In memory of 2011 その６: 翻訳に没頭した？
December 30, 2011 1 Comment
I first started translating back in 2008, after about a year of residence in Japan. Looking back now, some of the work I produced then was simply embarrassing…though admittedly, I’ve made some gaffes this year too…
Whaat? At least I admit it: learning Japanese will be a lifelong process for me, though hopefully one that I’ll be able to continue whilst picking up a few other languages.
But anyways, from all the Macross stuff I decided to bury myself in, to interviews by Fushimi Tsukasa and Asano Atsuko and the occasional tweet or blog post, not to mention the series I sort of got involved in translating (in the end, however, the people who asked me to translate disappeared, taking all their projects with them…), 2011 really presented to me a new horizon in terms of translation. Although I have a few things to finish in the new year, such as the Macross F commentaries that I was working on, I’m not entirely sure I’ll be that productive ever again. So, before I go, let me present the final project I worked on this year: A Day in Alcatraz.
as always, these translations are entirely my own work. Feel free to quote, link etc if you wish, but please don’t claim it as your own. Also, there may well be a few mistakes here and there…do let me know if you happen to spot something ^^
Original Story: A Day in Alcatraz
(by Kodachi Ukyou, in the Sheryl Nome Visual Collection FINAL)
Whilst SMS was carrying out its plan to rescue Sheryl, just what was taking place in Alcatraz—?
This is a story of Alto and Sheryl, and of the many people who were charmed by her songs.
Once upon a time, Sheryl had been the sun. That was true wherever you were in the universe. It mattered not if you were in the corners of a freezing fleet, at the centre of the calamity of the battlefield, or even in a bed trembling with loneliness: as long as you had her songs, you would always have been wrapped in the warmth of the sun. Even after she had lost her home, the Galaxy Fleet, and settled on Frontier, even then, the Galactic Fairy had continued to sing for the people. Her shining brilliance was truly that of the sun.
However, that sun has already been lost. The days have sunk below the horizon, and the chill of the moonless night has slowly permeated the hearts of the people.
On that day, Sheryl Nome saw death before her.
Having lost her grandmother, Mao Nome, in the Research Fleet accident, she was then robbed of her parents by a terrorist act.
To that young girl, a lone child tossed about by the raging waves and thrown into the slums of the Galaxy Fleet, reality was cruel. Failures in city planning had given birth to streets filled with buildings of bare concrete and steel, to districts of grave markers wherein no one lived. The warmth of the garbage spewed out by the normal citizens of higher status, along with the food they discarded, barely allowed that child to cling to life.
To the girl bearing deep wounds in her heart, the girl who had become unable to believe in others, one could say that this place, which sustained her, held something like a hint of chilled kindness.
However, just going through the motions of living is not enough to keep one alive.
Disheveled and gaunt, she neared collapse. And when that small body had lost almost all of its will to live, a light appeared in front of her. It was an old church of cyber-gothic design, abandoned for some reason or other. Seeking to escape the acid rain that formed from the polluted air and drenched the interior of the fleet, Sheryl climbed over the “No Trespassing” sign and crawled inside.
An old, abandoned church, that is all it was.
However, on the altar in the centre of the church, stained glass sparkled with the neon lights of the grimy city, and the light that seeped through filled Sheryl up. It was something that could not even be called warm or pure. Thinking back now, it was just a light that was jammed into the cheaply built altar. But even then, to that girl who breathed toxins and pollution and acidic humidity, who could be seen as a beast rather than as a person, it was a light as clear as crystal.
Clinging to the pews, Sheryl expanded the last of her strength not on scrounging for food, but on something that she had never even thought of doing before then.
Fragilely, but surely, her voice resounded throughout the church. It was a voice bequeathed from some distant and unknown star, the only memory of her family that remained to her.
Death might come tomorrow, or even in a few hours, but what that small body squeezed out were not desperate words pleading for succour, but a terribly refreshing, chilled voice. It echoed off the crumbling dome of the church, and definitely reached even higher, to the great presence that people had once revered there. If it had not, the doors of the church would not have opened, nor would that person have come running to save her.
She remembered the strange warmth of the artificial body that had hugged her to itself before even asking any questions. It was something she could never forget – the embrace of the woman known as Grace O’Connor, who had once been the pupil of her grandmother.
And even if that had been part of those calculations, a thread of the scheme, she would never forget the words that Grace had whispered to her.
“I heard you.”
That was what she had said.
“I heard your voice, your clear, kind and warm voice. You will definitely become someone whose voice will reverberate throughout the galaxy.”
Even if that had been the contract of Mephistopheles, even then, Grace O’Connor had definitely been the first audience of Sheryl Nome.
And the boy whom Grace would enable her to meet would change her life forever.
“Papa, why did you put Sheryl in jail?”
Those were the words that James Baisley’s daughter greeted him with when he finally made it home at the end of the day.
“It’s something the government decided, Wendy. It’s not something I decided – I’m just the warden of the prison.”
James reached to pick his daughter up, but as always, she hid herself in the shadow of the TV. He sunk his rotund body, a product of middle age, into the sofa instead. Today, for the first time ever, the high quality material felt like sticky, warm sludge. Although James had never been buried to his neck in sludge, he found himself wondering if the stench of authority might not be so different. What filled his stomach now was the grease that came from rebates and side benefits, as well as the mud of affairs with women other than his late wife.
“But the warden of Alcatraz, of that prison floating in the sea, is none other than you! Even my tutor, Isabella, said that Sheryl was unjustly arrested!”
James shook his head vigourously. What could he do? He was nothing but a public servant. Of course, he received a generous salary, but that was the extent of it. Releasing a diva arrested on the suspicion of espionage, not to mention forcing his daughter to attend school against her will, was beyond him.
“It’s just weird, Papa. Why is Sheryl a spy?”
“You heard the President’s announcement, right? Sheryl was one of the conspirators from the group of spies for the Galaxy fleet.”
“But Papa, don’t you always say that people are innocent until proven guilty? That that’s the law of a democratic courtroom? So why have they sentenced her to death without a trial?”
“It’s because this is a time of war. During wartime, laws are sometimes suspended. And that itself is another law.”
Trying to convince others about something you yourself do not believe is difficult, and even more so when you’re facing a child.
“But that’s just weird! No matter what kind of person they are, everyone should have a right to a trial. Even if Sheryl were a spy – and I can’t believe that she is – if she were a spy, she should get a fair court hearing and be allowed to state her own rights! Papa, what has Sheryl done wrong!? Why is she not allowed to have a trial? There’s no reason that she has to be killed straightaway, right?! Sheryl isn’t like the Vajra, who people can’t speak to!”
Stunned into silence, James could not look into his daughter’s eyes.
It was not just what she had said. Having followed his strong sense of justice to pursue his chosen career, in what he believed was the necessary work of reforming criminals, James completely understood this line of reasoning. However, he also understood that society did not turn on that kind of logic.
But even then, the necessity of believing it demarcated him from the many people who labeled the acceptance of reality with the pretty name of ‘corruption’. Moreover, in front of his daughter, he wanted to be honest about both his work and his convictions. The way to get closer to the centre of power was said to be thus: one has to get rid of superfluous things like the good intentions of one’s work and the righteousness of one’s convictions, selling them daily, piece by piece.
It shocked him that he could find no words to explain this reality. In other words, even in the power of the reality that he believed in lay an injustice that he could no longer deceive himself about.
James opened his mouth, but there was nothing he could say. If he had spoken, there is no doubt that he would have told his daughter a lie. He could not say that he would not lie.
But James could never forget the day that his daughter, who had not stepped out of her room since the day she had lost her mother to a Fold accident, once again showed interest in the outside world. It involved a typical, mediocre TV program about music. It was not even that James had been watching it. He’d merely lacked the willpower to turn the TV off after the news. In the dimly lit living room, only the TV had been flickering with life.
However, the songs of the new artiste singing on that screen, the songs of Sheryl Nome, certainly had power. Although just a middle school student at the time, her voice was carefree and sublime, like the voices of Myung Fang Lone and Maria Hollie, whom he’d listened to in his youth.
And the door to Wendy’s room had opened. James would never forget the surprise he’d felt when his daughter, despite having her eyes fixed on the screen, had crept closer.
There had been something of great beauty in that.
Sheryl Nome’s songs held the power that had convinced his beloved daughter to live once again. And that diva was the one whom he’d just imprisoned. James was not shameless enough to conclude that this had been a righteous act.
The cells of Alcatraz were chilly. The prison lay across a wide expanse of stormy seas, as if it were the underworld that lies at the edges of the Acheron of legend, or the Leyte Gulf, or perhaps the realm of the dead that lies on the other side of the sea in Celtic or Ryukyu mythology.
Whilst the exterior of the prison reproduced the 19th century look of the original, the interior was outfitted with the latest technology, so as to ensure the rights of all the prisoners. The prison existed to make its occupants aware of their sins, and to eventually return them to normal society. As such, it was a world away from the cruel and torturous prisons of the Middle Ages, which had emphasized revenge. Its classic appearance was merely a façade, nothing more than another nostalgic reminder of the old world.
But the chill that permeated the prison was not a problem with its temperature controls, or of the hardness of its beds. Rather, it was that no one was there.
Sheryl had always felt that she was alone, that she had lived only by her own strength. That was Sheryl Nome, the Galaxy Fairy, the greatest singer of the human world.
But not anymore.
The young man known as Saotome Alto was no longer by her side. Beautiful beyond belief, with gentle eyes and a sensitive touch, he had materialized from the illusions of her memories to appear before her. But he was no longer there.
The voice of the girl who adored her, Ranka Lee, was also nowhere to be heard. In the fleet now emptied of all traces of herself, Ranka had become the present, and the hope, for the people of Frontier. That was something to be glad for.
Undoubtedly, the two of them had once saved Sheryl from the darkness of being alone. However, their loss had made Sheryl realise the impact of another person who’d always been by her side.
She understood now, the importance of that person.
Grace O’Connor, also known as Colonel Grace Godunwa, a covert operator from Macross Galaxy. So as to discover the whereabouts of “Q1”, who could exert control over the superdimensional beings known as the Vajra, she had artificially introduced the latter’s intestinal bacteria into Sheryl’s vocal cords, so that the power of Sheryl’s song could be used in their search for “Q1”. That was the only connection between them. Sheryl had been nothing more than a lure in the search for “Q1”, akin to a metal detector used in the search for buried gold. Once the treasure had been found, Sheryl’s utility had simply disappeared.
Of course, Sheryl had taken pride in being the perfect material for the lure. Shedding blood and tears in her vocal training, so as to push through to the top of the Galaxy. Sheryl’s status, where she could perform on any fleet as an honoured guest, allowing Grace to conduct her spy activities undisturbed, was all the result of her own talents and effort. Thus, she had thought that her relationship with Grace was one of giving and taking, merely an arrangement that allowed both of them to continue existing.
But now, having lost Grace, Sheryl realised that she was who she was only because of Grace.
(But it wasn’t just Grace…)
Many faces came to her mind. Alto, Ranka, the people of S.M.S., the staff of her concerts, Brera Sterne… All of these people had made Sheryl who she was.
And she had now lost all of them.
Hence, Sheryl Nome was no more. All that remained was the same, nameless young girl with golden hair, hugging her knees to herself as she waited for death.
There was just one difference.
The song, too, had disappeared.
With his hand tightly gripping the glittering earring, Saotome Alto stood gazing at the sea, the sea where Sheryl and Ranka had risked their lives and sung, the sea that he had protected.
Even now, the concert venue that rested in and around the sea still bore the deep, black scars of the Vajra attack. Three months had passed since then. The damage inflicted in that battle had not been repaired, and before anyone had realised it, the government had declared the fleet to be at war.
In the name of culling the spies of the Galaxy Fleet, whistle blowing had become widespread, and visitors were detained and interned without warning. The death of a journalist in a mysterious accident was even relegated to a small article in the corner of the third page.
Through Sheryl, during those intervening months, Alto had come to know the leader of the cabal, Colonel Grace Godunwa. The cybergrunts that she had led were said to have been decimated in the extermination campaign conducted by the Frontier government. And in the process of hunting these cybergrunts, crushing each of them as if they were destroids, many civilians were also killed by stray bullets and in accidental shootings. Included in this number were politicians of the opposition and campaigning members of the citizenry, who could only have been intentionally targeted as scapegoats in those ‘accidental shootings’.
This was but one of the measures necessary to suppress ‘the False Diva’, Sheryl Nome, who had guided the Vajra to Frontier and invited the calamity that befell the fleet. At least, that is what the newscasts and newspapers repeatedly insisted.
But was that the truth?
When he first met her, Sheryl had been surprised, shaken, and indignant at the Vajra attack. If she had been aware that she had been summoning the Vajra, she probably would not have reacted in that manner, right?
There were also the emotions that he had felt that other time, the feelings of the Sheryl who did not want to be alone.
But Alto also understood the power that lay in acting. Depending on one’s performance, it was possible to deceive anyone to any extent. Age, feelings, thoughts, even gender. If Sheryl had merely been acting…
(If she’d merely been acting, what would I do?)
He did not know. It felt like he had been given a crossword puzzle without clues or answers.
Brera Sterne, that man who did not think of other people as people, had disappeared, and was now at the top of the wanted list. The word from the government was that he had used his position as Sheryl Nome’s bodyguard to carry out assassinations, abductions, information gathering and other subversive activities.
Although it did not show on Alto’s face, a whirlpool of emotions swirled within him. He wanted to run away. From the Alto who wanted to believe in Sheryl. And also from the one who was unable to believe in her. Both of them were like rushing torrents within his heart, threatening to rip it apart.
As he was now, could he continue on as a soldier, fighting the Vajra? But it was not just the Vajra, he might also have to fight against the Galaxy fleet, against other people. Or should he leave this place and return to being just another citizen of the fleet?
Impulsively, Alto drew his arm back, preparing to fling the earring into the waters in front of him. However, his arm froze in mid-air. Even that discord had an air of beauty about it.
There could only be one reason behind his inability to let go of the earring. Even if he did not put it into words, Alto’s soul understood. That is why he was unable to banish that earring, his connection with Sheryl, from his sight. Unable to run away from his own pain.
Watching over him, having born witness to his determination, Ranka Lee, too, made her choice.
Temhzin 02356 was an inmate. This was not something that he was embarrassed about, for he fought for his convictions, and it was those convictions that had sent him to prison.
He had no problems with that. If he were to give a reason, it would be because he was a member of an imprisoned race, the Zentradi, who had been created for a life of battle by the prehistorical civilization known as the Protoculture.
That remained unchanged, even after he had decided to fight in order to regain culture. He was fighting so that the Zentradi would not be a race sheltered and guided by humans, but rather a race that existed for the sake of their own culture and will. Fighting because of the anger that this raised in him. Hence, even if he were to be unsuccessful in that battle, there was value even in the opportunity to proclaim that goal. So he had also been prepared to be sent to prison as a terrorist.
However, the past few days had seen a strange atmosphere spreading through Alcatraz.
As a terrorist leader, Temhzin also commanded a certain amount of respect in the prison. Meals of higher quality were brought to him, and he also had first choice from the packages that came to the prison. Even the guards accommodated him, for it enabled them to maintain the order of the prison. And so, even in this situation, it was not necessary for Temhzin to head to the crowded computer booth in order to obtain the information he sought. All he had to do was call out to his former underling.
“What’s up, Boss?”
“Tell me about our new compatriots.”
With the tip of the flimsy plastic fork provided to prisoners, Temhzin indicated the new inmates who were gathered in the miclone cafeteria. Every single one of them cowered hesitantly, with uneasiness clearly etched on their faces. Both young and old were present, and that unease was the only commonality amongst them.
“They’re terrorists from the Galaxy Fleet.”
“Hm…a few too many for the rumoured cybergrunts, ain’it?”
“The word is that the cybergrunts are being held on Battle Frontier.”
Ever since Vigor had become involved in terrorism, he had always been well informed. Terrorists were not just stupid people who loved violence – they had to be able to negotiate with sponsors, as well as see through all kinds of situations in order to survive and thrive. Putting aside physical strength, Vigor, who excelled at that skill, was a partner that Temhzin could not do without.
“Then what are they?”
“They’re the refugees from the Galaxy fleet. Their implants make it possible for them to be brainwashed – that’s apparently why they’ve been captured from all corners of the fleet. And because there aren’t enough detention centers or normal jails, they’ve been sent here.”
“Those puny Deblans haven’t changed at all – their brains are as tiny as ever, huh?”
Shoveling the rainbow coloured carrot glace into his mouth, Temhzin breathed the gust of a sigh.
“This place is for political crimes and crimes of a violent nature. That’s why they made it so spacious and comfortable…!”
“I’d guess they’ve also increased greatly in number over there. If we’re lucky, it seems like we’ll get just the campaigners that internal security have dug up from all corners of the fleet.”
Internal security is not something that can be maintained just by arresting people from all over the fleet. The lessons of history indicate that throwing politically active people into jail without trial or some other form of legitimacy gives political critics a just cause, and ultimately endangers the foundation of authority.
Furthermore, tossing political prisoners, ordinary criminals and people with a fragile mental state, such as refugees, into the same prison could give rise to a base of anti-governmental activity. It all depended on political propaganda.
Temhzin grinned broadly.
He was a Zentran through and through, and had never let even the chance of a fight pass him by. Being gifted with a just cause for one was even better.
“Vigor, can you get me the list of all the organizations that looked into the mess on Galaxy?”
“Right away, sir. They number more than the fingers I have.”
“What’s the biggest organization? It doesn’t matter how they’re related to our family.”
His faithful lieutenant replied without hesitation.
Fate is a strange thing, Temhzin thought, as he let out a laugh from the depths of his stomach.
“S.M.S., huh!? What pleasant fellows – as expected of the people who cast me in here! Alright, keep a sharp eye on their movements. If necessary, get in touch with them.
It was not necessary for Vigor to ask for more clarification. Temhzin had started moving, so only violence and destruction lay ahead. Furthermore, his boss could interpret any event in several ways, for he loved a free and chaotic world. To the sake of such a world, Temhzin would happily go along with the expectations of S.M.S.
“If S.M.S. moves, it’ll be for one purpose.”
“Sheryl Nome, right?”
“Of course. As they did three months ago, on Sheryl’s gold. Though whether they were colluding with Galaxy, or for some other reason, is beyond me.”
“I’ve also heard that Ranka Lee came to pay Sheryl a visit. And Ranka’s brother is a captain amongst the S.M.S. pilots.”
“It’s “The Super-Dimensional Cinderella, Ranka-chan”. Leave out her title again and I’ll shove some reactionary weapons up your arse.”
Temhzin scowled at his lieutenant with genuine anger aimed at driving home his point, but soon resumed. This wasn’t the time for such tangents.
“I’ll do that cultural communication thing with the “newcomers”. If we’re after a festival, we’ll need fireworks.”
“So spread the word on the women’s side that we’re not gonna have any a***holes laying a hand on Sheryl. Many of them idiots also think that the Vajra’s coming is her fault.”
“Understood. If anything happens to Sheryl-”
“Tell them they’ll get it from me. She’s finally come to Frontier, so let’s make sure that her next concert is a grand success, yeah?”
An old destroid sat in the courtyard of Alcatraz.
The MBR-04-Mk V1, Tomahawk. A dated destroid model for combating ground forces, each arm was outfitted as a particle projection cannon (PPC).
This unit had been picked up from a sale of unwanted assets of the UN Forces and installed at the first prison on Frontier, and it had been instrumental in defending the prison from the Zentradi attacks that had occurred around that time. Since then, the Tomahawk had been regarded by all prisons as a god of protection, and its revered form were treasured by all old hands. Getting rid of it was out of the question, so after much passing around, it had finally been relegated to its current role as a decorative attraction on Alcatraz. The most it could accomplish now was to delight curious tourists and military maniacs.
To be frank, James had grown tired of the yearly ceremony that saw him, as the warden of the prison, personally operating the destroid just for show. Should he ever enter into the political world, putting an end to that ceremony was the first thing he wanted to do.
Nevertheless, the ten-meter form, carefully maintained by the experienced mechanics in the prison population, gave off a reassuring presence. Standing at the Tomahawk’s feet and looking up at it always appealed to the child in James’s heart.
(If only I were as strong as this giant.)
In the end, he had not been able to do a single thing.
His proposal that Sheryl be allowed access to medical staff and equipment had been shot down on “on consideration of the feelings of the citizens”, and they refused to move her to a different facility with better solitary cells because “great concern about the maintenance of public order” made it impossible. Of course, there was no possibility of a prompt reversal of the execution order from the President. The tension with the prison was also rising with each day, to the extent that, without Ranka’s concert to release some of the built up frustration, it would not be strange if riots were to break out the next day.
(Though even that would be fine.)
Not that it really was, but James was doing his best to think of it that way. For if he were to lose his job, what would become of his daughter?
But even then…he could not bear listening to the words of the Presidential advisor, Leon Mishima.
Still pondering over what lay on the other side of his dark musings, James let out a deep sigh of frustration.
“Allow Sheryl Nome to be rescued by Ranka Lee and S.M.S.”
That’s what he had said.
“Both girls hold the power to interfere with the Vajra. That is what the battle three months ago demonstrated. Furthermore, that power is strengthened when their lives are in danger…and we need to analyse its protocol.”
“That’s why, despite her illness, you had Sheryl placed in a solitary cell without any medical facilities.”
The Presidential advisor’s voice held not the slightest hint of compassion.
“Moreover, if that is made public, the stooges of S.M.S. will definitely move.”
“In that case, please increase the number of guards here. If not, perhaps we could move her to a more easily defendable prison, such as Battle Frontier. Although we can deal with insurgents, private military providers are a whole other level.”
“There’s no need for you to match them. As soon as the protocol analysis is complete, we’ll send a special ops. team in. And that’ll be the end of it.”
“Sir! Are you planning to turn Alcatraz into a battle zone!?”
“We’ve simply made the judgment that, in the battle against terror, this kind of situation is unavoidable, Mr. Baisley.”
That’s how the audience ended. With this, there would be no more negotiation.
“Oh, and there’s probably no need to say it, but no record will remain of this conversation, so please rest easy. In the dawn of our success, I’ll also have a suitable post waiting for you.”
That James no longer had to speak with this greenhorn, who took the power that the citizens had entrusted him with as his right, was the one blessing of this development.
Sheryl knew nothing of that conversation. But even if she had, nothing would have changed. There was only one thing that she could do. The words of Ranka who had come to visit her, and the feelings that she had come to convey – the sadness and pain that Alto felt.
What means did she have to respond to them? What was the meaning that lay in what Grace had shown her, that lay in the hand that had extended to her back then?
Who was Sheryl Nome?
The answer lay only in her songs.
And so, like a migratory bird flying for the horizon, all the while coughing up blood, Sheryl simply began to cover the wall with the lyrics of her feelings.
It mattered not if no one would ever see this. Or if she would not live to see the dawn of the next day. What she had to include was her vow on that day. A vow made to the person who had extended a hand to the frozen girl in the past, and to the boy who had given her a reason to sing.
(Until I can accomplish that, until my song reverberates throughout the galaxy!)
Intense pain shot through her shoulders. Her life was flowing out of her lungs. Her hipbones were crushed, the joints of her knees burning, and her ankles could no longer support her weight. Her vision was grainy, like a TV that had ended broadcasting, and she could feel nothing but the chill.
But none of that mattered.
(I am Sheryl Nome.)
Nothing more, and nothing less.
“Who’d have thought you’d ever wear something like this, huh?”
“……I certainly didn’t.”
Facing the mirror, dabbing on foundation with a practiced ease, Alto cast a smile at Michel, who was standing behind the mirror in the getup of a classic rocker.
It was a bewitching smile, even to the experienced Michel, yet at the same time, clean and pure. The Gothic Lolita dress hid broad shoulders and a waist that were too wide for a woman, and the skirt hid hipbones that would otherwise have looked quite unnatural. To complete the impression, various accessories emphasized the strange look, with the make-up to bring it to a point of perfection. Even if this was his first time in a Western dress, Saotome Alto was a woman through and through.
A true kabuki oyama.
In the past, that is what he had been called. Living as a woman even in everyday life, acting them out completely, the ultimate concoction. An illusion in the flesh. And the figure that Michel had once admired.
Seeing his friend regain a guise once thrown away, the blond youth felt a twinge of unease. After throwing away his past as an oyama, Alto had become someone obsessed with being a man.
“It’s just that, with all the incidents involving Sheryl and me, my name’s also gotten out in the mass media, so it’s better if I’m disguised. On top of that, I have the feeling Sheryl’s earring will help me find her.”
He’s become stronger. With some relief, and a touch of loneliness, a memory floated to Michel’s mind. The child who, just one year ago, had not even been able to move in an EX-Gear, was now using the skills of a past he had thrown away, using them of his own volition, so as to save a single girl.
Alto had his own wings, and the ones who had given them to him were Sheryl, and one other songstress, the one who had drafted this plan.
“Sheryl, you’re not alone. I’ll definitely get you out, with my own hands.”
As if addressing his other self in the mirror, Alto decisively applied his lipstick and lined his eyebrows. His figure could also be said to be that of a young warrior before battle, painting his make-up on so that his face would not appear unsightly.
From the stage, the cheers of the prisoners could already be heard, reverberating around the grounds like angry roars.
Their battle was just beginning.
The concert, or alternatively, the S.M.S. operation to rescue Sheryl, went off without a hitch.
“The security system seems to have been hacked. Currently investigating the origin of the intrusion.”
“Understood. Continue with suppression tactics such that no casualties arise on our side.”
“Are you sure about that, sir?”
Is that something I can answer? Suppressing his urge to yell at his subordinate, James gripped Ranka’s signature even more protectively. Of course it was wrong. In which universe does a prison warden allow a jailbreak under his watch?
The silver lining was that the operatives of S.M.S., who were doubling as members of Ranka’s band, seemed to be following their own moral code, with no intentions of using weapons that would cause bloodshed. At least, that’s what James hoped.
It was only human to repay killing with killing. If anyone died, there would be no holding back his subordinates, even if their opponents were mere boys and girls.
(It’s one thing to cooperate with them in the battle against the Vajra, but this is going too far!)
Ranka Lee’s carefree songs were full of a youthful vigour, belying the fact that she was risking her life as a diversion. For those who saw the grins of the prisoners clamouring around the stage, it was possible to believe that they could all be rehabilitated.
(And here I am, trying to crush the possibility of such communication.)
Of course, he had no objection to preventing the prisoners from assisting the breakout. However, this was different. Somehow.
“…Sir. An overexcited group of prisoners has just turned violent. Additionally, it seems like there is a degree of rebellion amongst the prisoners in the single-cell block. We’re having difficulties particularly with the Zentradi and the prisoners from Galaxy. Security has been completely disrupted. If this goes any further…”
James grit his teeth and ground up all the bitter pills in his mouth.
Right from the start, the tension inside the prison had been at its limit. Political offenders sent there in large numbers, terrorist suspects, and the refugees from the Galaxy Fleet, who should not even have been suspects in the first place. With all these groups crammed into the prison, an insurrection was not unexpected.
Furthermore, the government had also had Sheryl confined here. Many of the prisoners still believed in her, and that alone had them up in arms. With the concert of the Super-Dimensional Cinderella thrown into the mix, you could say that the resulting mania was way past the point where the fuse for the festival had been lit.
James had simply wanted to pass Ranka’s signature to his daughter, who loved her as much as she loved Sheryl, after which everything would be over. But that was not to be.
Under the cover of the tumult of the concert for which he was supposedly a back dancer, Alto was already running through the corridors of the prison, which, in the heated atmosphere surrounding the place, no one else was taking interest in.
In the dark and chilly concrete corridor, which could even been seen as a slope of Hades, Alto wondered if people passed through this kind of place to be born into the world. That train of thought, somewhat strangely, led him unintentionally to think of his mother.
He could hear it. From the far end of the prison, singing along with Ranka’s song, that nostalgic voice. The voice that roused warm memories sleeping deep within his heart. In this place bounded by death and ill omens, the lone voice that Alto heard was full of the sparkle of life, and it prevented him from losing his way in the dark.
When he rounded the final corner and glimpsed that dearly missed blonde hair in the corner of the cell, Alto fought to keep tears from spilling down his face.
Wrapped in the arms of the youth who had appeared to save her, and flying towards the night sky of Alcatraz, towards the stage upon which Ranka awaited, Sheryl was happy beyond belief.
It wasn’t just that she could feel the heartbeats of the boy she loved.
Ranka was there. As were the gallant souls of S.M.S., and the many people who called out to her in welcome when they spotted her. Even amongst the guards who should have been trying to suppress them, were hands that waved at her.
And so, Sheryl was able to devote herself entirely to singing alongside Ranka.
The gem that spoke of her feelings no longer sparkled at her ear, and her standing as the Galaxy Fairy and the patronage of Macross Galaxy were also no more.
However, she still had music. Her own songs, which had reached people in the past, were responsible for the songs of the girl, and for the voices of the people supporting that girl, who had all come to welcome her. And there too stood the person who had invited her to the stage, Saotome Alto.
Hence, Sheryl was not alone. Just as it had that one time in the past, music had pulled Sheryl back from the darkness of being alone.
Miracles can happen again and again. As long as one longs for them, as long as one keeps singing.
Even if that singing voice splashed her with blood the very next moment, Sheryl had no regrets.
That is why, although they had not a moment to lose, although they had to escape before the guards surrounded the stage, Sheryl did not stop singing. And nor did Alto, or any of their comrades, stop her.
Such, is the lure of the stage.
“We’ve regained control of the system!”
“There is a message from the Presidential Office!”
“…Read it out.”
James realised that he, too, had momentarily been bewitched by Sheryl and Ranka’s song. It was only because all the other staff had similarly been taken in that no one had called him on it. Everyone had fallen under their spell. In all likelihood, this applied even to the guards, who, in their efforts to chase Sheryl and Ranka into the darkness, had been taken out by the young sniper of S.M.S.
“‘The protocol analysis is complete. Give the signal for the special ops. teams on standby outside the prison. They are to control the insurgency as per Case D. Order the guards to take shelter in an emergency block.’”
That order was meant for a situation where suppressing an insurgency had become nigh impossible, when the entire ship had been hijacked and the judgment had been made that the maintenance of the entire fleet was at risk. Case D was an order that the government would make only as a last resort.
However large the Frontier Fleet was, it was no different from a spaceship. If the bioplant facilities were taken over by a rebel, there were times where resolute actions had to be taken.
By ‘resolute actions’, they meant a massacre of the insurgents. The use of all firearms was permitted, and the insurgents would temporarily lose their civil rights. The ‘D’ of ‘Case D’ was noted by some to stand for ‘Death’.
(You mean to allow the special ops. teams into Alcatraz in order to carry out a massacre!?)
Of course, even if that happened, as an accomplice, James’s life and status would probably be protected.
However, there was no way he could ignore a massacre being carried out before his eyes. Not of Sheryl, Ranka or the youths with them. Nor of the prisoners, the Galaxy refugees, or the guards unable to escape to the emergency block.
James looked at the signature he held in his hand. In that word was the soul of the girl with jade hair, who sang not because it was her job, but because she really thought of the people she reached out to.
And into his own soul was carved the voice of the girl who had saved his daughter from the darkness. James’s soul resonated with the timbre of Ranka and Sheryl’s voices, and regained some of the sparkle of his youth.
“Relay this message to the Presidential Office. At present, this office has encountered a disturbance, so carrying out Case D is impossible. Under my authority, the prison will go into a complete freeze down.”
“But, Sir, that-!”
“I have heard nothing of Sheryl or Ranka! My responsibility lies in making the residents here repent their sins, and in rehabilitating them to normal life!”
His intensity surprised even James himself.
But putting it to words gave him a sense of relief. That was why he had chosen this career, so it was fine. For that reason, it did not even matter that he might end up in prison himself. At the very least, he would not have to lie to his daughter again, ever.
Letting off no signs of giving any further explanation, James clad himself in his armour of fat and, his middle-aged paunch wobbling slightly, rose from his pompous chair.
“Sir, where are you going!?”
“To buy time. I’m leaving the rest to my next in command.”
With the signature in hand, James let out a joyous laugh. It turns out that his ability to laugh had not actually died with the passing of his wife.
“…The Alcatraz defense system is returning our attack!?”
“The word is that the system has been seized by the insurgents, and they’re being heavily inconvenienced. They also reported that they will not be able to proceed with Case D.”
The commander of the special ops. team let out a colourful stream of expletives. The Vajra attack had already commenced outside, so this was hardly the time to be concerned with this one prison. Their mission was to capture Sheryl and Ranka, or, if that proved difficult, to silence them.
“The possibility of breaking in with EX-Gears was simulated, wasn’t it?”
“The sky above Alcatraz is defended by a pinpoint barrier that is designed specifically to counter invasion by EX-Gears. And because they prepared for the possibility of a Zentradi breakout attempt, the strength of the barrier matches that used by the army.”
“And the possibility of gaining control over the power generator?”
“None. The security lines of Alcatraz are all powered by small reactors that are independent of each other. We could interfere with the power to the island itself, but in that case, we won’t be able to hide our actions from the civil government.”
“…in other words, the only way in is to break through that main gate.”
Given enough time, the special ops. could easily find its way in, through hatches or various other means. But by then, it would be too late.
“Get the ‘OCTOSes’ going!”
Several huge shadows rose from the waters that enveloped the island of Alcatraz. These shadows, which appeared to be small submarines, transformed in moments to reveal their concealed gun turrets and missile launchers, and their hulls reverted to sets of four legs.
The amphibious multi-legged tank, “OCTOS”, was one of the prototypes for the destroid that had been used in the UN War. Strictly speaking, it was very similar to the “Shyan II” borne on the Macross Quarter, a craft superlatively redesigned for maritime forces, a respectable new machine. Outfitted with the gunpod of the VF-19EF, its firepower was comparable to that of a valkyrie. Along with its energy converting armour system, the five mobilized OCTOSes – formally the “OCTOS bis” – should have been able to take control of the prison, which had not the power to withstand such vehicles, within minutes.
Or so everyone thought.
No one ever expected that the factor that would overturn that difference in attack power would be, of all things, a volley of particle beams that came from just inside the main gate.
The lead OCTOS had its body riddled by the beams, and exploded.
The energy converting armour system, along with the latest anti-beam emulsion coating, was meaningless. That was how absolute the firepower of that attack was.
What emerged from the middle of the smoke was the shadow of a giant.
“The Zentradi? …no…what is that!?”
As the pilot of the second OCTOS opened his mouth, the storm of anti-armoured rockets released from the central hatch of the shadow smashed the legs of his beloved machine, and pulverized his gun turrets.
“That’s…the Destroid Tomahawk!? What in the world is a 50-year old machine doing in this place!?”
That’s right. It was the Destroid Tomahawk.
And in that cockpit sat none other than the plump body of James Baisley. Propped up beside the cracked monitor was the paper bearing Ranka’s signature.
James had not brought out this antique because he had wanted to. However, the damage associated with the system takeover had left him without the liberty of reactivating the destroids used for security. The Tomahawk was too old to be connected to the network, and it was the only machine that could be brought out.
The only problem was that, due to that annual ceremony, it would only move if its pilot’s fingerprints matched that of the warden. Hence, James was the only one able to pilot it.
(Even then, there is no choice for me but to do it. How else could I ever return to my daughter’s side?)
That’s all it was.
The time had come for one small man to protect his few ounces of pride.
He did it not for the fate of mankind, nor the future of the galaxy. All he wanted was to do was protect the song that his daughter loved, and also the father that she had once loved. That was his battle.
For that small purpose, sitting in that cockpit and filled by Sheryl’s songs, James fought.
In any case, its tremendous horizontal firepower had given the Tomohawk the reputation of surpassing all other destroids save for the “Monster”. James subsequently used the gun clusters on both its arms to mow through the squads of EX-Gears, stopping the invasion in its tracks.
But that was where the superiority granted by his surprise attack ended.
The remaining three OCTOSes reorganized themselves and, taking advantage of their newly developed dash rollers, started toying with the heavy Tomahawk.
The six launchers on the shoulder of the Tomahawk let out a volley of missiles, but they merely carved through thin air and exploded into the wrong targets. The technological gap between the ECM-jamming ability of the OCTOS and the missile guidance system was simply too big.
The particle projection cannons howled.
But their beams were also swallowed by darkness. Even if they could kill with one shot, it mattered not if one not hit the target. And James was one amateur against several veteran pilots.
The Gatling guns on the right shoulder of the OCTOSes fired a volley, which the energy converting armour system deflected. However, with the force of the attack, the deteriorating right arm of the Tomahawk was blown right out of its socket.
Even then, James was able to half destroy the third OCTOS with the particle projection cannons on its right shoulder. He thanked his lucky stars that the path of invasion had restricted this contest to land.
However, the recoil also destroyed much of the Tomahawk, whose balancer had been but weakly adjusted.
(Is this where it ends?!)
Having never received any special training, there was nothing more that James could do.
But the expected attack never came.
A single young giant stood supporting the Tomahawk. His face was one that James knew irritatingly well, a face that always had him wishing it would vanish, at least during his tenure as warden.
“Yo, Warden. Long time no see – probably since I got here, huh?”
Grinning like a shark, Temhzin let off a volley from a Zentradi rifle that he had somehow gotten his hands onto, keeping the OCTOSes away with a great display of skill.
“My henchmen will deal with the idiots who’re jammed in here in their EX-Gears. Doncha worry, backup will be here soon.”
“The Macross Quarter.”
Hearing that name brought a grin of relief to James’s face. None could be more dependable than the ship that had protected the fleet three months prior. Of course, he could largely guess the reason that Temhzin had gotten in contact with them, but this was not the time to bring it up. After all, he owed Temhzin his life.
And so, using the prison wall as a shield and taking on the OCTOSes and EX-Gear teams together, these two men started talking to each other, for it was now necessary for them to understand each other.
“I figured it didn’t matter what happened to you lot, but you’re the first warden I’ve ever met who’s protected his inmates. Also…”
Temhzin paused momentarily. He seemed somewhat embarrassed.
“That song…you know, Sheryl’s ‘Get it on’. Ain’t it great?”
“Yeah, sure is.”
It was a song his daughter loved.
Even booming from the broken speakers into a battlefield filled with noise, it was, without a doubt, a magnificent voice.
That voice had given them the courage to look death in the face. It had given them the strength to say the right thing at the right time. It had become their wings.
“Anyway, this autorifle can’t pierce through that energy shield. Warden, cover me. Just fire as many of your rockets and grenades as possible.”
It was a strange sight. A prisoner dashing out from a prison, trusting the warden with his back.
A relationship of trust that ought not to have existed.
But it is clear that, in that moment, those two men of different races, upbringings and even statuses, shared the same feelings.
Nicknamed ‘The Battle Sledge’, the Tomahawk’s volley of rockets, grenades, flames, particle beams and lasers painted the battlefield with a burst of fireworks.
And through that attack, Temhzin charged. Mounting the desperately fleeing OCTOS, he let out a yell like the cowboys of the wild, wild west, seizing the gunpod with his hand.
This gunpod had originally been developed for Valkyrie use, and was thus equipped with a trigger. And what would a Zentradi do with a gun that had a trigger? There can only be one answer to that.
Riddled by bullets from head to the reactor engine at that distance, the fourth OCTOS simply exploded.
The last remaining OCTOS swiveled around and set its aim on Temhzin. But the Tomahawk, having completely used up its ammo, slammed into it bodily, blowing it up. A direct attack with thirty tons of metal behind it left not doubt of the result.
The wounded Temhzin turned his gun on the stranded OCTOS.
“Sorry there, Deblan.”
A gunshot rang out.
“If you kill, you have to be prepared to be killed, right? That’s what a warrior is.”
Having lost its destroids, the special ops. force driven out onto the beaches seemed insignificant before the army of inmates and guards that looked out over them.
“All right! Let’s get to the Quarter before they send more troops in!”
Pounding away extravagantly at the gunpod, Temhzin cheerfully yelled out.
“You’ve shown us good results during the Vajra evacuation, so I’ll write a petition to have the level of your crimes reduced.”
With a grin, James summed up his partner’s efforts, just like he’d once done as a hockey keeper when he had been 30 kilos lighter.
“Not a bad deal! But before that, I beg ya, get the electrician to fix all the broken stereos in the recreation room!”
“Right, got it. Most important thing, huh?”
“No kidding! Now let’s flee to where Sheryl and Ranka-chan are waiting!”
Fleeing to the Quarter on that railcar, Sheryl moved her body ever so slightly closer to Alto’s and whispered in his ear.
There was so much more that she wanted to say. But now was not the time. That which would have to be said, she’d say it through her songs. And also in the way she lived. With that, the things that could never be put into words would also be conveyed. It would not matter if the other were a person or a god.
That’s what the two of them, man and woman, believed.
That was all they needed.
That was enough.
Having been saved by the Macross Quarter, James and Temhzin both participated alongside S.M.S. in the retrieval of Island 1.
In that old Tomahawk and a similarly worn-out powered suit, they protected both the shelter that Wendy was in, and also the church where Sheryl and Ranka sang, right to the end.
From those box seats, they heard that legendary concert, and watched the golden wings of the hero who protected those two songstresses. As witnesses to the soaring performance of Saotome Alto, they carved their names into the pages of history.
But that is another story altogether, one that will probably be heard someplace else, at some other time.
The tale to be told now is of that valkyrie, and of that honey-coloured song, which together showed the way to something that will never end.
Wings of crimson and gold dance in some faraway sky.
One day, like a swan, he will return from those southern lands.
To the place where he can rest his wings, to that person’s side.