Martian Successor Nadesico
I'll Be There
©1999 R. Alexander Spoerer
The overwhelming sounds of the reception grated on Maki's nerves. She knew it was the happiest day of Akito and Yurika's life, but she couldn't take it anymore.
A moment alone, that's what she needed.
The ornate, French, doors closed silently behind her, muffling the sounds of the reception. Silence rushed her like a torrid wave, crashing over her.
Sitting carefully on the edge of the balcony, a cool breeze wafted through Maki's hair.
Much better, definitely not as noisy.
The soft whirring of the cicadas occasionally broke the silence of the night. Moonlight bathed her surroundings, showing the mysterious side of the otherwise ordinary pond, sleeping below her.
A small sigh escaped from Maki's lips, warming the air around her face momentarily.
She felt at home out here. Maki always felt just outside of life, away from the party, and noise.
Away from the pain...
This always happens at weddings. The pain returns in an eruption of emotions... Sadness... Anger... Regret...
Why can't she be happy?
Why can't she have a life beyond her career?
Why do the men she fell in love with have to always die on her?
A tear fell onto the palm of her hand, gliding down her index finger before ultimately being absorbed into the fabric of her dress.
So tired... Tired of it all...
There is no point, is there? Why bother anymore?
It'll just hurt more...
It isn't worth it...
Quiet sobbing joined the cicada in a symphony of desperate sadness.
Turning around slowly, she was greeted by a concerned expression.
Maki sniffed, as she wiped a tear from her left eye, "Yes?"
"You... You left your ukulele on the table... I thought that you might have forgotten it."
Regaining some of her composure, Maki slid off of the balcony railing, "Thank you... Umm..."
"Toshiro. Toshiro Ikari, Assistant Chief Engineer."
"Thank you, Toshiro."
Maki leaned the ukulele against the balcony railing, and looked back out at the pond.
Toshiro blinks, "A... Are you alright?"
"Sort of... Not that it matters, anyway."
He sat on the railing, away from her.
"Usually people are happy at weddings. Unless of course, they were in love with one of the two who were getting married."
She had to smile at that one.
"No... I think Akito has enough admirers. The last thing he needs is a bad luck charm, like me."
"Bad luck charm?"
"Yeah. Most men that I take a liking to tend not to live for long."
"Oh... What a shame."
Maki looked over at him.
Toshiro gazes out over the nightscape.
"I thought that some lucky man would have stolen your heart by now."
He looked back at Maki, who was now sitting back on the railing again, looking, downward.
"I'm not worth it. And I couldn't take another loss..."
The sound of a ukulele being played badly assaulted Maki's ears. Wincing, she looked over at Toshiro, who also happened to be singing badly as well.
As he sang, and played, he did a silly little dance.
"Won't you let me take you on a sea cruise! Hoooiii! Hoooiii! Baaabbiiiee!"
Maki blinked, and reacted to the spectacle the only way she could.
She started laughing.
"How's the chicken?"
Maki turned to face Toshiro, and smiled, "It's fine, thanks. I'm glad we had this chance to step away from the Nadesico."
Toshiro nodded, "Yup. It can get a bit stuffy in there."
She took another bite of her chicken, "I'd like to know one thing though."
"Why Paris? I mean, we could have had a good meal back in Japan."
Sipping a bit of Pinot Gringo he smiled at her, "Because, only in Paris can you get a decent chicken cordon bleu, with some excellent wine to go with it. Besides, where else could you see that?"
With a sweeping motion of his hand, he pointed to the marvel of 19th century engineering that still pierced the Parisian skyline. The venerable Eiffel Tower, bathed in brilliant, white, light, still whispered of times long past. Times of great wonder and innovation.
Almost like now, reflected Maki.
She was brought back to reality, when she realized that Toshiro was waving his hand to get her attention.
Maki blinked her eyes, "Hmm?"
"You kinda zoned out on me there."
"Sorry... I was enjoying the view."
"So was I."
Maki noticed that Toshiro was looking directly at her. She felt herself blush under Toshiro's loving gaze.
Loving gaze? No... He couldn't...
She mustered the courage to look him in the eyes, and saw a familiar expression of affection. Like a memory, hiding within a cloudbank, it was not totally unrecognizable, yet obscured from plain sight.
"Wh... Why are you looking at me like that?"
His right hand gently caressed her left cheek, and Maki was a bit surprised, but didn't pull away.
"Because I think that what I see in front of me is more beautiful than the wonders around me."
Maki felt her cheeks redden even deeper.
Toshiro nodded, as he held both her hands in his, "Yes, really."
Both of them stared into each other's eyes. Maki felt the outside world rescind to a quiet roar, all of her attention focused on the wonderful man that sat before her.
He broke contact with her eyes, wrenching her back into reality, the sounds of the city hitting her like a train. Maki shook her head slightly, as if regaining her bearings.
"This is for you."
Holding her hand, Toshiro placed a small, black, velvet box into it her hand, and closed her hand around it.
"That was the other reason I wanted to bring here... I thought it'd be romantic."
Maki looks at the box, and another memory breaks through the ice flow of the past experiences. She knew what was inside this little, black box... A feeling of dread permeated her as she opened it.
Inside the box was an engagement ring.
When she glanced up, Toshiro had already come to her side, and was on one knee. He took one of her hands in his, and looked her right in the eye.
"Maki, the last several months have been like a dream to me. I never thought that I'd run into a woman like you, one that I have grown to care a lot about. All dreams end when you wake up, but I don't want this one to end. I want to share this dream with you for as long as you and I are alive."
Tears started to form around the edges of Maki's eyes.
"Maki... Will you marry me?"
Toshiro looks at her, expectantly, still on one knee, holding her hand.
"I can't... I'm sorry..."
At that, she slips her hand out of his, and stands up.
Toshiro is flabbergasted, and stood up as well.
"Wh... Why? I don't understand. I thought that you loved me?"
Maki looked at him, the tears now streaming out of her eyes.
"I... I'm sorry that you thought that way... I... I'm sorry."
She then starts to run away from the table, not looking back at him.
Maki then heard a loud crash of plates, and someone cursing, but she didn't stop. She needed to get as far away as possible from here.
She ran out the entrance of the restaurant, and kept running down the street, still crying profusely.
Maki hated to do this... But she had too. She loved Toshiro intensely, but could never bear to loose him.
Not like the others.
It's better this way, for both of them.
As she ran deeper into the night, Maki continued trying to console herself with the knowledge that she had prevented another tragedy.
Then why did it hurt so much?
Why did it have to hurt so damned much!
"Get it in gear! Launch in twenty seconds!"
All the engineers and mechanics in the Nadesico's flight deck scrambled about like ants, preparing the Aestivaris for launch. Ryoko already launched, and Hikaru was getting on the catapult. Maki was entering the cockpit of her Aestivaris, when she felt a hand grab her arm.
She looked to see who had stopped her from entering the cockpit, and saw Toshiro looking at her.
Maki glared back at him.
"Maki, we need to talk."
Toshiro let go of her arm, and she entered the cockpit, and went about preparing herself for the impending battle. Three other technicians also assisted her with those preparations.
"We have nothing to talk about, Toshiro."
"Yes we do!"
Maki noticed that his sudden blast attracted the attention of all the technicians nearby.
How dare he bring this up now! Especially in front of other people!
Maki eyed him coolly, as she hit the cockpit close button.
"I have nothing to say to you."
Before he could respond, the cockpit closed.
Maki placed her hand on the Aestivaris's interface, and it came to life. Out of the corner of the Aestivaris's vision field, she could see Toshiro standing there, trying to get her attention.
She ignored him, and began walking forward.
"Moving into launch position."
Two holo-screens appeared before her, with Ryoko's and Hikaru's faces upon them.
"Man, Maki, that was kinda harsh, wasn't it?" commented Ryoko.
"Ryoko's right, Maki, shouldn't you give him anot..."
Hikaru's comment was cut off as Maki tapped a button that shut-off all of her communications.
The last thing she needed to hear was someone telling her that she made a mistake.
This time would be different.
This time, he will live...
Maki felt herself being pushed into the seat, as the acceleration of the gravity catapult threw her Aestivaris into space.
As she oriented herself, Maki noticed that Ryoko, and Hikaru were already involved in the battle with a multitude of Jovan units.
Maki hit her thrusters, and jetted into the maelstrom of light, and explosions that filled the sky before her.
At once, she was greeted by Jovan units, trying to take her out, which she dispatched easily.
As she came about to take out another Jovan unit, her mind kept going over what happened in Paris.
Was she being too harsh?
No, she had to tell him no. He'd be dead if she said yes, and then she would loose him forever.
But, how is that different from now? As it is, they barely talk to each other, the anger and despair building a formidable wall between them.
Maybe it was better this way...
Maki broke out of her introspection when the proximity alert went off. She focused her eyes at the Jovan unit rushing her, right toward her cockpit.
Too late to react.
She closed her eyes.
I'm ready... Take me from this place...
Toshiro felt a growing sense of fear as Maki's Aestivaris was carried on-board by Ryoko and Hikaru, and gingerly placed on the middle of the flight deck.
His heart stopped when he noticed it.
A large hole near the cockpit...
Toshiro bolted for the Aestivaris, rushing up the platforms as they were moved into place.
He ran up to the cockpit module, almost frantic.
"Maki? Can you hear me?"
Only silence responded to his query.
He looked back at the technicians standing behind him, staring at the mostly destroyed Aestivaris.
"What are you doing!? Let's get this damn cockpit open!"
All the technicians bolted into action, bringing in some heavy-duty tools, to pry open the cockpit module, pealing back several layers of armor to reveal the interior where the pilot was.
At first, a sense of relief flowed over him as he realized that fortunately the hole didn't penetrate through to the pilot's compartment.
Then he saw Maki, and the relief turned to horror.
She sat there; head flopped forward, a couple of wounds around her abdomen from pieces of shrapnel that fragmented from the damaged instrumentation in the pilot's compartment.
Maki felt herself floating. As if she were on a cloud, an overwhelming sense of peace pervading her thoughts. Her eyes were closed, shutting out whatever surrounded her.
The pain wasn't here.
She was finally free...
She then heard a voice, barely a whisper.
What was it?
It sounded almost like her name. Yes, that was it. Someone was calling her. Who was it?
She opened her eyes, and saw Toshiro below her, holding her bloodied body closely to him, although she couldn't see his face.
Again, she heard her name whispered.
What is it, Toshiro?
Almost as if he were replying to her, he spoke, his voice wavering, but now louder, "Maki... Please don't die... I love you so much... Please..."
My dear Toshiro...
Maki began rising slowly into the sky.
I know that it will be hard... But, it's better that you forget me... That way you can move on to someone who truly deserves your affection, and love...
She noticed that Toshiro embraced her body tighter, and started to cry out loud, the sound of loss and pain ushering forth from him, in one single burst of emotion.
"Please don't leave me!"
Maki stopped, and her eyes widened, his words pierced her like cold steel.
Is that what I'm doing? Leaving?
Yes... I am.
I... I can't let this happen to him...
I won't let this happen to him!
Maki's eyes fluttered open, and she was greeted by the vision of Toshiro's tear-drenched face hovering over hers, his eyes closed.
Slowly, she reached with her right hand toward his face, and gently touched his left cheek, leaving a small trail of her blood as her hand wiped a tear off.
Toshiro snapped open his eyes when he felt her touch, and looked into her eyes, bewilderment written all over his face.
"I'll never leave you... I'll be there... Always..."
"Damn it. How many drills do we have to keep doing?"
Hikaru shrugged, "Dunno. As many as they want us to, Ryoko."
Sounds of mecha being moved around the Nadesico's flight deck punctuated every step that Ryoko made toward the vending machines.
A large bang of metal on metal occurred in concert with her soda being opened.
Downing most of the soda, Ryoko stopped drinking to breathe, "Ahhhh!"
"It's been pretty hectic with all the attacks that have been happening. It'd be nice to have a change of pace. I mean the only time that we had off for the past eight months was for the wedding..." sighed Hikaru, as she opened her own soda.
Interrupting Hikaru's sentence, Akito walked by them, with Yurika literally hanging off of his right arm. In his left arm were several bags of differing size, appearing quite heavy.
"Com'on Akito, you promised me!"
Akito shook his head vehemently, "No! No way in hell am I gonna do it!"
She then whispered into his ear, and Akito blinked in response, then his eyes widened in surprise.
"Um... In that case... Sure."
Yurika looked even happier as they continued with their public display of affection.
Ryoko downed the last of the soda, and shook her head.
"Those two are starting to annoy the..."
Both of them looked up and saw Maki walking toward them.
Hikaru smiled, "Hiya, Maki."
Ryoko tossed the can into a trash can across from her, "Hey there, Maki, feeling better?"
"Yup, much better, thanks."
Maki then smiled, the two girls cringed at her creepy expression.
Maki handing both the women an envelope interrupted Ryoko's outburst.
Ryoko took the envelope, and looked at it quizzically.
"The others are in the mail. I wanted to give these to you personally."
Both women opened the envelopes simultaneously, and their mouths dropped.
"Do you, Toshiro Ikari, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, to love and cherish, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part?"
"Do you, Maki Izumi, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, to love and cherish, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part?"
"Then with the power vested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife."
"You may kiss the bride."
Maki saw Toshiro's hands slowly lift the veil that obscured her vision, and looked into his eyes, seeing something that she never thought she'd see again...
Someone absolutely in love with her.
Her... The bad luck charm.
Toshiro brought her in close for the kiss, Maki's body pressed against his.
Maki felt lighter than air, her heart so filled with love that she could float away if Toshiro weren't holding her now. She'd never been happier in her life.
As her lips met his, she heard the cheers of all her friends from the Nadesico.
However, a thought kept repeating itself in the recesses of her mind as she let herself be swept away in the moment:
It was worth it...