All's Fair

A Robotech fan fiction by

Douglas Neman

"I can't believe we have to put up with the military taking us home!" Kyle spat.

"Would you rather walk?" Minmei asked. She began ascending the stairs, which were unfolded out and down from the UED command plane.

Kyle scowled and followed. "First that maniac Khyron captures us!" he growled. "Then he uses us as hostages to try to force the military to do whatever he wants! Then that Zentraedi bitch almost tears me apart! Then your flyboy comes come in, guns blazing, and he could have killed us all! I'm getting sick of the whole universe!"

Minmei's face was stone, her numb heart absorbing every word. She knew better than to reply.

They reached the top of the stairs and boarded the plane, and the first person they saw was a corporal. She looked about nineteen, fresh out of the academy.

"Well?" Kyle barked at the young woman. "Where are we supposed to sit?"

"We have a guest compartment, starboard aft," she replied coolly.

"Thank you," Minmei said graciously, and quickly led Kyle to their seats. She motioned for Kyle to take the seat by the window, in the hope that he wouldn't harass anyone walking by.

Kyle snarled at the corporal again when she offered them something to drink. Minmei again thanked her, hoping she would understand that Kyle's opinions were not her own. She knew better than to ask Kyle to stop. Not only would he not stop, he would simply use her request as a springboard for further invective, aimed at her. And she had heard it all before.

Suddenly, Minmei darted out of her seat, ignoring Kyle's cry of, "Where are you going?"

The plane was large, but still had just one central aisle. Doorways led into various compartments. Some of these were closed off with locked doors; the others were simply separated from the aisle by thin blue curtains. Behind one of these curtains, Minmei found the galley. She poked her head in and saw the corporal making two cups of hot tea.

"Hi there," Minmei smiled, stepping inside. "What's your name?"

"Corporal Anderson, ma'am."

"I'm not a ma'am. Please, just call me Minmei."

Corporal Anderson gave her a little smile but didn't pause in her task.

"I'm so sorry for my cousin's behavior," Minmei said. "I can't thank you and everyone else in the military enough for everything you've done."

The corporal nodded. "I appreciate that."

"How long will the flight take?" Minmei asked.

"About four hours."

Minmei sighed. Four hours of Kyle growling at everyone. They'd shoot him before they landed. Maybe I should just stand back and let it happen, she thought briefly. But no.

"You know what, Corporal Anderson?" Minmei said carefully. "My cousin has a headache. A bad one."

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yes. A really bad headache. In fact, I'm absolutely certain that he needs medicine badly. He needs to sleep."

Corporal Anderson and Lynn Minmei shared a look of understanding. Then the corporal took a bottle of powder out of a cabinet and tapped a little of the powder into one of the mugs. "This will fix him," Corporal Anderson said, and smiled as she handed the tea to Minmei.

Minmei smiled back. "Like I said. I can't thank you enough."

When the plane took off fifteen minutes later, Lynn Kyle was snoring peacefully, and Lynn Minmei felt triumphant and more than a little clever.

 

The plane's command center was quiet as Captain Lisa Hayes brooded on a vast number of problems. Everyone was experiencing the comedown from an exhausting but successful battle. Sleep was their enemy now.

"Granite City on the horizon," Vanessa said.

"Mm," was Lisa's only acknowledgement. She did not bother looking out the window.

No one else had much to say at the moment. Khyron had fled and Skull was in pursuit. The situation was tense.

The decoy team, which had baited Khyron out of his base, had consisted only of mediocre fighters. Khyron's forces had dealt with them severely, and they had been too busy tending to their wounded to pursue when Khyron retreated. Khyron had left several tanks behind, and the men were reporting that his forces' weapons had been getting noticeably weaker, so it was almost a certainty that Khyron had only retreated because of power loss. Lisa couldn't imagine him pulling back for any other reason.

The decoy team had lost seven men on a mission to save two lives. On paper, it wasn't worth it. But the two in danger were civilians, and protecting civilians was their job. One of those civilians was, without exaggeration, the most famous and most loved celebrity in the world. On paper, that, too, didn't matter, but of course, it did.

If the decoy force had been better, we could have gotten Khyron tonight! Lisa thought angrily. If I had just assigned Max and Miriya to the decoy team...

She sighed and shook her head. In her profession, what-ifs were deadly. Shrug off mistakes immediately. Dwell on them at your peril.

But it was so frustrating knowing that they almost had him.

"Excuse me. Captain Hayes?"

Lisa looked up to find Lynn Minmei standing before her.

"Yes, Miss Minmei."

"I just wanted to thank you, and everyone else in the army, for rescuing us tonight. I appreciate everything that all of you do, so very much."

Lisa's face burst into an embarrassed smile. "That's all right, Miss Minmei. It was our pleasure."

"And I apologize for the awful things Kyle said earlier," Minmei continued. "I've tried to explain things to him many times, but it's no use. For whatever reason, he just has a total hatred of the military and after tonight, I know that nothing will ever change that. Please know that his attitude is not something that comes from me."

"I understand," Lisa said. "Some people are simply irrational like that. Thank you very much."

"If you need anything from me, please let me know," Minmei said.

Lisa nodded. "I'll do that, but I think we're fine. I'm just glad that you and your cousin are okay. In about three-and-a-half hours, we'll have you home."

Minmei smiled and left, shutting the command center door behind her. But the voice she overheard on the way back to her seat stopped her in her tracks.

"It's so ironic that after all this time, Lisa has to share a plane with the one person she hates more than anyone!"

The words, spoken by a young woman with a high-pitched voice, came from behind a curtain to Minmei's right. Through the gap between curtain and door frame, Minmei could glimpse a sink and a drink dispenser. Probably an officers' break area, she surmised.

Captain Hayes hates Kyle that much? Minmei thought. Well, I can't really blame her.

"Sammie, Lisa doesn't hate Minmei," another woman responded. "I think she's above feeling hate for someone else."

"Oh yeah?" Sammie asked. "I had to deliver some orders to her home once, and in her living room, she had Minmei's picture on a wall and darts were stuck all in it."

"Hmm," the second woman said. "Well, maybe hate is the right word, after all."

Minmei stood absolutely still, stunned beyond belief, staring straight ahead. No one else was about.

Captain Hayes hates me?! she thought. Why?

"I just wish I knew what was going on inside Lisa's head right now!" Sammie said, somewhat gleefully. (It was painfully obvious that whoever Sammie was, she lived on gossip and drama the way other people lived on air and food.) "She has to rescue Minmei, and give her a ride back, and all the time she has to smile and pretend nothing's wrong!"

Minmei heard the sound of two chairs scraping back inside the break room. She darted towards a nearby lavatory. From inside the break room came the sound of dishes being rinsed in a sink, and under the cover of that sound, Minmei quickly opened the lavatory, slid inside and shut the door. She turned the lock to activate the "Occupied" sign and pressed her ear to the door.

The sound of the second woman's voice came from the corridor. "Lisa's an adult, and a professional. I don't think it will be a problem." Then came the sound of the command center door opening and closing, after which Minmei could hear nothing more.

She slowly counted to thirty and opened the door. The corridor was empty.

She returned to her seat, her head spinning.

Why does Captain Hayes hate me? she thought madly. Did I do something to her?

Minmei raced through her memory of all the times she had ever met Captain Hayes. The first time, as far as she could recall, was the hero presentation on the SDF-1 two years ago, when then-Lieutenant Commander Hayes (Minmei just couldn't bring herself to call her Lisa) and Ben, Max and Rick had miraculously returned after escaping from the Zentraedi. During the time aboard the SDF-1, the names of Captain Gloval and Commander Hayes, as the two ranking officers, had become very well known. Commander Hayes had frequently eaten at her aunt and uncle's restaurant, and was very friendly with them. Minmei had stood next to Commander Hayes when Captain Gloval had broken the news that the SDF-1 was being forced back into space.

Minmei just couldn't understand it. She couldn't think of a single occasion on which she could ever have said or done anything to offend Captain Hayes.

But she knew that she would never rest until whatever she had done was put right.

 

Corporal Anderson silently handed a folded piece of paper to Lisa.

Lisa unfolded the paper and read it, got a puzzled expression on her face, and read it again.

Captain Hayes, it read. I desperately need to speak with you privately about a personal matter. I would like to do it before we land, but if now is not a good time, then name a time and place and I will be there.

The note was signed "Lynn Minmei." And, of course, each dot above the letter i in her name was a little valentine.

Lisa folded the note and put it in her pocket. "Show her to the conference room," she said.

"Yes, ma'am." Corporal Anderson saluted and left.

"Vanessa, patch command operation to the conference room. I'll be in a meeting. I don't know for how long."

"Yes, captain."

Lisa left the command center. The instant the door clicked shut behind her, Sammie, Kim and Vanessa whipped off their headphones.

"Is she really going to meet with her?" Sammie asked with stars in her eyes, about to die from hitting the drama motherlode.

"We don't know that she's meeting with Minmei," Vanessa said.

"Who else would send her a note like that?" Kim asked. "Who else is there on board for her to talk to in the conference room? It certainly wouldn't be Kyle!"

The door opened and Lisa's head appeared. "Try not to get distracted from doing your jobs, ladies," she said, and closed the door again.

The Terrible Trio traded guilty looks and put their headphones back on.

 

Lisa sat down in the tiny conference room and switched on the control system, set into the wall beside the table. Updates from Skull Squadron rolled across the screen.

A few seconds later, Corporal Anderson showed Minmei in. The corporal also brought in a tray holding a coffee pot, two mugs, cream and sugar. She set the tray on the table and left, closing the door behind her.

The two women were alone.

"Have a seat," Lisa said.

"Thank you." Minmei sat across the small table. "And thank you for meeting with me."

"So, what's this about?"

Minmei sighed. "I don't like to eavesdrop. It's a terrible thing to do. But sometimes a person hears things just by happenstance, and it can't be helped."

Lisa gave a small smile. "That's true. So what eaves have you been dropping?"

Minmei gulped and looked down at the table. "I overheard a couple of people talking about you. And about me."

"Hmmm." Lisa poured two cups of coffee. "Without even telling me what they said, I'm pretty sure I know who it was."

"Oh, please don't do anything to them! If someone were to get in trouble because of me, I couldn't bear it!"

Lisa laughed. "That's okay. We call them the Terrible Trio. Their names are Kim, Vanessa, and Sammie, and gossip keeps them awake. They're three of my best friends, and I actually wouldn't have them any other way."

Minmei smiled. Much of the tension in the room was gone, now.

"Well, I heard them talking about how you...hated me." Minmei looked at Lisa mournfully.

Lisa sighed and took a sip of her coffee. Thanks, girls, she thought. You've just earned yourselves an extra work detail.

"I don't hate you, Minmei," Lisa said. "I could never hate you. Perhaps you misunderstood what you heard?"

"They were pretty explicit."

"Hmmm."

"So, what I want to know is...did I do something to upset you?"

Lisa gave a weak smile and looked down for a moment.

"No, Minmei. No, you have never, ever done anything, or said anything, to upset me. That's the truth."

Minmei looked into her eyes. "But that's not all there is to it."

Lisa raised her eyebrows in surprise. "I don't know what you mean." But the lie was painfully obvious to both of them.

"Captain Hayes-"

"Please, call me Lisa."

"Lisa. I adore you, and Rick, and Admiral Gloval, and Max and Miriya, and everyone else in the military. You risk your lives, and some of you give up your lives, to keep me and thousands of other people safe. I would do anything for you. I would rather throw myself off a cliff than upset any of you. So whatever it is, I have to put it right, or I'll never sleep again."

Lisa's shoulders slumped, just a fraction, and she looked at Minmei. Pain spiked through Minmei's heart as she saw the sadness in her eyes.

"I've always known that you don't fit the normal image of a singing star," Lisa said softly. "But you truly are gracious as well as pretty and talented. God help me, I'm beginning to understand what Rick sees in you-"

Lisa faltered, bit her lip and looked away.

In a flash, Minmei understood.

"Oh," she said softly, and reached out to take Lisa's hand. "Oh, Lisa..."

"I'm sorry." Lisa swiftly wiped her eyes with her other hand. Minmei knew that, inside, it was killing the proud officer to think that someone might see her cry.

"Lisa, I'm so sorry. You know I would never do anything to hurt you."

"I know," Lisa said, her lip quivering a tiny bit. "It's not your fault. It's just the way things are."

Minmei continued holding her hand, and both women let silence fill the room for several moments.

"There's nothing between me and Rick," Minmei finally said. "He's a free man. You should go for it."

Lisa gave a tiny laugh. "That's not the problem." She shrugged. "He doesn't see me. He only sees you."

Minmei gave her a look of sympathy. "Well, maybe I'll conk him over the head the next time I see him."

Lisa laughed. "It wouldn't help. Anyway, I don't think you could, or should. You say there's nothing between you and Rick, but I saw the way you two were tonight. You know that's not true."

Minmei blushed. "No. You're right. I just wish there wasn't anything between me and Rick. Life would be easier, in a way."

Lisa nodded. "I know how it is. My life would be a lot easier if I didn't feel the way that I do."

"But feeling this way is what makes us human."

Lisa smiled. "True."

After a moment, Minmei asked, "So you really do hate me, then?"

Lisa sighed. "No, Minmei, I don't hate you. I resent you. I resent you because the man I love is in love with you. It's wrong, it's selfish, and you don't deserve it. You didn't do anything wrong. I'm the one who's done something wrong. I've allowed a mountain of jealousy to grow in my heart over the last few years, and I hate admitting that." She sighed again. "The truth is, even if you didn't exist, Rick still wouldn't see me. So my resentment of you is even more useless." She shrugged. "I've been focusing all my energy on you all this time for no reason."

"It's understandable, though."

"Well, I'm glad you think so," Lisa said simply.

They were silent for a moment.

"You're not going to write a song about this, are you?" Lisa asked.

Minmei laughed. "I just might!"

Lisa rolled her eyes. "Well...no names, please!"

"No, I wouldn't do that."

After a moment, Lisa said, "There's something vital that you have to know. Earlier tonight, you and Rick were sharing an intimate moment, and I interrupted it. I want you to know that I did not do that out of jealousy."

Minmei blinked. "You know, I hadn't even thought about it."

"You would have eventually, and when you did, you would have suspected me of acting dishonestly for the rest of your life. So let me just clear this up now. No matter what I feel for Rick, I have never, and I would never, abuse my rank in order to manipulate him or his personal life out of jealousy. When I pulled him away from you and sent him after Khyron, my reasons were honest. Khyron is our deadliest enemy, and there's a chance of catching him tonight, so I needed Rick on his tail ASAP. If that hadn't been the case, I would have walked away and left you two alone."

"I understand, Lisa. And don't worry. I know you well enough to know that you would never do anything dishonorable. You're a fine woman, and a fine officer. If...if Rick does end up with you, he would be a very lucky man, and I would be happy for you both."

Lisa smiled, genuinely touched. "And now I feel exactly the same way about you, Minmei." She sighed. "And I never thought I'd say that."

Minmei smiled and squeezed her hand.

"Well, who knows?" Minmei said. "Maybe Rick will ignore both of us and end up with someone else entirely."

Lisa laughed.

Vanessa's voice came from the speaker beside the screen. "Captain Hunter on line, ma'am."

"Put him through."

Minmei, smiling, let go of Lisa's hand and leaned back in her seat casually as Lisa angled the screen slightly towards herself. Both women, by unspoken consensus, felt Rick shouldn't know that Lisa was talking to Minmei.

Rick's face appeared on screen. "Checking in at 0230, as ordered." His voice was clipped and formal. He was obviously still upset.

"No sign of Khyron?" Lisa asked.

"Not a thing."

"TT scramble," Lisa said, and pushed a button on the console.

"Acknowledge. TT scramble."

Rick and Lisa had realized months ago that Vanessa, Kim and Sammie listened in on their less formal conversations over the comm link, so they had devised a special cipher to keep their words private. They called the cipher "TT," for "Terrible Trio."

They had no idea that Kim had decrypted it in about six hours.

"Rick, before you say anything else, please let me say how sorry I am that I had to send you after Khyron. I know you're tired. You've been on duty for 36 hours. You've been through an emotional roller coaster, and I know you think I gave you your orders out of spite, even though I didn't, because that's not the kind of person I am. I gave you your orders because we have a chance to get Khyron tonight, and who knows how many lives that will save. That was my only reason. I'm tired, too, Rick. We all are."

Rick gave an irritated sigh, but there was no hostility in it. "I know, Lisa. You're right. I'm sorry I blew up at you."

"I interrupted the first real moment you've had with Minmei in months. I would have felt the same in your position, and goodness knows you've earned the right to have some time with the people you love. I completely understand, Rick. It's okay."

"No, it isn't okay. My reaction was unacceptable. I know how important it is to get that monster. If we hadn't gone after him, I would have regretted it forever. You made the right call."

"Thanks, Rick. And also, thank you for your incredible professionalism and skill in rescuing Minmei and Kyle. I was worried that you would lose your perspective, but you didn't, just as you said you wouldn't. You did an outstanding job in an almost impossible situation."

"Thanks. How is she?"

"She's just fine."

"Kyle giving you any trouble?"

"We haven't heard much out of him, actually."

Minmei smiled.

"Actually, Lisa, although I was angry about being torn away from Minmei, that wasn't the whole story." Rick sighed. "The truth is, while I might have looked calm on the outside, on the inside, I was still really wound up. I've never been more afraid on a mission than this one. We had no idea where Khyron was keeping Minmei and Kyle inside his base. I had to blast through the doors, trusting to pure luck that they weren't right where I was coming through. The moment I entered Khyron's base, I half expected it to be the moment I killed Minmei."

Rick was silent for a moment. Tears sprang to Minmei's eyes.

"It haunts me," Rick continued. "I was so shaken that just about anything would have pushed me over the edge."

"Oh, Rick," Lisa said.

"Then there was Kyle and all of his BS, and Minmei holding me, and I was tired, like you said. It was all just too much in that moment."

"I know," Lisa said. "But we'll get through this somehow. What's your status?"

"We're running low on fuel. The further we get from Khyron's last known position, the wider the search radius and the less chance we'll find him."

"How much longer can you search before you have to return?"

"About half an hour."

"Then continue searching that half hour. Keep at it until you absolutely have to turn back."

"It's not that simple, Lisa. Battle drains protoculture cells at ten times the rate that cruising does. Even if we were to find Khyron right this second, we would barely have the fuel to engage him in any meaningful way."

"His mecha is low on power, too."

"That's not the point. If his mecha and our mecha both lose power, then the army loses valuable planes, and we parachute to the ground where we'll be at the mercy of giant Zentraedi. And that would be a very short fight with a bad ending."

"I see." Lisa's shoulders sagged. "I'll leave the decision to you, Rick. As squadron commander, I want you to turn back the instant you feel the risk is not worth the reward."

"I'm sad to say it, Lisa, but I feel that moment is now."

"Very well, Rick. Give up the chase and head home."

"Yes, ma'am. I want to go on record with another observation, and this is another reason I'm turning back now. I think Khyron has a second base hidden somewhere in this wasteland and he's already there. I think we could search for days and not find him unless he wanted to be found."

"Why do you say that?"

"Just a hunch. Khyron's a ruthless sociopath, but he's also highly intelligent and he looks out for number one. Beneath all that bluster, he cares about saving his own skin more than anything else. At least, that's my impression of him. Maybe it's the way he sacrifices his men while standing back and ordering them to charge and die for him. I don't know. But my gut tells me that he had a Plan B, and maybe a Plan C and a Plan D."

"Hmmm. You could be right. That's a very insightful analysis. You might even give Admiral Gloval a run for his money."

"Ha! I doubt that."

"Even so, it's certainly something to consider. I'll give your hunch to the xenopsychologists in MI and see what they think. For now, come home, Rick. You've earned it. And take tomorrow off. I'll get Max to take your shift."

"Yes, ma'am." Rick saluted. "I'll see you back at base."

The screen went dark. Lisa sighed. Minmei reached out and took her hand.

"He certainly is something, isn't he?" Minmei asked.

Lisa gave a weak smile. "Yes. He really is." But Minmei could tell her mind was elsewhere.

"It's not your fault, Lisa. Khyron got away, but you still defeated him. And you'll defeat him next time. You'll get him eventually."

Lisa looked at Minmei, and her face was haggard. "But how many will die because we didn't get him tonight?"

Minmei took both of Lisa's hands in her own. "I don't know! But I do know that I wouldn't trust my life to anyone else but you and Admiral Gloval and Rick Hunter! There are bad people out there doing awful things, but I know you're all doing the best you can to stop them! We stand with you, Lisa! All of us! And together we'll get through this!"

Lisa gasped. It was just so simple for this woman! She wasn't just delivering a speech, the girl actually believed every word she spoke! It was the pure honesty of someone who truly believed in other people's ability to overcome. Some part of Minmei was still a child who believed the sky could be blue if you just willed it to happen. And it was completely infectious. Lisa couldn't help but believe again, herself.

No wonder everyone loved her.

No wonder Rick loved her.

Lisa smiled, and tears sprang to her eyes. This time she made no attempt to wipe them away. "Thank you, Minmei."

Minmei leaned across the table and the two women hugged for a long time.

When they pulled apart, Minmei's eyes were moist, also. Lisa picked up her coffee mug, and Minmei did the same.

Lisa held it up. "To overcoming all obstacles. Together."

Minmei held hers up, also. "To you and me."

They clinked the mugs together.

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