Dr. Lang; Diaries. Ref: LDHT946-862. Haydon Memorial Library.
He's green and cool,
Has scales and drools,
Plays us the fool,
Translation of Tirolian Religious Chant, Circa 12,100 B.C.E. Pretoxican Language File PL376-45A/CF.
This was starting to get monotonous - black on black surrounded by black. What had happened to the colour scheme? Hausthar looked around. This was not how he had imagined the bottom of the ocean. And where was that rescue ship?
A light flared off in the distance, as if to answer him. <The rescue ship - at last!> Hausthar waited for the light to come closer. And waited. And waited still. It finally dawned on him that the light was not moving.
"Hey, over here!" he shouted, not really hoping to be heard.
"Ah, there you are. For a moment there I thought I'd lost you. You can come out now." The voice sounded middle-aged and sure of itself - so sure in fact that Hausthar had popped the seals on his canopy before remembering he was still underwater. Surprisingly, he met no resistance when he tried to open the canopy, and no water tried to force entry. Hausthar jumped down from his Veritech. Something was illuminating both him and the mecha, but would reveal neither ground nor sky, nor anything else for that matter. With no other apparent options, Hausthar started towards the light he had originally spied.
The light turned out to be a window, about three feet off the ground, just hanging in mid-air. Looking through the window Hausthar was confronted with a scene straight out of nineteenth Century England. Horse-drawn carriages were making their way down a street - Baker street, if the signs were to be trusted - while people dressed for the part moved about their business one floor below his. Hausthar gazed for a while, then stepped to look behind the window, from the side. No street presented itself, just the same impenetrable darkness. He went back to the window and peered through - the street was still there.
The sound of a violin drifted by from behind, the scratchy sound of an instrument played very amateurly - it sounded more like a fight between cats. Something tugged at the corner of his mind. <A violin, Baker street. Then could it be that this is..?>
"221b Baker street, my abode - exactly!" the voice echoed behind him. Hausthar turned around and was confronted by a tall, thin man dressed in light brown trousers and white shirt, fighting with a violin in an effort to get music from it. "Congratulations, my good man. Good deductions, even if they were a little slow. I say, are you certain I'm supposed to play this badly?" The man's eyebrows collided with each other.
Hausthar gasped for breath as he tried to answer. "Er... No sir... That is, I don't think so... That is, I can't remember."
The man looked him in the eye for a moment then breathed a sigh of resignation. "I was afraid of that." He positioned the violin back on his shoulder and began to play - very badly - a Minuet in G Hausthar had heard recently. "Do you know who I am?" the figure asked.
By this time Hausthar had regained some of his sense. "I know whom you look like." he answered.
"Good! Very good! Never make any judgement until you are certain you have all the facts. I made that mistake several times myself you know." He stopped playing the violin and placed it back in its case. "Now, down to business." The man squatted down and a Victorian-era armchair appeared under him. "Please, take a seat."
Hausthar noticed that a similar seat had appeared just behind him. It looked real enough. He tested this theory by sitting in it. "Are you really... him?"
"Sherlock Holmes? Oh, dear me, no! Not at all."
"Then why did you...?"
"Take his appearance? Elementary, my dear Hausthar - I needed something you would not be afraid of, and this seemed perfect for my needs." He reached towards his left and took a pipe from a table that had materialised under his hand. He filled, then lit it, whilst talking. "I also wanted to make a good impression and I must admit I liked this personality. Ah, the adventures Mr. Holmes had! But this is secondary to my immediate problem." Holmes - or rather the person who looked like Holmes - leant forward in his seat. "You see, I need your help."
"My help sir? How so?"
Holmes dug into his pocket, pulled out a photograph and handed it to Hausthar. "Moriarty is on the loose again."
Michele was re-arranging her pillows for the third time in as many minutes. The Sterlings were supposed to arrive soon and she wanted to make herself as presentable as possible. <Damn those medics for not allowing me to get up!>
A surreptitious knock came from the door. At Michele's beckon the door opened and both Max and Miriya Sterling came through, Max bearing flowers. As usual, he was wearing his smile, but Miriya was showing a look of concern.
"Hello Michele, how are you doing?"
Michele told herself to be cheerful and forced a smile to appear on her lips. "As well as can be expected given the circumstances, sir. Do you know why the medics won't release me?"
Maximillian, busy putting the flowers into a vase, was visibly startled by the question. His smile even flickered off for a brief moment. "I don't know. But it really doesn't matter, does it?"
Miriya stepped closer to the bed. "It's a pity you won't be able to join us."
"Join you?" Michele looked up to Maximillian. "What is going on Commander?"
Max gave out a small sigh. "First of all my rank of Commander was only temporary - I am back to Lieutenant. Second, what Miriya means is that we are going out into space."
"Why? What's going on?" Michele's voice was on the verge of tears.
"A Robotech Automated Factory has been discovered. It is still manned by non-allied Zentraedi. The Skull and the Night Music squadrons have been asked to investigate it and retrieve it to Earth Orbit - we're leaving this afternoon."
Michele's voice was frantic, two pearls of water forming on the edges of her eyes. "But... but you can't leave me here! You just can't. You have to take me along!"
Maximillian's smile had disappeared and his face was now mimicking Miriya's look of concern. "The doctors feel it to be in your best interest if you were to stay here a little while longer. Rick agrees with it."
Tears now flowed openly on Michele's face. "But why? Why?"
Max stood there, not knowing what to say. Miriya stepped forward, sat on the edge of the bed and placed her arm around Michele's shoulders. "I know what you feel. It is the way I felt when I gave birth to Dana. It is hard to spend your time in bed when you feel you should be up there with your wingmates. All you can do is grit your teeth and wait for your time."
Michele gave a sob and buried her head in Miriya's shoulder to weep in anger.
"I'm sorry Dr. Lang, I just can't seem to be able to do it right."
Lang looked at the remnants of the egg, a shapeless mass of clear and yellow goo. "It's okay Michele." He placed a new egg on the ground. "We have plenty of spares. Let's try again, shall we?" He stepped back out of the way.
A mecha's hand extended itself from the Guardian and moved towards the egg. Fingers the size of telegraph poles surrounded the egg and moved in to pick it up. The shell gave way and splattered its yolk and white.
"DAMN!" A metal-shod fist whizzed through the air and impacted with the wall in frustration, threatening to bring down the building. "Why can't I do this right?"
Lang came back into view, followed by several other technicians and scientists. "It's all right my dear - after all, you just came through a traumatic experience, and it's not as if you are capable of feedback through those fingers of yours. Let's forget about the eggs and concentrate on your memory for a while."
The Veritech in front of the scientists mechamorphed from Guardian to Battloid and sat on the floor with its back against the wall. "What do you want to know?"
One of the personnel behind Lang opened a notebook. "Well, how about your name for a start?"
"Easy. My name is Michele Cequor. Any more trivial questions?" The Veritech shifted slightly to a better sitting position.
"What happened just prior to and after the explosion?"
"Well, I remember being chased by the missile. I didn't want both of us to blow up in the middle of the city, so I lured it as far out as I could. I'd just cleared the city when the explosion occurred. The next thing I know, Michael is screaming in my ears, wanting to know what had happened and what my status was. I told him the bad news and we got sent off to New Macross ASAP. When we got there I managed to land. I was surrounded by hundreds of medics and firemen - all these people, and do you think they'd do anything for me? They just left me there to rot on the runway until I complained. And then you came along, Dr. Lang."
The person with the notebook was writing frantically. A woman close to him was next with the questions. "What about during the explosion? What were your thoughts?"
Once again, the mecha shifted uneasily. "I remember panicking, thinking I was going to die and trying to fight it. I could feel the controls give out as the computer's core was being wiped clean by the EMP from the explosion. I remember mentally curling up in a little ball and crying out. That's when I blacked out." The Battloid's hand wiped its `eyes' and grabbed hold of its other shoulder, in a gesture of helplessness.
"And what about your present condition?" asked the man with the notebook. "What do you make of it?"
The Veritech grabbed its knees and pulled them in, like a child searching for protection. "I don't know. I really don't. Maybe I got merged with the Veritech during the blast. Maybe I replaced the computer when it died. Except that mental contact with the computer is not supposed to be possible... All I know is that I am Michele - I am alive! So why am I being kept inside this hangar? Where is my body, Dr. Lang?"
Lang looked up past the pulled-in knees to the faceplate of the Battloid and stared long and deep into it. "You are being kept in surveillance because of the shock you have suffered. The reason you are kept in this hangar is because there is no hospital bed, nor in fact hospital, big enough to fit you. As for your body..." Lang paused. "We are still running some tests on it to find out what happened."
The Veritech sat there silently. When it finally spoke its voice contained a tremor that had not been there before. "I'm sorry Dr. Lang. If only you knew what it was like. I wake up every day and wonder why my eyes are over fifty feet from the ground. I try to eat but have to remember to plug myself in for a recharge instead. I just can't take it any more!" The Veritech's head lowered itself onto its knees and the Battloid emitted strange short sounds, its shoulders raked by spasms.
It took Lang a good four seconds to realise the Veritech was crying. Feeling a little bit foolish, Lang reached up and patted its 'knee'.
A head protruded at right angle from the door frame. "Are they gone?" it asked.
Michele finished drying her tears and angrily threw away the paper handkerchief she had been using. "Yeah, come in Victor."
Victor squeezed his body through the door's frame and made his way to her bed. "If you feel like you look, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes - you look fu... terrible."
Michele sniffed. "I feel even worse. Not only did I stuff-up on my first sortie, not only did I make a fool of myself in front of my commanding officer, not only have I been ordered to bed for an indefinite amount of time, but thanks to this little accident I'll miss my first chance at a sortie in space." Her clenched fists relaxed slowly. "It's nice to see you again." she admitted.
Victor made embarrassed little noises and overly shuffled his feet. "Aw, shucks! 'Twas nothin' really." Testing a chair for robustness he opted to sit on the floor next to the bed, his head still at eye-level with hers. "I just couldn't leave my little sister all alone in a big hospital, now could I?"
"And to what do I really owe the pleasure of this visit?" Michele enquired.
Victor shuffled his way towards the bed. "I am here to make sure you recover that cute little smile I always enjoyed."
Michele's face fell even further. "I am sorry Victor, I just don't feel up to smiling right now."
"In that case, I'll have to use extreme measures." He got up to his feet and started to unbolt a plate from his arm.
Michele looked up in surprise. "Victor, don't you dare! Not now! Please!?" A small mechanical arm unfolded itself and extended towards the bed, reaching for her body. "Victor, I mean it!" She tried to avoid the arm but was too slow. The arm made its way up and down her ribs, finding well known spots, tickling her. "VICTOR!? Stop it!!" She was laughing hard by now, and was about to slide from the bed when the arm retracted. The laughter abated.
"Thanks, I needed that."
"Always happy to oblige." Victor sat on the edge of her bed. A strained groan echoed through the room for a moment and then became a memory. "Now what's this I hear about you and Michael Circle?"
Michele tried to subdue a new fit of laughter. "Now why did I ever think I could keep this from you? How did you find out?"
"I have my sources. Well, is it true?"
Michele leaned back, a smile reappearing on her face. "Yes, it is. What do you want to know?"
Laughter echoed through the thankfully empty halls of the hospital.
Hausthar gazed at the picture he had been given. "Mo... Moriarty?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. I got into my role too much." Holmes sat back and pulled on his pipe a couple of times before continuing. "You see, a long time ago an alien scientist - that's alien to you, of course, not to the scientist - discovered the means to create new life. The social and political ramifications were not felt until much, much later. By then, this new life had attained power and prestige beyond that of the scientist's race. This led to discontentment and, eventually, to civil war between the to races. This conflict was so bloody that an edict was passed forbidding any further study into genetic manipulation, with a death penalty attached to dissuade anybody. And for some time it worked.
"Until another set of scientists came along. Under the leadership of a particularly cunning brain, they started meddling into that which their society had ordained forbidden. There came the time when they were found out and they ran. They packed their bags and left their solar system as quickly as they could and started to spread their evil ways to the four corners of this Galaxy. A number of ships were built and crewed, and were sent after them. I was such a one."
"A ship?" asked an incredulous Hausthar.
"No, part of the crew of one of the hunting ships." Sherlock sighed, his eyes focusing inwards, obviously reliving the moments. "We eventually caught up to him in a solar system not far from this one."
"And did you win?" Hausthar asked.
"Yes and no. We won the first match, barely. But you know what they say - best out of three, it's not over until the fat lady sings and all that. They escaped back into deep space and we have been hunting them down ever since. Now, once again, they are headed in this direction. They have even sent emissaries to recruit troops for their side. I am afraid your Earth will become a battlefield for more wars before this matter is finally settled once and for all. I can already feel my counterpart working against me. He has prepared reinforcements for his side - from the deep past of our mutual history - and is about to send them a signal flare."
"Your forces are on their way to capture a Robotech Automated Factory and bring it to Earth. When the Factory defolds into Earth orbit, the displacement in protoculture emission will pinpoint the Earth to the Robotech Masters and come they will. Like following a ripple on a surface of water to the point where the stone was thrown in. That's how the Zentraedi tracked down the Macross to Earth originally."
"But can't you stop it?"
"My boy, haven't you been listening to anything I have been saying? We, I, do not exist in your world! I am merely a projection of your mind. And even if I did go and meet your people in person, what good would it do? They truly believe in what they are doing, that's why I cannot stop them! They think it is the best course of action. Little do they realise that the spacefolding of the Factory will attract the Masters to Earth like moths to a flame. Except that in this case, I'm afraid, they will be the flame that will bring Earth's demise." Holmes turned towards the window suddenly, visibly annoyed. "Isn't it possible to have a conversation without being disturbed?" he shouted.
Hausthar, taken aback by the abruptness of the comment, looked through the window and was surprised to see the interior of a hospital room. On the bed was a figure, so covered by life-support systems that it was hard to tell its gender, much less its identity. The door to the room opened and a man in overalls shuffled in, obviously not at ease. Hausthar immediately recognised him. "George!" he cried out. The man in the hospital room did not even start, as though the words had not reached him. In fact, he was moving towards the bed.
George looked at the figure in the bed and sighed deeply. "They tell me there's a chance you can hear me. They also tell me you might not make it out. So I just have to tell you... looks like I'm to blame for your accident." He paused and cleared his throat a couple of times before going on. "You see, one of my mechanics was working on your engine, bolting back a panel that had been removed for maintenance, and he decided to take an early lunch. By the time I came back, you were already gone." George's head hung low. "The bolts were not properly tightened and must have hit the engine with enough force to rip it to shreds."
"That's OK George," replied Hausthar. "I'm not holding you responsible. It was just one of those things." But again, George did not seem to hear.
George took out a handkerchief and wiped his nose, his face flowing with tears of self-recrimination. "If I'd only checked and made sure, this wouldn't've happened! If you ever come out of it, I'll try to make it up to you, I really will!" He replaced the handkerchief in his pocket and stood there, arms limp. "I got to go. I'll see you later, right?" Walking towards the door, he opened it and stood in front of it. He turned one last time towards the bed and said "Goodbye, Hausthar."
Hausthar was so shocked he never notice George's departure nor the closing of the door. "Hausthar?! You mean that's me under there?"
Holmes was quietly puffing smoke into the air into various impossible geometric shapes. "My boy, you will recall I never said anything on that subject. But now that you raise the point; yes, it is you." Hausthar was still staring through the window, eyes locked on the figure in the bed. "Which brings us back to our earlier conversation -" continued Holmes, "I require your help." Hausthar, oblivious to all but the hospital bed, did not responded. "HAUSTHAR!"
Jumping in alarm Hausthar stammered "Yes... er... my help... How so?"
Holmes was once again smiling. "You are repeating yourself, my spurious friend," he pointed out, "but it does not matter. What I require is your help to stop the possible catastrophes which might follow the arrival of the Factory in Earthspace. I cannot do it myself, for obvious reasons. Well, obvious to me anyway." Hausthar opened his mouth as if to reply but was promptly cut off. "Now I realise this is not a decision to be lightly made, so I will give you time to think about it. I shall therefore send you back whence you came. But first..." The violin magically reappeared in Holmes' hands. "I have a symphony or two I would like you to listen to." The languid sound of the wooden instrument filled the air.
When Hausthar finally awoke, he was instantly aware of several things - first of all, most of the life-support equipment had been unplugged from his body, a fact he was thankful for. Second, his left hand had been placed onto his chest. And third, something was laid upon it. Remembering the headache which had greeted him when he had last woken up, he moved his head very carefully.
His eyes slowly adjusted to the low ambient level of light. His hand had in fact been placed on his chest and the perpetrator of that action could now be identified - sitting on a chair at his side was Ricky. She had gathered his left hand in both of hers and was now sleeping with it under her left cheek, head resting on his chest.
Hausthar smiled lightly and raised his right hand to her head, feeling the silky smoothness of her hair, running his fingers through them. He thought back to that morning he had found her asleep on his sofa and a warm feeling engulfed his chest. He continued to caress her hair for a while before finally falling asleep with his hand still resting upon her head.