CHAPTER 1: The Rain

(The following is a non-profit fan based literature. Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon and all associated characters, ideas, concepts and storylines are the property of Sentai Filmworks, Sunrise Inc, ComicWalker, and Bandai Namco Entertainment. Please support the official release)

(I want to take a moment to be perfectly honest here. First of all, I am writing this fic clearly as a gratuitous example of narcissistic self-indulgence and is more or less a rewrite of the series using the most blatant self-insert OC imaginable.

Second, my feelings on the Cross Ange series are mixed. I loved the characters but felt like the plot could have used a lot of work. Specifically, the lack of male characters and the absolutist stance in took in regards to the Humans' persecution of the Norma being so ingrained that it was impossible for them to overcome. History shows that even in periods of socially enforced civil injustice, there are those who reject the prejudice of the status quo and side with the persecuted (IE-The Underground Railroad in the Antebellum south, the various Gentile resistance groups that formed under Nazi Rule, the moderate Hutus who tried to protect their Tutsi neighbors in Rwanda). So here's my take on how a possible pro-Norma resistance group could come to be and the role it could play in the story.)

Third, I loved the character of Hilda and would have liked to see her get her own share of happiness after all the misery she went through rather than just being "friends with benefits" with Ange, even if those benefits include a 401K and partial dental.)

There are other worlds besides the one we see. Across the endless possibilities of space and time, our lives flow like a river. And just like a river, the presence or absence of even the most minor of circumstance can alter or even split the flow of our lives. This is the story of one such circumstance. In one of thousands of possible futures, humanity has harnessed a power known as the Light of Mana, a source of infinite energy that provides for all their needs. As a result, suffering, poverty, and war are all but unheard of. But in this seemingly perfect world, an abnormality exists in the form of the Norma, girls who are born not only with the inability to control Mana, they destroy it on touch. Regarded as deviant abnormalities, these Norma are isolated from the rest of humanity in specialized containment centers. One of these is an island called Arzenal, a military base where the Norma are trained to fight the the sole threat to the world of Mana, massive reptilian beasts named DRAGONs, using robotic mechanized weapons called Para-mail.

It was to Arzenal that Angelise Ikaruga Misurugi was sent. A princess of the Misurugi Empire, Angelise had spent her life in luxury, loved by all, and like the rest of humanity viewing the Norma with disdain. But then, on her sixteenth birthday, it was revealed by her elder brother Julio that she was a Norma herself and in an instant, her life forever changed. Her mother died while trying to save her from an angry mob and her father was removed from power for deceiving his subjects. Exiled to Arzenal, forced to fight for her very survival, Angelise, or Ange as she was renamed, became the pilot of Villkiss, a one of a kind Para-mail with performance greater than any other in Arzenal. Eventually, Ange was joined at Arzenal by her former head maid, Momoka Oginome, the only human beside Ange's parents who knew of her status as a Norma and the only one who did not forsake her for her status as a Norma. At great risk to her own life, Momoka had sought out her former mistress to continue her service to Ange.

Also at Arzenal was another Norma named Hilda. Like Ange, she too had been torn from her previous life but the hope of one day escaping and reuniting with her mother gave her the strength to do whatever she had to in order to survive. She finally found her chance during Arzenal's annual festa. Momoka had received a Mana message from Ange's younger sister Sylvia. Her life was in danger and Ange was determined to save her. Despite a tumultuous relationship between them, Ange and Hilda joined forces and together, managed to escape Arzenal. Sadly, what awaited them both was heartbreak and betrayal. Sylvia's message was a trap set by her and Julio so they could eliminate once and for all the aberration that had been born into their family. And Hilda's mother had born another child to replace her. One whom could use Mana and had even been given her name.

It is here that the flow of Hilda's life split into two separate paths. One in which she was captured after leaving her mother's house and returned to Arzenal. The other where she had an encounter that would change the course of her life forever...

From his hiding place within the growth of trees, a lone figure surveyed the countryside for any sign of his target. Rain drummed the hood of his poncho and beaded the lenses of his binoculars which made looking through them nearly impossible. With a frustrated grunt, he wiped them clean and continued his search. Intel had told him that the second Norma was most likely returning to her home here in the Enderant Union to try and locate her mother. And from what he had read, the reunion was not going to be a pleasant one. But he had bigger problems than whatever heartbreak the Norma was going through. Though he had been given the address of the girl's mother and a map of the area, as it turned out backroad maintenance was fairly low on the Union's priorities. Between damaged road signs, closed bridges, and moved landmarks; he had lost almost half a day before he finally found his bearings.

I'm positive she should be somewhere in this area, he thought. Did I take another wrong turn? Or is she taking another route to avoid being caught? Maybe I missed her while I was trying to find my way. Damn it! What am I going to do now?

Just as he was about to leave, a lone figure appeared in the distance and he zoomed in on the image. A girl, mid to late teens, long red hair done up in twin tails, and an expression on her face so empty she might have been a ghost. There she is, he thought. Looks like her reunion went about as well as expected. Well hopefully that means I won't have to work so hard to convince her to come with me. It was then that he noticed the sirens approaching from the other direction. Turning his view, he saw two police cars speed through the rain and pass by the girl, only to stop before four policemen leapt out and ran back towards her.

"Damn it!" Pocketing his binoculars, he ran behind a nearby tree where his land runner had been parked. The engines revved to life and the vehicle floated off the ground before speeding down the muddy road at top speed. Already, the cops had reached the Norma and were beginning to beat her down. Mana's at full, he checked. Gun's chambered. Only four cops. Should be able to handle this without too much trouble.

In the pouring rain, the four policemen stared down at the renegade Norma they had just captured. One of her eyes had swollen shut from the beating and it looked as if she could barely breath. If it weren't for the fact that they were told to bring her in alive they would have happily put her out of the world's misery.

"Thank god we found her."

"From what I've heard she's already robbed at least one store."

"And that's in addition to what she and that other Norma did to the Rosenblum Princess."

"Come on let's just get this trash off the road and back to where she belongs." Two of them reached down and roughly seized her by the arms, lifting her up and dragging her across the mud when a low roar caught their attention. From down the road, a strange vehicle was racing towards them. It looked like a Mana bike but the engine was too loud. Nor did it seem as if any Mana was radiating from the repulsors. As it reached them, the machine came to a stop and a man in a hooded poncho stepped off.

"Hey there," he said. "What's going on?" The hood obscured his face from view but judging by his voice he was young. Early 20s at most

"Just continue on your way sir," one officer said. "We've got it under control." The man's head shifted between them to the Norma and when he next spoke, there was a distinct edge to it.

"I don't think so. Four guys beating on a helpless girl half their size is something I can't ignore."

"Sir," another officer said. "This is no girl! She's a Norma. She escaped from incarceration and we're here to return her. Now move along or you'll be charged with obstruction." Despite their warning, the man flexed his shoulder and began to stroll towards them.

"I don't think you understand. We're in the middle of nowhere. You have no idea who I am or what I can do. Now I'd rather not make a mess if I can avoid it but I will if I have to. So throw down your weapons, give me the girl, and I can promise you'll get out of this alive."

"That's far enough!" one cried. Raising his hand, a pyramid shaped barrier of mana formed around the stranger. "I don't know what game you're playing but you're in a lot of trouble mister!" With a grimace, the man brought up his left fist.

"I tried to warn you," he said as the Light of Mana began to envelop his hand.

"What are you..." but the officer was unable to finish his sentence before the man swung his fist into the barrier and shattered it like glass.

It was a gamble but it payed off. If it were a squad of soldiers he'd be in for a real fight but regular policemen weren't trained to deal with someone who knew how to use Mana offensively. Five seconds was all it took. Focus the Light of Mana to break the shield, then play on their shock to take them out before they could mount a defense. The silenced pistol at his side sprung from its holster, the pht of each shot further muffled by the rain, and all four went down.

"Sorry." He knew they were just doing their duty but so was he. Still, he never liked having to kill. Now he had to hurry. Even with the M-jammer, using Mana during undercover jobs was always a risk and he still had to get away with the girl. Holstering his gun, he hurried to where she had fallen after he dropped the officers. The cops had beaten her so severely that her hair had come undone while both shoes had been knocked off. It was raining that night too, he thought as he kneeled down and turned her over. All things considered she was actually kind of pretty. If it weren't for the bruises and her mud soaked dress and hair she might even be gorgeous. "Hey! You okay?" The only response he got was a wheezing gurgle. "It's okay don't try to talk." Sliding his hands underneath, he picked her up and gingerly carried her back to his land runner. "Don't worry. You're going to be alright now." As he placed her across the front of the seat, he took his place behind her and pulled off his poncho to tie her to himself. Once she was secured, he wedged her between his arms and took off down the road. Intel had told him of a safe house not too far from here. They could hide out there until it was clear to move out.

It still smelled of apple pie.

Even with the pouring rain that soaked Hilda's dress. Even with the house where she was born miles behind her. Her blouse still reeked of the apple pie that mama had thrown at her. Filthy Norma, she had screamed. I wish I had never given birth to a beast like you. How many years had it been since the humans had come in the night and dragged her screaming to Arzenal? How many nights had she laid in bed enduring her role as Zola's plaything? How many times had she come close to death fighting DRAGONS? All that time, the only thing that had kept her alive and moving was the hope that somehow, someday; she would escape and find her way back to her mother. And when she did, what did she find? That mama had forgotten her, replaced her, and rejected her. She had risked everything to come home, turned her backs on the people who were the same as her. And now she had nothing.

Two police cars passed Hilda by but she didn't even bother to look at them. Even as she heard them stop and discharge their officers she continued walking. She knew what was coming but the first blow still sent her reeling into the mud. And then, a barrage of kicks and strikes rained down on her until she was just another piece of discarded trash along the road side. Now the four policemen stood over her, grinning at how they had taken down the vicious Norma fugitive. Death, torture, return to Arzenal. It was all the same.

Ange, she thought as she felt them seize her by the arms and drag her towards their cruisers. I hope you found your sister. Suddenly the policemen stopped. There was another sound besides the rain. The roar of an engine. More police come to join the party. They were speaking now, then shouting, and a sound like popping air as Hilda felt herself dropped back onto the wet ground before someone sloshed through the mud towards her. Someone turned her over and through her half-swollen eyes, Hilda saw a man kneeling over her.

Go ahead, she dared him. Beat me, rape me, kill me. I don't care anymore. Just get it over with. Instead, Hilda felt something slide under her back and legs as the man lifted her off the ground. What...what are you doing? This was the first time Hilda had ever been this close to a man, much less even held by one. His chest was hard and flat, lacking the soft fullness of a woman's. And the way he held her. It wasn't like the possessiveness Zola grasped her with. Instead there was a gentleness to it as if he was afraid she would break if handled too roughly.

Stop it! she tried to say as he carried her. Why are you doing this? She was a Norma so why wasn't he treating her like one? Just leave me alone so I can die. But all that she could muster was a faint wheeze. Feeling herself placed on a seat, something was tied around her waist and secured her to the stranger as the arms that had carried Hilda braced her on both sides. Her head fell against a shoulder and a rhythmic thumping echoed through the pain as a musky, salty scent filled her senses. Being held this way, as if she were being protected, it was something she had only felt years ago before the humans ripped her away from mama. Now she could feel herself rising into the air and flying through the rain. But the arms still cradled her between them while the heartbeat through the stranger's chest lulled her battered body and mind to sleep.

Whoever you are, she begged, please...please don't let me go.

It was a peaceful night at Arzenal. Pleasant weather, no signs of any singularities. But still Jill couldn't sleep. She perched on the edge of her bunk, her bathrobe open, the still smoldering stub of her last cigarette resting in the ashtray on her nightstand. The last two days had been more hell than even she could stand. If Bronson's constant harping about what was going to happen to her career after the princess of her homeland had been taken hostage wasn't bad enough, the human brass made it clear that she was a hairs breath away from losing her post as Commandant of Arzenal. Everything she had worked for and endured was about to come crashing down and it was all the fault of those two idiots.

What the hell were those girls thinking? she wondered. Did they really think they could just escape from Arzenal and not attract any attention? Did they really think the humans wouldn't try and hunt them down? Libertas was so close to being launched and now everything was in jeopardy. If they didn't get Ange back, everything would die with her. Jill grit her teeth and clenched the edge of the mattress with her prosthetic hand when someone knocked at the door.

"Who is it?" she grumbled.

"Just me Jill. Can I come in?"

"Sure, why not." The door creaked open and Jasmine entered the commander's suite. The older woman shut the door behind her and gave Jill an amused look. "Something I can help you with?"

"Just been a long time since I've seen you rattled. It's a refreshing change." Jill growled and popped another cigarette into her mouth. "So, any word yet on our two missing pilots?"

"Ange and Momoka have both been caught," Jill answered as she lit the tip. "From what I've heard of her brother, he won't waste any time in executing them both. Hopefully Tusk should have caught up to them by now. Did you relay my instructions?"

"I did," Jasmine replied. "He's to wait until the last possible minute to rescue Ange. He didn't like it but he's a good soldier and he'll follow orders. At least to a point. You know he's going to try and rescue both of them, right?"

"Just so long as Ange gets back here alive."

"And what about Hilda? Any info on her?"

"About three hours ago, a girl matching Hilda's description was reported wandering the back roads of the Enderant Union. Two police units were sent to retrieve her but they never reported back in. A third one was sent out and found them dead in the road. Hilda was nowhere to be found."

"Any idea what happened? And how exactly do you know all this? I highly doubt the humans would share any information regarding their failure to capture an escaped Norma." Jill groaned and opened one the drawers of her nightstand. Along its underside, she pressed a hidden switch and a secret compartment opened to drop a transmitter into her hand which she showed to Jasmine. "The Network?" Jasmine asked. "You actually went to them for help?"

"I had to trade some information of my own to make them talk but yeah. They got word of the break and decided it was too good a chance for them to pass up. One of their agents, codename Rio, just happened to be nearby and was sent to pick Hilda up. He was supposed to contact them afterwards but I'm guessing he ran into trouble. Following Ange's baptism, the world's starting to crack down on any Norma in hiding as well as any humans trying to move them."

"When you say info," Jasmine interrupted, "do you mean Ange and Villkiss?" Jill took a long drag of her cigarette and burned down its length noticeably.

"It was the only way to get them to divulge Hilda's info. It's imperative that we get both of them back immediately. If Libertus is to succeed this time, then we'll need every para-mail pilot we have."

"And you really think that they'll turn them back over to us? If I talked to them maybe they would. I like to think Blitz and I still have a rapport. But you and them haven't been on the best of terms for a good while."

"Believe me, the last thing I want to do is ask for help from those self-righteous bleeding hearts. But they want to take Embryo down just as much as we do so for the time being, our goals are the same." Tapping the cigarette on her stand's ashtray, Jill dropped the ash and smirked. Besides, she thought, if worse comes to worse, we can use them as a decoy for the other humans to chase after.