ACES OF HEARTS
Disclaimer: Robotech and all of its characters belong to their respective creators.
< >: Thoughts
When Paths of Destiny Cross
June 2010 A.D.
<Oh no! Not him again!>
The manager of the Close Encounters Arcade shuddered as he caught sight of Max Sterling walking towards his establishment. However, much to his surprise the best pilot of the SDF-1 barely gave his business a passing glance before continuing on. He let off a sigh of relief as he saw that he would not have to contend with paying off Max’s winnings every time he beat the fighter simulations games. Sterling probably wasn't in the mood today.
Max however, had considered going into the arcade to work off his sadness, but it didn't feel right without his friend Ben going in with him. Dixon may have not been the best fighter pilot or game player, but he had always made Max feel better whenever they played. Now however, Sterling had been feeling somewhat empty and playing a few games wouldn't help him out of the depression he was in. Ben was gone forever, and those carefree days were over.
Things had gotten serious since the barrier overload and the destruction of Toronto. With that disaster and Ben’s sudden death, the blue-haired pilot had been keeping to himself lately. The current state of affairs of the ship didn’t help his mood. For the last few days, dozens of cargo helicopters and aircraft had been unloading hundreds of thousands of tons of supplies and parts. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the SDF-1 was no longer welcome on Earth, even though it was the only means of defending the planet from the Zentraedi.
Well, that suited Max just fine. After all, the only places that he could call home was Macross Island and the SDF-1. Macross Island was still floating out in Pluto’s orbit and the battle-fortress was being exiled back into space, so it all worked out for him. Although, now it seemed that that he had nowhere to call home on the ship, ever since he had banished himself from the Dixon family.
He had been getting a few calls from Ben’s mother and father, asking him to contact them. But Max felt that he didn't deserve to be with such good people. After all, if he had been able to keep his promise, then Ben would be...
Max sighed again as he continued to wander the streets of Macross. In his depression, with head bowed down low, and him not really concentrating on his surroundings as he made his way through the crowds on the street. If he had been paying attention, he would have noticed long tresses of emerald as a certain someone passed by on the other side of the street.
Miriya was a bit uncomfortable with the shoes she had pilfered, but they would have to do until she could find more suitable footwear. She beginning to think that the high heels were more along of the lines of torture devices for interrogation. However, she kept on going as one thought remained in her mind. She must find the one who had defeated her... and kill him!
<Oh Max, please answer the phone!>
Mrs. Dixon gripped the receiver for several minutes, before finally giving up. With sad, tired sigh, she set phone down and gazed at nothing in particular, as she thought about Ben’s best friend and surrogate brother. It had been some time since Max had suddenly moved all of his things out of their home and he had not contacted Ben’s parents for over two weeks. Mrs. Dixon had wondered just what had become of her ‘second son.’
She had always considered the son of Michael and Donna Sterling as her own after they had died. She and her husband had been very close to the Sterling family and were more than happy to adopt Max into their home. His gentle, quiet nature and almost limitless patience seemed to be the perfect foil to Ben’s outgoing and frequently reckless personality. In many cases, Max had been able to keep Ben out of trouble.
But now that her natural-born son was resting in peace, Mrs. Dixon had hoped to find emotional support in her surrogate son. There was just something in Max’s persona that had always made her feel warm and calm. However, it seemed that the loss of his best friend had been especially devastating to him and now he had shut himself out from everyone and the world in general.
<Max... you must feel so alone now. If only there was someone who can make you open up again...>
Miriya grimaced a bit as she prepared to eat her first Micronian meal. She was a bit irritated when she had realized that she had neglected to take some rations with her, before embarking on this quest for revenge. Therefore, she would have to eat what the Micronians ate, and to her, it didn’t seem very appetizing. Who would’ve have thought that the Micronians ate animal and plant tissue? It was a far cry from the clean, sanitized and simple nutrition pills that all Zentraedi ate. Nevertheless, she was willing to endure the torture of dining to accomplish her goal.
She had taken up residence in one of the many unused storage areas of the SDF-1. Ironically, it was the same one that Max and the three Zentraedi Spies had been in, during the battle-fortress’ return to Earth’s surface. The storeroom had become the ace pilot’s base of operations as she continued her search for the one who had defeated her.
The storage area had several large canvas bags that she could use for sleeping on, and there were water mains that she could tap into for cleaning and drinking. Food and clothing however, would have to be obtained when opportunities presented themselves, such as her current supper of a ham sandwich and chips, which she had gotten after jumping on a customer as he exited from a diner with his takeout order.
Early on in her quest, she had discovered that there was some kind of process in which the Micronians exchanged some strangely printed paper and metallic discs for food and services. She found the concept of ‘money’ as they called it, to be incomprehensible, and obtaining those papers and discs was just as puzzling. She decided that the simplest methods would be best for this kind of situation. She would simply take what she wanted or needed, such as her current wardrobe and dinner.
Taking a deep breath, she took a tentative bite of her sandwich and began chewing. Expecting a foul taste, she instead found the meat and bread to be surprisingly... she couldn’t describe the sensation, but it was quite enjoyable. The strange yellow and red paste had some textures and flavors that she couldn’t quite identify, but they made the meat seem more... electric. It somehow made her taste buds feel so charged up. The Zentraedi rations she had been eating all of her life had never made her feel so stimulated. Just what kind of strange powers did Micronian food have?
A fortnight later...
Max sighed as he watched from a porthole, as the Earth recedes into the distance. There was no turning back. The SDF-1 was no longer welcome on his home world, and frankly, it didn’t matter to him. There wasn’t anything on Earth that would make him want to stay anyway. Well, he did enjoy seeing the sunrise and sunset on the planet’s surface. But that was all in the past and he would have to get used to the simulated environment of the ship’s EVE holographic system.
It had taken some time, but Max had eventually decided that he had to get on with his life. Ben wasn’t coming back, and the blue-haired pilot had to deal with that fact for the rest of his days. To start, he had finally begun reconnecting with Ben’s parents again, much to the delight of Mrs. Dixon and her husband. Unlike him, they had picked up the pieces and forged ahead with their lives. Their dry-cleaning business had boomed since the battle-fortresses’ departure from the Earth. And there was one more surprise.
Ben’s mother was pregnant.
Though it was considered somewhat dangerous for a woman to have another pregnancy so late in life, the Dixons were more than eager to welcome the new life into their world when he or she came. And they wanted Max to be a part of it.
Though he was happy for the soon-to-be parents again, Max had gently told them that he needed some time to think things over and consider what to do with his life. He assured them that he would keep in touch.
The problem was, he STILL didn’t know what to do with himself, other than his duty as a pilot of the SDF-1. And what would he do once the war was over? Ever since Ben died, he didn’t exactly have any plans for the future. He supposed that he’d just stay in the military. After all, where else could he go?
January 2011 A.D.
“Max, are you sure you’re okay?” Rick asked as he and his friend sat in the office. Ironically, it was the same office, in which Roy Fokker had occupied, and had given Rick his lieutenant bars.
“I’m fine.” Max replied nonchalantly.
In truth, he had been keeping to himself, and had not been doing much more than his duty for the past few months. The Zentraedi seemed content to just trail the SDF-1, despite the fact that there were more than a million ships out there. He had been occasionally seeing the Dixon family, helping out at their dry-cleaning business, and checking up on Ben’s mother. Her pregnancy had been coming along fine, and with the recent advances in modern medicine, the middle-aged woman was going to be all right when her child was born. She had even settled on a name.
Max had been quite surprised to learn that the baby was going to be a girl, and was even more amazed to learn that she was going to be named after him.
“Would you mind telling me why you called me, Lieutenant?” Max said as he focused on the present.
“Max, when we’re alone, you can drop that rank-and-file stuff. It’s Rick, okay?”
“All right, Rick then. So why did you...?”
At that moment, the door opened, and in stepped a young corporal with a cheerful smile on his face. Saluting smartly, he introduced himself. “Corporal Jansen, reporting as ordered, sir.”
“At ease.” Rick said, as he and Max stood up and returned the salute. He then gestured to Max. “This man will be your new commanding officer from now on.”
This caught the normally calm and easy-going Sterling completely off-guard. “What?”
Rick smiled as he continued with the introductions. “He’s Lieutenant Maximilian Sterling, and he’s an amazing pilot. In fact, I think he’s set a record pace for being promoted.”
“Yes sir. I know all about Lieutenant Sterling’s exploits!“ Jansen’s smile became wider as he shook Max’s hand. “I’m honored to be your wingman, sir! You’re an inspiration to all the cadets!”
“I am?” Max was still in a state of disbelief. He was the one who usually looked up to others. It was quite a change to be on the receiving end of such praise.
“Everyone knows about you!” Jansen gushed as he continued to shake Max’s hand. Sterling was beginning to lose some circulation in his right hand. “You’re the number one ace! You’re a legend!”
“Well, I wouldn’t say that. I mean...”
Rick chuckled a bit as he began pushing the two toward the door. “You can get to know each other more on your first assignment.”
“Our assignment?” Both said in surprise.
Hunter nodded. “You two are to go to the premiere of Minmei’s new movie, Little White Dragon.”
“But...?” Max started.
However, his superior wouldn’t accept no for an answer. “Well, get on with it. It’ll do you both a lot of good.”
“Is it really true that you snuck aboard an enemy cruiser, by disguising your Battloid like a Zentraedi?” Jansen asked eagerly as they headed toward the movie theater.
“Where did you hear that?” Max asked in surprise.
Jansen shrugged. “You didn’t know? The brass finally declassified the information, concerning on how you rescued Commander Hayes and the Vermillion Squadron. They use it as part of the training curriculum now, especially with Battloid fine-manipulator controls. The final exam includes being able to make your Battloid put on a Zentreadi-sized uniform.”
“So is it really true?”
“Well... yeah, that’s what happened more or less.”
“Awesome! So what gave you the idea of going undercover like that? That was some crazy rabbit you pulled out of your hat!”
“Uh, well... to tell you the truth, I was inspired by a rabbit.”
“Yeah.” Max chuckled a bit, which was the first time since Ben died. “It was from an old Bugs Bunny cartoon I saw as a kid.”
The two began laughing at the pun as they neared the theater. When Max saw the crowds starting to build, he let off a low whistle.
“I’m glad we made it down early before everyone started showing up.”
<Everywhere I look in this town, there are soldiers. With any luck, I’ll be able to find the one who shot me down, pretty soon.>
Miriya Parino kept up her confident stride, despite the discomfort she was feeling in the high heels she was wearing. She had been unable to find more suitable footwear, though the Mary Janes did give her a sense of dominance as they increased her height.
The past month she had spent in the SDF-1 had been quite a challenge, as she continued the search for her arch-nemesis. Finding food and clothing had been getting harder without that ‘money’ paper and metal, but she kept on going, driven by her overwhelming need for vengeance. During that time, she had come across some more nuances of Micronian life, in which she could scarcely comprehend.
For one thing, there were smaller Micronians among the larger ones. At first, the Zentraedi Ace thought them to be immature copies of the fully grown ones. However, she had seen no indications of maturation chambers or any other kind of genetic cloning systems. It was when she had entered a certain establishment, that the horrors of Micronian reproduction was revealed to her.
The devices she had seen in that shop were... unspeakable! With all the chains, studded implements and such, her first impression was that she had entered some kind of interrogation station. However, she also noted that many of objects mimicked the anatomies of the Micronian male and female! And the literature and video records she had seen, had almost made her...
That’s how Micronians were made?! (1)
Miriya shuddered a bit as she remembered those images, then her attention was drawn toward a large crowd that was gathering in front of a large building.
<Now what’s all this?>
The green-haired beauty carefully made her way closer, and took note of all the eager, expressions on the people. Naturally she came to only one conclusion. After all, it had happened to her on many occasions.
<Perhaps they are here to honor him for his heroism. Shooting me down must have been a great achievement for him to be honored by so many!>
Halfway through the movie...
Max was not too happy that Lynn Kyle was one of the stars of the film. His anti-war speeches and disdain for the military had been growing since the destruction of Toronto, and that only hurt the RDF in its efforts to defend the Earth. However, he decided that he shouldn’t let that fact spoil the rest of the movie. He was here to enjoy himself and get to know his new subordinate. As he silently watched the story, he did not notice a certain someone sitting nearby. In fact, if it weren't for Corporal Jansen sitting between them, Max would have met his destiny face-to-face.
It was yet another near-miss in the cosmic wheel of fate.
<What a truly magnificent warrior! Surely he must be the one who shot me down! Who else would have such courage?>
Miriya was so enthralled by what she saw on the screen, that she was unaware that her true quarry was sitting less than two feet away. As far she was concerned, Lynn Kyle was the one she must kill!
That was when the battle alarm went off.
“Their timing’s great. Right in the middle of the film.” Max sighed as he and Jansen stood in a crowd that was being toward a shelter.
“Well, what can you do?” The corporal said while shrugging his shoulders. “It looks like the enemy don’t care much for movies.” It was at that point that he noticed that his superior wasn’t paying attention. “Sir?”
Max felt as if his heart had just stopped. However, he had a good reason. After all, how often does a virtual angel pass by?
What first caught Max’s attention was the green hair. Like his own, it stood out in the crowds and made a statement of individuality. And as his eyes traveled down her long, emerald tresses, they savored every detail of her features. She had large, lively eyes of forest green. An oval face with statuesque cheekbones. Cute nose and full, red lips that seem to beckon to him. Her body showed off a lithe figure, in which her somewhat odd garb hugged every curve. She wore a tight-fitting lavender vest, which barely contained her full bosom. (Max mentally smacked himself for staring too long at that area). She also wore a white, long-sleeved, ruffled blouse that seemed a little familiar. (2) Molding about her tiny waist, curved hips and shapely legs, was a pair of lavender knickers, which cut off at mid-calf. White stockings covered the rest of her legs and on her feet were a pair of high-heels.
Though her physical beauty was more than enough to leave Max spellbound, there was something else about her that made him feel more intense than any other time in his life. His heart rate quickened and he felt a very warm sensation within him that threatened to overwhelm his senses. It was a kind of an aura or presence about her that made him feel drawn toward her. Before her, flying in a Veritech against the enemy had been his only excitement, the only thing that could lift him up. Now, it seemed to be a poor second compared to... her.
As she disappeared into the crowds, not even noticing that she was being observed, Max summed up his intense feelings in one word.
From that moment on, Max Sterling had realized what he wanted in his life. Now all he had to do, was find her again.
March 2011 A.D.
Max sighed as he strapped himself into the Blue Devil II. The past month and a half had been an emotional roller coaster for him, as his search to find the girl of his dreams, had so far been unsuccessful. He been asking everyone he knew for the whereabouts of his mystery angel. However, he had been hitting dead end after dead end. No seemed to know about her. How could that be? Didn’t everyone know everyone else in Macross City?
Max had been following rumors and sightings, but he still hadn’t been able to find her. He had been rehearsing as to what he would say to her, once he finally located his elusive quarry, but with every missed encounter and false lead, it was beginning to look like the proverbial needle in the haystack. There were, after all, over 70,000 people on board the SDF-1, and he couldn't devote all of his time in looking for her. He has his duty as a Veritech pilot.
As he signaled to the deck crew that he was ready for takeoff, Max made a silent vow to himself. He would find his green-haired beauty! And when he did, he’d ask her to marry him on the spot!
Sterling then found himself wondering why he had such an impetuous thought. That wasn’t like him at all. It sounded like something Ben would say. Max didn’t even know the girl, and here he was, imagining a life of matrimony with someone he had briefly seen at a movie theater.
However, this wasn’t just any other girl. Somehow, he knew that there was something about her that was special, and he couldn’t rest until he saw her again. He couldn’t get her out of his mind and she would often appear in his dreams, teasing at his psyche, as if daring him to try and catch her. He hadn’t been so stimulated, since the time he had chased an enemy Quadrano ace, and faced the Zentraedi down in the SDF-1.
Max became surprised as images of that titanic battle came to him, but he shook his head to clear it. Why would this girl remind him of that encounter? They had nothing in common with each other, right?
Miriya continued on her search for the Micronian ace who had defeated her. Recently, she had come across an observation deck, which allowed people to watch the Veritechs as they launched. By yet another whim of destiny, it was the same one, in which Max and Ben had been in during the Battle of Saturn’s Rings, and when they had decided to join the Robotech Defense Force. Now it was being used by a Zentraedi spy to kill the best ace of the SDF-1.
Whenever she heard a battle alert, Miriya would come up to this section of the ship and wait for a certain Veritech to appear. She watched with great interest, through the binoculars she had purloined, hoping to see a blue-trimmed...
<Ah! So there he is!>
Her heart rate began to step up its pace as she saw the mecha being set up by the catapult. She zeroed in on the cockpit of the fighter and growled as she once again couldn’t see the pilot’s face! All she could see was the back of his helmet!
<Turn around! Turn around! Just WHO are you?>
The Zentraedi ace had recently come to the conclusion that the warrior she had seen on those battle records was not the one she was seeking. During the past few months, she had seen Lynn Kyle in various gatherings, preaching about stopping the war and leading a coup against the military. That most definitely did NOT sound like the Micronian Ace she expected, to have beaten her in battle.
Her suspicions were confirmed once she had found this observation deck and saw the real pilot of the Blue Devil II take off against the enemy. For the last month and a half, she had observed him in action, as he was sent out on patrol. She had hoped to glimpse his face. If she knew what he looked like, then hunting him down would be much easier. However, the angle in which she could see the Veritechs as they were launching, only afforded her a view of the rear of the fighters. And when they came in for landings, they came in too fast for her to see the pilots clearly. Then they would taxi toward the loading elevators, dropping down out of sight.
However, she maintained her vigil as she knew that sooner or later, she would see the face of her arch-enemy.
And then she would kill him.
It was just then that she caught sight of a fleet of thirty Zentraedi ships approaching the SDF-1. She immediately recognized the lead ship as Commander Breetai’s flagship and wondered if the legendary Zentraedi officer had some kind of plan in mind. She then decided to head back to Macross City.
Max couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The Zentraedi had invaded the ship! The people of Macross City were in grave danger and he had to get back to the battle-fortress immediately!
Max steeled himself as he followed Rick Hunter through a large access hatch, which was the same one he had used to chase down that one Zentraedi Quadrano Unit all those months ago. Now he would have to fight not one, but several DOZEN enemy fighters in the confines of the city within the SDF-1. His thoughts became more focused as he prepared to give his all in defense of the ship.
As soon as he flew into the skyline of Macross, he broke away from Rick’s position and headed toward the eastern sectors of the city.
Miriya was quite surprised to see Zentraedi mecha in the streets and she had to take cover, or become a victim of ‘friendly fire’ by elements of her own military.
It was at that moment, she saw a blue-trimmed enemy fighter streak overhead and knew that this was an opportunity to finally find out who her quarry was. She quickly made her way toward the area, in which the Veritech was transforming to Battloid in the midst of a group of Battlepods. Though he was outnumbered five to one, the Micronian ace took them all out with methodical ease and uncanny accuracy, firing this way and that, and dodging everything that his opponents could throw at him. In less than a minute, he was surrounded by smoldering heaps of scrap and exploding ordinance.
Miriya crept even closer to the enemy mecha, as it stood and surveyed the area, looking for more challenges. She was certain that if she could get near enough, she make out the markings and perhaps a name. However, when she got within fifty feet of the machine, the Veritech’s head turned and its large, cyclopean eye focused on her. A minute later, the rest of the Battloid swung about with its autocannon poised.
This made the green-haired ace pilot stiffen and become white as a statue. Her greatest foe had her in his sights!
Max’s heart did a sudden stall as he gazed upon Miriya Parino. He had just polished off his latest kills, when his sensors detected life signs nearby. He instinctively swung his mecha about with autocannon ready and...
Fell in love.
She looked even more beautiful than he remembered. Ever since that day at the movie theater, he had been searching and searching. And now, he had found her! Though this was definitely NOT the time to lose one’s focus, especially in the heat of a pitched city battle, Max couldn’t help but continue to just sit there and...
The near-miss immediately knocked Max back to his senses as he pulled the G Lever of his Veritech. The machine shifted to Guardian Mode, its fuselage shielding Miriya from the falling debris. Making certain that he did not step on her, he pivoted about and began firing at more enemy units as they converged on his position. He reached for the loudspeaker controls of his machine and flipped on the switch. However, his console lit up with a damage report. The near-miss had caused his loudspeaker controls to malfunction. He couldn’t call out to his dream girl to take cover.
Miriya couldn’t believe that she had just been saved by the one she wanted to kill the most! And now that the mecha was in Guardian Mode, its cockpit was open for her to see who was inside! But being underneath his mecha, she could only see the underside of the fighter. It just wasn’t FAIR! She was so close! Her foe was only a few scant meters away and she couldn’t do anything about it! She could only cover her ears as the roar of his autocannon and sound of enemy fire drowned out all other noises in the area.
As more Battlepods came in and continued firing, she decided that the opportunity was lost and she had to leave before she lost her life. She cursed her luck to have been given such a chance and it was lost.
She immediately began running away from the scene as Max continued to fire away. Soon, she was gone from sight, just as Max dispatched his attackers.
Max wiped his brow as the last of his opponents fell. He then got his loudspeaker working and called out to the girl beneath his fighter.
“Hey! Are you all right down there? All civilians are supposed to be in the shelters!”
However, when he saw that she wasn’t there, he slumped down in his seat in disappointment. She must have run off when the Battlepods attacked. He hoped that she got away safely as he radioed Rick and arranged to rendezvous with him in the northern sectors.
After the battle...
Max was running like crazy through the Macross Hospital. The Zentraedi attack had damaged most of the city, before it was finally beaten back. That included the Dixon dry cleaning business. Civilian casualty reports were staggering and he did not want to know the final totals. This also caused him to go into worried frenzy when he got word that the Dixons had been taken to the emergency wards. Losing Ben had devastated Max, but losing Ben’s parents would be...
“What are you doing here? No running in the hall!” A nurse said as she suddenly blocked his way.
Max calmed down a bit and asked the nurse where Mrs. Dixon had been taken to. A few minutes later, he came into the room to find Mr. Dixon leaning against the side of the bed where his wife lay... with a small, squirming bundle.
The new mother smiled up at the pilot and beckoned him to come closer. She proudly showed her new daughter to him, and Max could only gaze in amazement at his namesake: Maxine Dixon.
Ben’s mother cooed her child as she pointed to him. “Maxine, meet your Uncle Max.”
Two days after the attack...
Max was practically dead on his feet as he plodded into his barrack and plopped down on his bed. It had been an exhausting couple of days. First of course, was the newest addition to the Dixon clan, namely Ben’s sister Maxine. Secondly, was the appearance of the Zentraedi defectors. He was quite surprised to find out that Rico, Konda and Bron had been spies. And now, Commander Hayes was planning to return to the Earth, to try and convince the United Earth Government to attempt peace talks with the Zentraedi.
Though Max knew that he needed to get some sleep, for he was going to be leading Commander Hayes’ escort squadron the next day, he found that he couldn’t close his eyes just yet. There was just too much on his mind at the moment. For one thing, he had noticed that his superior and friend Rick Hunter was having girl problems with both the superstar Minmei and Commander Hayes.
At times, Max wondered if Rick was really serious about his on-again/off-again relationship with the famous singer. At other times, he began to believe that Rick was leaning more toward the mature and strong Lisa Hayes. He STILL remembered that kiss on that Zentraedi flagship. The blue-haired pilot chuckled at the memory.
<I wonder how Rick is going to react when he finds out that she’s leaving?>
Another thing that was on his mind was of course, the birth of little Maxine. He was happy for Ben’s parents, but he had consider the kind of world that precious little girl was going to grow up in. All around her, she was going to be surrounded by war. Not exactly the most ideal environment to live in. At this point in time, Max hoped that the war would end soon. Though it would mean that his talents would no longer be required, he felt that it would be worth it, to see that little girl live in a world without conflict, and without the fear of losing those close to oneself to the horrors of combat.
As sleep finally began to creep up on him, his final thoughts were of course about... her. He still could not get her out of her mind... not that he wanted to. Her very image was one of the few things that truly gave him joy. He could almost swear that she was a part of his soul. It didn't make any sense, but he just HAD to meet her. He had to show how he felt about her. And he knew that he was close to finding her. He could feel that the time was near and he was eagerly awaiting the day when they would finally meet face to face.
<I wonder what she’s doing now...>
Miriya smiled as she entered the Close Encounters Arcade, which she had recently discovered several weeks ago. As a result, her money problems had vanished within this Micronian Battle Simulation Center. At least, that’s what she thought it was. Why else would hundreds of people come to this place every day but to train for battle?
When she had first come across the arcade, the Zentraedi ace had very little money on her person, aside from a few coins she had found on the streets. Stealing food and better clothes had been getting harder, but now she didn’t have to. From those first few coins, she had put her innate talents to good use and gave the arcade manager someone else to worry about! The payoff piles of tokens could be redeemed for prizes, vouchers and if one really pressed the issue... cash.
The various machines varied from simple, straightforward exercises that concentrated on hand-eye coordination to combat intensive programs, including mecha controls and hand-to-hand fighting. One game in particular, had caught her attention in the beginning. It was called Amazon Princess, which reminded Miriya of her Quadrano initiation trial.
Eventually, she drifted toward the Veritech Simulator Game, which Ben Dixon had loved, though he never been able to master.
A day after Lisa Hayes’ departure...
<He’s been sitting there for over half an hour, and he hasn’t even touched his food.>
Max decided that his superior needed a boost from his bout of depression and went over to where Rick was sitting. An hour later, after some gentle prodding and pleas, he managed to drag Rick toward the Close Encounters Arcade.
“Great place, huh? You are going to love it!” Max assured as they stood in front of the establishment.
“I don’t know, maybe I should head home.” Rick responded.
“Trust me, a few games in here, and you’ll be pumped up again!”
“With the mood I’m in, I don’t think any game is going to me feel any better.”
“Aw, that’s because you haven’t tried it. C’mon, I know what I’m talking about!”
With that, he pulled the Skull Leader into the dark and blinking world of electronic enjoyment.
For Max, it was the first time he was inside with a good friend, ever since Ben Dixon had died. He had many fond memories of the big pilot as they had spent countless hours in places like these, honing their skills and challenging all the machines. And now, it seemed like old times with Rick.
A little later...
“See? Nothing to it. With a little more practice, you’ll get better, then you’ll start winning!” Max said confidently as he and Rick descended the stairs of the upper levels of the arcade. In his hands was a large tray of tokens.
Rick was a little put off that he didn’t even come close to matching Max’s scores, though the blue-haired pilot’s cheerful demeanor and easy-going attitude did make him feel better. It was then that he noticed that Max’s attention was directed elsewhere.
“Oh, that girl sitting at that game!”
Rick looked over to where Max was indicating and saw a green-haired girl in a brown body suit with a yellow scarf tied around her neck. “So? What about her?”
“Isn’t she incredible? I’ve been seeing her everywhere!”
“Well, she is sort of attractive.”
“Maybe I can get her in a game with me!”
Miriya smiled as the machine let off a series of beeps and whistles, which meant that anther payoff was imminent. A moment later, a flood of tokens came sliding down into the token tray. Though she was glad for her winnings, she was beginning to get bored and wished for a new challenge.
At that moment, Max walked up to her and stood for a long, agonizing moment of uncertainty. This had been the moment he had been waiting for. He wouldn't get another chance like this. And so, he addressed the beauty before him...
“Excuse me, but would you be interested in playing me a game? From what I’ve seen of your winnings, I think we’d be equally matched, don't you?”
Miriya regarded the pilot that was addressing her, then considered the tray in his hands. “Are you willing to bet all that?”
“Yes I am!” Max said happily as he laid his tray beside hers, then scooted about to the other side of the machine. “This is absolutely terrific! I know we’re going to have a great game!” As he sat down and inserted a coin in the slot, he looked back up to her and found it impossible to tear his eyes away from her. “How about we start at Level B? Is that all right with you?”
“Fine.” Miriya replied nonchalantly.
“All right, her we go!”
As the game began, Max Sterling gave his opponent a friendly grin. Then the game began.... and ended thirty seconds later.
“Whoops! I guess I won that skirmish.” Sterling remarked as he kept up his good-natured attitude. He really had meant to go easier on her, but as soon as his hands were on the control, his uncanny reflexes immediately took over. They simply could not do anything less than their absolute best. Still, Max wanted to impress his dream girl, so he suggested to go onto Level A. He gave her wink.
However, this only served to irritate the micronized Zentraedi as she agreed. “Yes. Let’s go onto to Level A. I imagine that would prove quite interesting.”
And in the next five minutes, she found out just how interesting it was. Try as she might, she couldn’t gain he advantage on him. Every tactic she used, he would outmaneuver her. Every defensive move she made, he would counter. In her mind’s eye, she began recalling an encounter in which she had pitted all of her skills against the one who had bested her, and lost. And in that game, she knew...
<This soldier possesses remarkable skills! Is it possible my search is over? Could this be the pilot of whom Khyron was speaking?>
For Max, it was a different story.
<Boy, is she beautiful! I can’t believe this is happening! If this is a dream, don’t wake me up!>
However, the dream ended as Miriya’s simulated Battloid was blown away by Max’s. For the Zentraedi ace, she was shocked to the core.
<I LOST! He beat me in five minutes! It’s unbelievable! I won’t be humiliated like this!>
For Max, his self-modesty came to the fore as one observer remarked that he was some kind of piloting genius to have won such a battle.
“I dunno. I wouldn't say that exactly, there were some tight spots in the middle and near the end, but all in all, it wasn't too tough.”
Miriya couldn’t stand it any more as she got up to leave. However, that was when a gentle, yet firm hand took hold of her left wrist.
“Wait! Don't go! This is my only chance to get your name and phone number!”
Miriya tried to pull away, but Max wouldn't let her. “My name is Miriya and I don’t presently have a phone number.”
Max began to panic a bit. Without a phone number, how was he able to find her again? He quickly decided right then and there to make a date with her. “Then would you meet me at the park tonight at nine o’clock?”
“Oh whatever you want! Just let me go!” When he did release her arm, Miriya breathed out an icy ‘thank you’ and bolted out of the arcade in a seething rage.
Max was of course unaware of the murderous feelings that she harbored as he looked down at his hand, and marveled at how smooth her skin had been and how slender her wrist was.
A fellow pilot that was nearby nodded to him and said, “Well friend, that was some beautiful lady you just made a date with. I hope she plans on showing up.”
Max nodded. “Isn’t she something?”
Miriya could scarcely believe it as she paced in her storage room hideout. The one who had defeated her, looked nothing like she had envisioned the Micronian ace to be. However, she couldn't deny the evidence. The Battle Simulator had proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he was the one she had been seeking all these months. And now the question was, what was she going to do?
She would kill him. It was as simple as that. That was her goal. That was the reason she had allowed herself to be micronized. That was why she was here in the first place. That was why she had endured living as a Micronian. It was all because of him!
At that point, she realized that she still didn’t know his name, though she now knew what he looked like. Then she decided that it didn't matter. She was going to erase the one failure in her long career of success. What did it matter that she did not know what he was called? He would soon be dead, so she shouldn’t care, right?
However, there was something about him that made Miriya feel doubt. Though, she would have never admitted it, the touch of his hand on her wrist had sent a kind of sensation that she couldn't describe. And the way he spoke to her, made her feel a warmth that she had never known before.
Shaking her head to clear it, Miriya went over to small crate, which she had been using to store certain items that she had collected over the past few months. She rummaged about for a minute, then took out two small, objects. She had been preparing for this moment for a long time, and soon, it would all be over.
She unsheathed one of the knives and gazed upon the cold hard steel of the blade. She then imagined it stained in the red of Max Sterling’s blood.
Tonight, things would be settled, one was or another...
Max was more nervous than he had ever been in his life, as he straightened up his only sport jacket and knocked on Rick Hunter’s door. When it opened, he tentatively stepped inside.
“Hi Boss. I’m sorry about coming in like this, and you were probably asleep. I was thinking about wearing this tie for the date. Then I thought, maybe it made me look too sophisticated, you know? Maybe I should wear a gold chain and...”
“Max, calm down.” Rick said while putting a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Going out on a date with a girl is supposed to be FUN, right? So go out and enjoy yourself.”
Max took a deep breath and nodded. “Yeah, I know. It’s kind of... weird, you know? It’s been months since Ben... died, and I’m still a bit unsure of what to do. I’m not used to having fun without him, and now here I am going on a date...”
“Max...” Rick interrupted while smiling. “You and I both know that if there was ANYONE who knew how to have fun, it was Ben. He would’ve wanted you to enjoy life. He wouldn’t want you to feel bad for him. He’d have wanted you to be happy. So go out there and be happy, for yourself and for him. Okay?”
9:20 PM, near the fountain of Macross City Park...
“Geez, it’s getting late, I hope she’s all right.” Max wondered as he looked down at his watch for the umpteenth time. He had gotten to the spot at exactly nine o’clock, but his dream girl had yet to show up. He had begun to wear down the grass near the fountain as he waited for the one who had entranced and beguiled him with just her presence.
Of course, he didn’t know that she was also planning to kill him.
In fact, he was so concerned over what to say to her when she finally appeared, that his usual heightened sense of awareness was dulled that night. The combat instincts which had served him well in battle, seemed to be taking the night off. Miriya was only a scant fifteen meters away, hiding behind a tree and poised to strike.
The Zentraedi warrior had been all set to kill him and had arrived at the meeting place ahead of time. She had been prepared to slay him at nine precisely. However, when she caught sight of him, something... stopped her. This wasn’t some nameless, faceless enemy she was confronting on the battlefield. This was her greatest enemy. He was the one who had humiliated her! He was the one whom she despised more than anyone else in the universe!
So why hadn’t she attacked yet?
He was just a Micronian He was an insignificant bug compared to the mighty Zentraedi ace! So he was fairly pleasant to look upon, his blue hair was intriguing, those blue lenses gave his eyes a kind of ghostly quality, and his movements were quite graceful but...
JUST WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?!
Max sighed as he said to himself, “I can’t believe I asked her to meet me here in the park! A girl at night! She could get mugged or something!” He shook his head as he realized that he had forgotten to pick up the flowers he had ordered. “Maximilian Sterling, you are an idiot.”
At that moment, Miriya’s eyes widened. She now had a name for her enemy. With that, she threw herself into battle.
“Maximilian, prepare for your doom!”
At the sound of her voice, Max turned about and smiled as he gazed upon his date. “Miriya, there you are! I was beginning to worry and... WHOA!”
Max didn’t even realized he had ducked until after the knife sailed past him and imbedded itself into the tree behind him. With his life suddenly in peril, his extraordinary reflexes took over and his body tensed up for battle.
“HEY, are you crazy?!”
Miriya gritted her teeth slightly as she drew the second knife from the open seam in her bodysuit. “I am Quadrano Leader Miriya Parino, Zentraedi Air Force!”
“There goes our first date!” Max gulped as he prepared to defend himself. He couldn’t believe his luck! He had fallen in love with the enemy!
At that mere thought of the word love, Max realized that it was true. He loved this woman. No matter what she was trying to do to him or who she was, he loved her! And he knew that he couldn't live without her, despite the fact that she was trying to END his life.
“You’re such a fool! Fight for your life!” Miriya cried out as she prepared to attack.
“My life... I don’t understand what you mean...”
In actuality, Max knew deep down in his heart. Her intense glare and determination reminded him of one other time...
<She... couldn’t be... that enemy pilot?>
“I will have my revenge!” Miriya growled as she closed in the gap between them and readied to draw the first blood.
Max’s hand went to the knife that saw still stuck in the tree, but he then pulled his hand back very reluctantly. “I’m afraid that I don’t understand what you’re talking about. If you’re a Zentraedi, then I understand why you must fight, but why do you want revenge?”
“I have reasons! AAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHH!”
Max dodged a series of quick cuts and stabs as Miriya slashed away at her target. He still refrained from counter-attacking as he couldn’t bring himself to hurt her. How could he? She was his green-haired angel. Causing her any harm made his heart ache terribly, never mind the fact that Miriya intended to cut it out of his chest.
“I am the Zentraedi’s greatest pilot and I will NOT be humiliated by a Micronian! Time and time again you have humiliated me, but now it ends! The first time you were lucky, and the second was your final victory. I will defeat you!”
That statement confirmed Max’s suspicions about her identity, though all of his being desperately wished that it wasn’t true. However, it was at that time that he found himself falling toward the ground as he tripped over an exposed tree root. Miriya sprang at him, intent on finishing him off, but Max reacted without a thought as he held up a flat rock and deflected the knife’s blade. Working a leg trip, he managed to roll away and get to his feet. Spotting the knife that was still embedded in the tree, he made a beak for it.
<Gotta get that knife!>
However, Miriya was hot on his heels.
“Run little man, run! You may be a great man, but what is a man compared to Zentraedi?”
In a flash, Max was armed and the two began to duel. Incredibly, the two abandoned all sane knife-fighting techniques to fight as if they had swords. Back and forth, sparks from their blades flew as the two greatest pilots of the Robotech War battled it out.
However, it was the sparks in their hearts that were most intense.
<What can I do? I can’t hurt her! I... love her! I wonder what the court-martial punishment is for falling in love with the enemy?>
<He must die! For my honor he must die! And yet, he is... magnificent! An extraordinary fighter! Never have I been challenged like this! How I wish this could go on! He's so... No! I cannot be distracted by such thoughts! I must... NO!>
Before she could even think about it, her weapon was gone from her hand and stuck in ground several meters away. Max’s knife point was only a few scant inches from her throat.
“I guess I win again.” The RDF pilot declared, though his tone showed some uncertainty to it.
“I've lost to you.”
Miriya trembled as she realized that she had been utterly defeated. And that was a shame that she could not endure. She sank to her knees and let tears flow from her eyes. It was over.
“End my life. Please, do it now.”
However, that was the one thing that Max could not do. It was absolutely unthinkable. Miriya was his angel and his future.
“No, I couldn’t... you’re so beautiful.”
Miriya experienced a strange sensation when she felt not the cold touch of the blade, but the warmth of a finger. Looking up through her moisture-ridden eyes, she gazed with wonder at the blue depths of his eyes. She felt her heart skip a beat when he smiled at her. She didn’t even feel herself get to her feet and she felt as if she was floating as he drew her close and leaned forward.
<What is he doing? What... mmmmm? Mmmmm.... mmmmmmmmmmmm.>
Their lips came together as Max wiped away her tears with his fingers. Miriya’s eyes widened in total shock, but as the kiss continued, she felt her control slipping away, as she began to instinctively respond. Her arms came around him and drew him closer. Her body arched toward him. Years of harsh training and regimens were stripped away in that moment. Directives that had been constantly drilled into her were forgotten. There was no Zentraedi and Micronians. There was only Max and Miriya. And all she could do... was feel.
She felt Max’s heart beat against his chest and her own seemed to synchronize its rate to his. It was if they were becoming of one mind, one body and one soul. It was an emotional turning point for the both of them.
Finally, their lip parted, but their eyes still locked with each other, Nothing was said between the two of them for a long while. Then, Max broke the silence.
“Miriya, this going to sound really crazy, but... will you marry me?”
“Marry? What’s marry?”
“It’s something no words can describe. Miriya, it’s love, and that’s the most wonderful thing there is.”
After a long moment, the Zentraedi ace said that magic three-letter word.
To be continued...
Well, there we have it. The first, last and only date of Max and Miriya. And also, I decided to change the storyline a bit with the addition of Maxine Dixon. We never did get to meet Ben’s parents in the original series and I felt that the people who helped raise Max after his parents had died needed more screen time. The addition of Ben’s sister gives Max a new perspective on life and will later play a part in Max’s decision to start his own family. In any case, chapter 8 will be the famous Wedding Bells episode, plus a few added scenes that will fill in the gaps that the original Robotech left out. See you there!
(1) Three guesses as to what kind of shop she found, and the first two don’t count!
(2) It should be familiar to Max. After all, it used to be Mrs. Dixon’s!