Chapter 9

Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?
Late 20th Century song.

The taxi pulled in front of Research's main gates and let two figures out before departing again. The two shadows passed by the guards without being challenged and made their way towards a building in the compound. Neither talked until they had reached Hausthar's room and closed the door behind them.

"What was all that about?" demanded Hausthar, making an obvious effort to keep his voice down. "By all rights, I shouldn't be alive. I shouldn't have escaped those missiles, I shouldn't have been able to make my way through the flames and I certainly should not have survived that fall. So what the Hell is going on?"

Ricky was sitting on the couch, looking at her feet, not daring to raise her head. Hausthar threw his hands up in desperation and switched on the television in time to catch a news bulletin about the disaster.

" ...ill no idea on how the fire started, but firemen have not ruled out criminal intent. So far no survivors have been found as the blaze still rages here in down-town Tokyo, but witnesses say they saw two figures thrown from the restaurant's fourth-story window by an explosion as they tried to escape the flames. No bodies have been found outside the restaurant so police are dismissing this acc..."

Hausthar turned off the sound and faced Ricky, forcing her to look at him. Tears were still streaming from her eyes as he asked her once more, desperation in his voice. "What happened, Ricky?"

"It happened too soon." she answered through her sobs. "They weren't supposed to have arrived on Earth yet."

Hausthar's thoughts were stopped by the shock her words produced in him. "What do you mean `arrived on Earth'?" he asked, sitting down in a chair opposite the couch. "What were they supposed to do to me"when they got here? And what about you? How do you fit in to all this?"

Ricky fought down the sobs as she answered his question. "I was sent to try to make you understand what was about to happen to you and to the Earth. But this attack triggered off your implants before I had a chance to explain them to you."

"My implants?" Hausthar said queasily. "I don't have any implants."

"Yes you do." she replied. "Thanks to your creators, you have implants linked to your brain, experimental ones. I was sent to try and teach you how to use them before they could harm you, and I have failed."

Hausthar's mind was becoming quite numb by the minute. "What creators? My parents? I don't even know who they were."

"That's because you don't have any. You're a clone, Hausthar! Part of Earth's first experiment at generating life artificially. Your mother was an artificial womb and your father was an undifferentiated cell on which your scientists experimented. You are part of Earth's first Clonal Triumvirate! That's why you have the implants. They couldn't experiment on a Human being, so they created you, the perfect guinea-pigs."

Hausthar slumped into the chair. "A... a clone? Bu.. But that's impossible, I have memories. I'm a human being, with feelings, and emotions, not a lab chimp!"

"You were `born' a little over a year ago" insisted Ricky "in a laboratory in this research facility. These memories you have were impressed upon you as part of your in-vitro training using techniques garnered from Zentraedi technology. The only real memories you have are those of the past year."

By now Hausthar was gazing blankly past her shoulder, through the glass balcony doors, into the night. "You said I was one of three. Who are the others?"

"I... I'm not allowed to say."

"What about the cell donor? Whose cell was used to create us?"

Ricky paused a moment before answering softly. "Lang... It was Dr. Lang's cells they used for the clonal chambers." Hausthar continued to gaze through the doors, showing no signs of life. "I'm sorry, Hausthar. You weren't supposed to learn about all this until I'd finished training you and..."

"Who sent you?" he interrupted.

"I... I can't... " stammered Ricky.

Hausthar insisted. "Who sent you?"

She lowered her head to avoid his gaze as she replied. "You met them when you had your accident with the prototype."

Hausthar emitted a low growl as anger flooded into him. He got up and briskly walked back and forth along the length of the room, finally stopping to smash his fist against a door-jamb. "A pawn!" he roared. "I am nothing but a pawn!" His fists repeatedly smashed against the wall. "To answer to someone's whims and fight for him in his power-play? I am no servant! I am not a clone! I am a human being!" he exclaimed as he threw open the door and disappeared down the corridor.

Ricky jumped from the couch and ran after him, shouting his name. She caught sight of him as he rounded a corner but by the time she herself had reached it, he had vanished from the corridor. She called out his name several times, not caring about the building's other inhabitants, but to no avail - the only reply she heard was the sound of her heartbeat. Collapsing against a wall, she slid down to the floor. "I love you." she murmured as she buried her head in her hands and wept.

Hausthar stopped running once he had left the building and lost himself in the labyrinth that was Research. He walked, not caring where, until he found a bench hidden by a grove. Dejected, he sat on the bench and threw his head back, staring at the stars and the moon. His eyes caught on to the bright body that orbited the Earth just slightly under its natural satellite. This was `Little Luna`, a Robotech Factory captured by the RDF a couple of days ago in a daring raid against the remaining Zentraedi forces in this quadrant. Hausthar gazed at it for a long time before speaking.

"You and me both, Little Luna. It seems we are both to be abducted by people we know not, to be used in a fight we care nothing about. We are both pawns in this game of destruction!"

Michael stood in front of the Colonel's door, waiting to be let in. He was wondering why he had been called so early in the morning - what was so important that it had to be done at 3 O'Clock in the morning?

The door finally opened, allowing him to enter. Inside the office were the Colonel, his aide and a third person who needed no introduction to Michael. "Dr. Lang! Sir! What are you doing here? Has something happened to Hausthar?" he exclaimed. The Colonel harumphed his disapproval. "Oh. I'm sorry, sir." Michael saluted and came to attention.

The Colonel's aide turned towards him and explained. "Nothing has happened to your friend, Corporal. Dr. Lang here has asked for you specifically." Lang rose from his seat and turned just in time to see Michael try and stifle a yawn. "I'm sorry, sir," apologised Michael "but I've had a rather, er... busy night."

Lang gave a small smile. "It is me who should apologise. I keep on forgetting there is a 17 hour difference between here and Japan. But the fact is I need your help, Corporal."

Michael looked at him questioningly. "How may I be of assistance to you, Dr. Lang?"

"We've had a rather bad case of... shell-shock... sent to us in Tokyo lately. No, no, it's not your friend Reneth. What we need is someone to talk to our patient, to humour it, er... her. It seems she will not be quiet until she's seen you."

"Excuse me sir, but let me try to get this straight. You got me up at three in the morning to talk to a shell-shock patient?"

"A very special patient as you will see." replied Lang.

Michael gave out a small sigh. "Very well sir. I'll do it."

Lang turned towards the Colonel. "Do you mind if I borrow him for a while? I'll return him as soon as I've finished."

The hangar was guarded by four MPs in full gear and patrolled by a Valkyrie Battloid with its GU-11 at the ready. Lang showed the officers his identification and they immediately began to open the heavily-barred door.

"Let me try to soften the shock a bit. This is not your average patient we have in there." started Lang.

"Why?" joked Michael. "Hospital beds too small?"

"You could say that. Remember though, no matter what you see or hear, I want you to humour this patient. We do not yet know what might happen if she goes crazy, but given her condition, it would not be pretty." The guards opened the door and saluted. "Well then, if you do not have any other questions, I suggest we go in."

The inside of the hangar was dimly lit, leaving only small areas lit by yellow globes. In the far corner, Michael could see a big shadow against the wall, surround by slightly smaller ones. From the vicinity of the shadow, a voice emanated.

"Michael, is that you?"

"Michele?" queried Michael, looking around for her. "What are you doing here?"

"They were kind enough to bring me here from Japan to see you." replied the voice. It giggled. "Mind you, I threatened to run away and fly here alone if they didn't."

"From Jap...?" started Michael.

Lang interrupted him and turned towards one of the guards. "I think you'd better turn on the lights." The guard moved towards the nearest wall and fumbled a bit in the dark. Bright lights came on, illuminating a gigantic chair in which was seated a Battloid. Michael strained to find Michele, but could not see her. The Battloid stood up and walked towards him, extending a waldo in greeting.

"Michael," said Michele's voice, coming from the Battloid "It's so nice to see you again."

Michael shook the waldo, a little dumbfounded. He glanced at the Battloid, trying to understand why it looked so familiar. Recognition finally came and his mouth opened in consternation as understanding set in.

The apartment was in complete darkness when Hausthar finally returned to it. He briefly glanced around but found no signs of Ricky. Moaning softly he sat down on the couch and tried to understand what he was feeling. He felt betrayed, hurt, but above all he felt a sense of loss, as if a part of him was missing in some way. Surely this could not be attributed to Ricky's disappearance? After all, he had only known her for less than a month.


"Yes, Hausthar?" replied the disembodied voice.

"Any messages?"

"Not a one. Looks like nobody loves you anymore."

Hausthar sighed. "Thanks, Eve. That'll be all for now." He kicked his shoes off and laid on the seat, hands behind his head, trying not to think about the cold hand that was gripping his heart. <...Looks like nobody loves you anymore...> He lounged there for several minutes, staring at the darkened ceiling, until a restless sleep finally took him.

" a big hangar like this one, only it had more furniture. I've been cooped in there for so long. So yesterday morning I told them that if they didn't let me see you soon, I would go on strike and not participate in any more of their tests." droned the Veritech. It suddenly realised it had been speaking for the last thirty minutes without letting her listener place a word in. "Oh! I'm sorry, Michael. It's just that it's been so long since I've talked to somebody I knew before this accident happened."

Michael smiled a feeble smile. "It's all right Michele, I understand perfectly. I guess I'd feel that way too if I'd been prodded and pushed by strangers for so long."

"It wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the fact that they wouldn't let me see my body in the hospital." A thought crossed the Battloid's mind. "Say, you wouldn't have seen it, would you? After all, you are my wing-man."

"Well... I guess... Yes, I have..." stammered Michael.

"How is it doing? Is it all right? No permanent damage I hope?" it asked anxiously.

"No." Michael answered. "It's doing fine. It's in great shape. Best I've ever seen."

The Battloid seemed happy about this news. "Good. I guess I don't have anything to worry about then." It was about to continue with the conversation when Lang came up to them and intervened.

"I am sorry to interrupt, but it is getting rather late. I'm afraid Corporal Circle has to go back to his duties."

"Oh." said the mecha dejectedly. "I s'pose you have to, then." A trace of sadness was evident in its voice. "Will I be able to see you again?"

"Sure," answered Michael. "Any time you want."

Lang walked up to the Battloid and looked it in the eye. "You need some rest too, Michele. Why don't you try to sleep a bit while I walk the Corporal back to the office?"

"Very well, Dr. Lang." replied the Veritech as it once again returned to its gigantic chair.

Lang gently grabbed Michael's arm and started towards the exit, pulling him along. "I'm afraid I have some news for you, but you may not like it."

Michael stepped through the door into the cold night air of the outside and turned towards him. "What now?"

"Well..." started Lang "we ran some psychological tests on her." He pointed towards the hangar with his thumb.


"...And it seems it's in love with you." Lang let out abruptly.

"WHAT?" shouted Michael. "You can't be serious. I have enough trouble keeping up with the human Michele, but a forty feet tall can of sardine..? I'd never survive the relationship!"

"We totally agree with you, but it thinks of itself as human. So do many of our experts. They've started to refer to it as `her'. Even I slip every so often. What we need... " Lang never got to finish his sentence - a dark shadow was approaching from the base, calling out to them.

"Michael! I was told I'd find you here. Why'd you leave in the middle of the night?"

"Michele?" cried Michael. "What are you doing here? Didn't they tell you not to..." He never finished either. A loud screech came from the hangar as its door was forced open from the inside. The tall figure of the Battloid stepped through the opening and righted itself before speaking.

"Did you call me, Mi..." it started to say when it caught sight of Michele. It stiffened as its sensors registered the identity of this newcomer. "Who... Who are you?" it demanded.

Michele was struck dumb by the question. "Corporal Michele Cequor. Who are you?" she responded.

The mecha took a step forward, emitting bizarre sounds. "This cannot be. You cannot be me. I am Michele Cequor." The Valkyrie's computer fought against the data its sensors were sending it - swaying slightly, it took a few more steps towards the base's runway, its voice garbled by electronic noises. It finally turned towards the group of humans and re-iterated its plea. "You cannot be real. You must be an imposter." it wailed.

"I am Corporal Michele Cequor, service number 879-554871, attached to Skull Squadron under the orders of Lieutenant Commander Richard Hunter." replied Michele in a daze.

A warning came from one of the guards as it spied movement coming from the mecha. "HIT THE DECK!"

The Battloid's wings swung apart, showing four pylons covered with missiles. It held its head in its hand as it shook it, trying to resolve the conflict that raged within. Finally, it fell to its knees, arms akimbo, shouting to the sky. "NOOO!" Red light flooded the area as twelve streaks of smoke rose from the wings into the night sky.

The missiles flew up for five hundred meters, then turned around and returned whence they came. The explosion deafened those present as the twelve carriers of death impacted with the tarmac upon which the Battloid had stood, reducing it to dust, sending shrapnel hundreds of meters away. The Battloid itself was spread-eagled a few meters away, having been tackled out of the way by the patrol Valkyrie.

As the guards stood up and brushed the dust from their faces, there were some who swore they had heard a sound hanging on the wind after the roar of the explosion...

The sound of someone weeping.

Chapter 8
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