breathing in a vacuum
A Robotech fanfic by Jerico Mele
      He looked up into the sun, his face burned and scarred. A dry, hot breeze was blowing across the plain, tossing small pieces of sand and debris into the air around his head. He pulled his cloak tight around him, warding off the heat and memory. Nothing was left behind him besides rubble, a testament of the struggles that he had left in the past. No more army, no more fighting. No more believing in a cause that had been a lie since before he was born.
      His old clothes lay in a pile below a couple of blocks of concrete that had been the wall of a building once. In their place was a worn traveling cloak, threadbare in places and covered in stains. The pressed khaki pants that had marked him as an officer were replaced by simple jeans, grease stained from the honest work of their previous owner, a man dead for years. The pins and medals that marked his rank as one of the elite had been the hardest to leave behind, markers of a man who had believed, with all his heart in the cause. To replace them he had only her locket.
      He held the locket in a tightly pressed fist, not sure of what it all meant. The life he had lived for so long, held so dear to him, had betrayed him in the end. The picture inside was a happy scene, complete with his wife and daughter in a scene straight out of an old 2D romance. A green field, blue sky, everyone smiling serenely in security and peace.
      Now there was no peace. His old identity and name behind him, Jessie Smith ventured out into the Wastelands, a grin crossing his face. Somewhere in the pile of rubble that had been Boston some tired crickets began chirping tonelessly, in a vain hope that another cricket would hear.
      "Like breathing in a vacuum," Smith said bitterly, the grin on his face dying.

Breathing in a Vacuum
A Robotech fanfic

      A Year Before:
      "Yahoo!" Daniel screamed as the gees pressed him back in his seat. In response the simulated Zentradi battlepod dove 'down' to get out of the arc of his weapons. Grinning maniacally, Daniel slammed down on the control stick, his fingers white with adrenaline as the Valkyrie beneath him bucked and swiveled around. The motion control system of the simulator responded better than could be expected and Daniel was thrown 'up' in a realistic manner as his momentum radically shifted.
      Two red lines were drawn on his HUD, linking his target to the representations of the main chaingun housed in the fuselage of his craft. His thumb twitched on the HOTAS, sending a stream of tracers across the black vacuum and directly into the 'pod. The depleted uranium rounds drilled into the hull, splitting the ovoid central volume down the middle.
      "Got one, Sakura-san," Dan reported to his wing-person. "Three scratched here, how about you?"
      "Still watching your ass, Dan-chan," Sakura reported from her pod next to his. "They've really improved the feedback on these things, haven't they?"
      "A battle armor flight is approaching Volume 121. Tiger Flight, you're up," came the throaty voice of Patricia across the Tac Com channel. "Quit flirting and intercept. Bearing 131 mark 32, Earth-relative."
      "Roger," changing his direction until he was matching the red vector bar in the middle of his HUD. "Sakura-san, you with me?"
      "Boosting," she reported.

      Dan stepped out of the shower, exhausted from the day's exercises. The daily simulator runs, physical exercise and tactical seminars were all taking a gradual toll on the young pilot's reserves, which had seemed inexhaustible only a few month before.
      When I was on the front, Dan thought as he grabbed a clean Lieutenant's uniform from his locker. Onboard the Vendetta there was little in the way of real fighting. After a six week tour of duty in the belt, cleaning out Zendtradi hardliners, Vendetta was a pleasant way to pass the rest of his active tour. The great training ship floated around Earth, consuming rank pilots and spitting out command personnel at a prodigious rate.
      Daniel Fisher was having none of that. He briskly stepped into his pressed pants and pulled the dress shirt over his lanky frame while musing his goals in attending classes onboard the Vendetta. He didn't want to be command staff at all, he'd seen the weight of decisions that had fallen on Lt. Genova's shoulders, and wanted none of it. He just wanted to fly.
      Dan shrugged off his thoughts and straightened his shirt. He had a date with Sakura-san tonight, and he wanted to think about something more, romantic perhaps. Dan pulled his antique pocket watch from his shirt, checking the time carefully. He had a few minutes before the shuttle pulled in to bring him to the new Orbital Ring for dinner.
      "Computer," Dan asked his room. "Ring Sakura for me?"
      "Calling Sakura Misaki," the computer reported dourly.
      "Hello?" Sakura answered after a ring.
      "Its Dan," Dan said. "All most ready?"
      "Yeah. I'm leaving now. Meet you at lock four."
      "Right. See you there."

      Sakura tapped her foot against the paneling along the curving path that made the peripheral deck of the Vendetta. Daniel was six minutes late, she thought, and the shuttle pilot is getting ready to go without us. She doubled the beat of her foot in frustration. He always does something like this, she added silently, perking up slightly every time someone came around the corner of the hall.
      "Look, I don't care what you say! The boosters increase the Valkyrie's size way too much, even if the acceleration boost is as impressive as the spec sheet. And we know how often that happens."
      "Damn it Fisher, why do you always stand against progress. You were the same way when the SHARK-2 fire control computer was being installed."
      "And look at the failure rate for that overpriced piece of shit. The R&D staff must've been sleeping to let that through prelim testing."
      Sakura laughed to herself. Dan was a traditionalist when it came to his Valkyrie. Only battle tested equipment made it onboard, and even then only with Dan himself observing the tech who installed it. Tiger 2 was one of the best maintained Valkyrie's in the entire EDF, thanks in most part to Dan's constant bitching about getting everything 'just right.'
      "About time," she chided as Dan finally rounded the corner. She nodded to Stevens as Dan shook hands and took his leave.
      "You look marvelous," he said as the two ducked through the airlock. Sakura kept her smile out of his sight. I should hope so, she thought to herself, since I dressed up for you.
      Indeed, she had left her own dress uniform hanging in her quarters and bought an expensive black dress and shoes to match. It had felt good to actually go and be feminine for once, instead of sharing in the predominantly masculine environment of fighter jocks. In the years since the Gulf war, the limitations on women in the military had been slowly pushed back, but it was still rare for a woman to be piloting any front line combat vessel. And Sakura had been flying for ten years, since her dad had gotten her pilot training when she was young.
      "And you almost missed the shuttle. I'd have left for the Orbital Ring by myself and found some eligible guy to take me to Paradesio."
      "Good luck finding a guy, Sakura-san."
      She stuck her tongue out at him as she slid into her seat, fastening the four point restraints into place.
      Dan smiled at her as he took his own seat. She did look beautiful all dressed up, but so different from her everyday wear. Sakura wasn't beautiful in any traditional sense, not as skinny as Patricia and lacking in her refined femininity. Where a model would be skinny, Sakura was toned.
      But all dolled up, Sakura easily beat any other girl Daniel had ever seen. Except possibly one, and she was long departed.
      "Dan-chan?" Sakura asked, "you okay? You were spacing out on me."
      "Fine, Sakura-san. We there yet? I can't stand how slow these junkers are."
      "Don't worry. Our reservation isn't for twenty minutes, and we'll be docking in three."
      Dan glanced out the window at the newly constructed Orbital Ring. A rock toroid almost three kilometers in diameter, put together with technology derived from the massive space platform captured by the RDF in the aftermath of the First Robotech War. Twenty thousand permanent residents with twice that during peak hours. OTVs, shuttles and space planes flittered around the big ring, along with a pair of medium cruisers and a flight of Valkyries.
      "Dagger Squadron," Sakura pointed out as Dan craned his head across her seat trying to pick out the insignia. "Operating off the Destiny and Enigma."
      "Good eyes," Dan commented as the view was eclipsed by the habitat itself. A large docking arm extended out from the rocky exterior of the habitat's secondary docking bay, holding twenty meters from the shuttle's nose. The pilot finalized his approach, allowing a tiny component of velocity to bring him with in reach of the arm before allowing it to drag the shuttle in.
      "All from memory. Shall we?" she motioned to the airlock, cute smile on her face.
      "Certainly," Dan replied as he offered her his arm. "Where are we eating?"

      The Paradesio was a beautiful restaurant, nestled in the internal ring of the station in the high class commercial region of the civilian section. The curving sides of the ring were covered with buildings and construction sites, liberally sprinkled with small green parks or open areas to break up the pattern. The builders had learned the lessons from Macross City and paid great attention to the details typically left out of habitat building.
      Neither Dan nor Sakura had seen the inside of Macross City, the SDF-1 long dead by the time they had grown into adults. The SDF-3 had left shortly after Dan's graduation from the Academy, and his knowledge of it was mostly second hand. But they had both seen the inside of military vessels where people were packed in so tightly that the small streets and modest landscape of the Orbital Ring were entirely suitable alternatives.
      Dan followed Sakura to their table, right along the front window of the first floor. As the two of them ordered drinks, Dan glanced out the window, nervously watching as people glanced at the couple eating.
      "I feel like I'm on display," he muttered as Sakura selected the wine.
      "You are. And if you're lucky they'll start a bidding war so we can make our money back on this meal."
      "But the military pays us a top notch salary." Daniel said, on queue. "I thought we could eat out like this every night?"
      The two of them shared a grin, especially since the joke had been fleshed out so many times in the locker room, launch pad or cockpit. Sakura glanced down at the menu as Dan turned to look at her.
      "What are we going to do after our tour of duty?" he asked her, almost timidly.
      "I was thinking-"
      Her response was lost in the sudden loud clang that filled the entire habitat. Everyone stopped and looked around for the source of the noise. Everyone but Dan and Sakura. They had both heard the sound before, during the scariest fight in the belt. It was sound of a ship killer missile hitting the hull of the habitat.
      "Let's go!" Dan yelled as he got out of his seat.

Copyright reserved 1999 Jerico Mele []

Disclaimer: Robotech is Copyright 1985 Harmony Gold, U.S.A, Inc./Tatsunoko Prod. Cp., Ltd. All rights reserved. No infringement is intended.

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