“You want to collect video letters?”
I was speaking with Captain Savitskaya remotely, with Laria monitoring. “Yes. Yesterday, you told us to use this time to do what we needed to do. I’d like to give everyone a chance to send a video letter back to whomever they have left, on Earth or wherever.”
“How would you deliver them?” Laria asked, “The only comm buoys departing right now are classified intel units.”
“I can use the Strike Fins. Zehra’s been churning them out so fast, we have a surplus of about two dozen. With a bit of pre-programming they’ll make efficient e-mail carriers.”
“That’s a bit…” Laria began, but the Captain held up her hand.
“Very well. I’ll authorize it. Make sure you run all the letters by Laria to screen for any classified information we need to censor.”
“Roger that! Thank you so much, Captain. Uh, so is there anyone you want to send a letter to?”
She shook her head. “No. Thank you for the offer, though.”
“Well, just let me know if you change your mind!” With that, I sent out multiple instances of myself to start collecting letters.
From: Maurice Spiteri
To: Christopher Spiteri
Delivery Location: Moscow, Earth
Recorded: 16-Jan-2056 0438 hours
“Hey there, Chris. I know I just wrote you last week, but the higher-ups are giving me a chance to send a video message. Imagine that! Nothing but luxury up here on the Absolute Line. You’re really missing out, all cozy in that big office of yours. I’m not jealous or anything, I swear.
“So, uh. We’re heading for a very big battle. I can’t say much, but it’s probably gonna be the biggest battle we’ve ever seen. I’m sure you’ve picked up on the rumors going around the Politburo. If we’re successful, it could mean the end of the war. Well, I’m sure you’ve heard that promise a bunch of times and are sick of it by now, but… keep hoping, okay?
“I know it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other. Over… two years, I think. God, time goes so fast out here. Once this is over, I’m taking all my accumulated leave and coming to Moscow. It’s been way too long, and I just want to hold you again. Who knows, maybe I’ll finally retire like I keep promising and we can open up that restaurant we always talk about. That would be nice, huh?
“Apologies if this all sounds vague or ominous. This isn’t a goodbye letter, I promise. And I’ll send another after our victory. So please don’t worry about me. I’m doing great, and I have great comrades. I know with them by my side, we can all get through this together.
“So… let me just say this. I love you, more than anything. Even 380,000 kilometers away, I hope you can feel my love. I’ll be back home soon so I can say it to you in person. Until then, wait for me. Okay?”
From: Genevi Giacosa, Sabina Giacosa
To: Monica Skelton
Delivery Location: SGFC Telesthesia II, 433 Eros, Earth/Moon L3
Recorded: 16-Jan-2056 0618 hours
“You’re sending a video letter to MONICA?! Are you serious, Genevi?!”
“B-Be quiet, Sabina!”
“Monica is going into battle with us! You can’t just send a message directly!”
“Uhm, that’s a bit…”
“Ugh, typical. Hey, Monica. We’re doing this, I guess. After that big fight the two of you had before Christmas, I think Genevi’s just too shy to talk with you directly. You know what a big baby she is.”
“HEY! That’s MEAN!”
“I just call ‘em like I see ‘em. Hurry up and say what you wanted to, Genevi.”
“Uh.. w-well… Monica. I’m, uh, really sorry about what happened. You were right. It was entirely my fault, and I wasn’t very fair to you.”
“Wow! That’s surprisingly mature of you, Genevi!”
“HUSH! A-Anyway, with time to reflect and with help from Sveta, I realized I was being nitpicky. I shouldn’t have lashed out like that. I hope I haven’t ruined our friendship forever…”
“Oh, don’t be such a doofus. Monica’s not so petty that she’d cut contact over your little hot pepper rant. C’mon, we BOTH know her better than that.”
“Are you just going to keep interrupting me? Do YOU wanna say something to Monica?”
“Actually, I do! Monica, you and I and my dumbass sister go way back. Honestly, you’re the only real friend we’ve ever had, so I just wanted to say thank you for sticking with us through all this shit. Once this is over, let’s take a vacation together and visit the Academy at Zaragoza. I’d like to catch up with the old instructors if they’re still alive and kicking. Maybe we can swing by me and Genevi’s hometown of Turin too. It’s been over a decade since we’ve seen it. Well, not that we have many fond memories of the place, but it might be nice to visit for a bit and put some flowers on Mom’s grave. Even if the flowers are plastic. Oh, and don’t worry about Genevi horndogging on you while we’re there. I’ll bring along Spider-Sveta to keep her in line. Those two are always lost in each other’s eyes anyways. Like two lovebirds, I swear.”
“HEY! That’s too much information!”
“Pshaw, like the whole station doesn’t know by this point. Especially after you two got all lovey-dovey in the central park. With holograms! Giant winter holograms!”
“H-Hey! Stop saying such embarrassing things in front of Monica!”
“Nyaaaah. Why don’t you make me?”
“Don’t test me! Just because we’re sisters doesn’t mean I won’t throw down!”
“You’re one million years too early to defeat me! HEY, THAT’S NO FAI-“
From: Lydia Tereshkova, Viktorya Valentina
To: Tatyana Valentina
Delivery Location: Skopje Reclamation Site, Macedonia, Earth
Recorded: 16-Jan-2056 2206 hours
“Hey, Tanya. You told me to let you know if your worthless daughter got up to any trouble out here, right? Well, you’ll never GUESS what happened! Vicky screwed up monumentally and got herself demoted. Not demoted a few ranks, mind you, but demoted to MAID! Yeah, now she’s the maid of a mad scientist! Hey, Vicky, get over here and show your mom the maid outfit!”
“Ugh, do I have to?”
“Of COURSE! She’s gonna get a huge laugh outta this!”
“Lydia… you’re drunk.”
“Don’t get preachy with me! You’re drunk too, Vicky. Now get over here and show her the maid outfit!”
“Ugh, fine. I don’t see what the big deal is. You’re wearing a maid outfit too, Lydia.”
“Yeah, but you were the ORIGINAL maid. All this maid bullshit Zehra is forcing on us is your fault! You screwed up so badly, you maid-ified the whole squadron!”
“Argh… don’t remind me…”
“Anyway, Tanya, I hope you’re doing well. Vicky and I reunited recently on E… on a classified base. It’s a long story, and hopefully I’ll get to tell you the un-classified parts once the war is over. Which, hopefully, will be soon. I hear you got a nice, cushy job as the director of the Skopje Reclamation Project. How’s the bureaucrat life treating you? Bet you get all the GOOD rations, you damn pencil pusher.
“Seriously though, it sounds like important work. I don’t know how much useful tech or resources you’re pulling out of the Skopje crater, but I wish you all the best. Hopefully there will be a lot more reclamation projects like yours soon enough.
“Go on, Vicky, say something.”
“Right, uh… it’s been a while, Mom. Sorry I don’t write as much as I should. You know how work gets, especially in the Spetsnaz. Anyway, big things are happening and hopefully I’ll be able to head home soon. Hang in there a while longer, okay?”
“And don’t worry, I’ll come to visit too. I have someone I’d like to introduce. Maybe we’ll even get Vicky’s boss to come along!”
“No, please, anything but that…”
“Oh, c’mon. Don’t you think it’d be fun, GAO~N?”
“Don’t start copying her! That’s just creepy!”
“Oho. You’re the only one I can goof around with, Vicky, so of course I’m gonna tease you. I gotta keep a stone face in front of everyone else, but you’re my drinking buddy! My wingman!”
“I never ASKED to be! And what do YOU need a wingman for?!”
“Oh, good point. Anyway, Tanya, we’ll be seeing you soon. Keep fighting the good fight down there, and we’ll keep fighting up here. This is Lydia, signing off.”
“See you soon, Mom. Vicky out.”
From: Vegna Madlala
To: Shuyin Madlala
Delivery Location: Neo Madagascar, Earth/Moon L1
Recorded: 16-Jan-2056 1833 hours
Hey, Dad. It’s been a while, huh? Firstly, let me apologize for not being able to visit last month. I know I promised, but shit got really crazy around here and all leave was cancelled. Those damn Gravity Frame pilots are running me ragged, always gallivanting around with their flashy heroics and leaving us poor mechanics to patch up their robots afterwards. Did you know they had me doing custom paint jobs? PAINT JOBS of all the goddamn things! Add to that Frames made outta bug guts and pun-spewing AIs… it’s been a first-class shitshow, and terrible for my blood pressure. I don’t get paid enough for this shit.
Anyway, I heard from Mom that the cancer went into remission. I’m really glad you’re doing better. It’s amazing what this new nanotechnology can do, huh? I’m so grateful you got approved for the experimental treatment, and before you ask I did NOT pull any strings to make it happen. You’d never forgive me if I did!
Hopefully I’ll be able to visit soon. Those crazy hotshot Frame pilots think they have a plan to end the war. They’re leading us by the nose into a big battle, and when the dust settles it’s gonna be my responsibility to pick up the pieces, as usual. You’ll probably be hearing about it on the news soon enough. And this time around, I’ll MAKE the Captain give me my promised leave. Or at least I’ll ask insistently, but politely. Ahem.
See you soon, Dad. Love you. Leave a light on for me, okay?
To: Ashley Leighton
Delivery Location: Unknown
Recorded: 16-Jan-2056 2241 hours
“Hey, Ash. It’s been a while since I wrote to you like this, huh? I know I promised myself I wouldn’t do it anymore, but this seems like a good moment to send one last message.
“The weirdest shit happened to me these past few years. I actually died, in a freak forklift accident! You were always such a worrywart about those things, always telling me my job was too dangerous, and I guess you were right. Wherever you are, I’m sure you’re having the last laugh. I can imagine that annoying chuckle of yours ringing in my ears. Ah, what I wouldn’t give to hear that chuckle one last time.
“Anyway, after I died, I reincarnated in another universe! And no, before you ask, I have NOT been binging too many episodes of anime again. I legitimately got isekai’d into an alternate timeline where the Soviet Union rules the Earth and aliens are attacking and humans are fighting them off with giant robots. Except I’m not a human anymore, I’m the AI of one of those giant robots.
“Yeah, I literally reincarnated as a giant robot. Sounds like my dream come true, right? Well, there are good parts and bad parts, but on the whole it’s been a blast!
“Anyway, a lot of stuff happened and now we’re heading for the final showdown with the aliens. I’m not sure if we’re going to survive or not. Realistically speaking, I’d say our odds are 50-50. I’ll try my best though, like I always do!
“The real reason I wanted to send you this message is to tell you I found someone. I kinda fell in love with my pilot, a sweet and cool girl named Miette Levesque. She’s a redhead, freckled face, very rambunctious personality, and a foul mouth too. She’s wonderful. Every day I’m head-over-heels for her.
“In fact, she reminds me a lot of you.
“There’s a reason I’m telling you all this. At the end, during that last night in the hospital, you made me promise that I would eventually find someone. You told me ‘I don’t want you to be alone forever. Swear to me you won’t stay alone. Swear to me you’ll fall in love again.’ And even though I promised, I wasn’t being entirely honest at the time. I think you sensed that. I was just too wracked by grief to ever think about loving again.
“It took a lot of time. Twelve more years of my old life, and nearly a year in my new one, not counting some time I spent in stasis. But I finally did fall in love again. I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving you, but I have finally moved on. And I just wanted you to know that.
“I finally managed to honor your final request, Ash. I’m sorry it took me so long.
“It’s not just Miette, by the way. I’ve met lots of great people here. There’s this crazy mad scientist named Zehra, who’s something like my surrogate mother, and another giant robot AI named Kometka who’s like my little sister. Plus a soft butch Captain named Katya, and her girlfriend Laria who’s the AI of the spaceship she commands. And these two cute sisters who are ace robot pilots, Sabina and Genevi. I kinda got a side-fling going on with Genevi too, and before you ask Miette is totally cool with me building a harem.
“Uh, who else… there’s Vicky, the super-maid, and Maurice, the other super-maid. Plus Teles, a scary secret-agent ship AI, and Tektite, a nonbinary research colony AI. Now that I think about it, I know a lotta AIs, huh? Guess you could call that networking, huh? Literally!
“Bwahahahaha, sorry about the pun. Then again, you always used to love my stupid puns.
“Sorry, I’m rambling. In summary: everyone I’ve met here is precious to me, like a big surrogate family. And I’m doing everything in my power to protect that family. And considering I’m a giant robot now, I have a whole lotta power to throw around. I’ll make sure they all get through this war safe and happy. That’s my ultimate goal.
“So yeah, things are complicated but I’m doing well for myself. I hope, wherever you are, you’re living your own best life. Hell, maybe you got isekai’d into a really cool fantasy world and are fighting demons. Or, knowing you, flirting with all the cute lady demons. Hell, you’ve probably become the Demon Lord by now and assembled a huge harem of your own. Go get ‘em for me, okay, Ash?
“I don’t know if this message will ever reach you. I’ve reincarnated and traveled between timelines, but I still don’t know how to cross the mortal veil. There’s a scientist here who may be on to something, although she’s too scared to talk about it. Something about a Goddess of Death, or interdimensional monster, or whatever. If I make it out of this final battle alive, I’ll research it myself so I can send this message along to you. Otherwise, it’s just gonna sit in the deepest part of my databanks, encrypted.
“Even so, I’d like to think it will still reach you, somehow. Somewhere.
“Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say. Take care of yourself, Ash.
“Sveta? Are you… crying?”
Miette looked at me with deep concern.
I wiped the holographic tears from my eyes. “I-I’m fine. I just remembered something sad from my old life, that’s all.”
Miette drew me into a tight hug, not saying anything. I basked in her warmth for a long while, sobbing quietly.
Then, she finally spoke. “If you ever want to talk about it, I’m here. And if you don’t, that’s fine too.”
“Thanks, Miette. Maybe someday,” I responded.
After another long pause, I asked her a question. “Hey, Miette. Is there anyone you want to send a video message to?”
She thought about it for a moment. “Hmm, not really.”
“Nah. Both my parents are dead, and so are most of the pilots I fought alongside. Everyone I care about is here on Eros; Vicky, Sabina, Genevi, Maurice, Katya, Laria, Teles, Zehra… and especially you.” She gave me a quick peck on the cheek, and I smiled.
“Hehe, I must be the luckiest girl in the universe.”
“Damn straight. And don’t you forget it, you mad lesbian horndog.”
“H-Hey. I’m only 20% the horndog Genevi is!” I protested. Miette had successfully cheered me up, and now I was back into full Sveta-mode.
“You sure about that? You’ve already wooed Genevi. After this war is over, they’re probably gonna install a copy of you inside every new Gravity Frame they make. Then you’ll have hundreds, or even THOUSANDS of female pilots to woo.”
“H-Hey! Don’t assume I’m going to flirt with every cute lady who pilots one of me!”
“Oh, c’mon. I know you better than that. You’ll have a massive harem before five years have passed.”
“See, you can’t deny it. You’ve got a bright future ahead of you, Sveta. The galaxy’s most powerful lesbian overlord! All shall love you and despair!”
Miette was starting to talk nonsense, so I shut her up with a kiss. After that we snuggled for a good long time while another instance of me began the long process of categorizing all the letters.
In the end, I collected 104 letters, twelve of those written and the rest video; I encrypted and encoded all but one of them for delivery. A half-dozen of my Strike Fins shot off into every corner of the Earth sphere, carrying precious messages home.