Macross Exceed Chapter 1

The year is 2063, many years after humans first ventured into space. Forced into conflict and adapting to survive, humanity has gone through many trials and tribulations with their stellar cousins, the giant Zentradi. Transforming fighter jets known as variable fighters were developed to combat them, as well as the city-sized Macross carriers, capable of doing battle in space. From war to cooperation to understanding, the Zentradi have learned to coexist with humanity, and excluding some extremist conflicts, both races have benefited from this symbiosis, spreading through the galaxy in fleets of exploratory ships. Throughout it all, the two races have been bonded by the power of music. Famous musicians like Lynn Minmay, Neki Basara and Ranka Lee have prevented needless bloodshed and found humanity a new home in the darkness of space.

We join humanity on another of their endless voyages, on a fleet many light years from home, a fleet expectantly titled Exceed. Bolstered by advanced fold technology, the ship is far removed from their fellows, though travel between them is now possible. The abyss of space spreads in all directions around them, and though not a soul stirs in that endless deep, there is life here in this small cluster of fifty ships, specifically in the ship in the center of the cluster, protected on all sides by smaller carriers and destroyers. In the darkness, the dome of the Main Exceed Island is shrouded in night, but the pinpricks shine like a sun.

With a soundless roar, a battalion of three variable fighters zips across the dome, leaving just-visible trails of exhaust. The lead fighter is the iconic VF-25-P, the much-improved production version of the hero fighter of Macross Frontier. It’s been repainted red, with yellow lightning bolts. Following in its wake are two black VF-172 Deep Nightmares, outfitted with missile attachments. Further off, an identical squadron streaks over a different section of the dome, the lead fighter painted classic white.

As the machines streak across a particular section of the dome, the Deep Nightmares release a cloud of missiles. After each one tears across space, it explodes into a cloud of multi-colored sparks. Below, an answering spray of color and smoke answer, and bursts of spotlights dot the darkened city. It is Lynn Minmay Day on Macross Exceed.

Far below, in the streets of the city, a girl stumbles and trips as she cranes her neck to see the brilliant display above. Her dull gray scarf flaps in the artificial wind as she manages to recover and stare in mute wonder. The chill space beyond the dome explodes and the sidewalk is dyed a plethora of colors as the fireworks go off closer overhead. Everyone stands still as the music begins to play.

“Right now I hear your voice, calling me here…” the girl sings quietly to herself. All around her, the city is lit with enormous displays of a Minmay concert, though the singer is only one of many. Several blocks away, the color splashes in a faster rhythm as a Fire Bomber tribute band plays. Tonight, everything is allowed. Tonight, the girl feels safe to free herself, to dance in the street and sign to her heart’s delight. It is dark, and brightly colored figures shade her pale figure from prying eyes. She lifts her face to the gentle wash of color and the voices streaming down to her. All around are people in costume, bright clothes wearing bright smiles. On her pale face, surrounded by auburn hair, a smaller smile echoes them. She lets her loose-fitting sweater slip around her, and her long brown skirt lifts gently as she begins to spin.

“Oof!” She grunts as she slams into someone. Luckily, she feels strong hands gripping her and a warm smile appears over her. He is tall, her age, and framed in dark locks. For a second the girl wonders if he is a pilot, and whether her heart normally beat that fast. Then she comes to her senses, and tilts her face so it is in shadow.

“Miss, are you alright?” The young man says to her. He is still smiling, and the girl realizes she has been in his arms for over a minute. Sheepishly, she collects herself as the young man puts her upright again.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” She cries. “You must think me terribly rude.” Terribly rude? Who the hell says that? She thinks privately. The young man seems unperturbed, however.

“Please, it was my fault for being in the way. Don’t let me stop you,” he replies, and begins to walk away. The girl hesitates for a split second; it is not in her nature. A slideshow of doubt and fear and hope fly across her face, and then she is reaching out for his hand. The dark sleeve feels coarse, and she notices he is wearing a matching set just as unsuited to the festivities as her own clothes are. The man has turned around.

“Is there something else?” He asks, not unkindly.

“Umm..” She manages, “Please, if you’re not too busy, I wanted to catch the live broadcast of Ranka’s set, over in Times Square. Maybe you could.. umm.. come with me?” She flashes him her best smile, and after a second, he smiles back. He looks a little surprised, but happily so.

“I would love to, but I will have to leave soon after,” He answers. His hand is now clasped around hers.

“That’s okay, I have to go to work after,” she blurts out. A flush spreads across her like a rose in bloom, camouflaged by the shimmering street. Luckily her new friend seems not to notice, and instead begins to walk her to Times Square. Soon they are involved in heated discussion as they pass from the Lynn section of the city into the Fire Bomber one, and then a solid block of Sheryl Nome costumers. Happily, she notices he is paying no attention to the dominatrix uniforms and loose dresses. Naturally their conversation is about music. She fights earnestly for the classic Lyn pop style, while he prefers the rock of Basara. Soon there is no danger of being drowned out by music, but neither grew angry, only increasingly passionate.

They arrive in the square to this lively soundtrack. The space is a miniature replica of the Times Square on Earth. Surrounding them are scale replicas of the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State building and even the Twin Towers, designed to immerse the crowd in the environs as much as possible. The young man comments on this almost as she is opening her mouth to do the same, and she tells him so. It is his turn to blush, and this time there is nothing to hide behind; she elects to save him this embarrassment. She could not have timed this better. Soon an entire side of the building lights up- the concert is about to begin.

“Carrots love you, everybody!” comes the miles-high voice of Ranka Lee, not a bit lessened by her newfound maturity. Through embedded speakers, her cheerful voice erupts from every street corner. It is answered by the tinkle of laughter as her fans remember the early days when Ranka was a carrot salesgirl. Far removed from it now, she is glamorous in a mature, sparkling version of her waitress outfit, ten stories high and hovering over the crowd. Some amorous fans begin to titter about remembering her old commercials on Frontier, but they are cut short as the first song begins. It is a classic, a Lyn Minmay song about boyfriends and high-performance aircraft.

The girl and young man are lost in the crowd as the rhythm takes them. They sway to the motion of the crowd, through the pop energy and the newer, more mature renditions. The man takes out a tiny silver lighter, while the girl holds up her glowing cell phone just as Ranka breaks out the slow finale. All around them, points of light are springing up, and soon the crowd becomes one living organism. Our girl feels an arm around her, and she puts hers around his waist. When the crowd begins to break up, the two remain for a moment. Let us leave them to their moment, and take our leave to a bar on the edge of the city.

“Where the hell is that girl?” roars a middle-aged woman with flaming pink hair. Not by any means unattractive in her generously cut neon blue dress, the resulting recoil is due to the fact that the bar is her domain, ruled with an iron fist and plenty of whiskey. The patrons are not actually disturbed, and many of them will admit off-hand that they recoil to get a rise out of her. One of them goes a step further.

“Oi, Rose, shut up for two seconds, we’re trying to watch the Ranka concert!” A scruffy gentleman in a hooded sweatshirt calls from the corner. A couple of similar characters are huddled around him and a small portable monitor. She pays him no mind, but does take a shining pump off the bar and walks around to the stage. The bar is sparse with gentlemen of this persuasion at the moment, but the woman in the blue dress knows it will be very different once the concert is over. It is dimly lit, with pools of lukewarm spotlights dotting the open space in front of the few raised boards of the stage. Cables are strewn across it, as are two bored looking young ladies. One of them is playing with a pair of sticks over a set of drums, while the other lights a match off the frets of a bass leaning on a stand. They are both in simple tops, shiny piercings and tight black jeans. One of them has a Sid Vicious hawk. It is to this one that the pink-haired woman begins to storm at, each word punctuated by a tiny wiggle of hip.

“Listen, I’m not paying you to lounge around. If Violet Vierge doesn’t show up in five minutes, I’m cutting your pay,” She spits.

“That’s not what we agreed on, Auntie,” says the Mohawk girl. She calmly lights a hand-rolled cigarette, produced as if by sleight of hand. She takes a puff, savoring it. The drummer has dropped her drumsticks, though and moves forward to appeal to Rose.

“I’ve told you a hundred times, this isn’t a brothel, don’t call me Auntie-“ Rose begins, but the drummer’s soft white hand falls on her shoulder and cuts her short. The hand belongs to a platinum blonde with a bob cut, glittering in makeup.

“Please, Boss, don’t mind Vivi, you know what she’s like. Violet will definitely show up, she’s only going to look at the bands,” the blond says in a soothing voice. She bends over on the stage to reach Rose, well aware of the older woman’s view.

“Well… I suppose I can give her some leeway, the place won’t fill up for awhile. Fifteen minutes, okay, Vanessa? No more,” Rose spits, and walks back to the counter where a highball full of whiskey awaits.

“Fucking wrinkled dyke,” Vivi says, tapping out her cigarette on a handy amp. “Where is Violet anyway?”

“Come on Viv, you know Auntie doesn’t mean it,” Vanessa says peacefully. She straightens up and pinches the cigarette neatly from Vivi’s fingers.

“I just wish we didn’t always have to come back and play here,” Vivi sighs. Vanessa takes a puff and returns the ember to Vivi’s fingers.

“That’s what Violet always says,” Vanessa points out. The two grin for a split second, and perhaps we can assume from their expressions that they know Violet Vierge better than they let on.

Meanwhile, high above the city, the battalions of fighters are just finishing the last round of fireworks. A red VF-25-P soars ahead of its battalion, doing a swift somersault. In the cockpit, sleek black controls flicker and beep peacefully. Their lights join the starlight flipping across the stoic red helmet of the pilot strapped in, his hands gently easing the controls this way and that. Two VF172’s show up on either side of the dark glass, and the pilot’s control panel begins to beep more insistently. He toggles a switch.

“Lieutenant Seras, this may be a non-combat exercise, but I would appreciate it if you don’t treat that expensive aircraft like your plaything,” the console says in a rough, deep voice. To match the voice, an image of the speaker appears on the glass of the cockpit, translucent so the pilot can see the dome on the other side.

“Sorry Commander May, I was just testing the craft’s responsiveness,” Lieutenant Seras replies. He thumbs a button on the side of his helmet, turning the visor clear and revealing blue eyes shaded by a lock of pale hair.

“Bullshit, Lieutenant. I’m just as anxious to get to the festivities as you are,” The Commander replies. He thumbs his own visor clear so Seras can see him wink through grizzled gray eyes. “Still, these are relatively new VF’s so please don’t wreck them. Exceed’s resources are stretched tight for the long-range fold tomorrow.”

“Yes sir. Driving like my grandma, sir.”

“Good man,” the Commander replies. Seras toggles the imager to show the Commander’s squadron on the other side of the dome, releasing their final volley. The lead white plane dips a wing in greeting. A different beep comes up, and Seras hits the switch.

“First day on the job and they stick you with public stunt duty, I feel your pain,” comes a feminine voice. The cockpit is rigged with surround sound, and the voice sounds like it comes from the VF-172 on the pilot’s left. An image pops up, of a trace of green hair and deep, pool-like eyes.

“Officer Delia, was it? Thanks,” Seras answers. Another beep sounds on his right, and he toggles open the channel.

“She’s not the only one. I’d rather be back on patrol duty, to be honest,” the black pilot in the other VF-172 says. “I’ve read our squad’s files, Lieutenant. Don’t you think it’s odd that UN Spacy pulled their top simulation pilots out for fireworks duty one day before the big fold?”

“You are a natural cynic, Officer Malcolm?” Seras asks. “Or just trying to flatter us?”

“I’m just being pragmatic, sir. These are top-end fighters, carrying live ammunition. They must expect something.”

“Our standard patrols haven’t changed. If the top brass knew something, they would have increased active duty,” Delia pipes up. “Payload is almost out, let’s make one more pass.”

“Delia is right. I think this is just a public relations stunt, and having live ammunition is a sensible policy,” Seras answers. “Let’s just finish our rounds and get down to the bars.”

“Be careful sir, I hear Zentradi women are hard to topple,” Malcolm says, hooking a thumb towards the other VF-172.

“Hear hear,” cheers Delia, and gives a maidenly laugh. Malcolm adds his baritone to the jingle, forcing Seras to give up and join in. They come around the dome for their final pass, and Seras thinks he sees a sparkle of light and activity beyond the dome.

“Heh, I’m getting as paranoid as Malcolm,” he whispers under his breath, and puts his VF into a barrel roll. The glimmer is lost in the sparkle of the city and the starlight.

Far below him in the Exceed dome, fourteen minutes and thirty-two seconds late, Violet Vierge finally arrives in a flurry of brown skirt, gray scarf and full-body blush. Understandably lacking the peace of mind to enter through the back of the bar, but agile enough to slip behind it, the girls spot her amongst the darkened crowd and let out a puff of relieved smoke. Violet spots a chance and dives for the small changing room hidden behind a curtain.

“What took you so long Vi?” Vanessa asks as she catches the tripping Violet. Her clothes are disheveled, as if she’s been running through the crowd.

“Ehehe,” Violet manages through her flush.

“Hurry up,” Vivi says good-naturedly, even as a cloud of clothes flutters around her.

The bar is full of patrons scattered amongst the tall stools and tables on the perimeter. Most of them are riding out the high fresh from the street, just standing and lounging, but a few look impatient. In the corner, Rose is tapping her foot hard enough to set her own beat in the crowded bar.

“Those girls better work their asses off-“ Rose begins to bitch, but she is cut off as the lights go dark.

“FUCK DECULTURE!” A voice explodes into the dark. Spotlights come on, and Violet is transformed- hair streaked in pinks, torn shirt showing taut skin, thick black soles tapping out to Vanessa’s powerful drum rhythm. Vivi plays a strong, heart-jerking bass line with her head down, completely nonchalant. Violet lets go of the microphone and slips confidently to the black Les Paul, riffs like electricity rolling from her gloved fingers. The Vees’ show is on.

The next morning, after the discreet 4am fold, Exceed wakes up to find one of the herd missing.


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