ACES OF HEARTS
Disclaimer: Robotech and all of its characters belong to their respective creators and I am making no money from this story, (what a shame).
< >: Thoughts
Max suppressed his desire to sigh in disgust. He was beginning to wish he was back on the Zentraedi ship. At least there he knew who was friend and who was foe.
After being brought back to the SDF-1, Commander Hayes and the Vermillion Squadron were being debriefed and unfortunately, with the exception of Captain Gloval, the higher ups weren’t buying their reports. When Lisa’s video recorder had been destroyed during their escape from the enemy, the group only had their eyewitness accounts to rely on. Lisa Hayes’ estimate of the enemy’s overall strength, which she conservatively reported as one-point-five to two million ships, was the hardest for the brass to swallow. Several of the generals and colonels were under the impression that Max and his friends had been given false information and allowed to escape. They simply could not believe that the enemy had enough firepower to destroy a planet with ease. When Rick and Lisa began talking about what the Zentraedi referred to as Protoculture and how it was related to their desire to capture the SDF-1, they felt that the two were ready to be committed. And they most certainly didn’t believe Max’s story of disguising his Battloid as a Zentraedi soldier. As far as they were concerned, the Vermillion Squadron and Commander Hayes were ready for the Looney Bin.
“Man! I can’t believe that THEY don’t believe us!” Max sighed.
“Well, you’ve got to admit, all that stuff we told them was kind of hard to swallow.” Rick said, though he was also miffed at how the brass had not taken them seriously.
Ben decided to make light of the situation. “Hey c’mon guys. Let’s just forget about the brass and have some fun! We’ve all been given some R & R so let’s enjoy it and relax!”
“You could relax sitting in a dentist chair.” Rick joked.
Max snickered a bit. Though there was a terrible and ruthless enemy still out there, Ben did raise a point. They might as well enjoy themselves before the next enemy attack. The SDF-1 was so close to the Earth now and Max could almost smell the brisk air of his home planet, after months of breathing recycled atmosphere aboard the battle fortress. However, though he was looking forward to returning to Earth, he really didn’t have anyone waiting for him. Aside from the Dixon family, Max Sterling was all alone in this universe. All of his distant relatives had been killed during the Global Civil War and the remains of his parents were still floating out in the orbit of Pluto, along with Macross Island. Technically speaking, Max had no real home other than the SDF-1.
“Man! This is really making me uncomfortable!” Ben remarked as he, Rick, Max and Lisa were being put in the spotlight in front of a huge audience. They were being honored as returning heroes and even the celebrity Lynn Minmei had appeared to give them all bouquets of roses.
The spectacle was supposed to boost morale, though even Max was a bit pit off by all this attention. However, he dealt with his uneasiness by getting his friend’s spirits up. “Hey, come on Ben! I thought you liked to be in the spotlight?”
The big fighter pilot let off a chuckle and puffed himself up. “Yeah, I guess I can’t let all those lovely ladies to be denied the chance at seeing a real-live war hero, eh?” He let off a guffaw as he was handed a bouquet and received a peck on the cheek from Miss Macross.
Max smiled, though there was a big sweatdrop forming behind his head. He let off a sigh and wondered how anyone could stand such attention and fame.
The Zentraedi fleet...
Miriya loved the fame and attention that went with being the finest combat pilot of the Zentraedi. The other pilots feared and respected her, but each one also adored and aspired to be what she alone had attained. She had heard many whispered tales about her exploits among the ranks, and she always reveled in the awe in their eyes whenever she encountered her many admirers. It was that kind of recognition, in which she would further build her reputation as the queen of battle and unstoppable demoness of war.
As she strolled down the hallway, every Zentraedi she passed would bow to her and salute with absolute dignity and respect. Even though her rank made her their superior, it more out of respect for her abilities, rather than her station as second-in-command to Azonia.
Well let them continue to worship and fear her, Miriya thought as she headed toward the hanger where her Quadrano Unit was being prepped and ready for launch. It was only fitting that the best of the best should GET the most attention.
As she stepped into the cockpit of her fighter and began readying to launch, she took a moment to pause and think about what she had already accomplished and what great feats she would achieve in the near future. As she reflected on her past, a random thought came into her mind.
It was... lonely at the top. She had already outstripped her nearest rival in the elite Quadrano Units when it came to enemy kills, but now, it had gotten too easy. The Invid had lessened in their attacks, allowing for the Zentraedi to concentrate their efforts on recapturing Zor’s battle-fortress. She had been hoping to find some sort of challenge against the Micronians, but so far they hadn’t presented her with any real test for her skills. Oh, most certainly they were far more determined adversaries than many other races the giant race had encountered, but she knew that eventually they would fall before the might of her race. And with a supreme fighter pilot such as herself, victory was assured! After all, these Micronians couldn’t POSSIBLY have someone who could best her... could they?
The Close Encounters Arcade...
Max nodded as he racked up more and more points, scoring over the top, causing the machine to cough up another pile of tokens, much to the displeasure of the arcade owner. As he and the rest of the Vermillion Squadron were ordered on forced R&R and sit out the current battle, he and Ben had decided to kill the time in their favorite hangout. If they couldn’t destroy enemy fighters in real life, then they could at least obliterate computerized versions of their foes.
Ben snorted in disgust as he crashed and burned once again.
Just then, the entire ship shuddered as alarms went off and an announcement was made that the ship was about to undergo its modular transformation. That meant that things were going to get hectic really soon.
Max lost sight of Ben as the crowds of people scrambled to get to the shelters before Macross City was torn to pieces. Already he could feel the ground tremble as massive gears and other machines were preparing to go through their motions. Within minutes, the streets became deserted and Max found himself all alone. It was then that he saw three people standing in the middle of the road and wondered why they hadn’t headed into the shelters.
“Where did everyone go?” Rico wondered as he and his fellow Zentraedi spies stood in confusion.
Bron shrugged, while Konda stroked his chin and said, “Yes, and what was this announcement about a transformation?” Just then, he saw someone running toward them and was about to call to him when the ground suddenly cracked apart. He and Bron had to react quickly to prevent Rico from falling into the chasm between a set of giant cam teeth.
“What kind of mad place is this?!” Rico cried out as he scrambled to his feet.
At that moment, the three were suddenly swept up into the air as a massive decompression occurred. A bulkhead moved out of place and opened up the streets to space. The mission of the three Zentraedi spies would been over right then and there, were it not for the quick actions of a certain Veritech pilot.
“HERE! GRAB HOLD!”
The three micronized aliens grabbed hold of the fire hose as it flew out toward them. Looking down its length, they saw a Micronian soldier with blue hair, pulling on some kind of wheel that was attached to the hose they were desperately clinging to.
Max frantically pulled the fire hose retraction lever, which caused the hose to hydraulically pull itself back into the reel. As the trio were pulled in, the ace pilot desperately clung to a nearby store fixture to keep himself from being sucked into space. Finally, another bulkhead came in to re-pressurize the interior of the ship, causing the three and Max to drop to the ground.
The Zentraedi spies got to their feet and gazed upon their unexpected savior. They were about to thank him when the ship shuddered again. More sections started to move as massive pieces of machinery started to advance toward their position.
“Come on! We’ve got to get out of here!” Max shouted.
“But...!” Konda began.
Max shook his head as he started to run in one particular direction, motioning them to follow. He had already experienced what it was like during the SDF-1’s first transformation, and he had since prepared an escape route in case he was ever caught outside a shelter during the ship’s radical metamorphosis. Konda, Rico and Bron had no choice but to follow Max as they zigzagged their way around shifting panels, rotating pillars and elevating and descending platforms.
After what seemed like an eternity, Max directed them through a door and once they had entered, he passed through it and shut it tightly behind them. He let off a sigh of relief and leaned his back against the door. He let himself slide to the floor as emergency light turned on, illuminating the small enclosure.
“Where are we?” Bron asked as the room trembled and shook from the actions of the SDF-1’s changes to its internal structure.
“We’re in one of the emergency storage areas of the ship.” Max replied. “Don’t worry, we’ll be safe here. This one of the few places in the ship that isn’t affected during the transformation sequence of the SDF-1.”
“Transformation? What’s that?” Rico asked.
Max looked at the shortest member of the Zentraedi trio with a little bit of confusion. “Huh? You don’t know what the transformation is? I thought everyone knew about it. What planet are you from?”
All three spies became white as ghosts from Max’s innocent inquiry. They had feared that their cover had been blown. They had not been in the ship for more than a day and the Micronians were already onto them! Desperately, Konda tried to salvage the situation.
“Er, what my friend is trying to say is... the transformation... is just so sudden and complicated... that... uh, we just don’t understand it.... yeah, that’s it. It‘s really hard to get used to.”
Max looked at him quizzically, then shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah, I guess it is kind of extreme and all. It does take a while to get used to it.” Max let off a tired sigh, then gazed at the far wall absent-mindedly.
The long silence in the large chamber made the Zentraedi spies very nervous, especially since they were with an officer of the enemy forces. Though he didn't look like some war-mongering berserker, it was best for them to watch what they say in front of him, for fear that he would report them to his superiors, thereby compromising their espionage mission. They could have tried to eliminate him, but since he didn’t seem to pose a threat and had saved their lives, they each decided that for now, no action would be taken. Besides, they were surveillance operatives, not warriors. Besides, since Max was a member of the RDF, the three spies thought that this was an excellent opportunity to get some information out of him about the Micronians’ secrets about Protoculture.
Max nodded to them as he broke the silence. “So, what were you three doing out in the streets? I thought all civilians knew that they’re supposed to be in the shelters during a battle alert.”
“Uh... well... we... got lost on our way to the shelter.” Konda lied, hoping that Max would buy it. “Oh, and by the way, we would like to thank you for helping us back there.” Bron and Rico both nodded in agreement.
The blue-haired pilot waved it off. “Just doing my duty. Oh, by the way, I’m Corporal Max Sterling.”
“Oh.” Rico said with a bit of disappointment. He and the others were hoping that Max was some high-ranking officer and therefore could be a valuable source of information. “I’m Rico... and these are my comrades, Bron and Konda.”
Sterling found it to be a bit odd that these people were talking in such a formal, almost military manner. He had pegged them for civilians. Shrugging his shoulders, he stood up and extended his right hand to them with open palm. “Please to meet you.”
The Zentraedi spies gazed upon the offered hand and wondered what it meant. Looking up at Max, then down at the hand, then looking at his own right hand, Rico took a gamble and extended his own hand out. Max took it warmly and gripped it firmly for a moment, before moving it up and down a couple of times. After shaking hands, he released Rico’s hand and gave him a warm smile.
“Well, it looks like we’re going to be here for a while, so we might as well make ourselves comfortable.” Max looked about and noted that the storage area was littered with various piles of salvaged equipment and whatnot. Spotting a small crate, he walked over towards it and sat down on it. Following his example, the three spies also found places to sit. After another long moment of silence, Bron decided to address Max.
“Excuse me... Corporal...”
“I was kind of wondering... if there’s a battle going on, then why aren’t you out there fighting?”
“Well, because of a couple of reasons. Number one, I’m on enforced R&R. They ordered me to keep out of this fight. And second, well I don't currently have a fighter to fly into battle with. My last one got blown up and they haven't assigned me a new one yet.”
“Oh, so you’re a fighter pilot?” Rico asked with some interest. “Are you any good?”
Max smiled modestly. Though his current kill record was impressive, he didn’t want to brag. “Well, I’d like to think that I‘m good enough.”
The Zentaedi became more puzzled and intrigued by this Micronian pilot. He wasn’t anything like their battle-hardened brethren and he certainly didn‘t fit their expectations of an enemy soldier. His voice was so gentle and carefree, that they could hardly imagine him in the cockpit of a Veritech. He didn't even look like a warrior. He was slender and didn’t seem to be all that strong. And what were those strange panels of glass on his face? Were they some kind of devices, which aid him in battle? They became more puzzled as Max casually took them off, squinted his eyes while taking out a small handkerchief and wiped the lenses with it. He then placed them back on his face and continued to speak.
“I was really lucky to be a Veritech fighter pilot. Usually they don’t take pilots with glasses.”
“Glasses?” Konda repeated in puzzlement.
Max shrugged as he tapped his spectacles. “My eyesight isn’t exactly ideal to be a fighter pilot, but I guess I was good enough for the recruiting office.”
“Recruiting office? You mean, you volunteered?” Bron asked.
“Uh... yeah. My friend and I decided to join up in the RDF about five months ago.”
To the Zentraedi, voluntary enlistment was a peculiar notion. Every member of their race became a part of the armadas the moment he or she emerged from the Cloning Chambers. There was no choice given to them and their indoctrinations into the fleets were readily accepted without question. This concept of freedom of choice was intriguing... to say the least.
Max became puzzled himself at the strange questions and remarks of these three. They didn’t know what glasses were? And why would volunteering into the military be strange to them? He shook his head and noticed that the ship was beginning to shudder a bit more and the overall temperature was beginning to rise. Loud explosions were heard throughout the ship and temperature started to rise substantially.
“W-What’s happening?!” Rico cried out as he and his cohorts huddled together in a panic.
Max also tensed up as he realized what was happening. After the debriefing with the top brass, Captain Gloval had announced that the SDF-1 would be breaking through the enemy blockade and returning to Earth. If that was the case, then the sudden increase in temperature could only mean one thing.
“We must have gotten past the Zentraedi fleet and are now making reentry.”
“Huh?” All three spies exclaimed.
Max nodded as he braced himself for splashdown.
After what seemed to be an eternity, the decks rumbled with the impact of the massive battle-fortress crashing down into the Pacific Ocean. The floor shook and shuddered as the ship was rocked by tons and tons of water crashing against it from all sides. Max and the three Zentraedi were thrown off their feet and tumbled together in a heap. However, the four quickly recovered as the ship suddenly surged upward and broke the surface. Then, after a long and ominous silence, a voice was heard over the ship-wide PA system.
“WE HAVE JUST TOUCHED DOWN IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN! THE CAPTAIN AND CREW WOULD LIKE TO THANK EVERYONE FOR YOU SPLENDID COOPERATION DURING THIS LONG AND DIFFICULT UNDERTAKING. IT IS A BEAUTIFUL DAY ON EARTH! THE SUN IS SHINING AND THE SEA IS CALM! IT’S GREAT TO BE BACK!”
Max let off a whoop of joy as he brought the three spies together in a group hug. Rico, Konda and Bron were taken by surprise by this sudden show of close camaraderie but played along so not to arouse suspicion.
“We did it! We’re home!” Max cheered.
“Uh... yes! Hurray!” Rico cried out.
“We’ve... done it!” Bron exclaimed.
“Hurray for the Micro... er, us!” Konda blurted out.
“Come on you guys, I want you to meet my wingman and our superior.” Max said as he led the three Zentraedi through the throngs of people who were clamoring around every access hatch, trying to get into the open air of their home planet.
Rico nodded as he motioned for the others to follow. The chance of meeting up with a higher-ranking officer was a good opportunity to gather more intelligence about the Micronians’ military and strategies. However, when they saw Max calling toward two officers in the distance, they all turned pale as they recognized Ben and Rick. Max had not been present during the time Dolza had interrogated the Micronians, but his two comrades would surely recall the three spies, despite their reduced size in stature. They couldn’t jeopardize their mission at this point in time. So, as Max’s back was turned, they bolted and disappeared into the throngs of people.
“Hey, you guys, over here!” Max cried out, not aware that the three Zentraedi were already gone. When Ben and Rick came up to him, Max turned about to introduce them to his new friend, only to find that no one was there.
“Max! Where have you been? We’ve been worried about you!” Ben said as he slapped his best friend’s back. He then noticed that Max was somewhat preoccupied. “What’s the matter old buddy?”
“Where did they go?” The blue-haired ace wondered.
“Where’d who go?” Rick inquired.
Max didn’t answer as he continued to gaze upon the crowds.
Max and Rick smirked as they watched Ben do a series of flips and cartwheels on the deck of the Prometheus.
“What do you think? He’d make a pretty good acrobat, huh?” Max remarked.
Rick nodded as he looked up at the skies above. “Yeah, but look up there, Max. Can you really blame him?”
Max couldn't help but agree as he took in a deep breath of home.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Dixon;
I’m sorry that I have not written for a while, but I have remained at Ben’s side every step of the way, as promised. I am happy to report that Ben has been performing exceptionally well as a Veritech pilot. Unfortunately, I am unable to go into much detail as certain aspects of our tour of duty remain strictly classified.
Now that we have finally completed our long journey back to Earth. I feel as if the worst is over and we can all finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Max straightened up in his seat at his desk. Behind him, snoring like a truck driver in his bunk, Ben slumbered. Thinking back on their past adventures and whatever new challenges awaited them, Sterling couldn't help but wonder just how far he and Ben would go. Things seem to be looking up.
Miriya sighed in disgust as she landed her mecha and exited the craft. In anger, she took off her helmet and threw it hard on the flight deck. Her long, emerald tresses spilled out like a green waterfall as the ace pilot made her way toward her quarters. The aura of rage she was emitting made several of her comrades a bit nervous as each one got out of her path. When Miriya Parino was angry, get out of her way!
That last encounter with the Micronians had been an absolute disaster from the start. Miriya had been hoping to add a few new notches to her kill record, but instead Azonia had ordered her squadrons to prevent Khyron’s forces from attacking the SDF-1. As a result, the two Zentraedi fleets were set against each other and the enemy ship had managed to escape the blockade and reach the Earth. The ace pilot had gotten into a bit of a scuffle with the Backstabber’s incompetents, but they were hardly worth her attention.
In past conflicts, the objective was always simple and straightforward, which was to destroy the enemy. Now the Zentraedi had been ordered by the Robotech Masters on a mission of retrieval! They were warriors, not recovery drones! And the fact that the SDF-1 was not to be destroyed, complicated matters. They couldn’t unleash the full might of their fleet without running the risk of damaging their main goal.
Miriya angrily entered her quarters and lay down on her bunk. As she let her temper cool down, she realized that it was because of her need to find more challenges, which was making her so agitated. She had been hoping to find at least ONE good opponent in this campaign against the Micronians, but so far, all she had been facing were fighters that were only good for cannon fodder, and members of her own military. If this was all that was going to be offered, Miriya wouldn’t have even bothered to take off in her mecha.
As she lay in silence, she turned her head toward the small desk that was beside her bed. Her gaze came upon a small, metal object that lay upon it. Reaching over, she picked it up between her right thumb and forefinger and held it up to study it.
Max’s laser rifle had been her first souvenir of this conflict and the giantess still wondered about its owner. Her thoughts went back to the time she had almost recaptured the Micronian prisoners aboard Breetai’s flagship. Then she had remembered that flash of blue...
March 2010, a week after the SDF-1 return to Earth...
Max sighed as he and Ben headed back to the SDF-1 in their Veritechs. After seeing off Rick and Minmei in their fanjet, the two pilots were ordered to return to base after their patrol.
Currently, the citizens of Macross City were celebrating on the decks of the Prometheus and Daedalus. Since he and Ben were going off-duty when they returned to the ship, the two had decided to join in the festivities.
Max was a bit unsure about celebrating the return to Earth as he began docking his new fighter into the hanger. Of course, he was glad to be back on his home planet, but there wasn’t any real place that he call home, besides the SDF-1. After all, his house was still frozen on Macross Island somewhere at the edge of the Solar System. Most of the civilians were anxious to get off the SDF-1 and return to the families and friends they had left over a year ago. However, Max had no real desire to leave since he had no one waiting for him.
The blue-haired pilot shook his head to dispel the growing sadness in his heart. Now was not the time to be so down. As his plane came to a complete stop and the engineers and technicians started to work on it, Max climbed down from his cockpit and stepped onto the hanger deck. Pausing for a moment, he ran his hand across the RDF insignia emblazoned on the fuselage of the Blue Devil II. Like his first fighter, this one had been painted with a blue trim as per his request. All low-ranking officers and aces were allowed to make cosmetic changes to their aircraft. He made a note to modify the controls so that they would respond better to his amazing reflexes and skills. Nodding to it, he turned around and went to meet with his friend Ben, who was also getting out of his fighter.
A few days later...
Even though he had just met Lynn Kyle, Max was already starting to dislike him. The idea of life without fighting and war was a good one. However, the way Kyle described the military with that condescending attitude of his, made Sterling’s temper begin to stir, and he was usually very laid-back.
Max had been expecting a pleasant evening dinner with Kim, Sammie and Vanessa, (nicknamed the Bridge Bunnies), and Commander Hayes. They had come to Minmei’s restaurant and found an empty table with Rick Hunter. However, that was when they also found out that there was a new inhabitant of Macross City, Minmei’s cousin Lynn Kyle. Apparently, the celebrity and morale booster of the SDF-1 couldn't return to the ship without him.
At first, girls became very interested in the newcomer, and he was very handsome, Max had to admit. However, as soon as the mayor offhandedly commented how the military had such lovely ladies, Kyle’s attitude became cold and aloof, as he nonchalantly voiced out his disdain for the armed forces and all they stood for. Max didn’t like the way he was insinuating that all soldiers enjoyed dealing out death and destruction. Sure he liked being in his Veritech and pitting his skills against the enemy, but his duty was to protect the SDF-1 and all those who lived within it. The way Kyle was talking about it, he made them look no better than those they fought against.
Max had a bad feeling about Lynn Kyle.
That was when all the TV monitors in the city suddenly came on as a special broadcast interrupted the regularly scheduled programs. Then came the announcement that no one was to leave the battle-fortress.
That was when all Hell broke loose.
Max was breathing heavily and nursing his sore left side when one of his assailants had tagged him. Things had gotten ugly when several of the people reacted to the announcement and the situation had escalated into a full-scale brawl. Once again, Max’s extraordinary hand-eye coordination, superior speed and reflexes had served him well. With his training in the Robotech Defense Force, the quiet, unassuming Maximilian Sterling was a force to be reckoned with, in or out of a Veritech. However, he had not been the only one to show his true strength that day.
Lynn Kyle’s hidden skills had been instrumental in putting down the instigators of the riot. Apparently, he was an expert martial artist and had been able to take down several opponents at once. Without his help, the ending of this fight might have turned out differently.
That was when the general quarters alarm went off as the Zentraedi had decided to attack.
The Zentraedi fleet...
“What? You’re saying that Kyhron had disobeyed my orders again?!” Azonia exclaimed as her subordinate had just informed her of the Backstabber’s latest actions.
As she watched a destroyer under his command head down into Earth’s atmosphere. She took an introspective expression and smiled.
“Khyron, what have you got planned now?”
For her, this development could be used to her advantage. If he succeeded, she could take the credit. If he failed, then she could easily place the blame on him.
Max braced himself as his the Blue Devil II rocketed off the Prometheus, followed by Ben and the rest of the Vermillion Squadron. They went into formation behind Rick Hunter as scores of Battlepods rained down from above like huge, grotesque hailstones. The RDF was pushed to its very limits as pilots on both sides died by the dozens. However, unlike the Zentraedi, the defenders of the SDF-1 were not considered as expendable.
This thought kept Max going as he shot down another opponent and added to his kill record. Though he knew that he could be killed at any time, he did what he did best and let no other thoughts distract him. However, as he followed Rick’s battloid toward a densely packed group of Battlepods, his alert sensors went off and he had to duck for cover.
A new enemy had just joined the battle.
“And so Miriya, your main object is to thwart Khyron’s plans. Therefore you are NOT to fire at the enemy!”
Miriya snorted as she and her Quadrano Units dived down toward the SDF-1. She immediately turned off her communicator and said softly, “So I’m not to fire at the enemy, eh? Well I guess my radio must be broken or something.” With that she blew away an unsuspecting Veritech away as she descended to wreak havoc on both the RDF and Khyron’s forces.
“I love it when a plan works out well!”
Max gritted his teeth as his Battloid hit the deck of the Daedalus, as a weird-looking mecha suddenly came out from nowhere and nearly picked him off, along with Ben and Rick.
“Max, are you all right?” Rick asked through his communicator.
“Yeah... just a little shook up.” Max replied as he also looked about for his wingmate. “What about Ben, did he make it?”
“Hey, I’m not THAT easy to knock off.” Ben assured.
Max nodded in relief as he and Ben followed their squadron leader into the air. They soon became involved in an intense free-for-all with the enemy fighters as Rick’s plane suddenly began pursuing the new Zentraedi craft that had almost destroyed them a few minutes before.
Max was about to back up his commanding officer against the incredibly fast new enemy fighter, when he suddenly found himself in the crosshairs of an Officer’s Battlepod.
Khyron smiled evilly as he was about to send another Micronian pilot to oblivion. He figured that he had enough time to pick off a few more victims, before his ultimate strategy was implemented. Already, his subordinates were already sending his destroyer on a collision course with the SDF-1.
However, just as he zeroed in on a blue-trimmed Battloid and began firing at it, the enemy mecha did a neat flip over the deadly barrage. At the apex of its maneuver, his intended target fired its autocannon rifle at him, and shot through the pod’s main thrusters, causing it to careen out of control toward the ocean. Just before he hit the water, Khyron shouted out in utter fury to the one who had shot him down.
“CURSE YOU, MICRONIAN DEVIL!”
Max was breathing hard as he righted his Battloid and looked about for the bogey that had almost killed him. However, he didn’t have time to consider anything as he received a message to clear the area. The SDF-1 was about to launch its Daedalus Attack against the Zentreadi warship that was about to collide with it.
As he and Ben kicked in their afterburners to escape the confrontation between the two massive warships, Max looked back and saw the SDF-1 lift its right appendage out of the water and thrust it toward the enemy craft. The supercarrier’s prow slammed into the Zentreadi destroyer’s side and ripped through its interior. The prow emerged out of the destroyer’s top and opened up, launching its emergency defense missiles.
At that moment, Max caught Rick’s terrified voice on the tactical net.
“LISA! I’M IN DIRECT LINE OF OUR MISSILES!”
“MAYDAY! MAYDAY! I’M HIT!”
Max immediately turned his fighter around and headed back toward the battle zone, just as the Zentraedi ship exploded into a huge fiery ball of destruction. The SDF-1 pulled away in time to escape being caught in the blast, but Max continued to fly around the area, looking for some sign of his superior officer and friend.
A few minutes later, just as the remaining Zentraedi forces were in full retreat, Max sighted a parachute floating in the ocean, which was attached by a limp figure that was being supported by his flight suit's flotation devices. He immediately radioed the SDF-1 for a chopper rescue pickup.
Several hours later...
“Any change Commander Fokker,?” Max asked as he, Ben and the leader of the Skull Squadron waited outside of the Intensive Care Ward.
The blonde veteran fighter pilot shook his head. “The doctor said that rick’s head injuries aren’t too serious, but he’s still out with symptoms of delirium. There’s no telling WHAT’S going on through his head right now.” He then gave the two pilots a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry. I’ve known Rick his entire life. He’s a fighter. He’ll pull through.” He then held up a photograph.
“What’s this?” Ben inquired.
“Well Ben, this is the first intelligence photo we managed to get of a new type of Zentraedi fighter that was sighted before Rick was shot down.”
Max nodded as he recognized the top-heavy silhouette of the bandit that had nearly sent him to the Great Beyond. That thing was murderously fast and seemed to have been armed with an unending supply of missiles. Fokker had lost a lot of good men during the time Max, Lisa, Ben and Lisa had made their escape from the Zentraedi.
Fokker continued with his explanation. “Command has analyzed the attack patterns and theorized that these units may be specifically targeting ace pilots, such as squadron leaders. If this is true, Rick is lucky to be alive.”
This caused Ben to become really agitated. “They’re after ace pilots? OH NO! I MIGHT BE NEXT!”
Both Sterling and Fokker developed sweatdrops. Then the Skull Leader addressed both the young pilots.
“In the meantime, there’s a war going on and we need you two up in the air, not moping around in a hospital.”
“But our skipper’s out of commission.” Max pointed out.
Fokker immediately wrapped his arms around their necks and brought them close to him while grinning. “I just spoke to Captain Gloval. You’re both being reassigned directly under MY command. Welcome to the Skull Squadron, boys!”
While Ben laughed with their new superior, the blue-haired pilot then thought back to his last encounter with the strange mecha and what Fokker had said about its assumed purpose of hunting down the SDF-1‘s best pilots. <Hmmm, that thing didn’t go after me, so I guess I’m not considered as an ace pilot. Oh well. If I was a good pilot, then I would have been noticed by the enemy...>
Little did Max know...
“What!? Why how DARE you question my leadership abilities?! Just who do you think you are!?” Khyron roared as he was being given a ribbing by a certain, green-haired ace pilot.
“I am the finest combat pilot of all the Zentraedi forces.” Miriya replied with a air of haughtiness as she gave the Backstabber a look of utter contempt.
“Your ego is going to become the cause of your ultimate destruction, Miriya.”
“Hmpf! Just as yours caused you to be downed in the Micronian sea, and made you an object of ridicule to all those you command, Khyron.” Miriya pointed out. She had heard about how the famed Backstabber had gotten shot down and had to be rescued from his craft before he had drowned.
Khyron let off a dangerous growl as his thoughts went back to that blue-trimmed fighter that had gotten the best of him. “I can see that because you have never faced a worthy opponent, you believe you’re something special! But take care Miriya! For there is one aboard that alien ship whom even you cannot best!”
Miriya smiled at the veiled threat and challenge. “So... an ace aboard the SDF-1? Interesting... I’d like to meet him.”
To be continued...
For all you Robotech maniacs out there, you probably recognize some of those scenes from both the original series and the third issue of Love and War. I realize that this chapter is shorter than previous ones, but I’ve been pretty busy lately. In any case, next chapter will be the famous duel between Max and Miriya, plus the ramifications of that battle as the two aces of the Robotech Wars follow the paths that will lead them to their ultimate destiny.