DISCLAIMER: Ranma 1/2 belongs to the brilliant
Takahashi Rumiko. Robotech is owned by Harmony Gold USA, Inc. No copyright
infringement is intended.
This story is based on McKinney's books. C&C desperately needed.
The Battloid slowly stood, a shower of concrete and rubble falling from its metallic shoulders. Still alone in the street, a gaping Ranma could see how it moved its humanoid "head" this way and that, as if looking for something. After a moment, it stopped. Gazing in its same direction, Ranma found out what it had apparently been looking for: the distant explosions of the dogfight.
Closing his mouth for the first time in minutes, Ranma tried to sort out what had just happened. A very strange plane, which had seemed to have arms and legs, had tried to land. In doing so, it had managed to devastate an entire block.
´I hope there wasn't anyone in those buildings,´ he thought, worriedly glancing at the partly-destroyed office buildings.
Then, when it had finally come to a stop, the fighter had begun changing. Some stuff had moved this way, some other had slid that way--and instant robot! Then, the sturdy-looking humanoid robot stood up and seemed almost completely unscathed. Sure, there were some small dents in the armor and a few holes in its chest, but he would have expected a lot more damage in a plane--or something--that had just crashed against several concrete walls at almost terminal velocity.
´Maybe I'm dreaming?´ He thought, almost hopefully. ´Nah, I'm not that lucky. Damn!´
Deep in thought as he had been, he hadn't noticed the small crowd that had started gathering around the now-frozen Battloid. Quickly, a torrent of rumors and speculations arose from the gawking people.
"Could be a new weapon."; "We're being attacked by aliens!"; "Looks like an autobot to me."; "It just fell out of the sky!"; and a million similar comments flowered around Ranma.
He smirked. ´Well, Ranma, what have you learned today?´ he silently asked himself. ´That some places are even weirder than Nerima.´
Suddenly, the Battloid started moving. It took a few lurching steps, like those of a drunkard, but stopped again a moment later.
"Wow! What a cool robot!" Gazing to his right, he could see Jason standing next to him, looking intently at the machine with wide eyes.
"Guess so..." Ranma trailed off. Maybe now it was a robot, but a minute ago it had looked like a fighter plane of sorts. ´Perhaps it's a convertible plane?´ he wondered.
"Let's go upstairs, Ranma! We'll get a good look from there!" Jason grabbed Ranma's hand and started dragging Ranma towards the restaurant.
Luckily, Max appeared in front of them, halting the hyperactive boy. "Son, let go of Ranma. Maybe he doesn't want to go."
"But he _does_ want to go. Right?" Jason asked with pleading eyes.
"Eh... Um... Well, Jason, I should really get--" he started, but quickly stopped himself when Jason's eyes began moistening. "I mean, I'd love to go!"
"Great!" Jason chirped, his tears forgotten.
With a knowing look in his eyes, Max put a hand on Ranma's shoulder. "I pity you," he said, giving him an amused smile. "Take care of him, Ranma. Don't let him get too close to the window, okay?"
Ranma could only nod before someone started pushing him in the White Dragon's direction.
"We gotta hurry, Ranma! C'mon!"
´Oh, man. Why me?´ thought Ranma while looking to the sky, as if searching for an answer in the small clouds.
They stepped through the doorway.
Minmei looked at the retreating forms of her cousin and the tall man, Ranma. Should she go with them? While she was worried for Jason, Ranma was already there to look after him. But she was also interested in the tall man. Seeing his strong, broad back and the long pigtail fluttering behind him, she formed an opinion: ´He is kind of cute, if a little too old.´
There was something else about him, something she couldn't quite put her finger on. The way he walked perhaps--so gracefully that he made other people look clumsy in comparison. Or maybe it was that aura of confidence that seemed to surround him, permeating everything he did. He was... mysterious--and Minmei loved solving mysteries.
Besides, _she_ was the one who had to take care of her cousin. She couldn't leave him alone with a total stranger, right?
Making a decision, she shouted, "Wait for me!" and hurried towards the restaurant's doorway.
Gazing out the top-story window, Jason was looking up at the Battloid's head with obvious delight. "It's huge!"
Standing behind him, Ranma shrugged. "Maybe. But after you've seen the Orochi, things just don't look that big any more."
Minmei just entered the room just in time to hear his last comment. "What's an Orochi?" she asked, curiosity evident in her voice.
Ranma started sweating profusely. How do you explain to a person that you have met a dragon? "Er..." He was saved from further interrogation when the Battloid's head bent slightly forward.
"Look! Its back opened up!" squeaked Jason happily. Ranma could see how an empty pilot's seat set in a metal post rose slowly from the Battloid. At first, he thought that there was no one running it, but then the post went higher with a soft whir. It revealed another seat, this one occupied by a young man. He had medium-length mussy black hair, and was wearing a white and orange uniform that almost hurt the martial artist's eyes.
´Not that impressive. Looks rather skinny to me,´ thought Ranma.
"What the..." muttered the pilot under his breath, but Ranma's sensitive ears picked it up anyway
"What's the problem?" the martial artist called out loudly over the low hum of the throng below.
Startled, the pilot almost dropped the strange flight helmet he had been carrying. He looked in their direction, noticing them for the first time. Ranma couldn't help but smirk when he saw how the young pilot's eyes lingered on Minmei for a moment more than necessary.
"Eh, hi," he greeted uncertainly. "Tell me, does this look like a robot to you?"
"Yeah, I'd say so. Why?" Maybe he had been hurt in the crash and lost his memory?
"Oh, nothing," he said after a long sigh. "I just thought I was crazy or something. This used to be a fighter, you know."
"It's a joke, right?" said Minmei, unbelieving.
Ranma shook his head. "No, he's telling the truth. I saw that thing changing. But tell me, kid, how come you don't know what it is? Aren't you the pilot?"
"My name's Rick, not 'kid'," said the pilot, a little angry. "And this wasn't my idea. Some woman ordered me to take off, so I took off. It's the Army's fault!"
"Okay, whatever. But did you have to make so much damage?"
"Hey, do you think it's easy to pilot this thing?" asked Rick, annoyed at the pig-tailed man's attitude. It's not like he had wanted to crash against those buildings.
Ranma shrugged nonchalantly. "Can't be that hard."
"Oh, yeah," Rick drawled. "Then why don't you come here and try?" he invited, holding out his helmet.
"I just might! After all, I can't mess up worse than you... KID," taunted Ranma, grinning.
They were interrupted by the sound of a horn coming from the street. Looking down, both could see a truck standing next to one of the Battloid's foot. Its driver had half his body out of the window and was yelling loudly, shaking his fist. "Hey, you! Move this thing! I've got supplies to deliver and I haven't got all day!"
Rick sighed, resigned. "I'll see what I can do." Then, he turned to Ranma. "We'll continue this later." There was still a trace of anger in his voice.
"Any time," he said defiantly, trying to refrain a smile from reaching to his lips. ´I like the kid. He reminds me of myself at his age--but not as handsome.´
Rick got back to his seat, and it started lowering. In that moment, Minmei blurted out, "Good luck!"
The young pilot was caught off-guard by this, and so was only able to stammer timidly, "Uh, thanks!" before the support pillar was out of sight, hidden inside the enormous machine.
Ranma looked curiously at the girl, but she merely turned around, blushing slightly. Jason, who had been oblivious to the whole exchange, yelled, "Hey, it's moving again!"
The Battloid stirred, and slowly moved its head to its former upright position. It began raising one of its colossal feet, but lost its balance, and started falling backward. Seeing this, the crowd in the street panicked, and ran in all directions, screaming and wailing. Right before the war machine could crash against the tall office buildings behind it, its back thrusters fired for a moment, sending it stumbling in the direction of the White Dragon.
Ranma saw the Battloid staggering towards them and, realizing it wasn't going to stop, he quickly collected Minmei and Jason in his arms and ran for the door. The Battloid crashed against the window behind which Ranma had been standing and completely destroyed it--along with half of the restaurant.
"Are you okay?" asked Ranma when the rubble had stopped falling.
"Sure!" came Jason's happy reply.
Minmei was coughing from the dust, but managed to compose herself after some time. "Yeah, I guess so," she said.
"Good." Ranma turned to the Battloid, which lay now sprawled over a mountain of concrete and girders. "Hey, boy! You all right?!" he yelled.
"Yes," came Rick's voice over the Battloid's external speakers.
"Great. Would ya make me a big favor?"
"What?" asked Rick, confusion reigning his voice.
"Remind me never to lend you my car, 'kay?"
A very unusual sight greeted Ranma's eyes as he stood next to the now partially demolished doorway of the White Dragon. Steel cables had been roped round the Battloid's torso, and these had been attached to two big trucks, in an attempt to right the downed craft. Inch by inch, it was slowly coming away from the restaurant, the trucks' engines roaring like lions.
Finally, the Battloid reached a precarious balance--a very precarious one. After a moment, though, it started swaying, unstable. The bystanders bolted away, yelling, and the truck drivers left their vehicles behind and ran for cover. For some seconds, the Robotech craft struggled to find its balance, much to no avail. One of its legs became entangled in the still-taut cables, and the Battloid staggered backwards. It crashed against an abandoned building, which collapsed under the titanic weight of the machine.
´Another building destroyed. With pilots like this, who needs enemies?´ Ranma asked himself, smiling at the almost-comical situation. If this single "friendly" aircraft had caused such a mess in the city without even trying to, he shivered at the thought of what a berserk army of these things could do to Macross.
Suddenly, the ground under his feet vibrated slightly, and the breeze brought a low but deep and somehow guttural rumble with it. Ranma whirled, searching with his eyes for anything unusual--which in this island, Ranma realized, was a very easy task.
He wasn't disappointed. In the distance, the SDF-1 was partially hidden by a cloud of dust, and if his eyes didn't cheat him, the ship was tilted to one side.
´What the hell is going on here?´ he wondered. This kept getting weirder and weirder. Maybe someone had fired on the ship?
He was distracted from his musings when he heard several gasps coming from the people in the street. His first guess was that they had also noticed the SDF-1, but when he turned around, he saw that they were all facing upward into the air, and in the opposite direction that the glorious spacecraft. Following their gazes, he discovered a white, black and yellow Veritech approaching them from the ocean.
Everybody rushed out of its path, their previous experiences making people wary. To Ranma's amazement, the onrushing aircraft changed--just like Rick's had minutes ago--into that same metal bird of prey configuration that he remembered seeing before, its wings deployed and legs outstretched as if to land. It deftly settled in the middle of the street, and, without losing a heartbeat, the Robotech craft finished shifting, rapidly becoming a robot, much like the one that rested against the building. The gaping martial artist noticed that it had a white skull and crossbones on a black field painted on the heat shield that now covered the canopy.
For the next few minutes, Ranma ogled, mesmerized, as the Battloid with the skull walked up to the other one and started repairing it. A wide assortment of tools sprang from one of its strong arms, and sparks rained down onto the pavement as Rick's Battloid was repaired.
Finally, Max took him out of his reverie, coming up to him and saying, "They've sent the evacuation order, Ranma. We must go to the shelters."
"Okay, I'll go in a minute. Thanks."
He turned his attention back to the Battloid, and saw how Rick managed to free himself from the rubble, standing up with considerable steadiness. ´The boy is fast learner,´ he thought, gazing at the Battloid's head.
´Well, at least I know why these things were so secret.´ Unbelievable. He would have called it magical, but he, perhaps better than most people, knew that magic was a very different thing. All that magic had ever brought to him had been pain--and curses, of course.
Trying to stop himself from walking down the sorely known path of depression, Ranma walked to the two Battloids and called out, "Hey, boy!"
One of the Robotech machines leaned down over him. "My name is Rick!" blared out a youngish voice through the Battloid's PA system.
"Yeah, whatever. I just came to say goodbye, we're going to the shelters."
"Oh, well... Bye," Rick said, uncertain.
Ranma smirked. "Try not to step on anyone, eh?"
Rick growled, "The only one I might step on is you."
"Ha! As if you could catch me," yelled Ranma at the Battloid, but started walking away anyway. If there was something he had learned during his life in Nerima it was that you should never _ever_ push your luck.
Max and Jason were already on their way to the hills, where the nearest shelter had been built years ago. Lena, however, seemed to be waiting for her niece. Glancing over his shoulders, the pig-tailed martial artist discovered Minmei. She was yelling something at Rick's Battloid. ´She must be saying goodbye. He had to have made a good impression, after all. I'll never understand women. A man demolishes her home and she smiles at him.´
Ranma looked at the grassy hills. They weren't far; it couldn't take them more than five minutes to get there. "We should get going," he said to Lena, who was still waiting for Minmei.
Lena nodded. "Yes, you're right." She turned to Minmei and called, "Minmei! Come on!"
He could see the girl jogging to them, and again couldn't help but notice how pretty she was. Grace in each step... Too young for him, yes; but that Rick guy was another matter entirely. ´Ranma: the matchmaker. Wait and see!´ he promised himself.
Minmei finally caught up with them and, together, they started walking towards the hills.
Almost the entire population of Macross shuffled impatiently around the large hill that loomed over the entrance to the underground shelter system, waiting for their turn to get in. Among the masses, Ranma waited anxiously. Next to him, Max ranted.
"I mean, so many plans, so many years, the least you'd expect is that they'd be quicker," he said, exasperated. "How much time do they want us to wait here?"
"Well, there's a _lot_ of people..." said Ranma, appeasingly.
"That's beside the point. With all the money they spent in t--" He couldn't finish, as Minmei suddenly gave a yelp.
"My diary! I forgot my diary!" she said, almost shouting.
"What?" asked Ranma, confused. A strong sense of déjà vu was invading him.
"I have to go back!"
´Oh, no, girl. Not you too! What's with women and diaries?´ thought Ranma, a little annoyed. If he ever had a daughter, he would be certain she didn't keep a diary. Those things were disasters waiting to happen.
"Wait, child!" Max tried to stop her, but she was too fast for him. Ranma also tried to reach for her, but two civil defense workers stopped him.
"Come back!" cried Lena, worry etched in her face.
"I'll be back in a moment!" shouted Minmei over her shoulder, and with that, she was off, losing herself in the maze of streets.
"What are we going to do?" asked Lena to Max, holding him for reassurance. "It may be dangerous in the city."
"Don't worry, I'll go get her." Ranma shrugged off both men's attempts to stop him and, throwing them to the ground, hurried after Minmei.
Vigilant, mechanical eyes witnessed as Ranma ran back into the city, but they paid him no special attention. They had other objectives, and very important ones. So, as they stared intently at the far shape of the SDF-1, they also ignored the crowds of people waiting outside the shelters for entrance. They couldn't afford distractions, the time was near.
The army of Zentraedi Battlepods stood impassively as thousands of energy bolts--fired by the Zentraedi armada from an orbit around the moon--fell down on Macross, devastating the city. None of them touched the SDF-1, but the buildings that surrounded it were obliterated in a fraction of second, helpless before the amazing power of the alien weapons.
Finally, it stopped. Recognizing this as their signal to action, the Battlepods leapt down from the cliffs around the city. Firing their long-range weapons, they began their assault on the spaceship they had tracked down through time and space.
War reigned anew on the Earth.
Somewhere in the city of Macross, Ranma fought for his life.
He had been trying to find his way back to the restaurant, looking for Minmei, when those strange war machines had appeared seemingly out of nowhere. They had two legs articulated backwards, and this gave them the appearance of ostriches. Granted, no one could ever confuse those headless, wingless and packed with heavy weapons monstrosities with real ostriches, but the comparison was valid. They had come hopping swiftly, and had immediately showered the whole city in missiles. Luckily, Macross had been evacuated in time, and the streets were almost deserted. Except for some Civil Defense workers, Ranma--and Minmei.
So, when one of the Zentraedi Battlepods had finally noticed Ranma and started firing laser beams at him, he fought. After all, he didn't want to die.
But even as he ducked low to avoid an incoming energy bolt, Ranma was smiling. He felt ecstatic, exhilarated. This is what he had trained his whole life for: fighting. It didn't matter if it was against a robot or a person. It didn't matter if his enemies had rockets and lasers when all he could use was his own body--he had faced worse odds before. All that mattered is that he was still a warrior in his heart, and this was simply the most exciting moment of his life. He was one of the best martial artists of the world--and he showed it.
Around him, chaos continued. Building after building was being destroyed by blasts and missiles, and the air was filled with plaster and concrete dust, which made breathing difficult at times. Debris and shrapnel flew in every direction, some of it sharp as knives, and explosions flared in blazing infernos that, Ranma knew, could reduce him to ashes in mere seconds. Meanwhile, the pig-tailed man was a whirlwind of activity. He jumped, leapt, ran, sidestepped and generally dodged, expertly avoiding being caught by the burning wreckage that rained down from the sky--or by the powerful laser bolts the pod was intent in throwing at him.
Yet, even then, his mind remained completely calm. His thoughts were clear, his mind analytic and continuously assessing the situation. He was the eye of the storm, the center of the cyclone.
The insistent pod finally caught up with him. With a colossal leap, it landed in front of him, feet big as cars tearing at the concrete as if it were made of butter. He quickly leaped to the top of a nearby building, just as the section of the street where he had been standing was melted into a black, boiling puddle of lava by the alien lasers. Not wasting any time, Ranma jumped down back to the ground right behind the confused Battlepod, and fired a ki-blast at its knee-joint, shattering it.
The alien craft toppled over and fell to the ground with a tremendous crash, unable to get up for the moment. Not looking back, Ranma continued his way, knowing that time was crucial if he wanted to find Minmei.
Help had finally arrived, and in the form of tall robots just like the ones he had seen outside the White Dragon. They kept firing those powerful guns of theirs, destroying pods left and right. They were really agile--much more so than what their size and weight suggested--and seemed to dance around the larger Battlepods, rapidly overcoming them.
Ranma turned corners at random, hoping against hope he would find either the restaurant or Minmei. Suddenly, another pod jumped onto the roof of a tall building to his right, and gazed down, noticing him.
´Time for the big guns,´ he decided wordlessly. Ranma quickly crossed his arms in front of his chest, then snapped them forward and to the side. He didn't even announce the attack. ´No need to show off,´ he thought, as the nearly invisible vacuum blades soared through the air toward the pod. A moment later, a now legless Battlepod lay helplessly atop the building, desperately trying to keep itself from rolling over the edge of the roof.
´That one won't be moving for a while.´ Even as he was thinking this, a Battloid arrived at the place where the alien warcraft lay and finished it off with its Gatling gun. There was no place for mercy in war. Or, at least, that is what the Battloid's pilot thought as he rushed deeper into the city, looking for more enemies. The Zentraedi wouldn't have had it any other way: war was their philosophy; more, their life. And in a war, you fight to win, no matter the price.
One furious martial artist kicked a pebble, frustrated. Where was she? He still hadn't been able to find her, and he was beginning to fear he was too late. He had seen too many dead bodies in the last fifteen minutes. It seemed all the people who had stayed in the city after the evacuation order had died. Emergency personnel, CD workers, all of them. Why would a teen-aged girl be any different?
A few miles ahead, a pod exploded when a barrage of high-density slugs impacted against its armor, courtesy of a white Battloid. The explosion caused a building that had taken heavy damage from the enemy weapons to collapse over the offworld craft. The city was only a poor reminder of what it had once been--a modern and beautiful place to live had become a battered war-zone. All because someone had decided to start a war.
He looked at the distant SDF-1. He was pretty sure now that the invaders were aliens. After all, who else could build--or pilot--machines as big as those damned ostrich-machines? They were twice the size of the Battloids! Besides, who else would attack the one ship that had brought peace to the entire world? Who else could?
Another explosion made him look up, and he saw a Guardian descending slowly, apparently trying to land. It had only one arm, and for some reason, Ranma found it familiar. Flying though the smoke, it was for a relatively smooth descent, when it abruptly dug its metallic heels into the pavement, obviously trying to lose some momentum. Looking for a reason to this, Ranma looked in the direction of the aircraft's intended path, and discovered a damaged Battlepod giving them its back. The Guardian's foot thrusters flared an intense bright blue, desperately trying to avoid the impending crash, much to no avail. It took the Zentraedi craft from behind, sending both to the ground with a loud thud. Without wasting time, both Robotech machines nimbly got to their feet, but the pod seemed rather unsteady as it eyed its attacker.
It wasn't until that moment that Ranma finally recognized the white and brown Guardian that stood frozen now watching the alien craft: it was Rick's aircraft! ´The boy is alive,´ he thought, relieved. ´Maybe he can help me look for Minmei.´
Then, the Guardian started firing his Gatling, and Ranma had to cover his ears as the bullets buzzed towards their goal. The pod's armor went off in a minute, and it toppled over to the ground.
´I guess that's all.´ Ranma warily gazed at the alien aircraft. Even as he was thinking this, he heard a metallic sound coming from the pod. He saw as a hatch in the back of the Battlepod opened, and a shadowy figure sprang from inside the machine. It was humanoid, Ranma noticed, and was wearing some kind of armor and a helmet, but that wasn't what made the martial artist open his mouth in disbelief.
"It's huge," he muttered reverently. The alien was easily as tall as a Battloid, and probably had the same weight. Ranma hadn't even had time to assimilate this last piece of information, when the Zentraedi trooper slowly grabbed his helmet and took it off, dropping it to the ground. A completely human-shaped--if gigantic in size-- face greeted Ranma's eyes, and the alien slowly started moving again.
He staggered and swayed tiredly towards Rick's Guardian, clearly wounded but determined. His intention was clear to Ranma; he had seen that same expression many times in the mirror: revenge. If he were going to go, he would take his killer with him. The young boy was going to die, and why? Because he had fought back?! Because he hadn't let himself be KILLED?!
Ranma saw red. "Oh, no. YOU DON'T!" he cried, and rushed towards the alien.
He practically flew towards him, his feet melting the asphalt with each step. A bright white aura emerged from his body, but Ranma didn't notice. All he could think of was the life of that pilot, that boy; all he could see was the alien walking towards the immobile Guardian. And so, while Ranma felt the purest anger course through his body, the aura glowed brighter than ever. Blinding-white energy swirled and cracked around him, making him look like a small, deadly nova; but Ranma continued running, faster and faster. The alien was near now, and he sent all his strength in his hand. In a moment, the aura was re-absorbed in his body, only to be focused in his clenched fist a second later. One punch would be enough, just one.
He pulled his fist back, ready to strike. He was no more than a mile from the alien, seeing with hatred how the behemoth was about to reach the canopy of the Guardian, when he heard a deafening buzz saw sound. The Zentraedi soldier coughed blood, and toppled to the pavement, his hand still near the cockpit, grabbing one of the Guardian's feet. Standing with his weapon still levered at the alien, Ranma could see a Battloid he already knew: the one with the skull insignia he had seen before.
The energy surrounding his fist dissipated, and Ranma stared at the skull-insignia Battloid, his brow glistening with sweat. Hastily, he tried to stop his hands from shaking. For a moment, only for a moment, he had lost control. But a moment was all that it was needed.
He gazed at the giant corpse. The alien's lifeless eyes were staring at the sky, unfocused. ´So much like a human...´
As he headed towards Rick's Guardian, he looked to the ground, ashamed. He had almost killed, something he had promised himself he would never do again.
But he, better than anyone, knew that there are promises you sometimes can't keep. He had once promised to never let his fiancée die.