Let me not pray to be sheltered from the dangers, but to be fearless in facing them. Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it. - Rabindranath Tagore
Vandread Dita leads the pilots of the Nirvana in yet another battle against the harvest. Their menacing enemies have gotten fiercer since their last encounter, relentlessly pursuing any struggling or retreating pilots. Thankfully even in the face of the enemy's ferocity no casualties have been suffered thanks to the efforts of Mobius and the Eclipse squadron.
"Alright this is it!" Hibiki yelled after striking down another enemy, "Let's end this".
"Hey what's that?" Jura asked after seeing a glinting light in the distance.
With hardly any time to react, a massive beam of red light was fired from behind the enemy lines, tearing through the left arm of the Vandread and destroying the dread pilots behind it.
Hibiki clenches his eyes shut trying to force himself through the pain he felt, but after hearing the screams of his fellow pilots he slowly opens his eyes to see everyone except himself and Mobius were shot down.
"What just happened?" he asked fearfully as a second beam fired toward the Nirvana destroying it and the remaining enemies all encircled Mobius shooting him down.
"No…" the pilot from Tarak muttered in disbelief, "This can't be happening…this isn't real…" he felt Dita's head drop back against his chest and he looked down to see the red head's eyes slowly closing as she took her last breath.
"Dita!" Hibiki cried before another beam was fired, hitting the Vandread in its center.
Hibiki screamed as he shot up from his bed, cold sweat flooding over his body as he looked around.
The pilot backed himself against the wall of his cell and gripped his left arm which was aching as if someone hit him, "A dream?" he asked himself.
Entering the hangar, Hibiki looked up at his Vanguard, "That light" he hummed, "What was it?"
"Mr. Alien?" Dita's voice said from behind him.
Hibiki turned around to see Dita along with Meia and Jura standing behind him all of them were dressed in their nightgowns and they had the same look on their faces that he did.
"Hey" he greeted in a quiet voice, "Why are you three up so early?"
Meia lowered her head, "It felt like it was trying to communicate with us, sending us a message or at least that's how it felt to me".
"Hold on are you saying you saw the same thing I did?" Hibiki asked her.
"So you saw it to then Mr. Alien?" Dita asked him.
"This is really weird" Jura moaned, "How could all of us have the same dream?"
"We all have something important in common" Meia said looking up to Jura, "The changes to the dreads and Vanguard are proof of that".
"It's still really strange" Jura said before clenching her eyes shut.
"What's wrong Jura?" Dita asked her.
"I'm sorry" Jura said to her, "I'm going back to bed".
Jura returned to her room, but stopped once her door opened when she noticed Mobius coming out of Meia's room.
"You look like you had a bad dream" the blonde pilot said to him.
Mobius shook his head, "Not really. As far as dreams go I've had worse".
Jura gave him a small smile, "So, you and Meia?"
"What about it?" he asked her.
Jura smiled and moved her eyes away from him, "Nothing…I just…treat her right ok? I know she's stronger than most of us, but she really needs someone like you".
"That street goes both ways Jura" the veteran ace replied before seeing the way Jura rubbed her forehead. "Headache?" he asked her.
Jura nodded with a faint smile, trying to be polite to him.
Mobius walked over to her and retrieved a small bottle from his pocket. "Here" he said taking a single pill from the bottle and handing it to her, "Room temperature water and no caffeine or rumbling noises. Once you take it lay down for some more sleep, it won't last for long, but it'll help you get some sleep".
Jura thanked him before entering her room and taking the pill before going back to sleep, leaving Mobius in the hall.
"Well that's my good deed for the day" Mobius thought to himself, "Back to work" he said before walking toward the elevator.
Stepping off the elevator, Mobius made his way to the hangar meeting Hibiki along the way.
"Hibiki" Mobius greeted as he passed the young pilot.
Hibiki stopped and looked back at him, "Mobius can I talk to you?"
"Can it wait?" Mobius asked him, "I need coffee".
"Uh sure" Hibiki answered quietly, "It's not that important".
Mobius vanished around the corner and Dita appeared running over to Hibiki.
"What do you want now?" Hibiki asked her.
Dita smiled shyly, twirling her fingers inside the sleeves of her robe, "Well I was just wondering when you were going to come see my room?"
"Is that it?" Hibiki fired at her, "Dita look around do you really think I have time for something like that right now?"
"Then when?" the redhead asked him, "Tomorrow? The day after?"
"Sometime soon ok, just not now" Hibiki told her before leaving.
From the end of the hall, Mei was watching them not too long ago she would've told Dita to stopped chasing Hibiki across the ship, but thanks to both Hibiki and Mobius she changed. Not only did she start opening up to the rest of the crew, but she became a gentler person while not in combat. Back then she believed men to be their enemies and even considered them dangerous to be around, but now she sees differently and even spends most of her time around one of them.
"And so another day begins" a young voice said from behind her.
Meia looked behind her to see Paiway, writing in her little notebook before holding her frog puppet up to Meia, "I still can't believe Dita would chase after a man".
That's when Pyoro showed up out of the blue, "Actually that's normal behavior!" the tiny NAVI-bot hiccupped after it spoke.
Paiway pushed the robot down, "How rude interrupting a lady. Wait did you just hiccup? Robots can't hiccup". Pyoro immediately hiccupped again.
Meia was also confused as to why a robot was hiccupping, but there were other things on her mind so she continued on her way.
Inside the conference room Magno, BC, Gascogne and Mobius were having a meeting.
BC was standing at the end of the table next to a hologram displaying the Nirvana position with Mejere at the other side of the screen, "We are approximately 90 days away from Mejere. However we've yet to receive any word from our home world or Tarak about the threat we're facing from Earth".
Magno looked up to her second in command, "What about those two pods we sent out before? They should have arrived by now".
Gascogne crossed her arms, "Seems pretty obvious that we're getting the cold shoulder".
"It's very likely" Mobius said moving his eyes over to the captain, "Tarak suddenly receiving a warning from a band of female pirates? And in the eyes of the Mejerian government you're all outcasts or criminals yet you're warning them against something".
"What are you getting at?" Magno asked him.
Mobius set his elbow against the table and rested his chin against his fist, "To suddenly receive a warning from a group of pirates that both worlds don't trust, they could think you're up to something, a ruse to get them to focus their attention on something else while you slip in to attack".
Magno had a small smile on her face, "Well we are pirates".
Mobius continued, "The other possibility is that they believe there's a chance the threat is real, but without complete proof they don't want to cause a panic in the public" Mobius closed his eyes, "One of the many reasons I hate politics".
Magno looked at the image of Mejere on the hologram screen, "I'm sure they won't ignore the message we're sending this time. Once they learn that Earth's true intention is to harvest our reproductive organs".
A screen appeared next to the hologram showing Parfet, "Reporting captain".
"Is something wrong?" the captain asked looking at the lead engineer.
Parfet nodded, "I'm afraid so. The Peksis is acting up again and I can't seem to figure out the cause".
"Is this going to be a weekly event?" Mobius asked her.
Parfet apologized, "Sorry we're doing everything we can, but I'm afraid it's not much. It's almost as if the Peksis is confused".
Gascogne leaned back in her chair, keeping her arms crossed "Maybe its residual effects from when the two ships fused together. The Peksis probably feels the same way we do. Men and women are completely different and yet so much alike that we can't even understand each other".
"Speak for yourself" Mobius replied, "I understand women just fine then again I come from a special place" his tone changed toward his last words carrying his obvious distaste for what his former home world was now doing.
"That reminds me actually" the captain said before looking at BC and Gascogne nodding to both of them.
Both the sub-commander and the Reg leader slowly left the conference room leaving only the captain and Mobius.
"The reason I asked you to join us here this time" the captain began making direct eye contact with Mobius as if trying to probe his eyes for information, "Its been quite sometime since you and the other young men joined us when this all first started".
Mobius remained silent, but it was obvious to the captain that in his head he was already figuring out where the conversation was going.
"I know I've said it several times since, but you've really become an indispensable member of the crew. The other men and just about every woman on board this ship look at you as if you're some kind of guiding light that will get us back home".
"I'm nothing more than a pilot doing his job" Mobius told her.
"I'm aware of that" Magno replied, "Nevertheless every singe one of them are beginning to feel that as long as you are here we can't lose" the captain smiled, "I've noticed that even Leona has begun warming up to you".
"Well contrary to popular belief time doesn't fix everything, sometimes direct intervention is necessary".
The captain continued, "Which brings us to the Eclipse squadron as you call them. The strike team you trained to handle the Yellows has exceeded all my hopes and expectations for them. You've done a lot for this ship without expecting anything in return".
"Again I'm only a pilot doing his job captain" Mobius reminded her.
"Be that as it may" the captain told him, her voice becoming more serious, "You're efforts on this ship have not gone unnoticed. Whether you like it or not you've become a symbol of guidance and hope for most of the crew and I'm sure you more than anyone here can understand the importance of morale".
Mobius remained silent as the captain continued, keeping his unwavering eyes locked with hers.
"Both BC and Gascogne are my most trusted allies and my closest friends, I consider them both as well as everyone else on this ship my family even you my dear". Magno stood up from her seat as if she was about to say something important, "Mobius I would like you assist Meia in commanding the dread teams. We never elected a second in command in the event Meia was ever unable to enter battle and I'm sure you remember what happened to her that day".
Mobius kept his eyes on the captain as he recalled the day Meia was shot down by the enemy Yellows, barely surviving the fatal encounter.
"I want you to know that I've spoken with Meia several times about this and she has agreed to it and has even expressed her hopes that you will take up this assignment".
Mobius was silent for a few seconds as he thought about the offer, "Commanding the dread teams and my squadron at the same time will be difficult".
Magno nodded, "I know I ask a lot of you Mobius, but I hope you realize I would not ask if I didn't feel you were capable of it".
Mobius nodded, "Alright I accept".
The captain smiled at him as he stood up, "Good oh and there's one more thing I'd like to discuss with you" she said just as Mobius turned for the door, "About you and Meia".
Mobius silently exhaled, he was well aware that the captain had spotted him and Meia together multiple times and knew that it was going to be brought up eventually.
The captain waited for Mobius to turn back around and face her, "Meia has come out of her shell thanks solely to you and Hibiki, but it was you and you only Mobius who kept here open to the outside world. As I've already said I hold everyone here very dear to me, but Meia is a special case. She's very precious to me and I've seen how much she changes when she's with you and I've noticed the same changes with you. The two of you care for each other very deeply".
The captain paused, impressed as always by Mobius' impenetrable fortitude even his eyes were solid as stone, unwavering even on a personal topic such as this.
"I know Meia is a strong girl on the outside, but on the inside she's very frail and even though she'll never openly admit it she needs someone to protect her especially from her former self. I want you to stay by her side for as long as possible, if you truly care for her you will never let anything harm her".
Mobius' gaze changed it was still firm, but now fierce as well boldly showing his unwavering resolve, "There is no force in existence that can get to her without going through me. If it threatens her I will answer appropriately and if the time should ever come I will die erasing that threat".
The captain watched Mobius slowly walk out of the conference room and noticed something she didn't before. His stance, the way he walked he was no longer carrying the weight he once did on his shoulders it was different now. He still carries a burden with him, but one he's not afraid of one he has embraced and will always carry a burden that only he can bare.
After the door closed behind him, Magno sat back in her chair and thought to herself as it turned around and slid back to return to the bridge, "It is going to take all of our combined efforts to survive, but I have a feeling young Mobius that it will take you and Hibiki to end this war we've gotten ourselves into".
In the men's quarters of the ship Duelo was reading a book he found while listening to Bart as he chewed handfuls of pills made on Tarak.
"Women sure are weird. At first I believed that they ate a man's internal organs, but now here we all are getting along…well sort of".
The blonde helmsman noticed Yellow 13 walk by them and into his own cell, retrieving something from the small trunk that served as his footlocker, "Hey Yellow 13 you got a few minutes?" the helmsman asked him.
The Erusian ace turned to him revealing what he had retrieved from his trunk. A Heckler & Koch Mark 23 handgun, "Sure" he replied, setting the gun on his cot and walking over to them.
"What's the gun for?" Bart asked cautiously.
13 shook his head, "I was thinking I might do some target practice, but…I hate guns. They remind me of the war".
Bart had a sorrowful expression, "Yeah I heard you lost a lot of friends toward the end…I can't imagine how bad that must have been for you".
13 sat on the floor next to Bart, "It was a long time ago I've moved on or at least I will once we end the Harvest".
Bart looked up at the ceiling imagining the Su-37's that the Harvest use in their fleets, "That's right, the Harvest are using unmanned fighters of the same type you fly".
13 growled quietly, "It's insulting to me. I can never forgive something like that. I put my heart and soul into Yellow squadron, and to have these monsters turn my pride into such a disgusting tool" the pilot looked up to Bart, "Anyway did you need something?"
Bart quickly returned to his former inquisitive state, "Oh right, you and Mobius both came from Earth right? I mean before it became what it is now".
13 nodded, "Yeah, since the battle with that flagship I've done some history research with Parfet and Gascogne's help. A lot has changed since our days".
Bart set the bag of energy pills down, "Can you tell me how men and women got along back then?"
"What do you mean?" the blonde ace asked him.
Bart leaned forward some more, "I mean how did you coexist with each other, around here it seems no matter how well we get along there's still tension".
"There's really no secret to it Bart" 13 told him, "Once you all realize that we're all human the other pieces will fall into place on their own".
"You make it sound so simple" Bart sighed falling against the wall and eating more of the energy pills.
13 looked up to Duelo, "So what are you reading?"
Duelo showed him the cover of the book in his hand it was titled 'Hello Baby'. Duelo read the next few lines out aloud for the two to hear, "The baby's life begins when the seed, that is the father's sperm is accepted by the female egg called an ovum. The two of them join to form a zygote which in turn develops into a fetus".
Bart had a strange look on his face, "A what turns into what? Are you really into that stuff?"
Duelo smirked at him, "I find it fascinating".
13 chuckled, "A thirst for knowledge. If you come across something you don't understand seek to understand it. Learn as much as you can about what you can. A lot of people believe that wisdom and knowledge is true power…at least back then they did I'm not sure about nowadays".
The three men heard a moan and they looked at the doorway to see Hibiki shamble in and collapse on the cot.
"What's got into him?" Bart wondered before 13 got up and left, returning a few short minutes later with a bottle of water and handing it to Hibiki.
Hibiki clumsily thanked him as he took the bottle and quickly began downing it. The young pilot gasped for air once the last drop of water was gone, "Thanks" he said again setting the bottle to the side, "Sorry it's just these women are driving me to my limits".
"That's nothing new" Duelo said in a somewhat cold tone.
"Its not just that" Hibiki told him, "Dita keeps bugging me about this promise I made her during that big battle we had".
"A promise?" Bart asked him.
Hibiki nodded and without realizing it he told them that he had promised to visit Dita's room.
"You promised to go to Dita's room?" Duelo asked him.
Hibiki nodded with a slight blush, "Yeah it just kind of came out in the moment you know?"
"So what's the big deal then?" Bart asked him, "Just go to her room".
"You go!" Hibiki yelled at him.
The helmsman shook his head and his tone became teasing like, "Uh-ah I'm not the one who made the promise".
Hibiki groaned, "You got to be kidding me. Go to a woman's room? A real man would never do that".
Duelo lowered his book, "What a real man would do is keep his promise".
13 quickly pointed at Duelo while keeping his eyes on Hibiki, obviously signaling that Duelo had a point.
Hibiki sighed, "Its not that I want to break the promise it's just…"
"Out with it already" 13 barked at him making Hibiki snap.
"Look! If I go in there, what are we going to do in there? I mean what are we going to about?"
13 smirked, "Maybe you could ask Mobius for some tips".
"Mobius?" Bart and Hibiki repeated.
Duelo hummed, "It has been some time since he last slept in his room".
Bart agreed, "Yeah I always assumed he slept in the hangar's office he always seems to be there".
"You guys don't know?" 13 asked them. Seeing the puzzled looks on their faces answered his question. "He's been sleeping in Meia's room".
"M…Meia's room?" Bart gasped.
"Is it really that much of a surprise?" 13 asked him.
"To him it is" Duelo answered, "When we were first taken prisoner Meia was quite hostile to us much like Barnette used to be".
"She seems nice enough to me" 13 noted.
"Yeah, but you weren't here back then" Hibiki told him, "Her and Barnette were really mean. Thankfully they've lightened up a bit since…then…"
Hibiki's face suddenly darkened as well as Bart's. They were both looking behind 13 and the ace pilot could sense it, he was behind him. "Morning Mobius", 13 greeted with a slight smirk as he looked over his shoulder.
Mobius stared blankly at them before asking 13 to follow him.
13 followed Mobius to the elevator, once they got on and the doors closed Mobius turned to him, "Never volunteer me for something like that again".
"How long were you there?" 13 asked him.
"Right about the time Hibiki started ranting about the promise he made to Dita" Mobius replied.
13 fell silent for a second before looking at Mobius, "Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?"
"Maybe" Mobius answered.
13 looked up at the ceiling of the elevator, "You and Meia. How did you two end up together?"
Mobius' answer was about as bland as 13 expected, "I saved her life".
"That's it?" 13 asked him.
"What do you want?" Mobius asked him, "A poem? I saved her life one day that's how it started after that she started following me around just like you do…just like Claire used to".
"Claire?" 13 muttered, "Your sister right?"
"Claire was more than just my sister" Mobius admitted, "She was my closest friend. After I lost her I swore that I would never lose anything else that's important to me".
"And what is important to you?" 13 asked him.
"Am I on trial or are you writing a book about me?" Mobius asked him.
13 sighed growing a bit frustrated, "You're just not going to stop are you?" he asked him, "You're the only person who's ever challenged me you even defeated me and shot down my entire team. Is it really that hard to indulge me in a bit of curiosity?"
Mobius looked at 13 a bit surprised at his sudden outburst. Mobius reached into his pocket and retrieved the gem case that held the tarot card he always carried, "What's important to me? Redemption or rather proof that I'm as good as I think I am…as I want to be".
"What do you have to prove?" 13 asked him as the doors opened.
The two of them stepped off the elevator and continued on. "I want to prove that I'm strong enough to protect what is important to me. Right now that's Meia and since this ship is important to her it's important to me".
13 had an envious smile, "At the risk of sounding narcissistic I can see a lot of myself in you, but I also see Amanda in you as well. You're a skilled pilot unlike anything I've ever seen and you have this unbelievable determination to protect what matters to you. Amanda, she was the same way. I met her when I was in my late teens and she was still a young girl only 12 years old. I was already a soldier at the time, but later on I began training her to become a pilot".
Mobius listened to 13 as they returned to the hangar, "As time passed the two of us became very close. In the air or on the ground it didn't matter, she was always at my side to protect me".
"So you were what was important to her" Mobius noted, "What was important to you?"
13 had to think on that one, "Back then it was my search for a worthy opponent and even after you destroyed Stonehenge and shot Amanda down that was still my priority although…"
Mobius took a guess at what he was thinking, "You didn't realize how you felt about her until after she died".
13 nodded, "I was so caught up in looking for the one who would challenge me that I never saw it" he looked over to the number 13 emblazed in yellow on his fighter, "I always knew how much I loved her, but I always thought there would be time for it later" he looked back to Mobius, "Mobius if you ever listen to anything I say let it be this, if you feel like you have to keep fighting then by all means continue just remember that Meia should be your top priority no matter what because the unpredictable can happen at any time".
13 walked away leaving Mobius to ponder his words. The ISAF ace watched 13 leave the hangar, "What is important to me?" he asked himself after 13 had left. He looked at the tarot card in his hand, gently cradling it as if it were his own child, "I have to let go".
13 quickly returned to his cell in the men's quarters to get his gun and then made his way to the firing range, as much as he hated guns target practice had a way of focusing him and allowing him to relieve stress.
"Oh, hello Barnette, Jura" he said after seeing the two pilots as he entered the range.
Neither of the two pilots said anything to him, Barnette seemed a bit annoyed that he was there while Jura was clearly off in her own world.
Loading his MK23 13 stepped onto the range platform and took aim at his first target taking a quick breath before pulling the trigger. The sound of the gunshot was deafening to 13, it had been a long time since he last used his weapon and had forgotten how loud firearms were.
"What's wrong?" Barnette asked him, her tone sounded hostile, but her eyes did show a bit of concern.
13 looked over to her and then to the gun in his hands, "Honest answer? I hate guns. It's the only part I don't like about being a soldier".
"Then why are you here?" the green haired pilot asked him.
13 shook his head, "Trying to keep my mind off things, I used to have a guitar back on Earth, but…well my favorite means of relaxing is no longer here so this is what I'm doing now".
Barnette turned back around to fire at her last target when Jura suddenly spoke up, "You know Barnette I want to have a baby".
Surprised, Barnette missed her target and immediately spun around, "What?" she gasped, "A…and you want me to be the Ohma?"
The blonde shook her head, "No with one of the men silly. The doctor said it's possible; just think I'd be the first woman in Mejere history to accomplish such a thing".
13 took that as his cue to leave quickly turning around and exiting the firing range just as the ship's alarm went off.
On the Nirvana's bridge, the radar scans the enemy force ahead of them.
"Life form signal detected Commander" Ezra said, "It appears to be some kind of escape pod".
BC looked at the image of the pod fleeing from the Harvesters, "Is it possible that someone escaped? All pilots don't engage the enemy unless you have to retrieve that pod at once!"
"Mobius 1 taking off from the main hangar" Belvedere said, "Hibiki is launching as well".
Mobius flew at top speed toward the incoming enemy force, "Hibiki I'll splash the ones directly behind the pod you just focus on grabbing it and getting back to the Nirvana".
"Alright, leave it to me" the young pilot replied waiting for Mobius to attack the enemy.
"Dread teams have launched" Belvedere announced.
Meia issued her orders to the dread pilots while she moved into position, "B team surround and protect the Nirvana, A team split up and cover the Vanguard as it retreats with the pod".
"Yukiko to Mobius 1, what do you want us to do?"
"The same as always if the target is yellow shoot it"
"What about Captain Hamilton right?" Laura asked in a joking manner, "I mean unless you want us to shoot at him you're the boss".
"Hmm tempting" Mobius replied holding back his smile, "Eh we might need the meat shield uh I mean wingman…yeah"
"What is this pick on 13 day?" 13 asked as he flew into combat alongside Mobius, firing at the enemy to scatter their lines.
13 watched as the enemy evaded his missiles at last second before swinging behind him, "Whoa…These guys are a lot faster than they used to be".
Mobius didn't give his target a chance to get behind him, expertly following after it and taking it down, "All units be advised these guys are a step above the rest stay frosty".
"Gascogne's ship is taking off from the Nirvana"
"Hibiki be ready to hand off I'm coming in" the Reg leader ordered as her ship approached the Vanguard.
"Alright just be sure to get back safely" Hibiki told her.
Gascogne smirked, "Well if you do your job right I won't have to worry about that".
Hibiki handed the escape pod to Gascogne and turned around to return to the battle just as a small group of cube-types sped past him and attacked the supply ship, two of the self destructing as they rammed into the side of Gascogne's ship.
"What the hell?" Hibiki yelled as two more cube types did the same suicide run against the Vanguard.
"Well that's some good coordination they've got there" Gascogne said as another group of cube types swooped in under her ship and took the pod before it could be secured.
"The enemy is retreating with the pod!" Belvedere cried as the enemy began fleeing.
"They're not after us?" BC muttered, "Captain?"
Magno had a smirk on her face as if she was amused by this turn of events, "This is certainly an unexpected twist. If that pod is so important to Earth that they are willing to ignore us then by all means we've got to get it back".
Ezra turned to the captain and BC, "I've detected a group of enemy Yellows approaching from behind the enemy, four in total there also seems to be a high speed object approaching the area".
"A high speed object?" BC wondered, "Get a scan of the approaching object at once" she ordered, "Bart be prepared to take evasive actions!"
The bridge operators immediately began scanning the incoming object as well as calculating its distance from the Nirvana and speed.
"Scan complete, posting the image on screen" Aramone announced before showing an image of a familiar giant object.
BC narrowed her eyes, "It's that weapon again the one Mobius called Stonehenge".
Belvedere turned around, "The object is on a direct collision path with the Nirvana, but the enemy force is in the way although even if they move we can easily avoid the object with a simple adjustment in our current position".
BC nodded, "Bart, move the Nirvana to starboard".
"Roger Commander" Bart yelled from the helmsman portal as he began steering the ship to the right.
"I don't like this" Mobius muttered over the radio watching the enemy Yellows split off from each other and the enemy's main force open up leaving a giant hole in the middle of their formation, Mobius knew what was about to happen "Bart move the ship now get out of there! All pilots scatter and get as far away from the center of the area!"
The pilots were confused by Mobius' sudden orders, but they knew better than to question him in a battle. The pilots of the Nirvana quickly separated from each other staying in small groups and fleeing from the epicenter of the battle while Bart moved the Nirvana far out of position.
"10 seconds until the object enters the area!" Aramone yelled.
The object entered the battle area and once it reached the spot where the Nirvana used to be it exploded, sending out a shockwave of red light.
"What was the hell was that?" Hibiki gasped, covering his eyes from the blinding light.
"Focus!" Mobius yelled at him, "Get the pod now!"
Hibiki turned back around and gritted his teeth, "You bastards aren't getting away, Jura let's go!" he yelled.
Jura flew toward Hibiki the two ships combining to form Vandread Jura while Mobius along with the Eclipse squadron flew ahead of them to attack the enemy.
Once the enemy was dealt with, Vandread Jura moved in and secured the pod within its shield. Jura arrogantly flicked her hair, "Ta-da! Am I good or what?"
"Better late than never I guess" Hibiki sighed as Jura moved her seat closer to him.
"Listen Hibiki" she whispered to him, "I want to have a baby, will you give me what I need?"
Hibiki's face immediately went red and the young teen began sweating, "Are you serious right now? In case you haven't noticed we're still surrounded by the enemy!"
Jura began laughing at Hibiki when Meia ordered both of them to return to the Nirvana, "The enemy appears to be in observation mode, return to the ship at once meanwhile we'll…" Meia stops when she noticed something move in the darkness behind the enemy, "What is that?" she thought to herself "A new enemy?"
"All units listen up" Mobius ordered, "There's an unidentified enemy in the field stay alert and be ready".
The new enemy resembled a sting ray that swam through space slowly approaching Vandread Jura.
"Jura, Hibiki move now!" Mobius ordered, but it was too late.
The new enemy targeted the Vandread and fired a red laser scoring a direct hit and forcing the ship to separate leaving the pod vulnerable once again.
"The enemy has the pod again!" Belvedere informed.
"Dammit I've had enough of this" Mobius growled, "Eclipse squadron move in and take down anything that get's in the way do not let them get away with that pod".
The wings of the Eclipse squadron answered in unison as they flew forward the reengage the retreating enemy. Hibiki and Dita combine and follow them into battle, they easily destroy the enemy cube types, but before they can secure the pod the sting ray-like enemy fires its cannon once again.
The red laser strikes Vandread Dita in the right arm causing all power to the Vandread to be lost. The blue armor of the Vandread begins changing to a rusty red color as the mech fell motionless.
"What's going on here damn it?" Hibiki yelled just as the enemy began attacking the Nirvana.
Bart screamed, "It never hurt this much before I don't know how much more I can take! Engineering what the hell is going on?!"
Parfet's voice answered, "I don't know! The Peksis is really going crazy; it's almost as if it's afraid of something".
The massive sting ray vessel opened its mouth and a giant tentacle-like appendage extended out and wrapped around Vandread Dita, slowly pulling the mech toward it. The vessel's mouth opened wider revealing giant spikes for its teeth as it pulled the Vandread closer and closer ready to harvest the pilots within.
Hibiki glared at the monster before him, he wasn't going to let it end here. "Dreams may seem real when you're asleep, but I'm not sleeping now and the reality is that I'll never let you win, never!"
Hibiki's courageous defiance restored the Vandread's power, returning it to its shining blue color and its power. The Vandread pulled its arms back easily cutting through its bindings before it reared back and jammed its weapon into the mouth of the enemy vessel, destroying the monster in a single blow.
With the main enemy destroyed, Vandread Dita retrieved the pod once again and began retreating leaving the rest of the pilots to clean up the remaining enemy.
On the way back to the Nirvana, Meia was smiling to herself, "He's so reckless, but he gets the job done".
"Are you that surprised?" Mobius asked her, "That boy has a strong will, he's got a lot of potential in him all he has to do is learn how to use it".
Meia looked over to the F-22 flying next to her, "You sound a bit nostalgic, care to share?"
"Maybe later" Mobius answered quietly, "I'm a bit tired right now".
With everyone back safe and sound everyone gathered in the hall outside the hangar to watch as Parfet hacked the lock of the pod and opened it.
"Ok done" the engineer smiled as she unlocked the pod.
The seal around the pod broke and cold air hissed out as it slowly opened revealing its contents, a young girl in a yellow sleeveless outfit she had deep blue hair tied in a ponytail and she triangle shaped earrings.
"Is she an alien?" Dita asked.
"Sorry Dita she's as human as we are" Parfet said dismissing Dita's hopes at finding another alien.
From the back of the crowd Hibiki began pushing his way through everyone to get a closer look, once through the crowd Hibiki watched Duelo check the girl vitals, once the doctor announced that the pods life support systems were still working Hibiki tried to get closer, but tripped and landed face first against the pod.
As the young pilot fell back, clenching at his face the girl in the pod began opening her eyes; they were a dark shade of crimson. Once the girl's eyes were opened her left earring began to glow and some kind of hologram of a shapeless yellow creature was projected, its face glared at Hibiki with a clear hostility.
"What is that?" Hibiki gasped before the girl sat up and looked at him.
"It was you" she muttered, "You saved me oh thank you!" she yelled lunging forward and embracing the young pilot in a tight hug, "You saved me my lord prince!"
"Lord?" Barnette started as Jura finished what she was thinking, "Prince?"
Seeing the girl hugging Hibiki clearly made Dita she glared at the girl even as Mobius walked in front of her and past everyone else.
"I need coffee" he sighed in an annoyed tone as he gently pushed his way past the crowd of women.
The day continued from there with a lot of new gossip on the ship about their new visitor, but eventually everything died down as everyone turned in for bed. There were only a few crew members still awake including Mobius, Yellow 13, Meia and the captain.
Mobius remained in the hangar, still going over squadron reports for their battle that day while Yellow 13 was holding his hand out and moving his fingers like he was playing an invisible guitar.
"Do you ever work?" Mobius asked him.
13 half smiled, "Of course I do, but I also take these occasional things called breaks".
Mobius flipped a sheet of paper over his clipboard and continued writing, "The quicker you get everything done the more time you have to relax".
13 stopped playing his imaginary guitar and looked at Mobius, "I'm going to be direct on this one".
"I prefer it always be that way" Mobius told him without taking his eyes off the reports.
"Work does need to get done I'm not arguing that, but you can't constantly immerse yourself in it. You have to take time for yourself and what's important to you, I know I'm not that much older than you are, but trust me on this one there is a very short window in your life where you have to make this kind of decision, always working or work and occasionally relaxing".
With that 13 quietly got up and left, leaving Mobius in the hangar office to finish his reports.
Meanwhile in the garden section, Meia was sitting on the bench staring up at the distant stars surrounding the Nirvana.
"Shouldn't you be in bed by now?" the captain's voice said to her.
Meia looked over to see Magno smiling at her, "I'm just not very tired at the moment" Meia lied as the captain walked over and sat beside her.
"You're thinking about Mobius again aren't you?"
Meia looked at the ground with a slight smile, "I don't know why I bother lying to you it never works. The truth is he's all I can think about".
Magno smiled, "That's a common thing to happen when you care for some one so much. Tell me Meia just how much do you care for young Mobius?"
Meia blushed as she turned her head away from the captain, "I love him" she quietly admitted.
Magno chuckled at her, "Oh I already knew that dear, I was just seeing if you could openly admit it. The truth is I've been keeping a close eye on both of you since Christmas seeing how you're relationship with him will go".
Meia returned her eyes to the ground below them, "I know Mobius is a man, but I've never felt this strongly about anyone".
Magno chuckled again, "Take it from me Meia, love knows no gender. It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman love can blossom between anyone and I'm happy to see that you're happy when you're with him and I know he is happy to be with you".
Meia smiled again, "I'm definitely happy to be with him, but now I'm…"
"What is it my dear?" Magno asked her, "You know you can tell me anything".
Meia took a deep breath before looking at the captain, "A few nights ago he asked me to marry him".
The captain seemed really surprised by that news, "Oh did he now? That's quite a surprise for me".
Meia was still smiling, but she could feel herself blushing brightly and quickly turned her head away which made the captain laugh rather loudly.
"There's no need to be embarrassed by that Meia, marriage is a very special thing saved only for those who truly love each other to no end and will stop at nothing to keep each other happy for the rest of their lives".
Meia remained silent, still hiding her face from Magno.
The captain dropped her smile and asked, "I take it you haven't given him an answer yet?"
Meia shook her head and slowly returned her eyes to the captain, "I…I said yes. I was shocked when he asked me, but then all I could feel was happiness, like I was flying through an open sky, but now I'm…I'm just wondering if its something I should do…a decision like this".
Magno politely cut her off, "There is no easy way to make that kind of decision Meia. You can contemplate it all you want, but it won't make it any easier".
"Then how can I be sure?" Meia asked her in a panicked voice.
Magno smiled again, "You already are. When you are hit with a question like that Meia it's an answer you already know in your heart no matter what and I can tell what your heart is saying as clear as an open book right now. If he loves you enough to ask you such a question that means he's sure he wants to spend the rest of his life with you and if you're really as happy as you are with him and love him so much that you can't stop thinking about him then you already know the answer".
Magno slowly got up and gave Meia one last smile, "Don't think with your mind Meia feel with your heart and you'll realize everything you need to know, trust me dear".
Meia watch the captain walk away and looked back up to the stars, "I love him" she said to herself, "There's nothing I want more in my life…for whatever reason he is what makes me happy".
Meia felt her chest tighten, she slowly raised her hands and placed them over her heart and closed her eyes, "So I really should then?" she quietly asked herself. Meia got to her feet and took one last look at the stars above her before returning to her room.
Returning to her room, Meia opened the door before sensing someone behind her. Slowly turning around she met Mobius' eyes as she wrapped her arms around him embracing him as if he was the only thing that allowed her to stand.
"You seem happy all of a sudden" the veteran ace smiled, "Did something happen while I was gone?"
Meia shook her head before looking down, "No it's nothing it's just…I think I finally realized just how important you really are to me".
Mobius kept smiling as Meia let go and lead him into her room, once inside his smile faded as he closed the door, "Meia" he said quietly as he reached into his pocket.
Meia was about to remove her circlet when he said her name, she turned to face him and froze when she saw the look in his eyes a look of hesitation and doubt, "Yes?"
"I want to give you something" he said pulling his hand from his pocket and holding it out with whatever he was holding facing the floor so she couldn't see.
Meia slowly held her hand out and allowed Mobius to place the item in her hand. Once the item touched her hand Meia's eyes widened, she knew what it was, "Mobius?" she muttered looking up to him.
Mobius was clearly hesitant to let go of it, but slowly he retracted his hand leaving Claire's tarot card in Meia's hand, "Its time I let go and moved on" he said although he sounded like he was trying to convince himself of it, "I want you to keep it from now on".
Meia looked at the card in her hand, she didn't want to take it from him it was his most precious possession and he was giving it to her. Gently she cupped her hands and cradled the card against her chest, "I'll keep it safe and treasure it" she said weakly before setting the card and her circlet on her nightstand.
She blushed as she looked back at him and unfastened the buckles of her flight suit, allowing it to drop to the floor before removing the under layer as well and changing into her nightgown.
Once she had her nightgown on Meia slid into her bed waiting for Mobius to join her, the hardened pilot lifted the blanket before sliding in next to her.
Once Mobius had settled in, Meia leaned over and kissed him, "I love you Mobius" she whispered before resting her head against his shoulder and closing her eyes as his arm wrapped around her. With the day over and her mind clear, Meia dreamt that night.
Meia was standing on a grass covered hill, looking up at the clear blue sky above her she had been here once before when she almost died after sustaining fatal injuries at the hand of the enemy.
"Meia" a welcoming, happy voice called to her.
Meia turned around to see her mother standing there smiling at her, "You've grown so much" she smiled, "You're turning into such a beautiful woman".
"Mother" Meia muttered with a small, but happy smile as she jumped forward and hugged her, "I miss you".
Her mother placed her hand on top of her head, "Its alright dear I'll always be with you in your heart".
Meia looked up to her mother, "Mother I…I have something I want to tell you".
Her mother smiled at her, "I already know Meia and even if he is a man if he makes you happy then I am happy as well".
Meia's eyes were shaking as she looked at her mother's face, "Then do you think I should marry him? I really love him and want to be with him more than anything".
Her mother continued to smile at her, "My lovely Meia, if that is how you feel then you already know the answer".
An invigorating gust rolled across the hill carrying a sense of warmth with it.
Meia's mother looked down to her, "Its time for me to go Meia, but if you ever need me I'll be here".
Meia didn't want her to leave, but she knew she had to say goodbye for now. She hugged her one last time, "I love you mother".
Her mother smiled as she returned the embrace, "And I love you my wonderful daughter".
Meia's mother vanished from sight leaving Meia standing alone with tears in her eyes, but she was smiling as she looked up to the sky and saw the Nirvana fly overhead with an F-22 right next to it.
There is no illusion greater than fear - Lao Tzu
A/N. And we're back once again. Vandread Mobius: The Second Stage is a go.
First off congratulations to me this chapter is officially the longest I've ever written.
Secondly to all of my American readers out there I wish you all a happy Independence Day as I waited to release this chapter until July 4th as my own way of celebrating.
Thirdly, I would like to thank my comrade in writing arms Vader23A for...unintentionally inspiring a part of this chapter.
And fourthly and finally I'd like to give a shout out and my congratulations to of good friend of mine from High School who has officially become a United States Army Ranger as of last week.
Now for the actual chapter break down...
The crew of the Nirvana once again survive another encounter with the enemy, retrieving a fleeing escape pod containing a strange girl, how will this affect their future? And will this girl be an asset to the crew or a liability?
Hibiki proved that no matter how much you may fear a situation or conflict the only way to overcome it is through action and force of will.
Once again the enemy fires a Stonehenge style weapon at the Nirvana from an unseen origin, with this weapon playing a bigger and bigger role in their battles can the Nirvana hope to survive against such power?
And it seems Yellow 13 and Captain Magno are trying to push Mobius and Meia's relationship even further, with Meia accepting Mobius' proposal will they live to the end to see that dream realized or are they fated for a less lighted path?
These questions and other questions that will arise later on will be answered as Vandread Mobius: The Second Stage continues.