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Heart of Madness


Part One:
Starry Sky

"Bye, Hon.  I love you too." With that Fireball gave his wife a jaunty little salute, then the screen went black.

April snorted back a laugh, "Trust him to get the last word," she muttered as she turned back to the reports of Cavalry Command's latest project, "Maybe I should have gone into racing.," she mused to herself as she circled some troublesome figures, "then we'd be on the same planet at least fifty percent of the time."

As the afternoon wore on and the sunlight dimmed from the windows, April was roused from her work by the chiming of the door.  As she turned from her desk the door slid open, and a small blur sped in from the hall.

"MOMMA!" came an ear-splitting shout of greeting from her nearly four year old son, as he clamber up into her lap.  His hug was nearly choking.

When Charles finally released her, she laughed, "well, how was your day?"

"We had fun!" the boy exclaimed.

"And we got tired," a voice called from the doorway, "that kid takes after his Daddy, April; a real ball of fire," Colt drawled, "Makes Laura seem calm."

"So I take it all went well?" April half asked Colt, half asked her son.

"Miss Calvins was asking if you and Fireball were planning on having any more.  So she can make plans to reinforce the playground."  "They even had turbos just like Daddy's!"  two answers rose simultaneously.

Colt and April shared a look, and let Charles chatter away until the little boy suddenly gave a big yawn, surprising himself.

"May be you should go take a nap, sweetie?  Daddy said he'll call later and you want to be awake when he does, don't you?" April suggested rising with her son in her arms.

"Okay, Momma," Charles yawned again, and settled his head on her shoulder.

"Excuse us a moment, Colt" April took Charles to his room.

As he waited, Colt took a look around the room, more out of habit than real interest.  He smiled as he noticed a new set of photos gracing a book shelf.  Every where you looked in this apartment, if you didn't see a picture of Fireball and April, you saw Fireball, April and Charles, or April and Charles, or Fireball and Charles, or Charles and the Grandfather he was named for, or some variation of that theme.  The Shinjis had long ago decided that since their choice of professions would inevitably require time away from their home, they would fill it with reassurances for their son that even if Mommy or Daddy were away for a long time, that they were always a family.  In truth, he and Robin had something similar in their own living room for their three girls.  Of course, Colt was away less then either Fireball or April.

"Dad took that one when we weren't looking," April's voice cut through Colt's fog of pondering.  He startled realizing he had been staring at a picture that he had picked up.  It was of Shinjis all laughing, all virtually covered with ice cream, "I told him it would only encourage Charles.  All Dad did was smile that smile of his."

"You mean the one that says that's exactly what he's going for?" Colt chuckled.

"Right.  So besides having 'turbos' just like Daddy's, how was his day?"

"Well, like I said, Miss Calvins wants to know if she can expect more.  But Chuckie was a bit shaky at first.  He stayed close to Laura for most of the morning, but when the clouds cleared up the kids all went out and played.  He started ripping around that playground in his 'turbo' with the other kids."

April had to giggle at the mental image of her little boy racing around on a glorified red tricycle.  She could almost see the ecstatic look on Charles' face, one she knew so well from his father's.

"I wish I could have taken him myself today," April wistfully, "I mean, it's his first day at preschool."

Colt shook his head, "Nah, trust me, it's better this way, April.  This way he thinks he's just going to play Laura, and iffen he starts learning stuff...well..." He was interrupted by the buzzing of his personal comm-unit, "jest a sec, April.  Hey Honey..."

At the same moment the comm-unit on April's desk chimed.  She tapped the accept pad.

"April Shinji speaking.  Oh!  Hi Saber!"  April cheerfully greeted her oldest friend.  But that cheer faded as she saw the grave look on his handsome face, and was startled when Colt let out a violent howl.

"WHAT?!?"

"Colt is with you, April?" Saber asked.

"Yes, Saber, what is it?" April demanded anxiously, her eyes growing big as she saw Colt fell down to his knees in near defeat.

Saber swallowed, then said in a nearly calm voice, "April, roughly one half-hour ago the planet of New Reno was attacked.  There's reason to believe that it was the Outriders," he paused and closed his eyes, fighting back tears, "We think there are no survivors."

"what?" April whispered.

"We have tried to communicate with the planet, but...there is simply no one responding," Saber took a deep breathe, "Our initial scans have indicated that the surface may well be molten."

"Fireball...."

*  *  *  *
Don't look back, go without doubts,
the way your heart leads, to your tomorrow.
I will be all right, because I can live
embraced by such lovely remembrances as these.

Thank you for days with no regrets.
Thank you for eternal love.
No matter how far apart we may be
you are my home.

*  *  *  *

Saber Rider stumbled through another few words before Colt appeared on the monitor, his face grim.

"Top Sword, Robin just got a call from Cavalry Command..." Colt managed to get out.

"I know, Colt," Saber nodded, "I have to go now.  I'll be there as soon as possible.  Stay with her."

"Robin's coming over with the girls," Colt said flatly, "I guess Commander Eagle'll be coming too."

"Yes."  With that Saber broke the connection and  to a moment to collect himself before turning to his current team.  Their young faces reflecting support and sympathy,  "Are there any life readings at all?"

"Sir, even if the surface wasn't liquid rock right now, the level of radiation...well, I hope no one is alive down there," the tiny brunette at the sensor console waved at the reading on her screen, "All I'm getting now is silence and static."

"I see," the Highlander nodded curtly, "Breaker, set a course for Yuma, please."

"Of course, sir," the auburn pilot murmured as he programmed the coordinates into the flight computer.

Saber Rider sat back in his seat and mentally reviewed what had happened.
 
 

*  *  *  *

They had been on regular patrol when the first panicked call came through from New Reno.  It had been audio only, jumbled and static-filled.  But it was very clear that the settlement needed help, and Saber's team was the closest available.  They had maintained contact for twelve minutes, trying to get as much information as they could about what they were heading for.  Breaker had snagged the signal of a broadcasting satellite to get a visual of the situation.  Then communication was cut off.

Simply cut off, as if all communication equipment had been switched off.  The silence had been worse the panicked voices.

When Cavalry Unit 258 arrived in orbit of New Reno, there was no sign of any attackers.  And no sign of life.

*  *  *  *

"Sir?  Sir?"

Saber Rider roused from his remembrances, "Yes, Iris?"

"We're almost to Yuma, Sir.  Request permission to land?" Iris (the brunette) asked.

"Yes."

*  *  *  *

Even after we part, I will live
transformed in to the flames in your heart.
On late nights when the weight
of the journey is hard
let me warm a corner of your life

*  *  *  *

Commander Eagle sat on the edge of his daughter's bed, and stroked her hair and held her hand.  April had cried herself to sleep shortly after Saber Rider arrived.

'I would give anything to spare you this pain, April' he thought, his own tears going unattended, 'I remember when we lost your Mother.  I though the pain would never end.  It never did, but seeing you happy dulled it enough to be bearable.  I wish she were here now, she was always the stronger of us.'

He turned when he heard a small noise in the doorway.

"Is Momma gonna be all right, Grandpa?" Charles asked.

At that moment Commander Eagle was struck by just how much his grandson looked like his late son-in-law.   And found himself grieving all the more because of it.  Grateful beyond words for it.

"Momma... Momma's going to need some time," Eagle said, slowly rising from the door to go and pick up his grandson, "but she'll be fine,"  He held the little boy tightly to him, "we'll all be fine."

"Grandpa?  Daddy's not comin' back?" Charles asked with a tone begging for Commander Eagle to tell him otherwise.

"..."  Eagle couldn't find a response, finally, "Charles, your Daddy will always be with you.  He will always love you."

"I know," and the boy burst into tears.

*  *  *  *

The next few days were mixed with grief, anger, and dread.

All of the New Frontier went into shock from the brutal annihilation of the New Reno settlement.  Each settlement demanded Cavalry Commands protection.  The slightest blip in the skies sent waves of panic through the colonies.  The Kingdom of Jarr went into high alert, and offered to assist Cavalry Command in any way possible.

It was confirmed from the brief bits of footage Cavalry Unit 258 had recorded that the ship seen in that footage were of Outrider design although not of a previously identified type.  It also painfully clear from that footage the weapons being used had advanced since the end of the war.

Despite offers of time off, concerned pleas, and one outright order, April began to work in overdrive to complete Ramrod's latest refit.

"Just lying around grieving won't doing good," she said grimly, "it won't bring Hikari back.  It won't bring anyone back.  But I not going to let those bastards get away with it."

*  *  *  *
Good-bye... Chase everywhere
Good-bye... after the dream that is yours alone.
Though we two can never meet again
I am glad to have been able to love you.

Thank you for days with no regrets.
Thank you for eternal love.
No matter how far apart we may be
you are my home.
*  *  *  *

And through the nights she could almost hear a whisper.

"April, I love you"

*  *  *  *
End of Part One

Notes:  The song, Hoshizora no Last Song (Last Song of the Starry Sky) by Yamakawa Keisuke, is an image song from the soundtrack of Waga Seishun no Arcadia (Arcadia of My Youth, or My Youth in Arcadia, depending on how you translate it)  Arcadia is one of my favorite animated movies; not only is it an epic story, it's one of my all time favorite character's (Captain Harlock) origin story.  Should you ever have the chance to see it, go for it. (The uncut subtitled version please, the dubbed version has been hacked to death)  The lyrics were translated by Shin Kurokawa & Michael House.   Therefore said lyrics are copyrighted to someone other than me, but I love them anyway.

Again Saber Rider and all his friends belong to WEP.