Attention On Deck!

A Robotech Warrior's Life and Times


Captain Jeffrey Dale Framton, RDFN (ret.)

(Version 1.25)

Part X: Vectors

Chapter 51 -- Hills and Waves

"Welcome aboard Lieutenant Framton," said the tall, handsome Lieutenant Commander. At six feet four inches, with ebony skin and bright eyes, the twenty-eight year old squadron commander was an impressive looking fellow. An eight-year veteran, Everette "Roach" Rochon was no stranger to the naval aviation community, and the ribbons on his chest showed that he had seen his fair share of combat. According to plan, I would be his right hand man for the next eighteen months--the squadron's new Executive Officer, "Growler Two." It would be an interesting experience.

"Thank you, sir. Glad to be here," I said, shaking his hand.

"Shall we take a walk, Lieutenant?" he asked, reaching for his cover. It was not a request.

"Certainly, Commander," I said, holding the door open as my C.O. walked past.

We turned down the hallway and made our way out the front door of the flight operations building. The trees that lined the sidewalk were still not much more than shrubs, but at RDFNAS Kingsville, in the south central part of Texas, things were beginning to look much better than they had in years. I put my sunglasses on as the smell of freshly mowed grass, lofted by a steady eastern breeze, filled the November air.

We strolled casually past the buildings and hangars, separated from our sidewalk by a long, chain link fence, as platoons of Marines and dozens of vehicles hurried past us.

"Well, I guess I should start by telling you a little about myself," Roach said, his hands folded behind his back as we walked. "This will be my third combat cruise--my first as a squadron commander, although I did run my squadron for the last month of my first cruise when our C.O. got himself clobbered. I don't have as much experience being shot at as you do, but I do have experience in areas you probably don't. I am positively sure you can say the same, so I think we will fit well together." He paused as a VF-1 whined past us as it taxied to the end of the runway. "We're going to have our hands full on this one, Lieutenant. I can't put it any other way. Half these guys are experienced, but they've never been shot at. You've seen it all before, I'm sure."

"Yes, sir."

"I figured as much. We're going to be working with aircraft from three other carriers to start cleaning up the South American sector. Argentina and Brazil are particularly thick with crashed Zentraedi ships, and those jungles down there, despite Dolza's previous effort on the subject, have already started obscuring them. There are lots of enemy survivors there, and we have neither the firepower nor the resources to mount a full fledged assault. There are a limited number of ground forces in Nicaragua, and units from the United States' Third Marine Division and RDF's First Marine Division are going to go ashore there. They'll move through the jungles, take out entrenched Triple-A and SAM sites, then start seizing territory. We will be on the eastern side of the continent, but will probably end up flying support for those guys when they hit. Until then, we're going to start taking out those Zentraedi ships. We think we've identified those that are friendly. Everything else, abandoned or not, gets hit. We'll take out the reactors with precision munitions and try to flush them out. That's the short of it."

As the Commander spoke, visions of the South American landscape strewn with the burning wreckage from hundreds of Valkyries filled my mind's eye. "It's going to be pretty damned bloody, skipper."

"Yeah, it's a real monkey hump," he noted, with an exasperated sigh. "We don't have the forces to do this. We'll be lucky if a third of those Marines come back alive." Roach's face did not belie his concern over the matter.

"What about the West Coast?" I asked, referring to the Zentraedi-littered western region of the still-shaky United States, and, by association, southwestern Canada.

"They're giving South America a higher priority. The objective is to take them out before they can link up and form a more cohesive force."

"If we wait until after we attack South America we're not going to have the forces to take back the west, either," I replied, somewhat more angrily than perhaps I should have.

"You're preaching to the choir," he said, his voice far softer and eloquent than anyone would have expected.

I stared at the VF-1 as it accelerated down the runway, engines rumbling, into the mid-morning sun, more images of carnage and destruction channeling through my neural pathways. All this damned fighting. Will it ever end?

My C.O. let out a loud sigh. "I'll be glad when this mess is all over," Roach noted.

I glanced at him and couldn't help but smile. "Sir, you read my mind. I don't know how you did it, but, you read my mind."

By the time I had arrived, my squadron was well into its workup period in preparation for its combat cruise aboard CVS-111 Pluto. I was behind the ball in many areas, and had to work twice as hard as anyone else if I hoped to be even remotely ready for what lay ahead.

For the next ten days, our squadron underwent a very intensive weapons training course. Unlike most of my contemporaries, my experience as a "mud mover" was sparse at best, with my air-to-ground combat exposure having been limited to strafing runs with the GU-11, SAM killing with the S-2, and flak suppression with a few well placed Stilettos. In truth, I had never delivered any true air-to-ground ordnance, so before taking to the sky I spent two full days in the classroom and the sims learning the vagaries of air-to-ground weapons delivery, as well as what the additional information provided by the HUD meant. I was qualified with anti-radiation missiles, but optical- and laser-guided air-to-ground missiles, as well as smart and dumb bombs were new to me. Thankfully, the Valk provided a wealth of information to the pilot to make delivery of these weapons far easier--and more accurate--than they otherwise might have been. It was not so much a matter of sticking one's finger into the wind and praying any more.

In many ways, this training proved harder than anything I had seen in combat. It took a great deal of concentration to successfully deliver munitions onto a target, and I found myself wondering how I would ever learn to drop bombs, watch for enemy fighters and antiaircraft fire, and avoid plowing into terrain all at the same time. After eight grueling days on the bombing ranges to the north and west of Kingsville, during which I only stopped flying long enough to grab a quick sandwich at lunch time, I was fully qualified to use the balance of the weapons in the VF-1's arsenal. Though I was far from being an expert, at least I knew the right buttons to push.

In the days following my hurried weapons familiarization course, my squadron practiced aerial combat and low-level target ingress methods, with the objective being to attack and destroy a target with minimal detectability. A special paint known simply as "Radar Absorbing Material" or "RAM," was applied to the leading edges of our Valkyries to reduce our front aspect radar signature. With this treatment--combined with a carefully planned low altitude approach--it was hoped that our fighters would be nigh invisible as we attacked our targets. During our preliminary evaluations on the bombing ranges it proved worthwhile, but the true test of its worth would come not in the safety of a training environment, but in the cauldron of combat.

The misgivings I had felt about the assignment before us were given substantive support on 18 December, 2012--two days before the boat was set to sail. I was working with one of my squadron mates, a muscular, blue eyed, blond haired twenty-six year old former hockey player from Atikokan, Ontario, Canada, call sign "Stick." A relatively combat-inexperienced pilot, Stick possessed excellent flying skills and was among the finest pure aviators in the squadron. Despite being younger, I decided to mentor him as Brubaker and Sprabary had with me. I think we sensed in each other a kindred spirit, and as such, we formed a fast friendship.

The day's exercise was our last low-level navigation training mission of the pre-deployment workup period and followed one of the numerous training routes that meandered through the Texas Hill Country just west of San Antonio. We roared through the limestone and granite hills, weaving and popping up so that the bellies of our Valkyries nearly scraped the burned out Cypress and Juniper tree trunks that reached pleadingly toward the Heavens. I felt a marvelous rush of adrenaline as we scooted along the rolling landscape like a pair of demons. The air was smooth and, despite the dull overcast, visibility was excellent. We turned toward the northwest and followed the Guadalupe River for approximately six miles, then headed northbound. I was indicating four hundred knots at about fifty feet AGL when I started a gentle climb to avoid a large limestone bluff that jutted sharply skyward. My wingman was three hundred feet aft and slightly to the left as I cleared the bluff by nearly a hundred feet. Plenty of room for Number Two, I thought to myself. It would be futile to attempt to describe the shock I felt when I noticed a brilliant flash behind me--reflected clearly in my mirrors.

I immediately yanked the stick back and to the right as I jerked my head around to look over my right shoulder. Stick was nowhere to be seen.

I knew it was a futile question even as I pressed the push-to-talk switch. "Sand Pebble Two from Lead. I just lost sight of you. Where are you?" I called into my mask as I pulled the throttles to idle and transitioned into Guardian mode. I started a tight three-hundred-sixty degree turn, searching the sky and the terrain for any sign of my wingman. As I rolled wings level at the completion of my turn, I noticed a small black mark that scarred the yellowed side of the limestone bluff I had bounded only moments earlier, a mere twelve feet below its summit. Pieces of burning wreckage littered the rocky riverbed below it.

"Gah.....damnit...." I muttered, "What the hell happened?" Shocked, and perhaps momentarily disoriented, I gathered my thoughts and made a detailed call on the radio to the Approach Controller monitoring our sector.

With hands that felt numb, I entered the emergency squawk code on my transponder so that the rescue teams could find the crash site, then thoroughly scanned the ground and the sky for my number two. I made two slow orbits over the area below the hillside and climbed slowly over its crest, reconfiguring into Guardian Mode as I did so. Here too, wreckage was scattered for several hundred feet, the most recognizable piece being a section of the Valk's right vertical stabilizer.

I landed my fighter some twenty yards from the edge of the cliff and hopped out of the cockpit onto the hard, lichen-covered rock below. My right foot landed sideways and I twisted the hell out of my ankle, but managed to hobble over to the edge of the bluff. Balanced on one foot, I scanned intently in all directions for a parachute, but there was nothing to be seen. It was clear that my wingman did not get out of his plane.

Tugging off my helmet, I sat down near the ledge, dangled my feet over the edge, and placed my chin in my hands. For twenty minutes I pondered what had happened until a Sea Sergeant helo arrived on the scene and pair of flight-suit clad PJs jumped out of its large cargo door. As they rushed over to check on me I brusquely waved them away. I'm sure the two Pararescue Jumpers understood my reaction, for they simply nodded, one of them placing a gloved hand on my shoulder.

A short time later, a second helo joined the first one, and in a matter of hours the hills surrounding the crash site were covered with search personnel. They combed the area in pursuit of our downed pilot but found nothing. The flight data recorder, a small, practically indestructible component that recorded control inputs and flight parameters that were invaluable in uncovering causes for accidents, was found wedged in a tree fifty yards from where my fighter sat. It was only then that I allowed myself to leave.

Though, I had only known him a short while, it was difficult not to feel as if I had lost a brother, and as I rose into the darkening sky, my mind began to compose a letter to the family of my squadron mate. Try as I might, it was hard to find any appropriate words. How does one tell a wife and two children that their husband--daddy--was gone, and for no good reason? It was a question I found difficult to answer. In truth, it was a question that had no answer, and the cruise ahead began to look even more ominous than it had before.

The FDR would later show that my wingman had failed to apply any control inputs and had simply burrowed into the hill. There was no evidence of mechanical failure, and no reason to presume the pilot flew into the terrain intentionally. It was deemed a catastrophic, fatal lapse of attention and the file was stamped with those all-too-familiar words: "Pilot Error--Controlled Flight Into Terrain."

In the days following the crash I felt a hardening of my soul. I had lost so many friends during this gawd awful war, and it seemed like every time I started down the path toward making another one, they, too, were swatted down. That's the trouble with making friends, I thought. The emotional toll charge costs more than it's worth. Better to not make friends at all than to go through this over and over again, I concluded. Loneliness is easier than sorrow.

As a result of the tragic crash, a replacement plane and pilot were needed immediately, and Lieutenant Roachon selected me to pick up the former. In one of those nonsensical decisions that only military leaders and bureaucrats can understand, our replacement airplane was not going to come from the Dallas plant, only a few hundred miles away. Instead, I had to go half way across the country to pick one up from New Macross. For the first time in my life, I found myself thanking the illogic that permeated military thinking, as it had unwittingly provided me with an opportunity to see my kids and family. With a change of clothes, my flight gear, and a toothbrush, I hopped on an Navy VC-33 transport to the shining city of the north.

During the flight on the VC-33 to New Macross City, my entire being tingled with nervous anticipation. I was going home! Visions of my kids' faces danced in my head. What would the reunion be like? I hadn't seen my family and friends in what seemed like forever, and there was no time to call them and let them know I was on the way. The excitement was simply overwhelming.

My legs danced unconsciously throughout the flight, and I prayed that nothing went wrong during the trip. We were unarmed and at the mercy of anyone who felt like jumping us. In wars past, many great pilots, leaders, and even entertainers, had lost their lives aboard transports that were clobbered by enemy fighters. Even more common were the deaths of many due to equipment failures. I quietly hoped that the pilots up front knew what they were doing as our small jet was rocked and bounced by the turbulent afternoon air.

After what seemed an eternity, we broke out of the overcast and descended over the lights of New Macross. The airplane swayed as the wind jolted it about, and the pilots spooled the engines up and down several times in response. After a prolonged descent, I finally spotted the runway lights outside my window and a moment later, the wheels chirped solidly onto the concrete runway. I was finally home!

I unbuckled my seatbelt and leapt up to grab my gear from the forward storage compartment. Impatiently, I hovered near the door as the transport taxied up to the Navy apron. We came to a stop and the engines began to wind down with a deepening cry. I popped the large door handle out and gave it a turn, then pushed the door open. A gust of cold winter air smacked me in the face, taking my breath away for an instant.

"Thanks for the ride, guys!" I hollered to the pilots up front.

I was halfway down the boarding ladder when they chimed "No problem!" in perfect unison.

I signed a sheet at the Flight Dispatch desk and was handed a key to a security safe. I walked over to the safe, inserted the key, and popped the door open. Inside was a small envelope that contained my temporary orders. Expect departure 1500 hours, 23 December, 2012. A/C Bu. No. 12-054228. Additional details to follow.

I glanced at my watch. It was now 2130. I would have a few hours with my family tonight and a few more tomorrow. I reached into my bag for the two stuffed animals that were hiding inside, then, reassured they were there, swung the locker shut and headed toward the front door.

I handed the cab driver a twenty and charged up the sidewalk to my parents' house. I rang the doorbell half a dozen times then pounded on the door impatiently. Shadows began moving inside and in moments, I was greeted by my father's wary eye peering between the door and the door frame.

"Jake!" he exclaimed.

"Dad!" I replied.

My father shut the door, unlatched the chain that prevented it from opening, then swung it open with great gusto. "Come on in here, son! How are you? Ha-ha-haaaaa!" he laughed, as he gave me a great big bear hug.

"Just here to pick up a plane. I leave tomorrow night at 2130."

"Sweetheart?!" my dad hollered over his shoulder. "I've got a surprise for you!"

My mother came around the corner with a dish towel in her hands. Upon seeing me, she dropped it to the floor and dashed over to me. "My little fighter pilot has come home!" For what seemed like five minutes I was smothered in little "mommy kisses" until I finally had to stop her.

"Where are my babies?" I inquired.

"They're over at Josh and Kristy's house. They she be here in about half an hour or so," my mother replied.

"Half an hour? To heck with that! Get them over here now," I stated emphatically.

Mom turned and headed toward the nearest phone as my father motioned me over to the living room. "Want anything to drink, son?" he asked.

"No, I'm fine, thanks. Actually, a glass of water would be great."

"Coming right up."

Seconds later he emerged with a glass of cold spring water that I downed in two gulps. We sat and talked about all things. It was only when asked where I was going the next day that I could not give an honest answer. I tried to fudge a bit, and did what I could to make it sound like it was only a routine assignment, but my parents knew me too well. Though they knew I was not being honest, to their credit, they did not pry.

"You know your little brother is now talking about joining the military," my mother said.

"Wayne? You have to be kidding me!" I laughed. My brother was at precisely the most difficult, rebellious stage of being a teenager. The thought that he had considered, even for an instant, anything remotely resembling responsibility was hard to fathom.

"He's quite serious. He wants to fly," she continued.

I contemplated the thought. My little brother was a truly gentle kid when he was younger, but half a dozen childhood concussions had surely scrambled his brain. He hardly ever shaved, had self-made tattoos on both arms (a sober happy face on the left arm, a drunk happy face on the right), and reveled in boozing it up despite my parents' best efforts to prevent it. The thought of him as a fighter pilot was almost incomprehensible.

"Well, I hope he follows through with it," I stated, before changing the subject.

As we talked, I noticed that my father's face seemed much younger now. The lines that once crossed it like deep canyons were not nearly as prominent as they had been. Retirement appeared to have softened him in some way. There was twinkle in his eye now that I had never seen, and a renewed bounce in his step was sure proof of a weight having been lifted off his shoulders. I smiled as he spoke. It was good to see him this way.

The doorbell rang and I immediately sprang to my feet. Josh barged through the door and turned his head quickly about until he spied me.

"Jake!" he exclaimed, as he made a beeline right to me.

"Josh!" I embraced him as best friends tend to do, with a firm a slap on the back.

"How you doin' ol' boy?" he laughed.

"I'm great. Where are my girls?!" I demanded.

Josh turned and pointed an open hand toward Lisa and Casey, holding a firm grip on both of Kristy's hands.

"Cooter bugs!" I exclaimed, as Lisa ran up to me and jumped into my arms. I gave her a tight hug and she smiled the widest smile I've ever seen.

"Uncle Jake!" she cried out. "Uncle Jake, Uncle Jake! Guess what?" The bright look in her eyes was priceless.

"Oh...I don't know. What?" I asked, with mock solemnity.

Lisa spied me with a mischievous look in her eyes and then burst out proudly, "Aunt Kristy took me swimming yesterday!"

I chuckled and gave her another hug, "That's great!" She squirmed and I relaxed my hold on her. With amazing agility, she leapt out of my arms and charged over to Kristy's purse where she retrieved a small plush bunny rabbit.

"This is Hopper," she stated solemnly, running back over to me. "He's my friend."

"Hello, Hopper," I said, feigning seriousness. "I'm Jake. It's nice to meet you." I shook the toy rabbit's "hand" then reached for my bag over by the couch. I fumbled around for one of the animals lurking inside. Ah. There it is. "This is for you, Lisa," I said, handing her one of the two stuffed teddy bears I had brought for the girls.

"Oh! Wow! Thanks Uncle Jake," she exclaimed, before running off across the house to tell my mom, or rather, her "Grandma."

The entire exchange probably lasted a minute and forty seconds, tops, yet my own flesh and blood daughter was no closer to me than she had been when she came in the door. Casey, having only a few months walking experience, wobbled somewhat as she cowered behind one of Kristy's legs.

"Casey," I said softly, turning my attention toward my youngest. She snuggled up to Kristy's leg. "I don't think she recognizes me," I noted sadly. "It's me, kiddo. It's daddy."

She didn't budge an inch.

What kind of a horrible person am I? I thought to myself. My own flesh and blood, and she doesn't even recognize me. I must be the most terrible, irresponsible person in the world. If I couldn't take care of her, why did I even consent to having her? Gawd...

"Don't worry, Jake," Kristy said, with those bright eyes. "It's normal for kids to be shy at her age. She'll warm up."

I grunted. "I hope so."

In time, Casey did indeed warm up to her dad, and waddled over to me with a big smile on her face. I picked her up and gave her a big hug, then tickled her tummy. She squealed with delight, and I broke into an uncontrolled fit of laughter. I handed her the other teddy bear and she hobbled off to find a pile of papers to scatter and eat. It was good to be home.

The incident with Casey served as a reality check, and caused a tremendous amount of self-doubt. When it was time for the kids to leave, we gathered for a group photo. I bid my two girls a fond farewell and promised to write and send pictures as often as I possibly could. Josh let Kristy take the little ones home and stayed behind to spend a few hours with me. In this time when it seemed things in the region were getting better by the day, when it seemed to many that peace was within reach, ours was still the world's most dangerous profession, and this short amount of time we had to share our thoughts could prove our last.

We spoke at length about what the future held--ignoring for the moment the possibility that there was no future for either of us. Josh had screened early for a Squadron Commander slot, and I was proud for my friend. It seemed strange that I might one day take orders from the man who had, without hesitation, followed mine for so long.

"I'll tell you," Josh said with a smile, "those girls are really doing great. I know it's tough for you, being away from them so much, Jake, but they're really doing fine. Just focus on doing the job, and don't bust your ass out there."

I took a final tug at my iced tea, then set the bottle aside. "Well, I'd be lying if I said I didn't love my job, but I'm beginning to ask myself if it is worth it. I smacked a guy into a canyon day before yesterday, you know."

"No, I didn't," he said. "What happened?"

"I don't know. It was a simple two-ship, low-level navigation exercise. I popped over a hill with him stepped over to one side, slightly low. I gave him plenty of room, but he didn't even try to pull up. He hit the crest twelve feet low. Maybe I scraped him."

"And the data recorder said he didn't try to pull up at all?" Josh asked.

I nodded.

"Nah. No way," he said. "He just lost his focus. Brain fart...simple as that. It happens."

I nodded. "Well, I'm thinking about hanging it up--and not because of that, necessarily, either. There is so much I have to accomplish. I want to see the girls grow up. I want to go to college some day and get a degree or two. I'd like to have a garden and plant lots of trees in the yard...have an airplane in a hangar and a canoe by the river. I'm tired of always having to fight for my life. I'm beginning to feel like a World War II German fighter pilot. Right, wrong, or indifferent, those guys fought until they died--they didn't have a choice. I'm tired of not having a choice. Jesus, I'm only twenty years old!" I shrieked. "I'm still a kid!"

Josh placed his arm around my shoulder and shook me a few times. "I know the feeling, pal. I know the feeling. I've thought about quitting myself a time or two, I really have. But you've got to look at the big picture. We are the best in the business at what we do. Bar none. I mean, think about it. How many guys out there have our experience? Half a dozen? Fifty? If we quit now, all we've fought for may be for nothing. Who will stand in the breech instead?" he asked. "Casey and Lisa might not have a future at all if we don't go out there, matter how tough it gets...and do our best to bring this world back together. We are losing good pilots every day. The experts are dwindling, Jake," he said, with a stern scowl on his face. "If we quit now, someone else of lesser skill will die taking our place. Someone will be placed in a situation they can't handle because they're in that cockpit instead of us. That is the ultimate injustice, my friend."

Josh's words burrowed their way into my brain as I stared at the hazy sky, hoping for a star to poke through the overcast. It didn't happen. The gray scud layer was more than the distant stars could overcome. "I guess you're right. If we don't fight for Casey and Lisa...Kristy...the world itself...nobody else will either. We'll all give up."

"And we'll all die," my former wingman interjected.

"I hope the girls don't grow up dysfunctional."

"They won't, Jake. Don't worry."

I sighed, glancing at my watch. The hands on the clock had slipped past faster than we had expected, and it was time to bid farewell. "What's your next assignment going to be? You going to the boat?" I asked him.

"Nope. Not yet. I'm going to take over VF-33 here, pretty soon. Things are calming down a bit--at least around here, any way...but the bosses don't want to take any chances. We'll be based out of here for a while," he said, referring to New Macross.

"Boy I sure could use you where I'm going. We'll be going out missing about a third of our force," I stated, glumly.

"Kinda' reminds you of the good old days, doesn't it?" Josh asked rhetorically.

"Yeah," I rejoined, "only we'd have been glad to have two-thirds then."

Josh laughed. "Heh. Yep."

"Well," I said, standing, "I've gotta' shove off. I'm gonna' regret not sleeping tonight."

I made my way inside the house and gathered my things. My parents had already gone to bed and I decided not to wake them. A cab drove up to the house and I made my way to it. As I threw my bag into the back seat Josh stood quietly and watched. I turned and gave my old companion a hug.

"Keep your head in the game, my friend. Don't worry about those girls," he cautioned. "Just do your job, do it well, and come home in one piece."

"Thanks, pal," I said, slapping him on the back. "You do the same."

Josh clasped my hand. "I will."

I took a seat in the cab and shut the door, then motioned the cabbie to drive. As we drove off I heard Josh shout, "Keep your dumb ass out of drafts!"

A thumbs-up out the window was my reply.

I arrived at the Flight Operations building, grabbed a stale ham sandwich off a snack tray, and unlocked the locker containing my orders for the flight to the carrier. Everything was being done in total secrecy, lest Zentraedi Intelligence discover what was happening. I memorized the pertinent information and then destroyed it with a cigarette lighter. I took a quick look at the weather forecast, signed for the airplane, then saddled up for the flight ahead.

My flight suit, helmet, and survival equipment seemed to weigh a ton as I ambled out toward the parking ramp where my fighter sat. A brisk northerly breeze chilled me in spite of the gear I was carrying. The total time on this airplane was about fifteen hours, which meant that squawks could rear their ugly heads at any time. I made sure to check everything on the pre-flight inspection.

She was a beautiful fighter. A brand new "J" model. As I climbed aboard and sat in the cockpit, the smell of a brand new airplane that met me was pure ecstasy. As I strapped my kneeboard around my thigh I noticed a small stack of photos wedged under the clear chart strap. My mother had placed them there for me. They were pictures from the previous evening, and as I looked at them I felt a sadness creep over me. I would sure miss my family.

Startup and taxi went without fanfare, and before I knew it, the nose gear tires of my Valk were rolling rapidly across the runway centerline stripes. I used full power for the takeoff in order to insure the engines would go into afterburner without any problems. At three hundred feet AGL I pulled the throttles back to my cruise climb power setting and headed southwest toward the Florida peninsula.

As New Macross began to shrink in the distance, I entertained the thought of faking a reactor problem. I knew I could get Philo to confirm the "problem" which would allow me to spend another day with my children, friends, and family. My sense of duty quickly asserted itself, however, and I pushed the thought out of my mind. Some other time, maybe.

My ship, Pluto, was in the Gulf of Mexico, steaming toward the South Atlantic with a second carrier for a short workup period. I would fly out to her at low altitude after making a low approach into one of the Naval Air Stations in southern Florida. By doing so, it was hoped that enemy search radar sites along the east coast of South America would be unable to determine the location of the carriers. This roundabout route to the ship also served the secondary purpose of breaking the new Valkyrie in and uncovering any problems now so they could be remedied before we launched our first strikes in another two weeks' time.

The flight to Florida went by quickly as my mind conjured up images of happier times with my family and friends. I wondered if I would see them again as I pondered the lunacy of the mission that faced us. This operation was going to cost us dearly, and any gains were sure to be minor. We didn't have the forces to do what was being asked, and a lot of good people were going to get killed because of it. I secretly hoped that I would not be one of them.

As I droned toward the recovery point, the feeling of dread was underscored by a red warning light on my instrument panel and a message on my right MFD announcing that the Protoculture electrical generators on the left engine had failed and that both primary electrical buses had gone off line. The right generators were supposed to take up the slack, but despite my efforts to troubleshoot the problem, I was eating into my standby battery power and I had no idea how long it would hold up. I began shutting things off to save energy but the electrical system was still in deficit.

An hour passed. I had pressed ahead, thinking it was worth it to try my damnedest before giving up, but my string of bad luck had not quite run out. Just before I was to arrive overhead the carrier, the over voltage relays, designed to prevent an excess of electrical power from frying the avionics, failed as well, and blew every circuit breaker in the cockpit. I was suddenly without the HUD, MFDs, and navigation or communications equipment. I thought, What a great way to start a deployment. The carrier was nowhere to be seen and as I orbited over the rough sea, I fumbled for the circuit breakers behind my head, trying my damnedest to pop them back in. It was no use. Something was definitely screwed up, and they would stay in only long enough to pop out again.

I circled over the ocean with only the small standby pitot static instruments and artificial horizon on the lower right side of the instrument panel to fly by. Darkness was rapidly approaching, and yet the carrier was still not where it was supposed to be. The batteries in my flashlight would only function for so long and then, without cockpit lighting, I'd be blind. The Protoculture cells that maintained magnetic containment of the fusion materials in the reactors had twelve minutes of power remaining. Once they went, the rectors would dump all the plasma from the engines and I would be forced to fly on the measly ten thousand pounds of internal fuel I was carrying. The remaining battery power would run the computers powering my flight control system for perhaps twenty additional minutes. Once they were spent, my Valkyrie would turn into a very expensive log and I'd spiral out of control into the cold water. With thirty minutes remaining, I split the difference and gave the ship fifteen minutes to appear. If it didn't, I would make a mad dash back toward the coast and hope for rescue if my fighter decided to quit on me.

At the appointed moment, the reactors began venting plasma. My blood ran cold as I took stock of my situation. My decision to continue seemed a no-brainer at the time, but now appeared to have been reckless. Nobody knew I was here. If the carrier didn't appear, my only hope would be to make it to dry land before I lost power, and that didn't seem very likely given my fuel and power situation. Even assuming I made it to the nearest coast--hundreds of miles away--I would still be on my own. I'd have to walk across inhospitable terrain until I ran across a friendly town or village--and God help me if ran across one that wasn't. If the carrier didn't appear, I would probably die.

As my fighter chewed up battery power, I searched frantically for Pluto. Did I misremember the coordinates? Did I screw up the rendezvous time? Is that damned boat even going to be out here? After nine and a half anxiety-filled minutes, in what can only be termed a miracle, the ship broke through the surface about two miles south of my location. I said a quick prayer of thanks and raced to get aboard before everything shut down. The entire recovery was conducted without radio communications or a HUD--I simply put the throttle where I thought it should be and lined the bottom edge of the AOA indicator up with the ball, using the DLC to keep me on the glideslope. I sweated my way all the way down the groove, my hands ready to bolt immediately for the ejection lanyard if the need arose, and thanked my lucky stars to have made it on the first pass. As I added power to taxi out of the landing area the Valk's batteries packed it in, the Valk's flight control system went dead, and I was stranded. I shut the engines down and waited for a tow tractor to pull the now-dead Valkyrie onto an elevator for a ride to the hangar deck below. It was a clear foretelling of events to come.

Chapter 52 -- First Cruise

I sat silently in the cockpit as my fighter was towed to the elevator and lowered to the hangar deck. It had been another close call, and I found myself wondering when--if at all--my judgment would improve. My decision to press forward and complete my mission was a natural side effect of the fighter pilot psyche--the inability to allow oneself to fail. It was also a clear cut case of get-there-itis, one of the leading causes of pilot fatalities.

As I pulled my bags out of the fighter, I saw a second elevator lower the Carrier Onboard Deliver (COD) aircraft, in the guise of a VC-33, to the hangar deck. In moments, a group of newly minted enlisted personnel scrambled out of the rear loading ramp and formed into three neat rows in order of height from highest to lowest. A burly enlisted chief welcomed them aboard in a harsh tone that sounded anything but receptive. As I passed the group on my way to what I hoped was my squadron's Ready Room, I heard him admonish his charges with a dire warning.

"Do not, under any circumstances, play 'The Biscuit Game.'"

I raised an eyebrow at that one. What the hell is the Biscuit Game? I thought, as I slung my duffel bag over my shoulder. I would have to remind myself to ask someone about that one.

As I wandered from passageway to passageway in search of my Ready Room it became readily apparent that not all Prometheus-class ships were the same. In fact, they weren't even close, and despite my best efforts, I could not find what I was looking for. "Those bastards could have sent someone to come get me," I muttered in disgust.

"Excuse me, sir, but are you lost?" came an almost apologetic voice.

I turned to face a scrawny, pimple-faced enlisted sailor not more than eighteen years old. "Yeah. Can you tell me where VF-51's Ready Room is?"

"The fighting Seacats!" he blurted enthusiastically. "Yes, sir. Right this way, sir," he said, jerking my duffel bag out of my hands before heading sprightly down the passageway behind me. As we bustled through the ship heading this way and that, I quickly found myself totally disoriented. My guide seemed to know where we were going, though his excessively confident manner gave me a rather uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. My fears proved unfounded, as a few minutes, miles, ladders, and knee knockers later, we arrived at the squadron ready room.

"Here you go, sir." My guide motioned to the door--fittingly adorned with out squadron emblem, a teeth-baring, utterly ferocious blue-gray panther--like a maitre'd in a fancy restaurant.

I did my best to appear unimpressed. "Thank you sailor. Carry on."

"Aye aye, sir," he replied, cheerfully.

I carefully twisted the knob on the door and flipped on the light switch. The room was empty save for the several rows of plush red chairs and the dozen or so flight jackets hung along a wall. With a heave I hurled my bags onto a table by the aft bulkhead and searched for a phone. I found it, and after a quick call to the C.O. to inform him that I had arrived safely, I took a seat in one of the chairs. Exhausted, I closed my eyes and fell asleep. Ten minutes later, LCDR Roachon showed up and led me to my quarters.

As we weaved our way through the dull gray ship, Roach brought me up to speed on what to expect in the short term future. Flight ops were not scheduled for another two days. Our carrier had to submerge, head for the Altantic, and rendezvous with another carrier before we would start our final workup to iron out the kinks. Despite recent successes, we dared not delude ourselves into thinking this was anything short of a desperate, deadly gamble. Combat loomed before us like an awful monster, and though no one admitted it outside the confines of his or her own mind, the only question being asked wasn't if death would come, but when.

After an incident such as the one I experienced ferrying the new Valk to the ship, a thorough inspection focusing on the powerplants and electrical system was undertaken. The conclusion: the Protoculture cells that had been installed in 54228 were defective. It was not an isolated case. The entire shipment of Protoculture cells shipped to the New Macross plant were similarly defective. A contractual supplier mishandled its inventory, mistakenly identifying--and delivering--as new, used Protoculture fuel cells. Instead of fresh, fully charged cells going into the airplanes at the New Macross factory, old, depleted ones went in instead. Further investigation into the company's practices revealed that improper techniques were being used to save time during assembly of the fuel cells, resulting in premature failure. This shortcut in the name of profit--or perhaps nothing more than a mid-level manager's desire to meet upper-management's productivity goals--meant that thousands of defective fuel cells had been delivered to factories and squadrons throughout the North American region. Thankfully, no lives were lost in the fiasco, but military readiness was severely hampered as a result, and the contractor was fired.

In the predawn darkness of 24 December, 2012, the hatches on the ship were sealed, the diving bell was rung, and pressurized air was pumped into carrier. My ears popped quite loudly as the pressurization took place and I recalled part of an old submarine joke about closing screen doors. I felt the deck pitch down a few degrees under my feet and for the first time in my life, felt truly claustrophobic. It was the exact opposite of how I had felt standing on that observation platform aboard the SDF-1 with Rebeckah so long ago. Then, I was surrounded by an abundance of open, empty space, a vacuum wanting to suck me into oblivion. No longer. Now I was surrounded by ocean, an ocean that wanted only to crush me like a grape. I shut the thought out of my mind and dove into a stack of paperwork. I hated paperwork.

Repair work to Breetai's space flotilla was all but complete by Christmas, 2012. The remnants of the once proud Imperial Class Fleet were a pathetic sight when compared to their former selves. The overwhelming majority of Breetai's force had given itself in sacrifice to defeat Dolza. A large portion of those that survived the main battle against the Zentraedi Supreme Commander were lost in the skirmishes that followed. The balance that remained were either so badly damaged they had to be scuttled, or so low on power that their condition was irrelevant. Power supplies were insufficient to replenish all the ships in the fleet, so some were scrapped, some were raided for spare parts and Protoculture, and others were placed "in storage" around the moon (the spaceborne equivalent of a dry dock).

Yet even this was not enough. Gutsy salvage operations carried out among crashed Zentraedi vessels on Earth and seemingly derelict ships in space, were responsible for keeping Protoculture stocks at a level sufficient for immediate needs, but the end would come soon enough. The Allied Zentraedi commanders at the top of the chain of command were certain that the Robotech Masters would mount an operation to seize the SDF-1 and, by default, unlock the mystery of Protoculture that would save their failing empire. This would be nothing short of a maximum strength effort and without sufficient energy and weapons to defend ourselves, we would not last long.

Scuttlebutt had it that Breetai would take his small fleet into space to capture the last remaining Robotech Factory satellite, which would, according to plan, be sitting in a nearby solar system fulfilling its support role for Dolza's ill-fated attack--and any future ones that might be mounted by surviving Zentraedi fleets. A massive repair and replenishment facility that could build Zentraedi Battle Cruisers in a matter of days, the Robotech Factory was our last best hope, and it had to be taken at all costs. For the pilots aboard the carriers now deploying toward the cleanup operations in South America and the soon-to-begin operation to take the North American west coast, this meant there would be no orbital assets available to help us. We would be on our own, forced into a slugging match with a much larger foe.

It was a last desperate effort to stop a Zentraedi mobilization that would wipe out the balance of Earth-based RDF units if it succeeded, and the truth of the matter was, we didn't have the forces to pull it off. The bloodletting was about to start in earnest.

On Christmas Day, 2012, our carrier was only a day from its rendezvous with its sister ship, Neptune. My claustrophobic feelings had subsided somewhat, replaced by the loneliness that is always a part of being separated from loved ones. That my mind was distracted from fear was not entirely due to being despondent, however, but rather an indirect result of spending as much time as possible in the largest part of the ship--the hangar decks. A busy place, the hangar deck was amazingly noisy for a submersible vessel whose anonymity depended on its silence. The clanging and banging that are a constant part of any aircraft carrier continued on as before, and thanks to an amazingly sophisticated--yet compact--Active Noise Reduction (ANR) system, enemy ears would be hard pressed to pick up on it. Just like the aviation headsets from which it borrowed the technology, the carrier's ANR system was designed to sense any noises emanating from the ship--which wasn't much considering the incredible amount of sound proofing that went into anything submersible in those days--and transmit a signal of equal intensity completely out of phase with the original. The signals would cancel each other out leaving what was effectively silence. It was a great system and made us effectively invisible to sonar detection equipment.

As I stood and watched the ship's maintenance crews going poring over the Valks in the hangar deck I spotted the chief that had earlier warned the batch of new sailors about the "Biscuit Game."

"Chief," I called as I ambled over to him.

"Yes, Lieutenant?" he replied, turning in my direction.

I felt rather ridiculous in asking the question--which was a hell of a lot less so than I felt after he gave me the answer. "What exactly is the 'Biscuit Game,' Chief?"

The burly maintenance boss scowled at my question, then, peering secretively behind him, motioned with his head for me to follow him over to a secluded area of the hangar deck.

A forbidden practice dating from the sometime in the latter half of the 20th Century, "The Biscuit Game" started as a way to torture Midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy during their traditional Third Class summer cruise. When carriers became submersibles, it was only logical that many of the traditions exclusive to submarines migrated to the larger ships as crews from the former were assigned to the latter. (Author's Note: If you have children it is highly recommended that you rip this page out of the book and hide it!)

The Chief's voice shook slightly as he fought off the embarrassment my question had caused. Doubtless he wondered why it was he that was saddled with explaining this facet of Navy life. "Well, sir, it's pretty simple really. The old salts, 'old' being relative of to make a big deal of this game with the FNGs [Fucking New Guys]. Usually a challenge to their manhood is what goads the unsuspecting kid to go along." The chief paused, wiping sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief. "A biscuit is placed on a table in the center of a room. Those playing the game stand around it in a circle, whip out know...'Mr. Happies'...and they...well..." The chief coughed, his face turning a fine shade of crimson, then continued. "Whoever finishes last has to eat the biscuit, sir."

The mental image was, quite frankly, repulsive yet sickeningly humorous, a clear side effect, no doubt, of being twenty-one years old. I didn't know whether to gag or laugh! The more I thought about it, the funnier it became, and I had to excuse myself for bursting into laughter in front of the startled enlisted sailor. I thanked him, and as I turned to leave, now in a hysterical fit of embarrassed laughter, I overheard him muttering something about pilots being crazy.

Christmas faded slowly into memory as Pluto reached her rendezvous off the east coast of the Bahamas. Decorations and trees would linger in the ready rooms and mess halls on the ship for several more days, but the festive spirit that marked the holiday were already gone. It was time once again to go to work. At 0500 on the morning of 26 December, a dozen aviators from VF-94 staggered wearily into the ready room, fresh from an 0430 breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast. The skipper marched in and began the briefing on the target area, located in the center of Grand Bahama Island off the eastern coast of south Florida.

Formerly a vactioners paradise, Grand Bahama Island was now the most sophisticated gunnery range in the world. Thanks in large part to a Zentraedi Cruiser that smashed itself smack dab in the center of the place, the island remained abandoned and desolate until the Navy and Air Force went to work to turn it into the primary East Coast live fire training base. Sensors, computers, radar, and all other sorts of equipment were piled onto the island and the Zentraedi ship was refurbished and restored so that its tracking systems and other equipment functioned properly, controlled by remote operators located safely within the confines of an elaborate underground bunker. Agressor squadrons also routinely operated from the island to provide what could only be termed the most realistic training available anywhere.

Our mission was a simulated, low level attack on a crashed enemy vessel, with Wild Weasel support and was scheduled for a 0800 launch. We would carry live practice ordnance (with paint markers in place of warheads) and attack in pairs, with no more than two aircraft entering the target area from the same direction. The Wild Weasels were to suppress Triple-A and SAMs while the attack teams converged on the target. If all went according to plan, sixteen airplanes would strike the target area with only fifteen seconds separating the first attack run from the last.

As the Executive Officer, my pair of jets would be the last into the target area. The first four jets would be the Wild Weasels detailed to destroy enemy radar. The first two jets from our squadron would provide flak suppression, taking out any known anti-aircraft sites in order of their threat to the strike force, the next four jets would provide the big punch to blow holes in the enemy ship's outer armor in critical areas, the next four jets would strike the mid-level armor leaving the critical systems exposed for the last two jets to hit. It was a complicated method of attack that demanded precision and coordination of a magnitude difficult to envision without actually seeing it in person, but it was a necessary evil. With standoff nuclear weaponry a similar attack would require six fighters to ensure success. In space this method presents no truly insurmountable obstacles, but in the atmosphere of our home planet the use of nuclear warheads was, for obvious reasons, reserved for only the most desperate of circumstances.

The requirement to stay below radar coverage until the last instant was a double edged sword. In order to remain undetected, the ingress had to be executed at the lowest altitude possible. This fact, combined with the rugged South American terrain, meant we would be unable to acquire our targets until we were nearly on top of them. At point blank range the accuracy of our weapons was increased, but so too were those of our enemy. By screaming in at high speed from all sides and remaining over the target for only a few brief--if seemingly eternal--seconds we hoped to reduce the effectiveness of the enemy guns.

After the briefing I grabbed my helmet and made my way to the hangar deck to inspect my fighter. I had drawn 503 for the training sortie. The maintenance can showed her squawk history and, all things considered, she looked to be a relatively reliable old gal. Also, despite being one of the oldest, highest time airplanes on the carrier, she was by far the best looking. A good paint job can cover up a multitude of sins.

My preflight routine was the same as always. I started at the boarding ladder and made my way aft along the fuselage, checking the air intake and fan disc, then down the leading edge of the wing, wing tip, and trailing edge, carefully perusing the ordnance hung on the pylons. I inspected the rear fuselage and landing gear, the vertical and ventral fins, exhausts, tail hook, and so forth, then continued around the other side. The nose, nose gear, and forward fuselage were last. Satisfied with what I saw, I clambered aboard the old fighter and with the help of my plane captain, joined myself with her via the myriad of harnesses, slack reel hookups, and oxygen and communications plugs. In many ways, this was an experience akin to those of a sexual nature. My plane and I were no longer two entities, but one, united by a common goal--and a common fate. When I hurt, she hurt. When she hurt, I hurt. We would go nowhere alone, but together, we could defy the laws of the Earth.

The ride to the deck elevator was not unlike all those that preceded it, though my inner ear felt the motion of the ship on the rough sea. A large Atlantic storm was blasting its way westward and we were right in the middle of it. Though no rain was falling at the moment, the dark gray sky suggested that it might. With the canopy open, the sound of the salty wind hurtling over the deck seemed much like that of a roaring furnace. All across the flight deck, sailors were scrambling to position the aircraft for the upcoming launch and ready them for engine start.

I stared across the storm swept ocean and thought of friends and family half a continent away. I was sad to be away from them, but blessed to be doing what I was doing. How I loved flying supersonic jet fighters from the deck of an aircraft carrier! Few occupations provided the adrenaline rush of a catapult shot, the gut tumbling sensations of a sub orbital zoom climb, or the amazing feeling of freedom found in doing slow rolls above a cottony cloud layer from five miles up. Of my ground bound compatriots I could only feel pity. Those poor bastards! I thought. God I love this job!

A wide smile was still plastered to my face when a deck handler gave me the start engines signal. Within about sixty seconds, both turbines were whining smoothly at idle thrust. I sat and listened to the sounds of the engines and felt for any abnormalities in the seat of my pants. It wasn't something I could feel or even hear, but my number two engine was clearly not behaving as it had when it was new. I had been flying Valkyries long enough to have developed a sort of sixth sense when it came to detecting irregularities, and after about ten seconds of careful meditation, isolated what I thought to be the problem. A bearing in the compressor fan was slowly giving up the ghost. It wasn't severe enough to down the airplane, but an overhaul was certainly not far away, and I made a mental note to take it easy on that engine lest the weakened link in the chain decide to break.

In typical fashion, Valkyries and Dragons laden with ordnance were blasted off the deck of the carrier in droves. Less than forty seconds elapsed between launches from the same catapult, and my turn came quickly. With a final series of checks and a snappy salute, my Valk leapt from a standstill and into the sky above the storm tossed gray ocean. Gear and flaps motored smoothly into the up position and I banked my fighter toward the rendezvous point where I would join up with the other jets in the strike force.

I called the departure controller and was quickly handed off to the strike controller. "Abbadon Strike, Growler Five Oh Three, up."

"Five Oh Three, Strike. Proceed."

"Five Oh Three, switching," I replied. I wondered what others would think hearing Abaddon over the radio. "Ruler of the underworld." It was a brash, in-your-face call sign, that instilled a great deal of pride in my new ship and a ferocity in myself. "Don't screw with us," it seemed to say. I liked it.

"Helix Five, Growler Five Oh Three, up," I called to the orbiting ES-11D AEWACS plane.

"Growler Five Oh Three, Helix Five, radar contact. Turn right heading three-one-five, make Angels Twelve."

"Five Oh Three," I replied.

My Valk, rocked and jolted by the turbulence of a developing storm, rocketed upward. At eleven thousand feet we broke out of the dark clouds and into a bright, sunny sky. Columns of clouds burst forth in all directions, but they seemed so far away as to be of little concern. In moments, I caught sight of the other aircraft in the strike force, darting across my flight path like minnows in a pond. With a gentle movement of the stick, I curled in behind them and joined the formation with less thought than it took to park a car. The Wild Weasel force was the last to form up. Bursting through the clouds, their bright paint shining in the first rays of sunlight, the four F-24s, sleek and magnificent, slid into place to starboard. In the lead I could see Roach's helmet looking quickly to either side. Satisfied with what he saw, he guided us through a gentle left turn and began a descent back into the dark clouds below. From this moment forward, only the minimal required radio calls would be made. It was time to be silent...invisible.

Back into the bumpy, turbulent air. Back toward the wind lashed sea. Back, once more, to the unwavering faith in the attitude indicator on the HUD and the formation strips on the strike leader's airplane.

At eleven hundred feet, we broke out of the clouds and began another shallow left turn. A signal from Roach and our strike force broke into half a dozen independent--perhaps interdependent is more accurate term--units, each with the same objective: hit the target on time.

I turned to the left and moved the throttle forward. I had to make it to my ingress point ten miles south of the island at the same time the other units in the force made it to theirs. My wingman was sticking with me like glue. With thoughts of a broken airplane shattered on a hillside still fresh in my mind, I eased my Valkyrie slowly toward the water. The Radar Threat Display was painting its familiar yellow and red bands on its screen. Detection meant destruction.

Down we moved, toward the white caps of the ocean waves clearly visible now. The sense of speed was vivid at our low altitude. As our Valkyries ingested salt spray, we charged across the beachline. Feet dry, I thought.

Jinking wildly every few seconds so as not to present a predictable target, I raced for my objective. The other jets in the force were hitting the target now. The weasels had done their jobs brilliantly, and the yellow and red bands on the RTD disappeared. I armed the missiles on the racks and found the small ridge that pointed right to my target. The gray-green hull of the downed Zentraedi Battle Cruiser loomed in the afternoon haze. The circle on the HUD turned to a diamond as the missiles on the pylons acquired their intended target. I ripple fired all six of them and broke out to the left, cramming the throttles into afterburner. My wingman, weaving in and out behind me did the same, and we pushed our fighters toward the deck, willing them to go faster as if our lives depended on it.

"Five Oh One, feet wet."

I scanned the sky around me intently, looking for fighters.

"Five Oh Five, feet wet."

The calls continued as the other airplanes in the strike force crossed the beach. We would be the last to make the call. Across the beach and a step closer to safety--all the while untouched by radar--we rocketed toward home faster than a bullet from a rifle. Much to my surprise, no enemy fighters rose to meet my pair of Valks. I scanned the sky intently, not wanting to end up on the KIA List. Finally, assured it was safe, I eased the throttles back and started a shallow climb up to the Marshall stack. Fuel critical jets would land first, which meant that the Valks would land last. A hot meal and a cup of coffee awaited our return, and though I didn't drink coffee and had eaten only a few short hours earlier, the meal part sounded pretty inviting.

As I descended out of the Marshall stack toward the waiting carrier below, I went over the details of what had just transpired. That wasn't so tough, I concluded. Maybe this mission won't be so bad after all.

Despite my thoughts on the matter, the mission was not a resounding success. Analysis of the strike showed it to be a costly one. The defenses would have, in theory, taken out six of the attacking aircraft, four before they had even hit the target. Most of the jets missed their rendezvous times by large margins, and two flights came close to hitting each other. The skipper was not happy with the performance, and for the next ten days, we repeated the exercise twice daily and once at night. This was clearly not the time to be making mistakes, and Roach was determined to iron them out, even if it killed every last one of us. I found it hard to blame him.

Roach pushed his pilots hard, and it was easy to see why. After all, the Marine General in charge of the amphibious assault was yelling at the Admiral in charge of the Carrier Force, the Admiral, in turn, was yelling at the carrier Captains, the carrier Captains were yelling at the CAGs, the CAGs was yelling at the Squadron Commanders, and the Squadron Commanders were yelling at their pilots. The Marines were sitting wearily and apprehensively on the other side of the ocean waiting for us to get our act together, and with each day that passed, the chances of the Zentraedi figuring out what was happening increased.

Finally, with the coordination that only comes from incessant drilling, we had our mission down to a science. Like a well coached football team, we were running the plays correctly in practice--it was now time to try them under the lights in front of the home crowd. After a final resupply, Pluto submerged in the middle of the night and made its way to the east coast of South America. A no holds barred shooting war, with real missiles and live rounds, was about to begin.

Next Chapter AOD HOMEPAGE Next Part


Jason W. Smith
July 1995

Copyright © 1995-1999 by Jason W. Smith

(Author's Note: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual events, persons, etc. is coincidental--even if intentionally so! --June 1995)

Based on characters and situations from
Robotech, © 1985 Harmony Gold, USA, Inc.

Robotech (R) is the property of Harmony Gold. This document is in no way intended to infringe upon their rights. The author has not accepted any remuneration for this work.

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Copyright © 1996 Robert Morgenstern
Version Last Updated: 07 November 1997