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Between 2051 and 2057 (Gradius' Side Story)


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The briefing room was dimly lit by one desk lamp and empty save for one person, Maya. She was going through the casualty reports and the earliest submitted of the after action reports. All the while cocking and uncocking her revolver.

The conscious habit soothed her agitation a little. Maya would feel much better if she went down to the gun range to fill a dozen practice targets full of lead but she couldn't spare the time yet.

The just concluded rescue operation was a success, and according to preliminary reports of the marines and Working Group Alpha, they may be looking at an intelligence coup. Still, what irked her -greatly- was the need for a rescue mission in the first place.

As if responding to a cue, the ready room door slid open and in stepped the object of her ire in a scuffed up flight suit.

Roderick had been ordered to report to the Captain as soon as possible. So he'd skipped the medical check up (which he wasn't too fond of) and hurried to the briefing room. It was when he heard the door sliding shut behind with a certain finality and all the background whispers of a spacegoing warship loomed preternaturally loud, did he wonder if he'd picked the wrong door. Most of the room lighting being off didn't help either. "Reporting as ordered, Ma'am."

Even his own voice seemed to thunder in his ears. This was starting to get freaky. As was that peculiar clicking noise.



From the shadows Maya studied the pilot standing before her.



And asked her question, "Why?"

Roderick blinked. The question was asked in a conversational sound level, not a whisper but it seemed softer than everything else. It also confused him quite a bit. "Urmm.. I'm sorry, I don't get the question."



"Why did you need to be rescued?"

Oh. Urmm... uh oh. "Urmm.. I have no good explanation for tagging along on that transport Ma'am."


"So you have a not-so-good explanation."


The not-quite-a-question triggered an involuntarily wince. "..yes Ma'am. I wanted to stop the hijacking, make them fold back to the rest of Skull."


"And did it not occur to you that they may be folding to a secured location?"

"It had, but I never expected the hijackers to fold directly to their fleet. I expected them to fold to somewhere deserted where they can make sure their cargo was safe."

"I see."


"Still, what prompted you to take such a risk in the first place?"

The tension in the air seemed to lightened a bit, which was the reason for Roderick's faux pas. "You did."

Which did not go unnoticed by anyone. Uh oh!


Maya shot Roderick a glare that was just shy of lethal. "Would. You. Care. To repeat that."

"I'm sorry Ma'am, I meant that when you asked for miracles.. Err.. I.. That is.."

At this, Maya snapped, abruptly standing and slamming her hands on the table. Her chair was forgotten as it toppled to the floor. "Are you a rookie, SOLDIER!?! In case you have forgotten, you are in charge of an ELITE squadron! You are not getting a troop of SCOUTS lost in the woods where you might miss DINNER! If YOU, and by extension the rest of YOUR SQUADRON go, you will CRIPPLE morale throughout the entire SPACY!

Yelling was therapeutic. She hadn't blown up like this since... oh.


In a much calmer voice, she let out a sigh and turned her back on him. "Get yourself to sickbay and fully checked out. I'll expect your full report tomorrow. Dismissed."

When the yelling started, it was all he could do not to cringe. Roderick managed to weather the castigation and when it looked as if the Captain was going to start again, she seemed to deflate and then dismiss him. Something seemed... off.


"Out. Now."


"Yes Ma'am." With a quick salute, Roderick was out of the room leaving Maya alone.

Maya's scheduled range practice went unattended that day.



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Not quite AWOL (Part One)



June 27 2051

Leave.  Though it really was nothing more than a PR move.  Still, it gave Roderick a moment to relax.  Three months of almost constant combat ops were wearing on him.  He desperately needed a break.

So here he was, not quite AWOL at a little sidestreet cafe in a nowhere suburban section of Eden city.  Leave he had, and was fully entitled to.  Ditching his undercover security escort however he wasn't, but he gleefully did it anyway.

He'd heard of people - royalty especially - who had their entire day planned out for them by other people.  He'd certainly never expected to have that apply to him.  Specifically, his PR-choreographed leave.  A plan to tour Eden city 'incognito', preplanned instances of 'having his cover blown' while 'saving a pregnant mother-to-be from a car accident', 'helping talk down a jumping suicide attempt' and 'solving a bank robbery/hostage crisis'.  In that order.

Roderick had a squeaky clean image, more or less.  Well, more rather than less.  It wasn't planned, but he rather liked it.  Even if it made him seem rather boring.  Someone evidently thought that too.  Then someone else thought to ham up his 'heroism' a bit.  Someone Roderick would rather like to throttle.  Or barring that opportunity, to not participate in a plan to make himself look like the UNG's poster boy savior.

So here he was, not quite AWOL at a little sidestreet cafe in a nowhere suburban section of Eden city.  Pretending to belong there and to avoid the undercover agents sure to be looking for him.

They knew exactly what he looked like and exactly what he wore.  Which was why none of them would recognize him with a cursory glance.  Or at all.

In short, he was a she.  For the next few hours anyway.

The long story was that he had approached a nurse yesterday that he'd met and befriended a month back about a disguise.  He was expecting a trench coat and a fedora.  Sam Spade not Little Bo Peep.  But here he was.  In bonnet, multiple layers of dress and a lot of makeup.  All he needed to complete the nursery rhyme was a shepard's crook and some lost sheep.  All that and he had no idea how he'd ended up being persuaded to dress in drag.

The only consolation was the t-shirt and bicycle shorts he was wearing if he for some reason needed to ditch the costume in a hurry.  Even then, he didn't know if he wouldn't spontaneously combust in shame if he came even remotely in danger of being identified.

Some leave this turned out to be.


Maya sighed.  Leave.  Forced, kinda.  Once the Intrepid had docked the day before, she'd been summoned before another Board of Inquiry.  In all, a fairly 'friendly' one ending in 'light' commendations and a mild rebuke.

Maya sighed again.  Her leave was practically enforced.  Public relations and all.  With an escort temporarily assigned to show her the public places.  Not anywhere to the level of what she'd just learned was to be the fate of the unfortunate Colonel Swee.  Inwardly she shuddered.  The spark of the idea was hers, the wildfire of inappropriateness that spark had now turned out to be was not.  It made her a little ill as she heard the stunts to be pulled and she had to fight the urge to shoot the messenger.  Especially since she only had live rounds with her.  Had.  She didn't have any of her guns with her right now.  She felt naked.  The dress wasn't helping either.

Maya sighed yet again.  Yesterday was when she first learned that her leave was planned out for her.  Planned, structured and choreographed. That messenger she would've shot if it were not Ensign Farla.  After demolishing a few practice targets, she went to see a nurse she'd met and befriended about a month ago about a disguise.

Which was how she came to be wearing a hat, dress and wig in a nowhere suburban section of Eden city without her escort.  *shudder*  And she'd swore she'd wear only one dress in her life too.  To be clear - the dress she was wearing right now wasn't it.

At least her escort wouldn't recognize her.  Not with the purple wig, pointier ears and makeup.  Oh and a dress.  She hated dresses.  One errant breeze and she'd be flashing her unmentionables to the world.  The only consolation was that she was wearing a t-shirt and bicycle shorts under the damn thing.  That and nobody she'd know would recognize her.

Some leave this was turning out to be.


"Would you like some more tea miss?"  The waiter inquired politely as he smiled down at the young girl cosplaying as Little Bo Peep.  Her image fit the setting perfectly, sitting demurely at a wrought iron table and chair in the outdoor section of the cafe along a sidestreet.

"No!  I-I m-mean no, I'm f-fine."  Roderick managed to squeak out nervously, sounding like a perfectly normal girl.  Well, one who stutters a little.  The mini-inhaler/vioce changer stuffed up his nose was working fine.

"You don't seem to be from around here miss.  If you like, I can show you around.  I get off in ten minutes."  The waiter, feeling encouraged, pressed on.

Oh no...  Roderick felt ill.  An eyebrow ticked.  His face would've taken a greenish cast too, if it hadn't been covered by makeup.  And his stuttering increased.  "N-no, it's alr-right.  I'm-m meeting someone-e."

"Really?  You've been here for a while.  You haven't been stood up have you?"  She was just looking cutier and cutier!

HELP!!  "No!  I'm e-early!"


Maya fully intended on walking past the cafe.  Maybe hitting the mall or something.  It was something she hadn't done in years at this point.  Window shop or catch a movie.  It'd suck to do it alone, but the alternative was just plain distastful.  She saw a waiter try to chat up a girl who looked like she'd just stepped out of a nursery rhyme.  And it looked like she was panicking.  The girl clearly wasn't interested but didn't seem to know how to say 'no'.  The scene irritated her.

Maya altered her course without breaking stride.  "She's not interested so why don't you back off."

The waiter redden as he stammered an apology to both Maya and the woman before beating a hasty retreat.  Maya watched him disappear into the cafe proper then shot a glare at the girl staring wide-eyed at her.  "If you're not interested be firm in telling him no.  Or it may just end up encouraging him."

"Ah, yes! Thank y-you."  The girl dipped her head in gratitude.


Roderick really felt like he would spontaneously combust in embaressment.  Who'd thought he'd be getting advice in brushing off a guy by a real girl.  And she was acting more masculine than he was at it too!

"I'll remember that, thank you."  Roderick thanked her most sincerely.  The Meltrandi regarded her for an instant before nodding and continuing on her way.


There, that was done.  Now she could get back to what was left of her rather dismal vacation.  Forgetting the encounter immediately, she took no more than five steps when she heard it.

"Hi cutie, would you like to join us for a fun time at a karaoke bar?"

"Eh?  Eh??"



"Urmm, you can let go of me now, ma'am."  Roderick said plaintively while being dragged behind the Meltrandi by one arm.

They made quite a sight, one tall woman wearing a little black dress and a red short jacket, dragging another tall (appearant) girl wearing a shepherdess outfit complet with bonnet.

Maya glanced back to make sure they were far enough from the cafe.  Satisfied, she stopped to face the other 'girl' while throwing down the wrist she was holding on to in disgust.  The motion causing a small white cross hanging around her neck to swing a little.  She sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose.  "I ought to have just left you there."

"I'm really sorry."  Roderick really was.  However he was way more thankful that the Meltrandi had pulled him away.

"You should just go home and change into something less attention getting before coming out again."  

"Eh?  I.. can't.  I had to get away for a while."

You too huh?  "Alright, will you be fine from here?"

"I think.. maybe... no, I don't think so."

Maya regarded her companion as she mulled over her options, "..fine, you're coming with me!"

"Eh??"  The declaration was so surprising that Roderick took a step back.

"If I leave you anywhere, you would be food for wolves."  Ironically.  "I don't feel right with that.  And unless you have somewhere else to be or someone to call, you may as well hang out with me."

"...okay."  With nowhere to be and no one to call, Roderick could only agree in resignation.

"So what's your name?"

"Aya.  Aya Black."  Roderick gave the name supplied by one bubbly postergirl for the explosives segment of the Anarchist cookbook.

"Morgana Nimitz."  Maya gave the name supplied by that same postergirl.  "Let's go."

"Where are we going?"  Aya asked, falling in step with Morgana.

"The mall."

Urkk..  Aya was suddenly having second thoughts.


The first hour passed quietly and with less boredom than Aya had dreaded.  Aya wasn't interested in clothes or shoes and to 'her' immense relief neither was Morgana.  Morgana set the pace for the exploration of the mall but was mindful of Aya's interests.  Thus the second and third hour were spend in book and music stores before they agreed to take a break.

They sat in silence at the table sipping their drinks, coffee for Morgana and tea for Aya.  Neither of them knew quite what to say to the other.  Aya because she didn't know what to say on what could be considered by some to be a first date with a girl as a girl, and Morgana because it had been far too long since she had let herself relax in the company of strangers.

Time passed with Aya glancing at anything and everything and with Morganna staring at her coffee.  Morgana spoke first.

"You don't have to stick with me if you don't want to."  Morgana said quietly. still staring at her cup.

"Oh, urmm, it's no problem."  Aya responded, a bit suprised but glad that the other girl had broken what she felt to be an uncomfortable silence.  "This is.. pleasent.  I have nothing I'd rather be doing anyway."

Morgana took a long look at Aya, studying the other girl.  Aya took the scrutiny a little nervously but kept her peace.

"You're not running away from home are you?"  Morgana asked suddenly, eyes narrowed.

"No!  I'm just getting away for a while..."  Aya blinked.  "I mean just for today.  I'm heading back in a few hours, really!"

Morgana considered Aya's answer.  She didn't feel that the other girl was lying at least.  "If you don't mind answering, why do you need to get away?"

Aya thought for a bit before answering, "I don't want to give any specifics, but today my time isn't my own."

Morgana winced as she knew exactly what Aya was talking about.  "I can relate.  Are you a visiting celebrity of some sort?"

"No, not exactly."  Aya paused as she considered how to answer the question.  "I just do what I'm suppose to, making mistakes like everybody else.  Suddenly one day I'm at the center of attention from my peers and.. beyond.  It's overwhelming I guess."

The purple haired woman mulled over the answer, more than a little disquieted with the parallels she was hearing.

"Am I upsetting you?"  Aya asked tentatively.  "We can talk about something else..."

"No, I'm just thinking about my own life right now."  Morgana answered, more truthfully then she would normally with a total stranger.

Her gaze fell upon her drink once again and in a truly rare fit of whimsy, Morgana decide to let slip a piece of herself she had kept guarded against everyone that hadn't already known.  "I don't suppose you were ever engaged before and had the man die on you?"

"EHHH?!?!?"  Aya was caught off guard by the question.  Big time.  She then noticed that her exclaimatiion had drawn the attention of everyone in the vicinity.  Aya then proceeded to shrink as much into the chair as she could, pulling the brim of her bonnet to cover as much of her face as possible without tugging it off her head.

It was nearly a minute later that Aya could bring herself to answer, after the crowd had lost interest in the slightly overdressed girl.  

"N-no, I can't say that I have."

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have thrown that at you like that."  Morgana apologised, finally raising her gaze from her coffee to look at Aya.

"It's okay.  I was just real surprised is all."  Aya answered, biting her lower lip before continuing.  "Do.. you want to talk about it?"

Morgana didn't answer for a long while, staring steadily into Aya's eyes.  Aya couldn't quite meet those eyes for long.  Not at first.  She asked herself if she was prepared to help a total stranger with what was likely to be the most traumatic experience of her life.  The answer wasn't long in coming and she managed to return Morgana's gaze.

"When we first met we hated each other."  Morgana tilted her head back to stare at the sky.  "I was late getting to another class and so was he.  We ran into and just were not able to forgive the other."

Aya nodded but said nothing.

"It was just the first day of school too..."


It was nearly two hours later when Morgana finished.  Their coffee and tea - untouched since they started speaking - long grown cold.  

Through it all Aya listened, just listened, letting the Meltrandi talk.  About the anger of the initial friction.  The surprise at the quiet moments between clashes.  The wonder at the attraction between them.  The relief of eventual peace.  The joy of love.  The pain of loss.  The aftermath of grief.

Both were quiet for an eternity, one gazing at the sky, the other at the ground.

Aya wasn't entirely sure what to do.  Words seemed inappropriate.  Clasping her hand didn't seemed enough either.  Slowly she got up, then approached Morgana.  Once beside her, Aya enveloped Morgana in a hug.  The position was awkward but the hug was returned and held for a while.


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