breathing in a vacuum
part two
      "Go where?" Sakura wondered as she followed Dan as he ran out of the restaurant. Damn it, Sakura thought, there goes Daniel again, thinking with his gonads. "Where exactly are you planning on going," she yelled as the two of them began sprinting through the strangely quiet streets.
      "We've got to make it to the Base in the outer ring," he replied, dodging one of the stands that dotted the more commercial region they were passing through. "They'll have something for us to do."
      We could've finished dinner, at least, Sakura complained silently. "Fine. You know where you're going?"
      Dan stopped short, almost causing Sakura to collide with his back. He turned and looked around at her, and said "Umm, not really."
      "Sometimes you're such a guy," Sakura told him as she lead the way, taking a turn off the main road, towards one of the walls of the inner ring.
      Dan grinned, and followed her, cringing when another of the hard clangs reverberated through the station. The two of them were in the inner ring, shielded from hard vacuum by the entire outer ring, plus the baffles between the two rings, so neither was intellectually frightened by the sound of something large and explosive hitting the outer hull. But between the two they had spent ten years in space, and the sound was somehow wrong in their ears.
      "The connective passages should be around here," Sakura told Dan as she skidded to halt to glance around.
      "Who do you think is attacking?" Dan asked as he checked for one of the bright yellow buildings that marked inter-ring transport.
      "Zentradi rebels?"
      "You know that's not likely. We've got them beaten down to the Wastelands and the Belt. How would they attack us here?"
      "I don't know, genius, you tell me," Sakura replied testily, upset that dinner had been ruined. And that she had to run in these damn shoes. Maybe my dress uniform wouldn't have been a bad idea, she thought.
      "Look, Sakura, I understand you're annoyed that dinner was ruined. But don't you think that this is more, I don't know, fun?"
      "You'd better hope so," she said threateningly. "Come on, there's one," she said, pointing to the small yellow pagoda several blocks behind.

      "You guys from the Vendetta?" the deck officer asked them when they finally reached the military base's fighter bay.
      "Yes," Sakura answered for what seemed like the thousandth time that day. "I'm 2nd Lt. Sakura Misaki and this is 2nd Lt. Daniel Fisher. We were on station when we heard the attack start and we wanted to know if we could help out."
      "Pilots? We are a few short…" the deck officer took a good look at the two. Dressed in formal wear, probably on a date, he thought. But they did make it on the Vendetta. "I'll check with the CO. We've got a couple of Valkyrie's kicking around for field testing.
      Sakura heard Dan groan and kicked him in the shin. "Thank you very much," she said sweetly to the squat little man.
      "We've also got some flight suits in the locker room, in case you wanted to save that dress," the deck officer told her with a grin.

      "Crap. This thing's pure crap," Dan bitched to Sakura over the private channel. "Plastic HOTAS handles! Not even the high density kind. I feel like I'm driving a Yugo."
      "Would you please quit bitching for once? We're flying borrowed Valkyries, so we should at least appreciate the fact we get to fly at all." When we could be eating dinner, she added silently.
      "I've gotten the threat report. It is Zentradi rebels. Almost two full divisions of battle pods. And a pair of battle armor units. It's the biggest Zendtradi force since Khyron's rebellion."
      "Enough talking. Lets launch."
      "Shrike Team, ready for launch?" the Tac Con channel asked.

      The Shrikes handled well, Dan admitted grudgingly as he pulled the revamped Valkyrie into a six and a half gee turn, cutting into the formation of battle pods. His left hand worked the HOTAS' countermeasures controls, spitting flares and chaff into area directly behind him. His right shifted him into Guardian mode while he spun on an axis, spewing chain gun fire at his opponents. He was through the slow moving formation in less than a second, his flares still burning bright in their midst.
      Directly behind him by half a second was Sakura, taking full advantage of the confusion Dan's first pass had created. She loosed missiles into the battle pods, crippling or destroying almost a dozen pods. A dozen out of three hundred.
      "Where the hell did they find all these pods?" Dan asked as he flew a few meters over the hull of the Orbital Ring.
      "Who knows," Sakura grunted as she flipped her Shrike over. "I like these Shrikes," she commented as she boosted up along side Dan.
      "Not everything new is bad," Dan said grudgingly.
      "Wow. I'll have to write the date and time of that quote down."
      "Shrike Flight, vector to 121 and support the Destiny."
      "Roger," the two said in unison, all ready aligning with the course correction offered by the HUD. They pushed six gees, dodging the volleys of particle weapons that streamed from the formation of 'pods that were swarming around the edge of the Ring.
      "Destiny, this is Shrike flight, ready for deployment," Dan said as he glanced down at his missile stores. He had less than half his full load out remaining, and a quarter of his chain gun rounds were gone as well.
      "Shrike flight, happy to hear from you. This is Captain Jonah Fitzroy, I've taken over Tac Com as we lost the first shift Controller a couple of minutes ago. We could use some support to the rear of us. Our sensors read three flight elements of Battle Armor, and their going after our engines pretty hard."
      "Got you covered, Sir," Sakura said, designating targets for her standoff missiles. "Missiles away."
      "Going close for this one. Keep me covered," Dan asked as he shifted to battloid mode, spraying fire from his chain gun. The blocky Battle Armor scattered under the combined attack, but reformed quickly. Dan twisted his mecha to dodge the stream of counter fire, a couple of low strength hits stripping armor off his Shrike's arm and chest.
      "Getting hot out here. Anyone from Dagger flight around?"
      "Dagger flight's supporting the Enigma. They've been hit harder then we have," Jonah reported on the Tac Com channel.
      Sounds reassuring, Dan thought as he did a quick calculation of the odds. At least ten to one, he decided as he rammed one of the Battle Armors that got too close to the Destiny. Pinning its arms to its side he drove his mecha's knee into the thing's chest a few times, cracking the main armor plate and spewing coolant into the vacuum. He pushed off its chest as one of the other Armors changed course to support its comrade.
      "Shit, shit, shit," he grunted as the Armor send beam after beam at him. Then it exploded as Sakura blew past. "Owe you one, Sakura-san," he said, seizing the momentary respite.
      "Good work, Shrike flight. The Armors are withdrawing."
      "So are the rest of the enemy," Sakura added as she studied the Tac Display.
      "Well, that makes it easier for me," Dan muttered.
      "Shrike Flight, this is Orbital Ring Control. Stand down and return to the bay."
      "Roger," Sakura said, wiping the swat from her face, only to have it drift away in the low gee. She followed the green vector into a holding pattern, spotting the beaten Valkyries of Dagger Squadron limping back towards the Destiny.
      "Looks like I owe you dinner, Sakura-san," Dan said as he pulled along side.
      "Damn straight."

      The two tired pilots returned to the Vendetta, Sakura still carrying a box of sushi from the restaurant that Dan had taken her to. Sakura and Dan passed through the final airlock, only to be greeted by the majority of the Vendetta's Flight Staff.
      "Look at the heroes!" someone yelled.
      "I heard you flew a Shrike," someone else asked. "I thought you didn't like the new stuff?"
      "Shut up, Stevens," Dan retorted as he passed through crowd, leaving Sakura behind.
      "Thanks Dan," Sakura muttered as briefly as she put on a smile to receive the taunts and congratulations of her shipmates.

      Dan stared at the message that had just appeared on his computer terminal. He couldn't believe it, no matter how many times he read it.
      "As of ten hundred hours tomorrow you have been attached to Shrike Flight, aboard the Carrier Damocles. You will be briefed further once you are aboard. Signed, Admiral Donovan Marks, CinC Space Control," he read listlessly for the third time.
      He looked up as the door chime rang. Grunting and pulling on a pair of sweatpants he told the door to open. Sakura was looking at him, a sad expression on her face.
      "I just heard," she said simply.
      "Back on tour. Damn it, I was only two weeks away from a break."
      "Don't worry about it."
      "What about you."
      Sakura sighed guiltily. "Six months leave on Earth."
      "I guess I'll have to take a rain check on meeting your folks," he said in mock sadness.
      "It's alright, they wouldn't have liked a gaijin like you anyway. I just wanted to say," she paused for a moment. "Good luck. And come back in no more than two pieces, preferably the ones that can be reattached."
      "They can attach almost anything these days," he said with a weak grin. "Have fun, will you."
      Sakura nodded, almost like she had something else to say. Then she turned and walked back to her room. Dan, I hope you're happy with yourself, she thought. If you hadn't run out to fight then this probably wouldn't have happened.
      She came to her door, mad at herself for getting leave. Who else would save that idiot? She wondered as she went back to packing.
      Back in his room, Dan glanced out at the stars, seeing Earth hanging in front of them. The Orbital Ring was there, as were the two ships he had fought alongside not more than a month before. Then he glanced 'up' from Earth, right where the Damocles was supposed to be. Beyond that there was nothing but the Asteroid belt and the outer solar system.

      In a very different setting, a tall man stood on the bridge of a massive warship, a deep purple cloak hiding his figure. At his side stood a pair of men, wearing the old uniform of the Zentradi. Each was glancing down at the readouts that littered the bridge, glancing at the data they had recovered a month before.
      "Its just as you suspected," one said, "the Earthers have never stopped developing the technology."
      "The newest versions are almost ready for field testing," the other added.
      "And her?" the tall man said quietly, gesturing to a picture of a skinny blonde scientist that was above the readouts they had been staring at.
      "She has already begun to cooperate."
      "Keep her under close guard. She did develop the technology to begin with. And she hates us more than we hate her kind."
      The two aliens left, leaving the man alone. Both were secretly happy to away from him, since he scared them in a manner much like Khyron had their predecessors. He was not crazy, but much too, for lack of a better term, scary to associate with for too long.
      By himself, on the bridge of his ship, the man face slowly formed a large smile. His long wait was now over, and the revenge he had been holding close to his heart was finally allowed to emerge.

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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