheerfully informed them. "Why so surprised? I could have sworn you once wore one of her costumes before, Tarisa."
"I did," Tarisa gulped. "I just didn't want to remember."
"She's a sore loser," Friday put her winning smile on. "I just want to take a few pictures to remember, that's all. SO! Have either of you two seen a little blond Frenchwoman in a half-undressed uniform run through here? I would be ever so grateful if you could tell me where she went."
"No idea, mate."
"I guess it can't be helped." Friday nodded. Then she turned to look at the leotard, then back to them, then to the leotard again…
"Hm, I wonder if either of you will be able to fit in this…"
Without another word, Tarisa walked calmly over to the door of the broom closet and threw it open.
Much to their surprise, at first glance the mystery girl couldn't been seen inside the musty old room. In fact the only thing there aside from the various knickknacks and cleaning equipment was a full suit of display plate armor that was standing upright in a corner. That suit of armor was also shaking like a leaf, and it was clear that whoever had hastily thrown it on was a rather short person.
"Why thank you, Tarisa. I knew I could count on you!"
"Don't mention it, you heartless blackmailing witch."
"Oh, look! There you are, Bernadette!" Ilfriede beamed as she walked into the room. Inside, the 'suit of armor' had dropped all pretense and was now desperately trying to climb the shelves to escape. A futile guesture since the only doorway to the room was blocked by her worst nightmare. "Come now, let's get you suited up in this!"
The door swung shut behind her.
"Let's… get out of here while we still can." Tarisa said to Melvina.
"Best idea I heard all day, mate!" The pair quickly made their escape, and did their best to tune out the singing and the screams that were now coming from inside the broom closet.
"You lost that lovin' feeling,
Whoa, that lovin' feeling,
You've lost that lovin' feeling,
Now it's gone...gone...gone...woooooah!"
-In Other News...-
Yokohama Hostage Situation Reaches Explosive Conclusion!
Global News Network, 31 Jan 2002, Alberte Genetti reporting
The hostage situation in Yokohama Base, Japan reached a tragic conclusion today despite the best efforts of the Imperial Royal Guards' 16th Guard Battalion and the US Army's 66th Tactical Armored Battalion when the hostage takers chose to take their own lives and the lives of one of their captives.
Three days ago, the current headquarters of the 11th UN Army became the scene of a shocking standoff. Three UN officers stole two UN Type-94 Shiranuis and took the entire base hostage after seizing control of its recently installed automated defenses with a high tech computer virus. These three officers, 1st Lieutenant Mitsuki Hayase, 1st Lieutenant Haruka Suzumiya and 2nd Lieutenant Akane Suzumiya are all believed to have ties to the terrorist organization Refugee Liberation Front.
Although they trio had planned and executed their plan almost flawlessly, it was only by the timely intervention of Captain Michiru Isumi that saved the lives of the 5000 base personnel. Captain Isumi, now hailed as a national hero, sacrificed her own life to ensure that the majority of the base's personnel were evacuated safely before full control of the base fell into the terrorists' hands. However, the terrorists were able to capture several hostages including UN 11th Army vice commander Yuuko Kouzuki and the entirety of 207th UN Training Unit, among whose cadets are several relatives of prominent members of both Imperial Japan and the UN Security Council.
With the base fully under the terrorists' control, Yokohama and the area around the base became a strict no-fly zone. The standoff lasted for three days, during which negotiators and local law enforcement worked relentlessly to ensure the safe return of the hostages. Despite the best efforts by many of the UN's best hostage negotiators, the situation remained at a standstill until the US Army's 66th TAB "Hunter", under Major Alfred Walken, launched an assault on the base using state of the art F-22A Raptor TSFs to defeat the base's defenses.
After fifteen minutes of grueling fighting, the Hunter Battalion was able to secure all but one of the hostages and forced the terrorists to retreat deep into the main HQ building with Vice Commander Kouzuki. It was then, deciding to take their own lives rather than be captured, that the trio armed a S11 bomb. Thankfully, the Hunter Battalion was able to evacuate the base before the bomb detonated, although they were unable to rescue Professor Kouzuki.
Although the death toll stands only at five out of thousands, the price for defeating the terrorists has been heavy.
With their regional headquarters destroyed and one of their senior command staff having been a casualty, the UN Army is currently reorganizing itself in Hawaii. The US has also come under fire for their handling of the situation by elements of the Japanese Government, who they claim were preventing the on scene IRG unit from intervening in favor of the 66th Hunter Battalion. There is no evidence to refute or support this claim. The UN Army, in cooperation with the various regional powers, is leading a global manhunt of surviving RLF cells.
Michiru Isumi has been posthumously promoted to the rank of Major and awarded the Order of the Golden Kite 1st Class, the highest military award of valor by Imperial Japan. A public funeral for her and vice commander Professor Yuuko Kouzuki, lauded as one of the most brilliant members of the scientific community, will be held in a week's time in the Imperial Capital of Tokyo.
Opinions on the aftermath of the Yokohama Hostage Crisis
"I was as shocked as anyone else. We developed those automated droids to be used as our last line of defense against the BETA. I never thought anyone would be horrible enough to pervert that into something that could do this. Those defences were meant to save lives, not end them." - Captain Yui Takamura, Project Valkyrie Director
"That the RLF would turn automated defenses against the very thing they were meant to protect shows that we have been talking these separatist groups far too lightly. These monsters are not human, not anymore. Humanity must deal with them, swiftly and concisely. We must deal with them now." - US Secretary of Defense David Anderson
"They caught us completely flat footed. If it wasn't for Captain Isumi, I don't know how we'd have gotten away. She laid down her life without even a second thought. She deserves that medal and I'll never forget what she did for all of us. As for that traitor? Wherever Hayase is right now, I hope she's getting her just deserts." - 1st Lieutenant Misae Munakata, UN Army
"The terrorists were out of their minds, and their demands were completely unreasonable. They wanted us to deliver them 'the Messiah'. I'm a human being! How am I supposed to deliver them the Second Coming? I knew they were fanatics, but we never had a chance." - 1st Lieutenant Pierce Wright, UN Negotiator
"We're lucky to be alive. That's all I have to say." - Cadet Kei Ayamine, 207th Training Group
"If the Imperial Royal Guard had been allowed to deploy just like I had repeatedly asked, I guarantee we would have been able to save Yokohama Base and Vice Commander Kouzuki. Those Americans mishandled the situation completely, and cost us not just the base but one of the most brilliant minds humanity has ever known. That we were held back despite having been ready to execute our own plan days before the Americans even arrived is pure lunacy!" - 1st Lieutenant Mana Tsukuyomi, Imperial Royal Guard
"Man, sure puts a dampener on the party, doesn't it? And here I thought us retaking Lyons was a good sign. One step forward, one step back." - 1st Lieutenant Ilfriede von Feulner, German Army
"I have a feeling there was more to this than what we... what I saw. Mitsuki-san couldn't have been a traitor. She... wasn't that type of person. I know she wasn't. Someone... Someone needs to get to the bottom of this." - Cadet Meiya Mitsurugi, 207th Training Group, survivor
Hey guys. Sorry about the delay in the next chapter, but I've been kinda distracted by some other stuff I've been working on. In the meantime, this should help tide things over until Valkyries Part 3 and Journey Home 2 are ready.