Good luck Commander. I know you'll do a fine job." And with that, he was gone. Off on a mission of tremendous proportions, leaving me behind with a vital one of my own. Of course, everyone knows the legend behind the man, the blue-haired, bespectacled wonder who terrorized the skies and stars during the First Robotech War. If the tales about the man seem unworldly, they are. But Captain Maximillian Sterling was no worldly man. And what's more, he was a dear friend and leader who had entrusted me with a mission that would test the limits of my own abilities, and my faith in the goodness of mankind.
The Author (r.) with then-Lieutenant Max Sterling, a.k.a. "The Blue Devil," on the hangar deck of CVS-101 Prometheus, c. 20 March 2011. [From the Archives of RADM Edwin Chan, RDFN (Ret.).]
The decision not to join the Pioneer Mission was one of the most difficult in my life. A veteran of countless combat sorties both on Earth and in space, my superiors considered my expertise a vital asset and begged me to volunteer. But the years I spent in that cold vacuum, both on the SDF-1 and on the A.R.M.D. platforms in Earth-space, had taken their toll on me, and I found myself yearning to never leave my home world again. This seems selfish on the surface, and I have been resoundingly criticized for this by some. But there was another, more important reason behind my decision.
The Pioneer Mission, intended to seek out the home world of the Robotech Masters, whose thugs, the Zentraedi, had not long before nearly destroyed the Earth in search of the SDF-1, was a monumental undertaking requiring vast amounts of personnel and equipment to accomplish successfully. With all the highly experienced servicemen and women leaving on the Pioneer Mission, Earth would be almost totally devoid of competent military commanders. This is not an attack on anyone by any means, nor is it intended to reflect negatively on these people by any fault of their own. The inescapable fact was that through years of attrition, the number of combat-experienced flight crews and battlefield commanders had reached a dangerously low level. Those personnel that were to remain behind would have little, if any, combat experience, and I felt my skills would most be needed here.
My assignment was to assist in the transition of the Robotech Defense Force Navy's (RDFN) remaining Prometheus-class Submersible Aircraft Carriers to the Southern Cross Navy (SCN), upon completion of which I would take over as Chief of Naval Air Operations, Southern Cross Navy. We were tasked with having the carriers fully operational-including air assets--and under SCN control no later than one year from the date of departure. No small task, as I saw it.
The first of these carriers to go was the hardest one to release. The Pluto--affectionately known as "Pollute-O" because of an unusual problem with its septic system--had been my home for four cruises. It was from this carrier that I launched my first strikes against the Drelann-Rau Rebels in the mountains of Asia and the sands of the Middle East, the bloodiest episodes of unrest since the Zentraedi Uprisings of 2016. The most decorated naval vessel in the RDF Fleet, Pollute-O won seven battle stars, forty-three Battle V's, and her air wing accounted for nearly two thousand aerial victories during the five years between the first Zentraedi Uprising in 2013 and the end of the Drelann-Raijan Conflict in 2019--an awesome accomplishment.
A.R.M.D. Space Platform [U.N. Spacy Photo.]
I served as Air Wing Commander on the Pollute-O twice--including her final cruise under RDFN control--and to give her up was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I had many friends aboard this ship who never came home. They were the unknown heroes and peace keepers of the RDF-era, and the thought that I would be forced to entrust their monument-their shrine if you will-to some incompetent, bungle headed bureaucrat from the Southern Cross made this pill a particularly bitter one to swallow.
It is no small secret that my opinion of the Southern Cross' naval commanders was poor. The gentleman--I use the term loosely--who was the Chief Naval Officer of the Southern Cross Navy was none other than Admiral Carl T. Ruddman, my former CAG when I served aboard Chronos. My contempt for the man was without reservation, and with good reason--I place the blood of some truly fine young aviators on his hands. But alas, that is another chapter in this warrior's tale that will be addressed somewhere in these pages you are about to read.
From the first battles with the Zentraedi in space during the First Robotech War to the Zentraedi Uprisings during Reconstruction... From the ridges and karsts of Southeast Asia during the Drelann-Raijan Conflict to the battles with the Robotech Masters during the Second Robotech War... And finally, to the bitter, hellish days of the Third Robotech War with the Invid, this is the story of but one man's life and times through three intergalactic wars and numerous regional conflicts.
Super Dimensional Fortress One (SDF-1) departing
Macross Island in Cruiser Mode, March 2009
The events depicted in this book are, to the best of my knowledge, historically accurate. I attempted to reconstruct the events as they happened based upon my recollections, my logbook, and historical references. Out of respect for my comrades, both living and dead, I have not changed any names-they deserve their place in history, and I hope this book will give it to them.
Many historical scholars, scientific experts, veterans, and proofreaders have come forward to assist me in the writing of this tale. I will refer the reader to the Acknowledgments section to see this list of tremendous people. Additional thanks must be paid to the following for performance above and beyond the call of duty:
- Vice Admiral Mathew W. Weed, SCN (Ret.)
- Rear Admiral Robert "Morgue" Morgenstern, RDFN (Ret.)
- Rear Admiral Steven Pustay, RDFN (Ret.)
- Brigadier General Pete "Pistol" Walker, REF (Ret.)
- Captain Rafael R. Pinero, RDFN (Ret.)
- Captain Pieter Thomassen, REF (Ret.).
- Lieutenant Commander Stephan Bennett, SCN (Ret.)
Their efforts have made this novel the truly special thing that it is.
To paraphrase the great RADM Paul Gilcrist, USN (Ret.), please remember that any and all errors in this book are mine alone, and are probably the result of old age, the passage of years, and the unavoidable dimness of the past. I hope you will do your best to sit back and enjoy this story, and when you get the chance, say thanks to one of us tired warriors. I understand that there is a bar where Robotech War veterans like to hang out called "Old Soldiers." Of course, I don't know if this place really exists, but if it does, look me up there. I'd be interested in meeting you sometime.
Jeffrey Dale Framton
New River, Texas USA
Part One: Preflight
Chapter One - Beginnings
"Fine!!!!" I slammed down the phone and stormed out of the phone booth. My girlfriend had decided that she didn't want to go to the air show. "That stupid bitch!" I seethed. She didn't feel like it. The most spectacular aerial extravaganza in the history of the world and she didn't feel like going?! Screw her! Had I known at that moment it would be the last time I would speak to Jennifer Martinez, perhaps I would have reacted differently.
Earth had received a special treasure from the skies in the summer of 1999. A massive alien spacecraft slammed into the atmosphere, touching down on a tiny, unremarkable South Pacific island the world barely knew existed, and would not soon forget. The global war that raged across the planet like a wildfire came to a screeching halt, and the Earth united for the first time under the threat of extra-terrestrial invasion. A worldwide governing body, the United Earth Government (UEG), was formed to unlock the secrets of the giant alien ship and to take steps necessary to defend the planet from alien invasion. For ten years, Earth's greatest scientists were gathered together to uncover the secrets held deep inside the alien craft--and their discoveries would shortly save humankind from extinction.
The UEG faced surprisingly little resistance from the people of earth. Tired of fighting with one another, and terrified at the prospect of invasion by an alien force, they accepted the UEG and its United Earth Militaries (later known as the Robotech Defense Forces) with open arms. As an American in general, and a Texan in particular, I was not so willing to embrace the idea of a one-world government and the potential horrors it presented for those who cherished individual liberty. Despite my distrust, however, the UEG proved a benevolent organization for the moment, and focused its energies towards its primary goal--defense of the planet from alien invasion.
The ship, which spanned nearly three-quarters of a mile along its length, was christened "Super Dimensional Fortress One," or SDF-1 (the original designation "Alien Star Ship One" worked out to ASS-1 and, for obvious reasons, was quickly relegated to obscurity), and her maiden departure from Earth in the South Pacific summer of 2009 was the culmination of ten years of global effort. The world's top leaders, engineers, and scientists--as well as the morbidly curious who were wealthy and politically connected enough to make the trip--gathered on the tiny pebble in the South Pacific known as Macross Island to watch the launch of Earth's great hope.
I was merely a boy on that humid summer day, a young, restless teenager from Texas. The first born son of an aeronautical/aerospace engineer--and head of the Robotech Research Group's Aerospace Development Division--I was destined to love airplanes. It was a love that dated back to long before I could remember, back to the days before I could even walk. Most young children loved dolls and stuffed animals--and, of course, I did too--but my first and truest love was the airplane.
An invention of the early twentieth century, the airplane had undergone some radical changes in the one hundred-odd years since, and I never lost my fascination, or my love affair, with them. Of course, it was a natural extension of my genes that someday I would become a military aviator. In my heart I knew it was written in stone that someday Jeff Framton would be a fighter pilot. That is until the most bitter day of my life, my unlucky thirteenth birthday, when I saw the stone tablet crumble before my eyes.
It was during a visit to the eye doctor on a sunny afternoon some months before where I overheard a conversation between himself and my mother. He said something to the effect that I would gradually begin to have difficulty reading the chalk board at school. If I had not heard these words my teenage years might have been a little less frustrating for me. My mother swore to me years later that the conversation never took place, and so it seems the doctor was not referring to me. But, I did hear them.
It was a strange thing, those words. They consumed me. As the days passed by, I began to notice that the board was indeed getting fuzzy and that I could no longer read the stop sign at the end of my street when all my friends could. Soon enough, I found myself faking eye exams. It was a miserable day, my thirteenth birthday, when, unable to fake them any longer, I had bombed a vision test. The doctor told me I needed glasses...I was crushed. The military did not want pilots who wore glasses. It was an archaic rule, dating back to the days when weeding out candidates was more important than finding the ones most desirous of the duty at hand. My lifelong dream seemed doomed.
Now, four years later, a top student at military academy in South Texas, on a track that would land me at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs if I chose to accept it, I was still kicking stones over the unlucky hand The Great Dealer had dealt. Being around military pilots always brought me to a rage. They could do everything I lived for because they could see better than I. What a rotten, miserable existence I would have to lead! And of course came the inevitable question, "Why me?"
It was while brooding about my fate prior to the launch ceremonies leading up to the SDF-1's maiden voyage that I first caught sight of the airplane that would be my lover and companion for the next twenty years: the VF-1 "Valkyrie," the first Variable Engineering Robotic Implementation Technology(VERITECH) fighter, a.k.a. "Variable Technology Fighter" or "Veritech Fighter" for short. The most elegant aircraft ever to grace the skies, the Valk was also the keeper of a wonderful secret--one that in a few short hours would prove vital in defending Earth against the greatest threat ever to face mankind.
She was absolutely beautiful. A sleek and elegant killer. The sight of her made me furious! I was being robbed of my destiny, damn it!! Curse those idiot commanders and flight surgeons! What did they know?! Why did it matter whether you could see perfectly the first day if it didn't matter after that?! By this time, over forty-five percent of RDF fighter pilots wore corrective lenses of one form or another, which merely added to my frustration. I fumed--I fumed so hard in fact, that I must certainly have shortened my life by at least a few years!!!
Why had God chosen to saddle me with this fate? I pondered the question in my mind over and again to no avail. As it would later turn out, Fortune's wheel would be mercifully kind to me, though this fact was of little use to me that day.
I was on Special Leave from school for the launch ceremonies, as were many of my contemporaries, and what a treat it was indeed. Every conceivable type of airplane from the fastest to biggest was on display. Oshkosh and Paris combined couldn't hold a candle to this extravaganza. I spent the morning wandering around the air base, gawking like a schoolboy at the Robotech Defense Force's newest, most advanced fighters, bombers, and reconnaissance aircraft. And the transports? Good heavens, the transports! They were enormous! Absolutely gigantic. They could carry half again as many people as the 20th century's largest airliner, the Boeing 747. It was at that moment that the stark reality of progress hit me head on. How far we had come from the string and fabric biplanes of the First World War!!!
While gazing at the airplanes, I very literally ran into a pair of my high school friends, Nathan "Nate" Morris and Joseph "Punchy" Burkett. Nate was a gaunt young man, with chiseled features and an appearance that belied his ferocious nature. With one eye permanently cocked askew, he looked the part of the prankster he was. Joe looked like...well....Joe. Tall and muscular, he earned his nickname as a Gold Glove boxer on our school's boxing team.
"Hey, Jake!" they exclaimed. Jake was, of course, my nickname--given to me by mom because of her die hard love of 20th Century movie star John Wayne (a la "Big Jake"), and by my friends because of my passion for the 1966 motion picture "The Sand Pebbles." The movie, starring Steve McQueen, focused on the story of a sailor on a gunboat in China during the 1920's. A remarkable picture--I always felt the old ones were the best any way--it was no secret that it was my all-time favorite, and it was not long before my friends began to call me Jake, after McQueen's character Jake Holman.
Jake Holman (Steve McQueen), l., in "The Sand Pebbles," 1966. (© 20th Century Fox)
"Hey guys! What's up?" I asked, exchanging handshakes and fist slams with my friends.
"This is one hell of a show, isn't it?" Nate asked, a wide smile on his face. The guy, no matter how hard he tried, always looked stoned.
"You bet it is," I returned. "Hey, let's go check out those airplanes over there," I said, pointing to a row of vintage fighters parked far across the apron.
"Sounds like a plan."
Naturally, we teamed up with each other for the rest of the day, and raised hell like the hormonally-enraged teenage freaks we were. We had a blast. Never had any of us seen so many airplanes in one place at one time. The sheer magnitude was enough to make one's jaw droop and, of course, mine did.
The newly re-formed Japanese Air Force Aerobatic Team (formerly of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force), "The Blue Impulse," gave its first public performance since being disbanded during the Global War. Their brightly painted VF-1's did things the pilots of their three previous mounts--North American's classic F-86 "Sabre," Mitsubishi's T-2, and Kawasaki's T-4--could never have imagined possible. The crowd went wild at the team's maneuvers, each choreographed to show both the finesse and power of the new Valkyrie. The jets thundered overhead and a chill ran down my spine. They were truly marvelous.
T-4's of the JASDF's "Blue Impulse" aerial demonstration squadron
performing one of their last air shows before the outbreak of Global War One, c. 1995.
As we craned our necks skyward, looking at the jets flying above us, it wasn't long before the notion of going up into the control tower to get a better view of the air show came over me. This idea was particularly appealing since my friends had not been up there before--I knew they would enjoy seeing how things were done.
I ran over to the tower cab and pushed the mike button. "Hi guys, it's me, Jake Framton. Got room for any visitors up there today?"
"Hey there Jake, how's it going?" queried the voice from the tower. During the days when I was working on my pilot's license my instructor had given us a tour of the tower. I was so impressed that I made it a point to visit regularly and quickly ended up on a first-name basis with most of the controllers. "Listen, we're a bit full right now, what with the dignitaries and all. Why don't you check back in an hour or so, okay buddy?"
"Yeah, okay," I replied, trying to hide my disappointment. "Thanks."
Great, I thought, thwarted in my attempt to impress my friends. Another snafu. My immaturity allowed far too much self-pity, and I asked myself if anything else could possibly go wrong. I should have known better than to tempt the gods, for they had plenty of surprises in store for everyone on Ea4rth that day.
But, as luck would have it, every cloud has a silver lining, and my failure to find a perch in the lofty control tower turned out to be a blessing in disguise. As we walked from the tower toward the ramp, I spied the most beautiful legs I had ever seen on a woman in my life. Long, tan, slender. Like a Pavlovian Dog I salivated. It wasn't long before my companions realized they were walking by themselves. I was positioning myself for an attack!
My intrepid companions soon caught sight of the object of my attention and I boldly announced my intentions. "I'm going to ask her out," I stated with an uncharacteristic confidence.
"Hot damn, Jake, go for it!!!" Nate exclaimed.
"She's the finest woman I've ever seen," I said excitedly, hoping the young woman was not within earshot.
"No doubt, Jake. I'd love to bite her on the ass and get lock jaw!" Punchy roared.
I backhanded Joe in the stomach. "Hush, man! You'll scare her off."
He just laughed.
I pursued the leggy brunette over to the nearby VC-27 "Tunny" VTOL transport, my friends in tow close behind me. What a beauty she was. With straight, dark hair, and a lean figure accentuated by a navy blue mini-skirt, I was completely entranced by her. I had to move fast to catch up with her before it was...
VC-27 "Tunny" VTOL Heavy Lift Transport
Too late. From out of nowhere a whole load of kids ran over to the boarding ladder and formed a huge line. She would disappear in that mess and I would never see her again. Drat!!
"We'll never find her in there," I lamented.
"Don't worry about it, we'll find her," Punchy promised, as she disappeared into the bowels of the cavernous transport. We followed her as soon as we could, losing at least a couple of precious minutes due to the length of the line. After what seemed an eternity, we reached the entrance door and I peered inside. People were everywhere.
"Man, we'll never find her," I said dejectedly.
"Don't worry, man, we'll find her," Punchy assured me with a wink. As usual, Joe Burkett was on top of things, and his confidence was on target. "Over there," he exclaimed, pointing at the rear exit ramp of the transport. "Come on, come on, move it!! Let's get over there!" We squeezed our way past hundreds of people and made our way to the exit ramp, only to find it empty.
"Damn!" I exclaimed. "Which way did she go?" Peeved beyond words, I searched frantically in all directions, but to no avail. She had put the slip on me once more, and I got the distinct--albeit incorrect--impression she had done it on purpose. Though prudence dictated a hasty retreat, I pressed on, and through sheer perseverance, picked her out of the gathered throng yet again.
She was talking to an elderly, gray-haired civilian man underneath the wing of an old KC-135 "Stratotanker," and I realized, much to my chagrin, that it would be nigh impossible to get her attention without making an awkward, potentially embarrassing approach in front of a pretty large group of people. Wondering what I had done to deserve this cruel punishment, I ambled over to the young woman and stood quietly behind her, staring like an idiot. As I pondered a way to engage her in a conversation without letting the nearby crowd hear me, Nate jumped between the girl and the old man.
"Excuse me, sir, do you fly this airplane?" he asked, with the most convincing poker face I have ever seen. It was the perfect thing to do!
"Oh, ho, no, sonny!" the man rasped with a good natured chuckle.
Touchdown!!!! Trying desperately to keep from laughing, I jumped at my chance and grabbed the girl's attention. "Hi there, how are ya'?" I stammered.
She looked at me quizzically. "Hello."
"My name is Jeff and I couldn't help but notice you," I said, with a sudden burst of confidence that amazed me. "Do you like airplanes?" I could tell by her face that I had scored a direct hit.
"Why, yes, I do! I want to be a pilot someday," she stated with a bright smile.
"Really? Well, I'm a pilot," I said, straightening my shoulders proudly.
He eyes widened. "You're a pilot?!"
"I sure am. I'll be glad to take you for a ride sometime--even teach you how it's done, if you like. Jeff Framton," I said, waiting for her to extend her hand.
"Rebeckah Casey," she said, reaching out and clasping my hand firmly, her long brown hair draping casually down the right side of her chest. "But you can call me Beki," she added with an almost seductive wink.
I stood there for what seemed like hours taking in the beauty of this lithesome young woman. With bright blue eyes, small, thin lips, and a tiny nose that turned upward ever so slightly at the tip, she was, without question, as beautiful a girl as I had ever seen, and I fell instantly in love with her. Forget puppy love, forget infatuation, I went straight past "GO!" and collected my $200. When it came to reading people my intuition was an unfailing sixth sense, and from the moment we first spoke, I knew this was the girl for me. To my amazement, we hit it off instantly, and for the rest of the day we walked around arm in arm, laughing at each others' jokes, ribbing MPs (Military Police), trading sun screen...
We basked in the warm glow of the midday sun, the mingled sweat on our bodies a pleasant proof of our togetherness. It was the last chance I would get to enjoy a dose of Earth side sunshine for a long time, because all hell was about to break loose.
Chapter Two - Storm Clouds
When the SDF-1 arrived, I was a seven year old popcorn fart, sitting at home with my little brother watching the "Buggs Bunny, Road Runner Show"--my standard Saturday morning activity. Global war raged on in the outside world, but my father had taken great pains to keep us insulated from the chaos that enveloped Earth. We were lucky. The United States of America had been comparatively untouched by the savage war that I was too young to understand. That is not to say we were without casualties, be they people or entire cities, but compared to the rest of the world we were in great shape.
As I sat in front of the TV screen watching the Coyote doing his best to catch the Road Runner--always unsuccessfully--the picture went blank, followed by a "CBS Special Report" screen. I could tell by the look on the reporter's face that something unusual had occurred. "We have just been informed that a large asteroid of unknown origin entered Earth's atmosphere at 11:57 Eastern Time, causing tremendous damage to parts of the southwestern United States and..." Those are the only words I can clearly recall. An asteroid, they said. Astronomers worldwide were at a loss to explain why it wasn't sighted before it hit.
Then came footage. Horrific pictures of destruction and chaos, unmistakable testimony of the ship-they-called-an-asteroid's uncontrolled fall from the sky. Graphic scenes of death and anarchy relayed to me by satellite. My jaw hit the floor. My laughter choked into silence. I was completely and totally mesmerized. Even at that young age I realized that something astounding had happened. I knew in my young mind that my world would be forever changed.
The phone rang. Muted conversation. "Yes, sir. On my way." A hug from dad and a command not to worry. He had to go away for awhile but he'd be back soon. A kiss for mom...and he was gone. My fun-loving, carefree life had turned, suddenly, into utter chaos.
Beki and I enjoyed a soda underneath the wing of a B-52 "Stratofortress" (nicknamed the "BUFF" for Big, Ugly, Fat Fucker/Fella), one of the classic warbirds on display that day at the air show. A lumbering hulk of an airplane dating back to the mid-twentieth century, it was the mainstay of the U.S. Air Force's Strategic Air Command from the 1950s to the early 2000s. Slow, old, and vulnerable, they were quickly withdrawn from front-line service after suffering tremendous losses during the Global War. No longer serving in its role of delivering heavy loads of conventional or nuclear weapons to a distant target, it was a real crowd pleaser at air shows throughout the world. With its long, swept back wings drooping forlornly to the ground, it acted as a giant aluminum tent--a great place to escape from the sun.
B-52 "Stratofortress" Nuclear Strategic Bomber
As we sat contentedly under the BUFF watching a trio of sport planes perform a graceful aerobatic routine, a sheet of holy fire erupted from the long, slender front booms of the SDF-1. It was the brightest burst of light I had ever seen. The hulking, blue and gray battle fortress disappeared from view for an instant, and as I shielded my eyes, my first thought was that it was a nuclear explosion planted by the wackos of the Anti-Unification League. It was only when I found that I had no flash blindness that I realized it had to be something else. As the flash subsided, a tremendous roar followed and, despite covering my ears with both hands, I fell to my knees screaming with pain. Then the heat from the blast rolled over us as if the air itself was burning. In moments, the heat became totally unbearable and I felt as if I had been flung into the mouth of a furnace. My skin began to sizzle. My lungs hurt so badly I couldn't breathe. People writhed in agony. Elderly people collapsed--some even had heart attacks. Babies cried.
And then the shock wave hit.
It sounded like an amplified "ker-WUMP." All those who were standing found themselves quickly and efficiently placed on their backsides. Baby carriages turned over, or worse, were flung like paper bags being blown by a gale. The three sport planes disintegrated, their robust airframes ripped to pieces by the fury of the blast. Fortunately for us, we were far enough away from the SDF-1 to escape serious harm. Others, however, were not so lucky.
As I gathered my senses and tried to stop the ringing in my ears, I noticed that half the island was gone! The hills that overlooked the northern edge of Macross City had been sliced away--removed as if by a giant ice cream scooper. It appeared that a malfunction had caused the ship's main battery to accidentally fire. Panic began to envelop the crowd and everyone began running for the gate. The frightened mob rushed to get away from the giant ship as MP's did their best to control them. With bullhorns in hand, the soldiers tried to issue instructions to the crowd, but it was an utterly futile gesture. I didn't know where these people wanted to go on this tiny island, but it appeared that wherever it was, they damned sure wanted to be there right away!
Getting to my feet, I grabbed Beki by the hand and made my way along the B-52's fuselage to the forward entrance hatch. Better to hide in here than risk being trampled by an out of control mob of people, I reasoned. I fiddled with the handle that secured the small door on the bomber's belly and finally got it open. Taking a foot in both hands, I hoisted Beki into the airplane, then climbed aboard, shutting the hatch behind me. We huddled together inside the old bomber for several minutes as the crowd rushed by us yelling and screaming.
After what seemed an interminable length of time, Beki finally spoke up. "What happened? Why did the ship fire?" she asked, a concerned expression on her face.
"I don't know," I said, perplexed.
The sounds of people shouting in fear continued as we sat quietly staring at one another. We waited several minutes more, but nobody noticed us--or else nobody cared. Either way, I felt safe from detection in the B-52 and decided that the best way to get some answers would be through the BUFF's radio.
Motioning Beki into the co-pilot's seat on the right, I climbed into the aircraft commander's on the left. Fumbling around the unfamiliar cockpit, I found the master switch and the radios. I switched them on, flipped over to the Automated Terminal Information Service (ATIS) frequency and tugged on a helmet to hear what had occurred. Beki did the same, and I gazed longingly at her for a brief instant as she did so. She looked incredibly cute in that helmet, easily five sizes too large for her, and I smiled unconsciously.
"Macross International Airport, information Delta, 0645 Zulu, Special. All aircraft caution. SDF-1 experiencing severe technical problems that pose a serious threat to all aircraft north of the airport. All aircraft at all altitudes caution, severe turbulence also possible. All aircraft advised to proceed to nearest alternate airport. Macross International Airport is closed."
At least my suspicions had been confirmed. Turning off the master switch, I sat there absorbing what had happened, not certain what to do next. There was no more screaming or yelling, and the ship hadn't fired again. For all practical purposes, the danger seemed over, so there was no point in hiding any longer.
I climbed out of the pilot's seat and offered my hand to Beki. "Well, kiddo, I think everything will be okay. The worst has passed," I said, full of confidence. Perhaps I should say, "Full of shit."
I should have known better than to try to predict the weather.
Chapter Three - Warning Signs
I imagine it is safe to state that in those days I didn't have a great talent for noticing the obvious. My naiveté was the end product of a sheltered childhood. My parents' attempts to keep the world's problems away from me probably robbed me of some common sense skills early on, and it is for this reason that I did not realize what was really happening. It almost cost me my life.
As I helped Beki clamber out of the B-52, wondering about things as silly as whether or not the air show would continue, I had failed to notice the sudden buzz of activity occurring at various locations around the airport. Jeeps and ammo trucks were making their rounds to the military aircraft that were parked all over the apron, fighter pilots were scrambling to their aircraft--donning helmets, cinching up anti-g suits, and fastening parachute harnesses as they ran--and helicopters were turning up their rotors.
Though the B-52's fuselage shielded my view of the military operations being conducted across the ramp, one thing was for certain, the air show was over. Half the island was gone, and the entire crowd had disappeared as if swallowed by a black hole. I stepped out from underneath the B-52's nose and promptly noticed the depth of the crowd's panic. Everything from paper cups and sandwich bags, to purses and igloo coolers was strewn across the tarmac. Several EMTs were tending to those spectators that had suffered grievous injuries while MPs and FOD (Foreign Object Debris) crews were scrambling about in an attempt to clear the area, lest a jet suck something unwanted into its engine. The hair on the back of my neck stood inexplicably on end as my subconscious tried its damnedest to alert me to a danger I could not perceive, but the frantic nature of the ground crew's efforts was completely lost on me. I presumed they were simply in a hurry so they could get home early.
About that time, my stomach began to growl. Unable to assist in any way with the search and rescue efforts that were no doubt underway, I was prompted to ask my newfound girlfriend out for lunch.
"Everything's under control here. Care to grab a bite?"
"Terrific!" she exclaimed. "I'm starving. I know of a great steak and salad place. How does that strike you?"
"It sounds wonderful," I said, beaming. "Lead on."
With a mischievous smile, Rebeckah put an arm around my waist and guided me in the direction of the main gate, leaving a frantic Robotech Defense Force behind us.
As we walked through the streets of Macross City on our way to Beki's restaurant, I sensed nothing amiss. The bustling traffic, both civilian and military, appeared to be headed toward the base to assist in damage cleanup and search and rescue. The blast from the SDF-1 had caused a great deal of damage to almost everything on the northern side of the island, and cleaning things up would require a massive amount of effort.
We walked past "The Crow's Nest"--which was, incidentally, my favorite burger place--only to discover a "CLOSED" sign on the door. I looked at my watch. 2:05 PM. How odd for "The Nest" to be closed at this hour, I thought. One by one we passed every food shop on the block, and one by one we found them all closed. Very strange indeed. Probably assisting in the cleanup, I reasoned. Was it possible to be any more dense?
"Guess we could always go to my place," I sheepishly suggested. To my pleasure and amazement, she agreed.
"Now that's a date, flyboy," she said through her smile.
My heart began to go pitter-patter in my chest, and I felt a lightness in my step that I had never known before. In the ecstasy of the moment I allowed myself to admit something I had never imagined possible. Put simply, I'd arrived. She really did like me.
We drove up the curved, tree-lined driveway of my parents' two story house. Because of my father's position as Aircraft Development Division Chief, he was able to procure a very lavish home as a perquisite. Construction techniques had come a long way in the years since the ship's arrival--large houses took only a few days to build, smaller ones could be completed in hours--and as a result, most of the high-ranking members of the RDF, both civilian and military, had the privilege of designing their own homes.
The house was beautiful. Sitting atop one of the many hills on Macross island, it commanded a wonderful view of the ocean on two sides, a forest grove on the third, and Macross City on the fourth. The view of the latter was especially spectacular, particularly at night, when the lights of the city painted a most romantic picture. Rebeckah was clearly impressed.
"Oh!!! What a beautiful house, Jake!" she exclaimed. She was completely taken by it. "It's wonderful!"
"And we'll be able to see the launch perfectly from here," I said, pointing a thumb in the direction of the giant ship.
"Oh, boy! I can't wait!" she clapped her hands together.
"Care to look inside, Scarlet?" I asked.
"I'd be honored, sir," she said with mock piety.
I took her hand and led her up the sidewalk to the front door, which I opened after rummaging through my pockets for the key. Nobody was home. Dad would most certainly be at work and mom was probably off taking care of other business, I reckoned, so I had the whole place to myself. While Beki explored the house, I rummaged through the freezer and found a couple of sirloin steaks.
"You up for sirloin?!!" I shouted.
"Mmm-hmm," she said, trotting into the kitchen and rubbing her stomach with a false urgency. "That looks perfect."
I dropped the steaks into the defroster and proceeded out to the rear deck on the second floor, my beautiful new friend in tow. As I reached the door I asked her what she wanted to drink.
"Iced Tea would be great. Sugar, Lemon," she said. Then, with poker-faced seriousness, "Shaken, not stirred."
I laughed aloud at the trademark James Bond line. "Bob! Tea! Sugar, lemon--shaken, not stirred," I said to the computerized drink dispenser. "And one Petite Cola."
There was a long moment of silence as the computer tried to come up with the reference, and I stifled a laugh. Trying to trip Bob up was a sort of juvenile family tradition, and I stifled a laugh as I imagined the proverbial gears in his proverbial head spinning crazily as he tried to figure out how he was supposed to shake the tea. I've got you this time, Bobbo, I thought with a grin.
But, as was usually the case, the computer figured out the answer to my half-baked riddle, and nothing in the house suffered damage or destruction. "Ah, yes, James Bond. Very funny, sir," it said. "Your drinks are ready."
"Thank you, Bob," I called, thwarted once again. It wasn't a clever attempt, I thought to myself, as I lifted the retrieval door, and grabbed the two glasses. But it had potential. Heck, how many computers watch movies?
"You're welcome, sir," it replied.
"Yes, thank you, Bob," Beki said with a smile as I handed her her tea.
"You're welcome, my lady," Bob said.
Beki giggled. "Oh, he's charming."
"Yes, he is. He had a good teacher," I noted, feigning self-importance as I took a quick sip of my Petite Cola, and instantly wished I was back in Texas where I could get my hands on a "Dr. Pepper."
I fired up the grill, eager with anticipation. Computerized appliances could cook the steaks far faster than I could with the grill, but I always felt something was missing. Cooking on a grill had a certain robust romanticism about it that just couldn't be found in the new wave equipment of the day.
"This steak is going to melt in your mouth," I said.
She grinned, her eyes flashing, "I can't wait."
"I'll be right back," I stated, bounding for the door. I returned in a flash, the sirloins in one hand and a bottle of Montreal Steak seasoning in the other. The crackle and sizzle the steaks made as they landed on the grill made my mouth water. The aroma of top quality meat was overwhelming--I could already taste it.
I sat down on the deck chair and reclined. Fetching my cola, I marveled at the spectacle that lay before me. The sea was beautiful and the sun brilliant, its bright light reflecting off the wet sand and ocean waves, as sea gulls glided peacefully above the surf.
"Bob, shade, one-half," I commanded.
"Shade, one-half, sir," the computer replied.
With that, the deck's retractable roof slid forward, shielding us from the sun's rays while still providing an excellent view of the sky to the northwest.
We sat and talked for awhile, and I discovered that Beki was an incredibly intelligent, charming, and ambitious young lady. Among her numerous passions, flying was something she had loved since childhood. Her life's dream was to become an air force pilot, but an inner ear condition derailed her plans. Rebounding from this setback, she had devoted her energies to other areas and had her sights set on becoming a marine biologist. Her father was the Executive Vice President for a major military contractor and insisted that his daughter receive the best education money could buy. With her fertile mind and tireless enthusiasm, it was clear that she was on her way to something big. Beki Casey was indeed a truly incredible girl, and I found myself growing more fond of her by the moment.
As the sun began its four hour decent to the horizon, we enjoyed the wonders the day had presented for us. The cries of the seagulls overhead, the wind blowing through the trees, the ocean waves hitting the rocks down below, the sizzle of the steaks, and Beki's excited laughter, combined to make a song as beautiful as that of the best symphony orchestra. It was a wonderfully enjoyable moment.
It would not last long.
Chapter Four - Lightning Strikes
The steaks were absolutely perfect. In fact, they were the finest steaks I had ever made in my life. Grinning to myself, I said a thankful prayer. In love, as in life, timing was everything, and I could see that I had again scored another point with the leggy brunette. My smile grew ever larger.
"What are you smiling at?" she asked.
Her voice snapped me out of my reverie. "Huh?"
"What are you smiling at?" she asked, again.
"Oh, nothing. I was just thinking how great life is up here--and how much fun I am having with you," I stumbled. "Stuff like that." The words did not come out right, and I kicked myself for losing my air of composure.
"That's sweet," she whispered, her smile revealing that I had done no damage.
I breathed a sigh of relief. "I'll bet you thought men couldn't cook," I noted, fishing for a compliment.
"They can't," she replied.
"What?!" I cried indignantly. "You don't like my steak?"
"That's what I'm saying to you," she said sternly. My face dissolved into a horrible impression of a frown--my poker face needed a lot of work. She laughed, "Actually, I love it! It's really good, Jeff."
I smiled inwardly, congratulating myself once more, then shifted in my chair. "So, I take it you're enjoying yourself?"
She set her fork down and leaned across the table, eyes piercing a hole through my heart. "I wouldn't trade this for anything..." Her voice, the most seductive I had ever heard, trailed off, and I felt something stir deep inside me.
There was an unremitting silence. I was caught like a deer in headlights, unable to move, unable to think. In the movies this was the part where the guy kissed the gal and they lived happily ever after--but my brain had taken a vacation without bothering to leave a note, and I sat there, a blank look on my face. Here was this tall, slender, intelligent, drop-dead-gorgeous woman putting out some very overt signals of interest, and I didn't have a clue what to do! Fortunately or unfortunately, I wouldn't have to.
A shadow flew across the deck in front of me almost faster than I could see it. Its passage was marked by a loud crash. I sprang to my feet, prepared to run out front to see what the ruckus was, when I spied something I'd never before seen. About three dozen mechanized "eggs with legs"--looking more like overgrown headless ostriches--emerged from the water below and leapt up the cliff, then over and around the house. Beki screamed as I stood there...mesmerized.
"What the hell...?!" I exclaimed, looking wide eyed in their direction.
"What in the world are those?!" she yelped, rising out of her chair.
"I have no idea! Some new RDF equipment or something, I dunno!" I shot back.
Then I heard the report of cannon fire and saw the Johnson's home next door crushed by one of the giant ostrich-looking machines. I knew then, that they could not have belonged to the RDF.
"Oh my, Gawd..." I mumbled, eyes open wide. "Come on! Let's get out of here!" I yelled, grabbing Beki's hand.
I dragged her through the house and out to the car, where I fumbled for the keys for what seemed like hours before finding the right one. We jumped in, and just as I started the engine, my house exploded, debris flying in all directions. A large piece of the front door struck the car with a thud, taking out the windshield. Jamming the shifter into reverse, I weaved down the driveway, frantically jerking the wheel to avoid the trees lining it. Spinning out onto the roadway, I slammed the stick into drive and stomped on the pedal. The tires squealed and then stuck, and we launched out of that neighborhood like a bat out of hell.
The shock of nearby explosions rocked the car. Beki's eyes, I could see, had filled with tears, and she sat with her feet in the seat, knees clutched to her chest with both arms. I put a hand on hers, amazed at how lucky we'd been.
As I screamed down the road I stole a glimpse at the mirrors. All around I saw the headless ostriches, bounding about like Kangaroos. They made the strangest sounds as they played their sadistic game of leap frog, and I found myself wondering when one would land on the car. The thought had barely registered when one of the giant machines landed on the roadway ahead of me, buckling the pavement. I did not have time to swerve or stop, and struck the pothole left by his foot full force. The car bounded into the air and landed with a jarring crash. The airbags deployed and I was momentarily blinded by the debris and glass they flung at me. I struggled to control the vehicle and by some miracle stayed on the road.
I jammed on the pedal even harder, now. By this time the shelters would no doubt be sealed, and I had no idea how we would get inside if we even made it to one. The best alternate place to hide, I felt, would be somewhere with a bunker. I kicked myself for not hiding in the woods near my house. The ostriches would never have found us there. I pressed on, my mind searching for a place to seek refuge, as Macross City grew slowly larger in my broken windshield.
We descended out of the hills near the outskirts of Macross City, and I saw a sight that brought joy to my heart. Valkyries and Ghosts (a computer controlled drone fighter) were launching from the airport. They wasted little time as they departed the airfield in pairs, afterburners blazing a trail of fire as they pitched through the vertical in their valiant effort to defend the island.
"Go get 'em boys!" I yelled in excitement, pounding the dash with my fist, as a wave of relief swept over me.
"Yeah!! Go get 'em!" Rebeckah exclaimed, thrusting a clenched fist into the air and wiggling her cute little butt around like a hyped-up cheerleader. "Thank God they were able to get off the ground in time," she shouted over the wind.
Comforted by the presence of the Valks and Ghosts, I again focused on the task at hand: finding a safe haven--some place where the enemy's mechanized units could not reach us. Try as I might, I could think of no such place. The bomb shelters were the only thing that came to mind, and again I was faced with the reality that they would be sealed up tight. My mind scrambled as we screamed toward the city limits. Basement...basement...basement. Who has a basement?
I soon realized we did not have many options. Between the two of us we came up with about four options, none of which were truly viable. The Macross City Bank had an underground vault that we could hide in, and the underground parking garage at the airport was another option. Outside of that the shelters were the only other choice--or else a quick dash for the woods that surrounded us.
The rock walls towering along either side of the highway signaled the approach of the last vestiges of forest before entering Macross City. Looking about quickly, I jammed on the brakes and pulled off the road, then parked the car carefully among the trees. I needed time to consider my options. The city was clearly about to be overrun, so being there would not be good for one's health. Considering the destruction that would soon take place, my decision to stop may have been the lone intelligent choice I made that day.
Beki and I sat on the trunk of my smashed up car and watched as the headless ostriches descended upon the city. They came in many different forms--some even had surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles. As they tore through the city almost completely unopposed, they reduced everything in sight to ashes. A few Veritechs could be seen engaging the alien forces in the suburbs, but the vast majority of the Valkyries were nowhere to be seen--they were engaged in their own fight for survival above the overcast that now loomed over us. I thought it odd how quickly the weather--and the world--had changed on that tiny island.
The few Valkyries that remained in the city put up a valiant fight, but they were hopelessly outnumbered. The enemy units wreaked havoc all throughout Macross City as they closed on the SDF-1, and our guys were losing ground fast. Suddenly, I heard a loud roar. Before I could flinch, I caught sight of a flight of Valkyries racing for the city. Behind them came two more flights.
My heart leaped. The cavalry had arrived! With Beki now snuggled up tight against me, I leaned back and watched the fireworks.
The Veritech squadrons made serious progress in taking out the alien invaders, giving more than they got. The Valkyries themselves were amazing, transforming from one mode to the next--jet fighter to a large humanoid configuration ("Battloid") to a strange hybrid ("Guardian") as the situation dictated. I was stunned. Never had I considered such a thing possible, not in my wildest dreams. Yet there it was right before my eyes. They had the agility of a Humming Bird and the lethality of ten conventional fighters. And their speed! Incredible. I shook my head in disbelief.
In spite of this, the enemy mecha units continued their assault undaunted--unfearing. The incredible attrition they suffered did not phase them in the slightest way. The SDF-1 was the object of their attention, and they marched onward. When one of their number was smashed like a plastic Easter egg, the alien inside burned to ashes, three more would emerge to fill the gap. Every casualty these aliens suffered served only to invigorate the others. They pressed onward...relentlessly...as if guided by a lust for death. In spite of the heroic efforts by the RDF pilots the situation turned desperate, and it appeared the SDF-1 would soon be lost.
From our vantage point in the woods overlooking Macross City, the SDF-1 appeared to be in grave danger. The enemy units began to attack in ever growing numbers. My mind reeled at the sheer magnitude of it all. Where in Christendom could they all be coming from? On every street corner they could be seen. Killing, burning, blasting, pillaging... It was as if the ground itself was producing them, straight from Hell's dark chasm.
Things aboard the bridge of the great ship were no doubt bordering on panic--an understandable condition judging from the total surprise it must have been to the new crew. Then-Captain Henry Gloval, the legendary skipper of the SDF-1, was amazingly calm and collected throughout the ordeal. Although such traits are typical among great leaders, it has been theorized that Gloval's calm stemmed from the fact he knew of the attack beforehand, as if some great premonition told him that something severe would occur. Premonition or not, Captain Gloval did, without a doubt, save Earth when he made his decision to leave it.
As the enemy pods continued to pound away at the ship, it began to rise. We were both speechless as the great ship began to climb, slowly and majestically out of the smoke-filled city. Of course, as did almost everything else that day, it didn't work.
During SDF-1's refit, a defect in the design of the support cross members for the anti-gravity engines went unnoticed. The stress of lifting eighteen million tons of steel was more than the poor beams could handle, and the anti-gravity pods broke loose from the giant battle fortress one by one. As the huge engines tore themselves out of the top of the SDF-1, the total lifting power available fell off precipitously and the ship crashed back to Earth with an earthquake-like rumble.
Never one with a talent for spotting the obvious, I managed to stumble onto something. "Woah," I said, looking at Rebeckah as the sound of SDF-1's hard landing reverberated across the island. "Looks like they've got a little problem there." Without a doubt, Emil Lang could not have said it better.
The battle fortress' unsuccessful departure seemed to awaken a great ferocity among the Veritech pilots, and it wasn't long before they began gaining the upper hand on the enemy. Slowly and surely the fighting began to move away from the SDF-1 toward the outer sections of the city, and it wasn't long before Gloval took another stab at getting the giant ship aloft--this time with much greater results.
A loud, rumbling explosion cascaded over the island, followed closely by a tremendous cloud of smoke and debris that enveloped the giant ship. I feared the SDF-1 had been destroyed as the boiling haze obscured the vessel, and held my breath for what seemed like hours until the battle fortress emerged from the hell that had engulfed it. Slowly and gracefully it rose, like a Phoenix out of the ashes, accelerating until it disappeared into the overcast.
A sudden, ominous feeling overcame me at that moment--something not unlike the one that comes from being caught in the bathroom naked. A cold chill ran down my spine and I shuddered.
"Well, nothing we can do now but go home, I guess," I said to Beki.
"Yeah..." she said. "I hope our families are all right."
"Me too, lady. Me too," I replied.
And then came the fall.
I found myself catapulted into the air, way up above the trees. With a suddenness that cannot be described, I found myself hundreds of feet above the forest canopy. With an amazing clarity I could see every leaf and piece of bark on all the trees. Then the ground came rushing up at me. I felt sick and knew then that I would die. A tremendous, gut-wrenching nausea attacked me. My stomach in my mouth, my body accelerating quickly as I plunged, my life seemed such a wasted opportunity. All the things I would never get to do flashed across my mind in an instant. Beki!!! Where was Beki?!! I didn't have time to look. The ground came up to meet me with a suddenness that defies description, and I was instantly and ferociously crushed.
And then I fell...and fell...and fell...into the darkness... Darkness.
Jason W. Smith
Copyright © 1995 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.HTML by Robert Morgenstern
Copyright © 1996 Robert Morgenstern
Version Last Updated: 27 April 2000