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Aftereffects

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This fanfic by Delora2047 exists on the web at the following location(s) and we suggest visiting the following link(s) rather than viewing the material here:


https://m.fanfiction.net/s/4489476/1/Aftereffects


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Aftereffects

by Delora2047


Rated: T


Summary: My take on how Doc, Niko, Goose and Zachary deal with the events of ‘Renegade Rangers’.

Disclaimer: 'The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers' is copyrighted by Hearst Entertainment, Inc.

This is a work of fanfiction and I make no profit of it.




Chapter 1

He sees her sitting out on the sun terrace busy with some data pads. He remembers that he has not seen her at lunch and, on a hunch, decides to step out and talk to her.

"How are you feeling, Niko?" he asks, concerned.

She looks up from her reading.

Her smile is relaxed but she still seems exhausted.

"Like after trying to lift a sand pyramid for 24 hours? Or maybe like maintaining psychic shields on a shuttle long enough to steer it through the Orion Nebula?"

"You did well."

She puts away her data pads.

"Thanks, Zachary. I didn't know that I could do it. It proves that technology and psychic powers don't mix as badly as they always say. Though I hope it doesn't become our standard procedure for deflecting cosmic energy to save the costs for shields."

"You'd better savor your week of light duty then, in case they do just that.

Though the recapture of the Cheyenne should ease the budget constraints."

For a short moment her face seems strained, like a shadow that flickers by.

Something seems to bother her.

"Do you need more time off? If you need more time to recuperate your powers..."

"No, don't worry. I've already begun some grounding meditations to replenish my reserves. Besides, soaking up the sun does count."

She stretches leisurely at those words and leans back in her chair.

"How have your kids taken it that you're not a robber?"

"They seemed almost disappointed."

She laughs at that.

"No one values our work. Maybe we should really turn renegade. Though I hope I won't have to pose as a ship-wrecked astronaut again."

"You can survive for days in those suits."

There it is again. That sudden flicker of tension, an almost grim set of her lips.

She has never shown claustrophobia or any form of space fear but if it begins now she has to confront it before it gets worse.

"You'll have to go out again."

"Yes, of course."

Now she's looking at him as though she has no idea what he is talking about but is intently trying to figure it out.

"Yes, I will go out again. Space isn't a problem. I've been doing enough hull repairs on Pluto when I was a cadet."

"Pluto? They usually don't send diplomacy candidates there."

"I was trying to avoid diplomacy. Following the details of protocol wasn't my idea of being a ranger."

"What was?"

"Fighting the bad guys." She says it almost smugly.

For a short moment he thinks that she is the only one of them who chose freely to enlist without being forced to by the need to escape hardship or other circumstances.

"You surely can't complain about a lack of bad guys now."

"No."

Silence. She is looking down.

Finally she asks:

"Do you think Daisy got away?"

"She has risen from the dead more than once, so to speak."

"Yes, but with only a spacesuit in the sector of the Orion Nebula? It's far away from any trade route."

"The suit has a strong distress signal transmitter and as we know now, there are enough gullible aliens who will pick up a beautiful ship-wrecked human female.

We'll know for sure when the next battle cruiser disappears."

"Yes. We will."

All worry vanishes from her face and is replaced by a grim expression.

"We got Macross and the rest," he tries to cheer her up.

"Yes." The worry returns and this time it seems tinged with guilt.

"He probably caught Doc and me when we were sending our transmission to Beta. I should have sensed him."

"You've said before that his species has some natural resistance to telepathy."

"Yes. But – I don't know. I should have kept me eyes open. I should have spotted him."

"Niko. You can't prevent all mistakes. You have to learn from them and then let it go."

"Yes. You're right. I just wish …"

Her eyes are still downcast. She is not taking this one easy.

Deep breath, determined smile.

Then she changes the topic.

"So how many people have called you to ask whether you have really become a robber?"

"My mother phoned. And my credit card company. How is it for you?"

"I'm getting emails from people whom I haven't heard from in years. And a TV station called that wanted to do an interview."

"What did you say?"

"That I wasn't interested. I don't want to talk with reporters about my 'adventures' with Daisy O'Mega and the Blackhole Gang." She says it bitterly, almost sarcastically. Not quite ready to let go.

"You're angry that Daisy escaped."

She shrugs helplessly. Somewhere between upset and outraged.

"I don't wish her dead but I don't want her running free either. She just takes what she wants and she hurts people."

He could pretend he did not understand exactly what she meant. But they are a team, almost like family, and they watch out for each other. Even if one of them withdraws.

"Goose is an adult, Niko. He can handle it."

"I hope so." She smiles but it does not reach her eyes.

Then she gets up.

"I need to watch some cadets train. See you later."

He really hopes that all of them will be okay.

Chapter 2

Get the job done whatever it takes. That is what they taught me. I just did not think it would involve – that.

Could I have stopped it? Was there another way to prevent her from checking the ship's systems? Did I even want to stop it?

She has a criminal record long enough to fill a book.

Things started getting out of hand as soon as we boarded the Cheyenne. We had planned that Macross would be the main leader of the outlaws and that he would be the one we needed to convince of our new criminal intentions. Zach had even thought up a little speech for that occasion.

When Daisy stepped onto the scene I realized that we had made a big mistake in our plans. She was the one calling the shots and she loved dancing with the fire. She needs the danger to feel alive. I recognized it in her eyes the way I recognize it in myself.

The fire is mesmerizing but if you get to close it burns you.

I know violence. Always have. What I did not understand was that it could be gentle.

The thoughts keep turning in my head as they have for days whenever I do not busy myself with heavy exercise or making the new cadets' training hell.

I want to shoot something but who is there to shoot but myself?

I definitely could have stopped her before she fled. But for a split second I remembered she had been in my arms only hours ago and hesitated. A split second too long.

Luckily, she did not want to kill me. I do not know if I would have had enough energy left to transform if she had shot my space suit with a full energy blast.

I am tired of arguing with myself but the emotions will not go away.

I cannot even walk by flowers without thinking of her. I did not think this would be so complicated. Just get the job done. So why am I still thinking of her? Thinking of her that way?

Sudden loud foot steps startle me and I whirl around.

"Mind if I join you?"

Niko. She is usually quieter. If she intentionally alerts me to her presence I must have been really lost in thought. Damn it. I am a danger to myself and the team that way.

She is still waiting for an answer.

"Not my roof," I say laconically, indicating the unoccupied space all around.

She smiles and sits down about half a meter from me. Giving me space. Like all of them are doing.

I bite back a sarcastic comment. It is not her fault I am out of it.

"It's calm here," she states.

I am waiting to see if she will say more. I am sick of sympathy and the worried looks she and Doc and Zach are giving me when they think I do not notice. I am a Supertrooper, damn it. We are not supposed to be cuddled!

She has tried to speak with me about what happened on the Cheyenne but I cannot talk about it with her.

Luckily, Zach and Doc know better than to even try.

After a minute of quiet I realize that she is not going to bring up the topic again. I feel strangely relieved.

"I didn't want to eat in the canteen," she says, "so I bought some sandwiches to eat up here. But I think I may have brought too many. Do you want some?" She picks a cheese sandwich from her bag and holds it out for me to choose one as well.

I look into the bag. Niko unintentionally buying a turkey sandwich is about as likely as Kirwin turning to mining, but then there is no use in letting food go to waste.

I suddenly realize how hungry I am.

"Thanks," I say and take out a large turkey sandwich.

"You're welcome."

For several minutes there is silence except for the munching of bread and salad.

A slight wind comes up and clouds start to build on the horizon. Niko is struggling to keep her hair out of her face. Finally, she stuffs it into her collar.

"I was hoping there would be a sunset but I guess not today," she says wistfully.

"You could have watched it from the canteen terrace. It's more comfortable there."

"Too many minds."

Of course. The pieces suddenly click into place. She has nothing left to shield against intruding thoughts or the wind. She depleted her charge and her personal reserves to protect the ship against the nebula so that even after three days she is burnt out.

"Niko, I'm sorry for not helping more to shield the ship."

For a moment I think she will say it does not matter as she usually does but I would not believe that.

Instead she just looks down. I see emotions warring on her face that do not make sense to me.

Finally she looks up.

"I'm sorry for not detecting Macross spying on us when we were sending that message."

Silence.

I want to protect her but I failed.

"We watch out for each other, Shane," she says softly.

I do not know what to say. I have never been good with words and surely they will not come now.

"You can eat the rest," she tells me as she leaves.

Chapter 3

Niko scans the crowd for a face she knows. The meeting with the Kar'gan has taken longer than planned – as usual.

Given how much longer than planned, she will be lucky if she finds someone sober enough to talk to her at the graduation party of the former cadets.

She spots Doc at a quiet table in an alcove with a blond woman whom she recognizes as Ranger Abide and makes her way over to them.

Doc greets her enthusiastically. Abide just smiles.

Niko congratulates Abide on graduating while Doc finds an extra chair for Niko.

"So you really had to take extra courses in psychology and psychotherapy to graduate as a Ranger?" Doc asks Abide as he comes back to the table.

"Yes, since I'm marginally psychic they thought it was necessary."

"I remember that," Niko states as sits down. "They introduced these courses one year before I joined. Have they made it at least a bit more relevant to practice by now?"

Abide shakes her head.

"Well, it was interesting but still a bit heavy on what a counselor would need. At least now I know that I definitely don't want to be a counselor."

"Really? That's a pity because I wanted to ask you," Doc pauses dramatically, "why do you think Senator Wheiner is so hostile to aliens? Could it go back to a traumatic childhood experience?"

"Doc!" Niko exclaims. "I just spent five hours explaining to the Kar'gan traders why they have to declare their cargo again and allow yet another background check if they want to land on Earth although they already did the whole procedure when they entered Andorean space. I definitely don't want to talk about Wheiner or any other senators."

Abide smiles sympathetically. "You have to tell me some time how you managed in only five hours."

"Basically with the help of a lot of tamarind juice. They are crazy for it. But I had to drink it too," Niko sighs.

"Sugar high?" Abide asks.

Niko puts her head on her arms on the table.

"Starting to wear off."

Doc puts a glass in front of her. She had not noticed he had gone away.

"You definitely haven't had enough sugar, Niko. You sound still way too serious."

Niko eyes the glass suspiciously. "There's no alcohol in it?"

"No alcohol and no sweeteners. Just a lot of sugar."

Niko takes a sip. "Maybe I need it," she says, eyeing a group of people who are dancing in a conga line with plastic cups on their heads.

"So," Doc resumes the topic, "with all your therapeutic background, let's assume a certain Senator approached you saying he had had an affair with the Queen of the Crown and can't get over her. What would you do to help him?"

Niko nearly spurts her drink.

"Doc! How many drinks have you had?!"

"Just one. Why?"

Abide seems to buy into the game, however.

"Well, I think that is not a realistic assumption."

"Why?" Doc inquires with mock indignation.

"Well, first the Queen has more class than that."

Niko stares at them, incredulous.

"I also think it is out of the question in this universe or any other that a certain senator realizes he needs help."

"Well, yes, but it is past midnight, so let's ignore the question of likelihood," Doc suggests.

Abide pretends to consider the matter in earnest now.

"I would probably try to help him figure out why he is attracted to her. It is often that we are fascinated by someone who displays a characteristic that we want for ourselves."

Niko is looking intently at the indoor palm trees behind Abide as though they could tell her why her two fellow rangers have suddenly gone crazy. They seem to tell her to play along, however.

"You mean Wheiner craves the Queen's power?" Niko asks finally.

"Or ruthlessness," Abide continues. "Wheiner still needs to be re-elected every six years, so he has to keep up appearances:

He has to apologize when he is caught cheating on his wife, he has to bribe or blackmail people in secret instead of executing them publicly, go to a lot of boring receptions and smile and so on."

Niko reflects on that. The sugar in her drink is apparently doing its evil work.

"So in a way it's freedom he wants. Just that after a while he realizes the way Queenie is living it is way too intense for him. He just doesn't have the stomach to watch live executions, and while he likes to conquer solar systems he would rather ignore the fact that one has to annihilate half of their population first."

"He also has to live with the constant threat that as soon as he displeases her he might wake up in a psycho crystal," Abide adds eagerly.

"Still, she must have some affection for him. I mean, first she takes him in at all and then she lets him live long enough to seek therapy."

"That would make it even harder for him to get over her because she somehow liked him and she still might."

"So even if he finally reads all the intelligence reports we keep sending the Board of Leaders, he finds it hard to believe she is truly evil."

"Or he keeps telling himself that he could somehow save her."

Doc's eyes are flying back and forth between the two women. He did not think they would take this mock therapy session so seriously. They are almost frighteningly good at analyzing things. He hopes he will be able to contain the spirits that he called.

Niko catches herself. "You know, we are still talking about Wheiner. I don't think he would try to save anyone except himself."

"So at least he won't develop a messiah complex," Abide quips. "Anyway, you can't save anyone except yourself, if that at all."

"So how would you treat him?" Doc interrupts.

"The cyrocrypt?" Niko suggests.

Abide seems skeptical of such a radical method.

"The normal approach would be to develop the qualities he desires about the other – power, independence – in himself to some amount. And, of course, to accept himself the way he is."

"The huge problem is that would require an amount of self-insight more likely to be found in a sponge fish than in a certain person," Niko objects.

Abide shrugs.

"As I said, I don't really want to be a therapist."

"Maybe some type of behavioral approach would work. You know, controlling one's urges, learning to redirect one's thoughts etc."

Niko keeps pursuing the matter. Doc has to admit she is very determined once she has taken up a cause.

As is Abide.

"That would bring temporary relief but it does not solve the underlying problem. He's still obsessed with her and now he's putting a lot of energy into making himself believe he isn't. Energy he will lack somewhere else. Like character growth."

Niko is gesticulating with her hands now. She is definitely taking the discussion seriously.

"Maybe he could learn that an emotion is just that. It gives us a hint of what is going on in ourselves but we do not have to act on it. It doesn't mean either that there is something wrong with us for feeling that way."

"You sound like the textbook now," Abide chides.

"Actually, it's from my mentor. It's worked pretty well for me. But for Wheiner – I think repression is the way he'd go and it probably wouldn't break until we're stuck with him on some space station during an alien invasion."

"Have you ever been in such a situation?" Abide asks, unbelieving.

"Thankfully not for long," Niko replies. "Why are we discussing this again?"

"Because it's better than discussing Kar'gan trade procedures."

Abide dissolves into giggles.

"Let's make another unrealistic assumption, shall we?" Doc interjects. "Let's assume Wheiner had friends."

Niko takes a big gulp of her sugary drink. "Okay."

"How could they help him in such a situation?" Doc pursues his agenda.

"That's a very big if", Abide takes up the game again, "but let's wildly assume it is the case; he would probably shut them out anyway."

"Right." Doc has to admit this did not lead anywhere.

Niko's analytic abilities, however, are still hyper-active:

"Be sympathetic but take no nonsense from him either. You know, the whole love and boundaries thing. Encourage him to go out if he withdraws, put on some pressure but not too much." She catches herself.

"As if that would ever happen."

"I think we really need to talk about your experience with a certain unnamed senator during a certain unspecified alien invasion," Abide says with mock sympathy. "The way you sound you could be repressing a trauma."

"Over his dead body."

"As long as it's not my dead body," Doc quips.

"By the way, we're low on drinks – could you get us some – Louise?"

Niko fixes him menacingly.

"You're playing with your life here, Doc. The Louise deal is still on."

"As if I could ever forget, Cassidy," he teases her.

"I can't believe you brought that up." Niko suddenly looks as though she wants to merge with the potted palm behind her.

"Do you want me to publish your '100 reasons why I really regret becoming a Galaxy Ranger' list? The one Walsh hasn't seen so far?" she threatens.

Abide laughs out loud.

"How long have you two known each other and how long did it take you to collect so much blackmail?" she asks with an impish twinkle in her eyes.

"It's just graymail," Niko reassures her.

"We've been friends ever since he helped me with my physics exams and I helped him with his computer experiments."

Niko winks at Doc.

Doc starts wondering who else could be listening and whether it was such a good idea to bring this topic up.

"Sounds like there is a story to tell. Care to elaborate?" Abide asks curiously.

Niko shakes her head. A big yawn seizes her.

"Not today. I'm really tired. I think I should leave."

She gets up and starts looking for a way from the quiet corner where they have been talking through the wildly celebrating crowd to the door.

"Good night, you two."

Niko has to admit that the conversation about how to do therapy with Whiner was among the most surreal she has ever had, but who knows, maybe it was good for something. For now her bed is calling to her.

She is halfway through the room when some dancers try to draw her into a conga line. Before she can brush them off, however, a big menacing growling shadow has done that for her.

"Goose, I didn't know you were here." She gives him a bright smile.

"I'm just leaving. May I escort you?" He offers her his arm.

Niko takes it. "Certainly."

No one bothers them on their way to the door, which may have had something to do with the fact that Goose growls at everyone who dares come near them.

Niko relaxes. If Goose is growling at people instead of avoiding them he must be close to his old self again.

"So when where you stuck with Wheiner on a space station during an alien invasion?" he asks her with a roguish grin.