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Prologue - "24 Hours Ago" for Ylva Sveadotter

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Kaerri's Man. =)
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(Part 1 of 2)

The American highway belonged to Ylva!

In her very first solo drive in the former United States, Ylva cruised down the American highway, windows down, moonroof open, in a brand-new black GMC Yukon SUV with yellow UEG plates. There was kind of a freedom in it really, flying down a lonely highway in a United Earth Government-owned vehicle with tinted glass. No one but the most-daring highway patrol officer would pull a vehicle like this over and she knew it! Ylva had begun her cloudy morning drive from Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia). In order for Ylva to complete her ASC training, she had been assigned a few courses in the former United States and had been in-country for about half a year studying and updating her technical skills. Now that her education was complete, she had received orders to report for duty to Eglin ASC base in the Florida "Panhandle" (northwest Florida near Alabama and Georgia). The Army of the Southern Cross had requisitioned her this nice, classy SUV to make the easy trek with.

Interstate 95 and her destiny were hers, at least for a little while. Meanwhile, this played on the radio.

"Neverending Love" by Roxette. A little tip of the hat here to the late and incredible Marie Fredriksson! What a voice! And this was Roxette's very first hit!

Things happen during long drives and Ylva believed she still had a few hours left in hers. One such thing involved an unexpected call on her smartphone. While in Florida, driving while using a smartphone was illegal and Ylva knew this, but in the life of an ASC Technical Officer, phone calls could mean orders. So, she glanced at the phone and saw a number her smartphone recognized... as phone-spam. Even in post-holocaust Earth, there were damned scammers trying to scam. Ylva took the turn off the highway, replaced the phone, and cruised on. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

Except Ylva could not know that by taking her eyes off of the road she had taken the wrong turn off of Interstate 95 and into completely unknown Floridian territory.

Ylva drove on for some time when she finally realized that she was not seeing the signs to Interstate 10 that she was hoping to see. In fact, she wasn't seeing very many road signs at all. Perhaps part of her wanted to turn back, but the friendly voice on the radio had earlier reported signs of thunderstorms in the area (there had been a tornado that had blasted through Florida very recently and things were still a little crazy in this region - not that Ylva had any firsthand experiences with those in Sweden). Oh, for Google Maps and the technology humanity had prior to the coming of the Zentraedi! But those days were gone. The Rain of Death had seen to that.

Ylva's first sign of trouble was the black smoke rising from where there should have been no smoke at all. Ylva knew black-colored smoke likely meant something synthetic was burning. A vehicle or building perhaps. As she slowed to a cautious roll across the road, she saw something completely unexpected - the burning remains of what was once likely a car. Twisted silvery pieces of wreckage were scattered about in all directions. A burning tire roasted on the road, her only company. Ylva knew this vehicle had just been hit by something that caused Mega-damage! Ylva had no Mega-damage gear on her of any kind (she was to receive her armor and gear at Eglin). Even the vehicle she was driving was of the non-Mega-damage variety. It seemed to be an excellent time to hit the gas and get out of there... except ...

... that was when Ylva saw the bodies.

"Dog Fighter" for the movie, Macross Super Dimensional Fortress "Do You Remember Love?"

In Ylva's hesitation in that single moment, she changed the course of her own cosmic destiny.

Three giant bodies of Zentraedi lie in death, their sickly, malnourished faces identifying each of them as Malcontents, the male Zentraedi still loyal to Lord Dolza who had nearly succeeded in destroying Earth during the event everyone knew as the Rain of Death. An enormous Mk. VIII particle rifle lay beside each corpse, badly-maintained and silent. This discovery was incomprehensible! According to the military and the media, the nearest Malcontents were in Arkansas, not so far east in Florida! But Ylva's eyes discovered something stranger, more unexpected than all of this.

She saw a huge smoking burn-hole through the face and helmet of one of the Malcontents.

The horror-stricken expression of the Zentraedi told all - this grunt had seen something that had shocked him to his soldier core - and what could take a Malcontent by surprise? The scientific brain that Ylva possessed immediately began correlating facts. For facts, evidence, and understanding were the bridges to the betterment of humankind, however battered the Earth was. Ylva reasoned that the hole could not have been caused by missiles (which would have detonated and therefore caused a much-different injury) nor the fires of, say, a Tomahawk destroid (those flamethrowers were not nearly so powerful as to blow a single hole clean through a Zentraedi helmet, skull, and helmet again!). Even moreso, Ylva knew that the battle armor used by the Malcontents was fire-resistant. Mega-damage fires only harmed it half as much.

A closer look revealed the second corpse was not so much killed by a fire-blast through the skull but was decapitated by fire! Not far away, the third still corpse revealed some of its own ghastly evidence to Ylva. His head and helmet had been crushed inwards, blunt trauma to be sure, but smashed in all the way to the neck! Beside it, two halves of a particle beam rifle lay crackling in the dirt.

Then Ylva realized... she had stopped the SUV in the middle of the empty road in the middle of Florida-nowhere to attempt to gather and digest this hideous, seemingly-impossible scene. She could not hear the radio or the engine running or the air conditioner blowing. The questions increased. What in the universe had killed these enemies of humankind? For Ylva, the answer was - nothing in the Army of the Southern Cross nor Robotech Defense Force nor the Malcontents known armories! Something else did this. And very recently! But... what?

That was when she realized she was not alone. She heard movement. Up in the trees. Flocks of crows, their black wings flapping, were gathering. Waiting. Expecting.

Ylva turned her head and to her left, she saw a giant rise from among the trees. No, not the familiar sight of another emaciated Malcontent trooper with his ugly rifle at the ready, but something perhaps no human of her time had yet seen - a Zentraedi of a different breed altogether! This healthy-looking, well-fed warrior stood with a straight back and shoulders square. He stood some 40 feet in height and wore a strange armor the color of blood that seemed molded to his body. Ylva's education in Zentraedi lore told her nothing about this!

In one hand, the warrior held a massive pistol. A massive smoking pistol. Ylva could reasonably surmise now that this was the plasma-based weapon that had torn through the Malcontents' fire-resistant armor as if it were hardly there. Evidence strongly suggested this warrior had killed his fellow Zentraedi! All logic clashed in Ylva's education as her mind told her that the only Zentraedi left were the Malcontents also known as "Dolza-Zentraedi" who were starving, glory-hungry Malcontents littered through the world (especially Brazil and the Arkansas Protectorate) and the Breetai-Zentraedi who had willingly undergone micronization to join the human race in fighting the enemies of Earth.

The soldier before her was, very possibly, not known to the human race. It was a discovery that could change everything the ASC thought they knew!

In his other hand, the warrior hefted a strange object that resembled a warhammer. It was ringed with a fading white light like that of pure starlight. He replaced his hand cannon in his armor's strange holster that seemed to sheath itself around the barrel of the gun. He drew forth a cloth and cleaned his warhammer of fresh gore, very likely from the third Malcontent. He stood looking down, grinning, as if his attention were on something or someone else. Then he spoke a question of some kind.

And Ylva, while being highly-educated in the Zentraedi lore (and therefore understanding of their weapons, tactics, and general abilities), could not understand a single word he used. The only languages Ylva knew were her native Swedish tongue and English.

Suddenly, there was a burst of movement from the trees. The crows scattered violently. She heard a sudden whispered word in English, but there was no way a voice with that kind of depth and heaviness could have come from anything human-sized! "You!" Her head spun in the opposite direction. "Micronian, you have seen too much! I will bring you to my masters!" Ylva saw the green-clad, hunger-stricken face of a fourth armored Malcontent. Then she saw a wall of white cloud expand from all around her and, belted in her SUV with the windows down, she had virtually no chance of escape. The white gas surrounded her in scant seconds. She tried to hold her breath and became woozy anyway.

The gas operated operated upon skin contact too, she realized too late. That, one of her biology instructors would have said, was cheating. Ylva swooned. She did not remember her head falling upon the steering wheel or the SUV coming to a gentle stop against a crow-less tree.

* * *​

(Part 2 of 2)

When Ylva woke, it was to the sound of a man laughing, engines running from behind her, and a sky of the purest blue all about her. She was in the cockpit of a Logan veritech! The man beside her was huge - 6 inches over 6 feet (1.98 meters tall) and massively-muscled. He had the strange accent of a man from... England? She felt a large hand pat her thigh. "Heh, heh! Don't you worry, my little love muffin! You an' me? When I'm done wit' you, yer gonna tell me everything you saw back in Florida!" He was dressed in an ASC paramedic's uniform and not the standard Mega-damage mega-suit military personnel wore when piloting such aircraft.

A quick look at the controls and Ylva saw she was some 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) off the ground and falling rapidly! She had no clue where she was or how she had gotten there. It seemed only that this big brute believed she was still unconscious for aside from his beastly grin, he was paying attention solely to the Logan's instrumentation, its movements, and some kind of dogfight going on up above.

Then suddenly, the Logan shook mightily. Warning lights went off along with audible alerts from the HUD. The Logan had been seriously hit!

"Blimey!" the big man yelled and fought angrily with the controls. "Stay together, ya bleedin' hunk of junk!!"

The Logan was shuddering badly. Whatever had hit her had hit her very badly. Ylva knew the signs; this Logan, if hit again, could break up in mid-air with them inside of it. But at that moment, Ylva could have sworn she heard something or perhaps someone else. It certainly wasn't the British bruiser beside her. But what was it? The voice repeated itself and Ylva perhaps thought she had clonked her bonkers...

...for the voice was originating in her very mind!

"I am heavily-damaged. Make no attempt at transforming me."

This woke Ylva up in a way that made her grogginess disappear. The Swedish Technical Officer possessed the mental fortitude and physical condition to now take action.

Ylva could...
1. Play unconscious (keeping her eyes closed) and see what happens.
2. Understanding the Logan's controls, she could attempt to suddenly eject them both out of the Logan (upon activation, Ylva knows the ejection seats punch both pilot and co-pilot out).
3. Grab her own flight controls and attempt to take over control of the Logan.
4. Coerce this fine, outstanding gentleman into peacefully letting her go and perhaps fly her back to Florida.
5. Anything else Ylva could come up with.

What does Ylva do?
Slowly but surely, one step at a time, the mind claws its way back to consciousness. Clinging to the little snips and pieces that somehow break through the fog of comforting nothingness. Noises at first; distant laughter, and that buzzing melody she'd recognize everywhere. That humming sound of roaring engines, of machinery that defies gravity itself. Not a cargo plane, it lacks the deeper creaking of too-old steel and the grumbling of the never-ending fight against the airflow. No, this is different, lighter, perfected. Spend enough time in a Logan, and you begin to recognize the patterns; the howl of a hundred different tunes, of engines, steel, even instruments. Protoculture at its finest, mankind's sudden leap forward in all tech-related. Its sounds surround her, welcome her, put the tired mind at ease.

More laughter, louder this time, as the numbness is forced back just a little. The mind gets closer to where it belongs - finds the strength to open the eyes slowly, carefully, and thus the perfect, blue sky above. Blurry at first, like through Edda's glasses; that short-sighted beast from Inorganics. A blink changes that, clears away the haziness. Offers clarity, peace.

That's when the touch rips that illusion apart.

A hand, out of place; alarm bells ring in her mind, unheard. He speaks, more bells; more thoughts, unordered. The words; wrong. All of them, some more than others. Florida - the mind rebels. It's Stockh - no, Georgia. Should be. The accent's off. Like English at home; not American. The mind high-fives itself. Found a truth, carries on. Shouts a dozen questions - why, when, how, where, who? Finds answers. The road, the call. The corpses. Then what? Everything you saw, he said. She remembers parts, flashes of memories. The hammer. Burnt flesh. Malcontents. Zentraedi. Her eyes seek for answers. The uniform - wrong. Other pilots out there. The gas. No smell. Somehow relevant. Before she knows why, the shots land.

Patterns turn into screeching; damaged steel, warning sounds. The Logan's melody turns unfamiliar; not a single beep, like she knows it, a choir of pain instead. The hand disappears, the man's voice turns angry, hectic. Another voice joins in. Just space for two. HUD's too noisy for comms. She knows that. And more. Knows that it's impossible. That it still must be the gas, somehow. That it repeats itself. Loud and clear, despite the noise. Right in her head. Cuts through the fog, the mind breaks through. A hundred thoughts, at once. Like ice swimming, in winter, when there's just the freezing cold, and then you come up for air and the world explodes around you; the warmth, Josh's laughter, the clarity. Breathing's the same, at first - non-existent, she holds the air in her lungs. That's where the training kicks in. Don't flail around like you're about to drown. Breathe. He didn't notice, did he? Seemed focused on the instruments, the dogfight above. Should still be focused on it, more than before, right? A second breath. The tension remains. Caught, somehow, by this perv. Not malcontents, not that lone giant. Looks tough, is tall. And under fire. Could take him on, maybe. Could die trying, just takes another hit while they struggle. Could take the exit, of course, without gear. Too high for that; same result, most likely. Could wait, watch him fail. And then die anyway. He got hit once, will get hit a second time. And twice's the end. Some freeze, some fight. Some survive.

"Skitstövel." It's not the right word, not even close. But simple, and simple is all her wit has to offer. So she spits the word out, loud enough to let him hear, notice. Still sounds too insecure. Not surprising. "Piece of shit." Not much more inventive, but better. Less shaky. "Don't transform." He didn't look over when the voice appeared, did he? He would have expected that voice to be hers, Ylva figures. Likely would've looked over, then, at least if he's not used to strange voices in his head. But he didn't. So he doesn't hear. Probably. Better to tell him, then. She needs to get lower, somehow, low enough for the ejection. That's where they're headed anyway - it's about the way they get there, and if they make it in one piece. "Wouldn't make it, fall apart instead." Maybe not needed, those additional words. Spoke as calm as she can manage, to get the point across. But people under stress don't like random advice, this one likely less than others. A couple more words, to give him some reason to trust her assessment: "Been in enough cats to know." Better than 'I hear a voice', she figures.

That's it, as Ylva waits for his reaction. No need to reach out for anything; with his hands on the buttons, they aren't elsewhere. She shifts a little, away from him; moves her arms, but leaves them down to pose no threat. Might not even think of me as a danger, big and strong enough to like his own chances. Got other veritech to worry about as well. Who knows - Ylva waits for a response, ready for anything. She hopes, at least. And tries to catch as much of the situation as possible. The other pilots out there, the alerts, but mostly his movements. She spoke, so the surprise factor is gone; it's on him to come to either come to the same conclusion as she did - that they likely both want to survive, for now - or to do something stupid. Not the greatest odds, with this one.
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"Dog Fighter" for the movie, Macross Super Dimensional Fortress "Do You Remember Love?"

"Fucking God! Yer awake!"

The huge pilot wearing the ASC medical uniform looked over at Ylva in utter shock. He was an immensely strong-looking fellow with no hair on his head except for the black stubble of mustache and beard on his face. There were small scars on his skin that spoke of a violent past and an aggressive flash in his eyes that promised more. For just a moment, Ylva watched him reach down his white cargo pants to a pocket on his right thigh, but just as quickly as he had reached down an alert on the Logan's heads-up display brought that hand right back up to the controls.

Ylva knew what that alert was for - something out there was trying to get a missile lock on the Logan. The pilot would have normally heard that alert from inside the helmet's speaker had he been wearing a helmet. Instead, he wore his pride.

"Don't transform." He didn't look over when the voice appeared, did he? He would have expected that voice to be hers, Ylva figures. Likely would've looked over, then, at least if he's not used to strange voices in his head. But he didn't. So he doesn't hear. Probably. Better to tell him, then. She needs to get lower, somehow, low enough for the ejection. That's where they're headed anyway - it's about the way they get there, and if they make it in one piece. "Wouldn't make it, fall apart instead."

"Wot? Damned if I'm going to let a bleedin' skirt tell me how to fly! You just... You just..." The threat was on his lips, but he was terribly distracted by the situation and Ylva's awakening.

Ylva saw him blow flares and send glittering clouds of metal chaff into the sky above you as the Logan descended. He also weaved and soared downward apparently in an effort to put distance between himself and the missile on your tail. The Logan's maneuverability was in some ways unmatched by other veritechs and the brute was doing a decent job of making the best of it. Then the "Flying Cat" veritech shuddered as something struck the rear of the craft.

"Gor!" he seethed. "Wot hit us? Wouldn'ta got hit if ya hadn't opened yer trap, now would I?"

Ylva had no idea what had hit them (or even if they had been the ones doing the hitting). All she saw outside of the cockpit was a terribly-large amount of blue below them. And that meant one thing - water...

Their altitude was now 25,000 feet and descending rapidly. What does Ylva do?
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"Could've just started to move instead." There's more to be said, but the man has a point, despite his utterly charming demeanor - don't distract the pilot, ever. Seems to know what he's doing, too - maybe well enough to get them lower. If there're no further hits, that is; the best machines reach their limits at some point.

"Keep your hands off that pocket; skirt's not foolish." Ylva spits out that word in the middle; that's about as much as she allows herself. Don't add fuel to the flames. Better to let him know that she's seen his motion, though, she reckons - without the surprise factor, there's less advantage to pull out whatever's hidden therein, or that's her hope at least. His reaction will tell, in time.

There's no further need for words; sometimes, you reach that point where a civilian still talks, but a soldier shuts up, and she's enough of the latter to notice. Instead, she allows her eyes to wander. A look at the pocket, trying to see if the way it bulges gives away what's in there - if it bulges at all. Then the different gauges and instruments of the Logan, trying to get a rough idea of the shape the mecha is in. The radar, trying to spot what's outside, and where exactly the attackers are at; friend or foe doesn't matter while they continue to fire. And, in-between, looks at the pilot; trying to see it in time if he tries something stupid, or anything of note, really.

And, of course, she spots the ocean below - hard not to, really. Blue, and huge, and amazing in its own regard. A beauty, even if that couldn't matter less right now. Little help in finding out where exactly she is; could be two third of the planet's surface at this point. Maybe better luck looking for the Logan's position displays; but then again, does it really matter? Not while they're under fire. Another look at the pilot, then at the instruments. Learn as much as she can from those, before actions might be required.
Ylva noted the one item of luxury on the Logan's HUD - the altimeter. They were now at 20,000 feet and dropping faster than a stone.

"Keep your hands off that pocket; skirt's not foolish."

"An' now ye think yer gonna threaten me?! ME?!" The huge brute reared back his mallet-like hand to slap the living hell out of Ylva, and from a man his size, penchant for violence, and aggression, it promised to be the slap of Ylva's life - guaranteed to make her see stars without the use of a telescope.

But then, as the Logan whirled down and down through the troubled skies, a sudden sound gave both of you pause. For it was an audible emanation that should not have been. A dull clinking sound. Then followed several dull clinking sounds... coming from outside the descending veritech!

After the impact in the rear of the Logan, there had been silence instead of another missile explosion. Now something was crawling along the Logan's hull and getting closer to the cockpit with every passing moment!

The brute roared savagely. "By the devil's hairy tits! What 'ave you done ta us, woman?!"

"Superbeast" by Rob Zombie

Partial lyrics
Hey yeah
I'm the one that you wanted
Hey yeah
I'm the super beast

As if in answer, there came that ominous clinking from behind both of you. In unison, the "medic" and Ylva turned together and looked between them through the wide, panoramic Logan cockpit... and stared up into a horrific sight that should not have been seen in air or ground but instead in some maniac's vilest nightmares...

(Image credit: Ghostbusters Wiki - Fandom)

...combined with this...
(Image credit: Fallout Wiki - Fandom)

...wearing clearly Mega-Damage "dog-armor" that resembled this, colored blood-red. Its feet appeared to be clad in magnetic "boots" of sorts which created the haunting clicking sound of its steps against the blasted Logan's hull.
(Image credit: Discover Movies to Pin)

One wide-eyed look was all it took...

... and the pilot's reason abandoned him.


His terrified shriek filled the cabin and who could blame him? No sane man or woman could have expected this at any altitude. And there was more, for upon the hideous wind-swept creature's features were attachments seemingly sewn into the thing's skin. It looked terribly much to Ylva... like explosives.

The demonic creature gave a hideous canine-like laugh revealing a toothy maw stained with blood and ready for more. It reared back one paw and struck the canopy - hard - again and again. And Ylva and the brute knew... here at 15,000 feet and dropping... the thing was excitedly trying to get inside your aircraft!

During the best of conditions, the one good thing to do was to transform the Logan into its Guardian mode in an attempt to suddenly hurl the thing off the hull of the veritech. So, despite Ylva's advice to the contrary, that was exactly what the panicked big brute tried...

Without seemingly thinking, he hastily grabbed the transformation lever and threw it hard. There immediately followed a painful ear-piercing shrieking of metal that penetrated straight into Ylva's skull as if there were no Mega-damage canopy between her and the outside skies. Warning lights bathed the HUD in red. Critical alarms blared. The brute's eyes were everywhere, his hand still on the transformation lever. He clearly had no idea what had just happened. But Ylva did.

For the Logan seemed to tell her inside her mind.

"I am no longer flight-worthy. You must eject."

One of the digital readouts on the HUD showed the Logan in a twisted, macabre position somewhere between Jet mode and Guardian. The engines were now stuck pointing in two different directions, no longer functioning correctly but blowing all over the place. Soon, the Logan would be spinning like a child's top in every direction and then there would be nearly no hope of surviving the descent.

While the dog-thing howled and gleefully continued to pounce against the cockpit and the mad brute fought with the controls while cursing horrifically, Ylva got one good glance at the altimeter - 8,000 feet and dropping fast.

What does Ylva do?

Due to these new circumstances, Ylva has the following options:
1. Eject out of the Logan.
2. Eject like hell out of the Logan.
3. Eject like hell out of the Logan now.
4. Tell the Game Master all about the next new character you'll be rolling up. =)
5. Anything else Ylva can think of (that includes getting the hell out of the Logan now).

Note: Years ago, circumstances required I use a similar train of thought in Mario Zuko's Prologue (Sherwood's character). Given this situation, I couldn't resist using it again. =)
As the pilot seems to react in panic - hastily doing what might have been the right move, if not for the prior damage - the Swede next to him shows the opposite reaction: freezing in place. Her eyes fixate on the abomination, disbelief in them; the kind that shows enough familiarity with living beings to know that this should never ever exist. She blinks, but surely the sight stays the same; too horrific to be a product of her imagination. Hands, halfway raised to avoid a blow that never actually came, have returned to her thighs, forgotten; holding her breath, she bites her lower lip, as if the pain would end this nightmare.

It does not - but at least, the taste of iron, combined with a voice in her head that speaks for six tons of battered, shrieking steel, breaks through her lethargy. The head moves, hesitantly turns away from the monster and its steel-clad paws. Eyes search the Logan's blaring HUD for confirmation of what she already knows. Finds the one number that actually matters, the height. Should be low enough, right? Doubt shows on her face, for just a second, and yet her right hand is already on the move. Groping around, first shaky, then successful as her fingers find the ejection handle. A pull, before thoughts can let her hesitate. The canopy might not open. Or that thing gets me, somehow. The short approximation of a prayer does not make its way through clenched teeth; no word of warning for the man next to her even comes to mind. In theory, the canopy opens, and the seat gets her out to relative safety; but how do theories matter at this point, when communicating Logans and monster dogs are real?
"Burns Attack" by Paul Oakenfold for the Appleseed OST

Placing both hands on the ejection handle, Ylva pulled - and the world around her went haywire.

The canopy blew, the Mega-damage glass and steel lifted off and blew away in a matter of heartbeats. Instantly, Ylva's ears popped from the pressure. The sound of the blasting wind and the shaking air surrounded her. There was a great lifting sensation as both she and the brute were launched up and out of the dying Logan. Ylva's ears and mind were assault by another sound - the nightmarish baying of the great, green, bomb-laden hound. Still attached to the hull of the veritech, it howled loudly, mournfully, deprived of its intended prey - Ylva.

Ylva had enough time to look back at the twirling Logan mecha and the horrid toothy monstrosity roaring just behind the pilot's compartment before it all exploded into a thunderous blast that completely engulfed the tumbling veritech. Another blast followed less than a heartbeat later - the Logan itself had erupted into one giant ball of fire before it became a sad-looking mob of tendrils trailing black smoke as they descended Earthward. Seconds later, even at her altitude, Ylva felt the shockwave from the blast as her ejection chair was sent sideways for some moments.

Ylva immediately realized she had another important problem - she was outside at an altitude that her body was in no way prepared for. She felt her lungs fight frantically for air. Dizziness and disorientation followed. But not before she saw the brute falling away in his own ejection seat. Surprised and enraged, she heard the big bald bastard yelling at her with an intense madness that surpassed the green bomb-laden hound by far.

"You! Ye fookin' skirt! Just wait 'til I git me mitts back on ye! I'll be comin' fer ye, babyyyyyy!!" And then he was on his way away from Ylva leaving her to her own destiny.

Above her, she thought she saw other aircraft above her, some swirling, some burning. There was a much-larger vehicle up there too, something large enough to hold at least a handful of Logan veritechs, but it too was blazing and falling out of the sky.

Then Ylva saw it. A glimpse of brown and green below her. Land! She was heading right towards it, but despite whatever interest she had for it, her adrenaline-filled body was fighting hard just to stay conscious and coherent; the latter battle was not going her way. The world swam in hues of blue and brown. The high orange sun bathed her in its light. Strapped in to the falling ejection seat as she was, her training told her she did not have to be conscious before the parachutes automatically deployed at a safe altitude. Moments passed, she did not know how many, but when the ejection seat finally touched down, it struck land, not water.

It took some time before Ylva's young body restored itself to proper function, but restore itself it did. In a reasonably short time, Ylva was breathing properly again, seeing well again, and moving well enough to take her fate back into her own hands.

She was on a wide, sandy realm littered with healthy green vegetation and the ruins of one of humanity's many makings - a junkyard of some kind. It was blissfully quiet and very old. There was mounds of broken cars, trucks, and vans everywhere she looked. Literally hills of hundreds of vehicles made up in arranged piles of rusted wreckage. With them was a huge crane toppled over on one side. It all seemed as ancient as it was useless. Yet, about 300 meters away, she could see several dozen buildings - ruins of the old world before the Rain of Death. The buildings were faded and lonely-looking without markings.

Ylva appeared alone, but she was virtually undamaged and best of all - alive.

What does Ylva do?
Alive - given how well this day is going thus far, even that can't be taken for granted. The world certainly disregarded more than one principle of common sense, just to get her to this point. Monster dogs, the brute, the death of a Logan... heck, the latter should make no sense at all, should feel silly to even be thought - but the Logan had its own voice if nothing else, right? A barely noticeable shake of her head as she tries to rid herself of that thought, and others; those wild, disturbing, absurd impressions will do little more than keep her breathing at the frantic, hectic pace it's at right now. And that, the quiet, offended voice of logic somewhere in the back of her mind figures, just won't do if she intends to leave this mess of a place behind. So it forces the lungs to find a calmer rhythm, still quickened in sight of what just happened, yet at least under control as it always should be. And it cries in joy as the first look around shows nothing out of the ordinary.

Of course, the seat right underneath her; some archeologist might, one day, pause in confusion as he digs out its remains amongst the ancient tech around it. But other than that - old cars, rusty and battered, a place slowly reclaimed by nature after mankind turned its back on it. Had to, most likely - not that it matters. What matters is that it simply makes sense; a common place, after the bombardments, the kind of place that she, some might say, understands better than most. The place where nature adapts to the sudden lack of lawnmowers and pesticides; where life florishes instead of dying. So, as she glances around, searching for threats that are either absent or out of sight, her eyes do linger here and there, spotting the details that excite some, and bore most. The way those tendrils climb up the holey truck bed to the right, or how the grass surrounds the lonely tire - the little things that give this place a certain charm that 'mess of a place' didn't quite imply, at first.

But still, this is not the moment to linger. There's a brute out there, somewhere, thoroughly pissed, and perhaps more of whatever that creature was. If one shouldn't exist, yet somehow does, there might as well be a bunch of them, right? Thus, she frees herself of the belts all around her; life-saving fabric just moments ago, now just a nuisance as this seat will go nowhere. Her movements are slow, almost lethargic, as if she doesn't quite trust her body yet. At first, that seems to be overly cautious, but the first few steps after standing up prove her right already; shaky legs don't get her far before her hands grab the seat's backrest for much needed support. A bit like when you jump off of a ship after hours, and suddenly the solid ground seems to shake underneath; only different, since no comparison could fully catch the state she's in.

The Swede crouches down, the hand gently skims over the battered seat on its way downwards - closer to the ground, she finds her balance, and something more concrete, helpful as well. Brightly colored to not escape her senses, tucked away well enough to make an 8.000 feet fall without getting lost along the way; food, meant for situations just like this one. She pulls out the survival pack, nearly topples over as it suddenly slides out with ease; then, she slowly stands up once more, the prize for her training in her left hand. Somewhere out there, a certain flight instructor would have been mighty proud of her to even remember his lessons; right until the moment where he'd learn about the exploding Logan, and the circumstances. That man always liked machines better than people; perhaps, that's what made him good at his job.

Another look at her surrounding, rechecking that there's no threat in sight - it might have been easier to catch her mid-air, but you can never bee quite sure. If it is safe, her second attempt to walk gets her away from the seat, towards a bulky van, roughly in the houses' direction yet closer than to cover the whole distance at once. Surrounded by debris, half of its tires and a number of bold, sprouting seeds, it seems to welcome her well enough as she leans back against its side - high standards are meant for other moments in life. With its steel in her back, she hunkers down, taking cover from possible prying eyes the best she can. A short pause to listen for any hint that might give away approaching danger, then she quickly checks the pack's contents - briefly glancing over the labels to see what languages are present. Only English or a dozen different tongues would both be inconvenient; but a small amount of different languages might give away a hint about her present location. Not that linguistics are her strong suit, there've always been others to bother with it instead; she would've understood that towering giant back then if only she'd learnt Zentraedi, at least. Presumably, how could she know, could have been another tongue instead, right? Anyways, maybe there's enough on the labels to get an idea... if not, so be it. Next on the list are the pockets of her clothes, all of them - can't have enough pockets as a scientist. Search them for anything of use, then return to her surrounding. Her eyes muster the plants that are in sight from here; anything that she'd recognize from hours spent with microscopes and in lectures? Perhaps, the different cars could tell more, albeit rotten; car marks as a hint what's nearby, perhaps. But living things are what she's good at, not necessary mankind's creations, and so she trusts the local flora to give away more than the scrap metal.
Most of what Ylva discovers is in Spanish and the rest in English. Searching her pockets finds the brute apparently did not have enough time to search her, for everything she owned was on her person. Much of the plant-life told her one thing - this place had not been in service for years. How many was hard to tell, but a junkyard this size had to have at least a dozen people working it to keep it maintained. Every car here was old, rusted, beat-up, and made of standard materials. Not a single vehicle of any make or model was made of hypercarbon (Mega-damage materials). And that likely meant no military vehicles. Also, most of the cars were American or Asian-made. Not many European vehicles had made it to this quiet metal graveyard.

On the rear of an old El Dorado with a small tree growing out from what used to serve as its bed, a faded bumper proclaimed, "Vaya Con Dios!" with a cross beside it but it was the red, white, and green license plate that peeked out beside it that seemed interesting. It proclaimed, "Mexico" on its top-most area. The longer Ylva's eyes wandered to the license plates (which about a third of the vehicles had), over half of them had the word "Mexico" stamped boldly on it along with stickers of all colors, shapes, and sizes imaginable.

This plus a great deal more trees and rough plants.
(Image credit: www.storiesfromthewesternoutpost.net)

(Image credit: Alamy)

As the sun's brightness and heat began to make itself known to the Swede, she spotted a very leafy trunk of a car she could not even identify. The car had three rotting leather bag hanging out containing about three-dozen golf clubs of virtually every general size one could reasonably imagine. There were also a pair of wooden canes underneath the shade of the vehicle where the sun had not destroyed them.

She appeared to be completely alone.
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Long, deep breaths to fight down the emotions that naturally try to surface - this is bad. Military says she has the best equipment a person in her situation could hope for at her disposal; that doesn't change her current location, though. Mexico - she knows where that is, well enough at least. Follow the eastern coast northwards, and she'll get close to where she belongs eventually. Quite a march, though, through wilderness and places like these. Likely with foes on her trail as well, they went through some effort to get their hands on her, she reckons. What's the alternative, though? Wait for someone else to find her, here? For all she knows, it's monsters and brutes fighting up there; one side trying to abduct her, the others to kill her. Not the best odds for being found. Crap.

At least, there's some reassurance to be found in her pockets. Little that'd be of help, but the bubble gum is amongst those things. Lemon, as usual - best flavor by far. At home, they always say she chews gum like in a frenzy - that's what it's there for. Gives the body something to focus its energy on. Also cleans the teeth, but that's beyond things she cares about right now. She's stuck somewhere in Mexico, on her own, with unimaginable terrors in the sky - the next dentist appointment will have to wait. Her foes, in contrast, won't, most likely - which means it's time to move, once more.

The buildings ahead, though mostly ruins, seem like a good first place to be; maybe more to be found, there, or at least a hint where she's at, more precisely. There's been water nearby, but that could've been the Sea or the Gulf for all she knows. Couldn't say in which direction, either, not with certainty. Head spun too much on the way downwards, she figures. Mankind's not made for certain heights. So - the buildings it is. On her way there, she stops near that one, mysterious trunk. Picks up the sturdier cane of those two on the ground, the walking aid will be appreciated during what's likely ahead of her. She shoulders the second one, and one of the heavier golf clubs as well - doesn't know much about the sports, but you never know when you need a thing made of steel. A little awkward to carry them, together with the stuff she brought; the survival kit. It's mostly a case of two splayed out fingers keeping them somewhat in position, but it's only for a few steps, for now. Find cover, and shadows to avoid the heat; she's used to cold weather, not this humid warmth.

As she walks, Ylva eyes her surrounding for any sign of danger, or life; the sky as well, from time to time, just in case that huge, burning thing she glimpsed once shows, and to make sure that it's not raining monster dogs. The one she saw came from literally nowhere; who knows if a second one can show up the same way.
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The walking sticks were tall and proud pieces of wood, each of them old, well-made, and well-used each with brown leather grips and the look of endless miles and stories in them. It was when Ylva reached for the golf club that things changed suddenly, for the rust-touched 5-iron was not what it seemed.

With a single pull, the golf club came forward but instead of pulling free into Ylva's grip, it slipped forward toward her like a lever attached firmly to the earth. There within the enormous piles and piles of ancient cars and trucks, a strange thing took place. A red Ford van, ugly and engineless, sat among the automotive graveyard. That red Ford van's side door slid open. Inside the van, a great blast of green light the color of a streetlight's "go" signal, cascaded outward basking Ylva in its peaceful, strange glow. Ylva was forced to shield her eyes lest it momentarily blind her despite the daytime.

The radiance faded as quickly as it came and when Ylva beheld a portal there inside the van. The light was soft and translucent. Ylva saw a mysterious passageway leading down. Down into the earth.

A green doorway in the middle of a junkyard - a jewel in a graveyard. Beyond lay the unknown and what person of science could not be tempted by that?

What does Ylva do?
The products of solid craftsmanship and yearslong use right there, in her hands. A short-term plan; to grab one of these clubs, then reach the houses. Consider her options, find a better way than a week-long hike through the wilderness. Sounds like a rational approach, one might think. Make the best of this confusing mess, get to a point where logic applies. You know, no flying monster dogs with explosives, no talking machines, no nothing. Just good old, familiar logic.

But on some days, apparently, even that is too much to ask for, and for Ylva Sveadotter, today's just that kind of day. Pulling out a golf club should mean just this: You have a club, and there's one less in there. Instead, it proves to be a lever, opening - what exactly? A car's door swinging open - fine. But this green shine, where flashiness is just about the last thing she needs right now; and a way downwards once the blinding light fades... some things are simply too much. She blinks - it's still there. She shakes her head. Takes a deep breath, tries to apply some kind of logic, at least. Turns to quickly eye the woods and the sky if anything out there might have noticed. The light was fricking bright, after all, and unnaturally green. Anyone somewhat close must've noticed. Maybe not. Hopefully not. Not like she could change it, or could've avoided it. A golf club...

Either there's something out there, or not - it won't change the next course of action, though the pace is more hectic if there's a visible threat. Maybe it'd be best to just run, into the forest, forget about this whole thing. But some part of her is, against all odds, more curious than frightened. Acknowledges that this is irrational, but in itself brilliant. Sure, there shouldn't be some hidden portal on a forgotten junkyard. But now that there is, and on a day like this one... you're supposed to take a peek, at least, right? She closes in, wary of any movement. Tries to see more of what might be down there. This place seemed completely abandoned, thus far. Maybe noone knows of it, those who might look for her in particular. That'd make it safer than the houses, perhaps... but it's too early for speculations - just take a look, and see from there. A rational approach, she figures, even if the world does not care, today.
Coming within about 15 meters of the van, Ylva was able to discern a passageway beyond the van's sliding door. The hall sloped downward without steps but by curving floor. All beyond it was green for the doorway itself shimmered there - not bright and flashing but calm and mysterious - translucent and opaque. The green illumination was just enough to show Ylva that there appeared to be only a passageway, but to enter it, one had to pass through the green energy "wall" that separated Ylva from the passage.

The passage was clean, square-shaped, safe-looking, and completely devoid of signs or numbers or identification of any kind. It was modern-made without a single hint of decay unlike the junkyard that still held a stink it refused to let go of.

The green-lit passage led downward...

...almost like the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland.

Because this mystical old song just stuck in my head and I like it. =) "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane.

What does Ylva do?
The approach is both scientific and careful - a few more steps bring the Swede closer to the passageway, near enough for the next two steps on her agenda. First of all a closer look - how do the sides of the passage look like, where the green seems to meet walls or van? Regular doors have hinges on one side, sliding doors like the van's have room to slide somewhere; there should, in theory, be something like that, a hint how the 'wall' is created, or meant to disappear; and the green's translucentness should conveniently allow to see it, hopefully. Might even give a hint who built this, in theory...

One more thing to try, too, for a first round of observations. Step back a little, attempt to prod the barrier with a walking cane from maximal distance, unless previous findings suggest that's a bad idea. See what happens, hopefully not another flash of light that blinds people from miles away.
The slope was wide, clean, and safe-looking; just the type of route one might favor if they were trying to escape from the outside.

The green energy field appeared to be part of the corridor, not the van or the sliding doorway on the side of the rusted hulk. It seemed feasible that the energy field was always here and the door, when closed, hid every bit of the energy field's luminessence. Grasping the golf club moved the door.

Upon closer examination, it seemed that the energy field was a doorway in itself. there was no sense of resistance when the doorway was product with the cane. The piece of wood simply entered the light and seemed to turn green from her point of view. Withdrawing the cane, Ylva could tell that it had not been damaged.

What now does she do?
With the 'barrier' being neither a solid obstacle, nor dangerous from what she can tell, there's little reason to not just step through. After all, there's foes and monster dogs on this side - how much worse can the other side possibly be? Two steps get her closer to the green, the right arm - less frequently used - reaches out. Carefully, only the fingertips seek contact with the light at first; then, if nothing suggests that the passageway reacts differently to flesh than to wood, the rest of her arm and then the Swede herself follow. You can't be careful enough, on days like this one. But you can also linger too long in one place.

Once through, there are two matters of concern. For one, there's the open door behind her, waiting for others to walk through as well, in case they happen to follow her trail. She tries to address that problem first, turning around, trying to pull the van's door shut behind her. Then, whether the rusty metal allows this or not, the path downwards becomes her primary focus. Someone built this, with cunning craftiness; they might be here or gone, friend or foe. If something awaits her, there's little reason to delay the inevitable meeting; hopefully more pleasant than the last strangers she met. If nothing's down there, there's even less reason to delay. So one step at a time, she begins the descent, following the slope deeper into the earth unless unpredictability strikes anew.
Ylva's attempts at closing the van door were in vain. No matter how hard she struggled, the hydraulic mechanism that opened and closed the door did not belong to the van, but to the structure the van door led to.

As the Swede passed through the green field, a strange sensation came over her - a feeling of lightheadedness followed by her sight being momentarily overwhelmed by the gentle green color. Then she was through. She could swear she heard a strange roaring sound coming from outside, a roll of thunder perhaps from the semi-cloudy afternoon skies, but the corridor beckoned before her. It was smooth and safe and new-looking, especially compared to the vast sea of sun-worn wreckage she had just come from. Even the air here seemed clean. There were no signs or numbers to tell her way, just a path sloping downward into the earth.

She had not gone far when she encountered a doorway with a solid metal door sitting open as if in welcome. A male voice came from inside. Crisp and unassuming, that voice seemed to greet her with a short phrase, but in Spanish which she did not speak. Inside the doorway, Ylva saw a row of benches and lockers and another doorway, this one closed, that seemed to exit the room. However, round the corner from the door, she did not see the speaker though logic suggested that he could not have helped but hear her coming.

What did Ylva do?
A single look back, eyeing the entryway; the briefest moment of consideration. She paused up there, when passing through - experiencing the sensation of greenness for just a while longer than strictly necessary. Now, it's one of two real options - she turns away, and faces the other. There's little preparation to be done: She sets down all of the baggage besides the crane, the survival kit hits the too-clean floor with as little sound as she can manage. Easily retrievable if things go well, right on her way out if they do not. And less bulky weight to carry around in either case, she figures. Only then does she step to that door, tension visibly building in her muscles, willing to face the one who spoke. No word crosses her lips, for now; only her overly regular breaths, forced to a slower rhythm than instincts demand. The main focus, of course, is to spot the other, though her head adjusts to keep an eye on the opposite, closed door as well.
Ylva found herself in a locker room of sorts. There were about twenty gray lockers in four rows all numbered and made of hard aluminum. There were a series of six tables that were attached to one wall. The tables seemed to be able to retract into the wall perhaps to deliver any contents to another room. The locker area, like the slope leading here, were pristine with tile floors so clean you could eat off of the floor. But, Ylva noticed, there were no mirrors, no showers, not even restrooms here. The entire room spanned about 40 feet long by 30 feet wide with a 15 foot high ceiling. The door Ylva spied seemed to be the only other way out.

As Ylva crept wordlessly, a figure suddenly appeared from around one of the rows of lockers and turned to face the Swede as if she had known where Ylva was. It was a female figure about 5 inches over 5 feet tall with a slim, attractive figure. She had youthful Hispanic features - smooth brown skin with black hair tied into a ponytail about 6 inches long with alert, brown eyes and full lips She was attired in a conservative red button-down blouse and matching knee-length skirt with black heels providing her a sharp, businesslike appearance. Her age was hard to guess but somewhere between her 20s and 30s.

The woman gave Ylva a concerned look as she examined her from head to toe. "You look lost," she said in English with crisply in a lovely accent as she stepped forward. "Are you alone? Let me help you."

She reached forward to extend her hand, but something in Ylva shouted a warning. Perhaps it was her military training, perhaps it was her years learning Savate, or something else entirely. Ylva jerked her head back and heard a loud sound of just inches from her head.


When Ylva looked, she saw she had narrowly dodged a roundhouse kick from the other woman. Ylva turned and saw a deep four-inch gouge about head-level into the aluminum locker. The woman's foot hung there for a moment before casually lowering to the tile.

A single glance at the woman's now-stern face and fighting stance told Ylva that this was just the beginning.

Does Ylva want to spend an Action Point for Initiative?
Half a step backwards with her left foot, more automatism than a conscious reaction. She's been in similar situations, before, during training; if not for that, the fight might have already been over before it started. Rarely, however, is there a fight without forewarning, and that dent in the metal lockers adds to the sudden rush of the situation. Sure, somewhere in there a voice shouts that aluminium isn't the hardest material to deform, but that voice is quickly overruled by those that matter. This woman knows to fight, that much is clear. Leaves no room for science, only for survival. Somehow, that sums up the day thus far quite well. "A simple explanation would do", she offers. Her stance, however, shows as much preparedness as she can muster, given the sudden change of pace.

Yes, please - gotta stop this fine lady from ruining the lockers completely.
Ylva's offer was not returned. Instead, her opponent's were on Ylva's stance - and something in her expression implied confusion.

With this and the ugly gouge in the locker, Ylva realized she had the initiative.

What does Ylva do with it?
There is a fine line between waiting not long enough for a response, and waiting too long to take advantage. At least from her own perspective, the Swede strikes rather too early than the opposite; there's only so much time before the woman in front of her can truly realize that she is facing a hopefully more than equal foe. Time that can be used to gain the upper hand and overwhelm her, if things go well. The distance - about a leg's reach apart, the dent in the locker demonstrates as much. Luckily, that's pretty much her own comfort zone as well. As far as one can be comfortable, given the circumstances. Still, two short steps forward to build up momentum, then her left leg is pulled upwards for a kick that aims to hit the lady's front knee slightly from the side. Perhaps enough to land the first hit; if not, at least a distraction for the second attempt to do just that. Her body turns around its axis just before the left foot can quite hit the ground once more. The right leg curves upwards, towards side, back or head, depending on what might be exposed after the first kick. Then, independently of whether Ylva managed to hit the woman, or only thin air, it's all about getting the foot back down to the ground, to regain her stance for either the beginning of a follow-up, or a defense.
Both of Ylva's spectacular kicks struck their marks as she performed one of Savate's signature techniques, the Double Kick. Ylva felt her kicks connect with damaging impact, but when she got another look at her opponent, the businesswoman wasn't even breathing hard. To shrug off two such blows spoke of excellent conditioning of some kind.

Just then, Ylva and her opponent both saw a flash of brown and black-garbed movement through the locker room in the next lane of lockers. Whomever it was, they were taller than Ylva or her attacker and they were changing their location with alacrity.

Ylva's attacker grinned cooly at Ylva. "She is the least of your problems, gringa. Wouldn't You SAY?!" Ylva saw her attacker unleash a series of kicks, two feints followed by a whistling Crescent Kick that flew right at Ylva's blonde-haired head.

What does Ylva do?
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The least of her troubles? Certainly not. There's a bunch of problems piling up by now, ever since the Swede opened her eyes today; amongst those, the chance to fight two foes at once is quite high on the priority list. Not first, though - that spot is solely reserved for the incoming foot. The threatened area itself - the head - sends its commands to well-trained muscles. Both arms are raised intuitively, tensed to avert the kick's impact elsewhere, while the rest of the body ducks down to move away from the incoming danger. It's not only a defensive movement - it gets her core just a little bit closer to the ground, just where it's needed. Where her opponent aims for the head, Ylva sticks to the opposite plan - a sweeping kick against the woman's ankle. Maybe it trips her, maybe it encourages her to have two feet on the ground more often; results will tell. The woman's a tough one, though, so throwing her off balance might be more likely than to knock her out right away.

The plan is to Automatic Parry (+9), then to Trip/Hook (+8) in response. As long as Trip/Hook fits the bill, it doesn't show up in the rule copies I've access to right now.
Ylva felt the jarring impact of the woman's kick against her guard; it was enough to blast her head and arms sideways for a brief moment. This woman meant business! But with one leg in the air, her opponent was indeed vulnerable. Ylva's trip came in at just the right time - one moment, her opponent was up and fighting and the next, she was slammed flat on her back and clearly confused on how she'd wound up there.

"Puta!" she exclaimed in anger. One did not have to speak Spanish to discern the insult.

Just then, both women heard a strange and loud commotion coming from the sloping hallway that led to the exit where the figure in black and brown had gone. Ylva saw in the next row of lockers over a man come half-tumbling, half-rolling to a prone position there on the locker room floor. He looked as if he had gone through hell. He was a ruffled, but not an unhandsome fellow given that his helmet had just rolled to a stop at the base of the ramp. Ylva instantly recognized the white and red ASC pilot's fatigues he wore (and the evidence that he had worn them through apparently a great amount of stress for the clothes were sweat-stained and very far from pristine). The pilot appeared to be in his 30s and either of European or American birth with ruffled brown hair and blue eyes that appeared quite alert for danger, especially for one that had evidently just been thrown down the ramp and into the locker room. GIven Ylva's own background, she also recognized in the uniform the livery of a Valkyrie pilot.

As he looked over and saw Ylva, something in his eyes seemed to ignite with familiarity. Ylva had no idea who he was, but with a look like that, her own womanly brain could be certain that he either knew her or knew of her.

Then Ylva heard the foosteps of the person who had apparently thrown this fellow combat pilot and that was when circumstances changed for both pilots!

(This concludes Ylva Sveadotter's Prologue - stay tuned for the new Prologue including both Ylva and Ricky! I will provide a link to it here when it is ready. Hope you enjoyed this solo Prologue, Sil!).
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