I don't own Macross. If I did, I would be far too rich to be bothered writing fan fiction.
Major Sutton strode into the Combat Information Center, one hand unconsiously twisting one end of his mustache.
"What's the situation?"
"Seraph 224 coming in, sir, and she's shot up real bad."
Roberts sighed. "I told her to ditch the airplane, and she refused."
"I'm afraid that's my fault."
"So she said." Roberts turned back to the tactical display. "She's still twenty minutes out. We've got a couple of Howards lifting out to investigate the crash site. Three intel types per ship."
"Understood." He scowled. "Every time we seem to get a clue where they are, they've already left."
"Yes, sir. I just hope they don't make a habit of that."
"You and I both."
"Hydraulic pressure is dropping."
"Can you compensate?"
"Nope...lost too much fluid. I'm gonna have to lock the legs in place."
"Hasukawa, punch out of the damn bird already!"
"No way in hell, Five." Sora gritted her teeth. "I'm bringing this one back, even if I have to carry it in."
"Aries flight on station at 1150F." Chambers clicked off his mike, and considered his next step. "We're prepared to enter the Armour. Are there any special circumstances we should know about?"
"Stay away from any mecha production facilities, Aries. Leave them for Intelligence."
"Roger that." Chambers clicked over to his wingman's frequency. "Hey, Reggie. Wasn't it only yesterday that Roberts was bitching about Intel? And now she wants us to play nice with them?"
"Maybe they be havin' something she wants."
Chambers chuckled. "They must." He waved a hand at the warship. "Come on, let's get inside this bastard."
This proved quite easy, as the Armour series of warships were designed from the outset as mecha carriers. A large external hatch, thoughtfully removed for them by the Zentraedi Malcontents that had been using the ship, granted them immediate access to the hangars. Chambers stepped inside, played his searchlight around the bay, and whistled softly.
"Aries One to Ghost Lodge."
"Ghost Lodge here, Aries One. Go ahead."
"Ghost Lodge, what was the Valkyrie complement of an Armour?"
There was a pause, then, "Ninety-six fighters, Aries. Why?"
"Because there's damn near that many in here." He played the camera across the scores of mecha scattered about the bay. "I doubt more than two or three could fly...looks like the ones that weren't busted up on impact have been cannibalized for parts."
He stooped the Lightning near one of the mecha. The mental link to the fighter gave his movements precision and accuracy, allowing him to use the massive hands to gently turn over the wrecked Valkyrie.
"Diamondback Squadron..." He stood up and glanced around. "Ace of Spades Squadron...Angel Squadron...I'm guessing if we spend enough time looking, we'll also find Black Knight and Tommyknockers. The whole damn air regiment must've been in here when she went down."
"Aries, please repeat: Did you find Angel Squadron ships in there?" It was Kosuji, not Captain Roberts, who asked this.
"Yeah." He turned the camera to focus on one of the Valkyries. "Right there. Angel Three."
There was a long pause.
"Aries One, be advised that Angel Squadron was not based out of Armour Ten, but off the Promotheus."
It took only a second for Chambers to figure it out. "They've managed to get their hands on other mecha."
"Aries One, is Angel Three airworthy?"
"Wouldn't take too much work to make her fly, Captain. Why? You want it for a souvenir?"
"Something like that. What would it take to get it out of there?"
"Oh, I'd say a couple hours work with a skilled tech, then just fly it home."
Kosuji turned to Roberts. "Captain, could I ask a really big favour of you?"
Roberts frowned. "I don't know if I could authorize this, Mina. Believe me, I know what that ship means to you--"
"Captain, sir, respectfully suggest that we're gonna need new rides for Warrants Tsushima, Hasukawa and Supak, and I think this is the best source of mecha currently available to us."
Roberts sighed. "Mina, you know as well as I that we have five spare jets in the hangar."
"Three. The other two are Lightnings. And of the three Valkyries, two have a gripe list as long as your arm. Angel Three was one of the original Jaybirds, and if it only needs minor repairs..."
"All right, you've sold me." She threw up her hands in surrender. "But how are we gonna get a tech out to 1150F?"
"We've already got one." Kosuji smirked, and clicked open her microphone.
"Ghost Lodge to Aries One."
"Aries, how close are you to finishing your sweep?"
Chambers rolled his eyes. Friggin' brass, breathing down your neck all the time... "Ghost Lodge, we're nearly complete. Just the powerplants to check, and the mecha facilities to not check. You sure we shouldn't just stick our heads in there, just to make sure there's nothing there?"
"Aries, good idea. Eyeball the facilities, finish your sweep. Then I want Warrant Machala to get Angel Three airworthy. We'll send out a pilot to fly it back."
"Roger that, Ghost Lodge." He clicked off the mike. "I don't friggin' believe this." He clicked on his wingman's frequency. "Reggie, you get that?"
"Can you do it?"
"With all the jets back in that hangar? You betcha." He smirked. "Though I really wish I hadn't learned Valk mechanics now, you bet."
Kosuji glanced up. "Yeah?"
"Hasukawa's on final, sir. Runway twelve. Rutledge has her on radio."
"Thanks." She stood up, and sighed. "Too many things going on at once."
"I hear you, sir."
"Is Major Sutton in the control tower?"
"Fine. Great. Wonderful." She glanced over at Roberts. "Cindy, you can co-ordinate the fighters with the Intel weenies, right?"
"Okay, have fun. I'm going topside."
Landbound airbases do not normally need to worry about landing signals officers; this position was more the province of carrier aviation. But one was available at Ghost Lodge, for situations such as this.
"Increase thrust a bit; you're low."
"Got it." Hasukawa advanced the throttles five percent, and the machine rose a bit. Ghost Lodge's runway lay ahead, but there was insufficient room around the runway for a Valkyrie to "matter-surf" into position, and the damaged powerplants prevented a vertical landing. Sora was forced to glide the mecha in to land. Seraph 224 was in Gerwalk Mode, but not in the ground effect yet.
"Come left a bit."
"It's not responding so well...kinda sluggish."
"Check your gyros."
"Gyros aren't precessing. Could be the problem."
"Check. Disable your gyros, and control your vector by throttle." It was a tricky call; the gyros gave a Valkyrie precise control over its position. Controlling position by altering the balance of the engines' throttle was possible, but a lot less accurate. Ensign Rutledge wiped his face; his entire focus was on the screens, and he didn't notice Captain Kosuji entering the tower.
"Under manual control for throttle."
"Okay, you're in the glide path. Settle her in."
"I just entered the ground effect; decreasing throttle."
The Gerwalk dropped to the deck...and tripped.
It was as simple as that. One foot touched the ground hard enough to cause the machine to stumble. Perhaps the foot snagged a bit of debris; possibly one of the damaged engines fluttered at the wrong instant. But the foot touched ground, and with the legs locked in place to compensate for lost hydraulic pressure, there was no way to adjust in time. The result was that twenty tonnes of metal smashed at one hundred fifty knots nose-first into the ground, and proceeded to tumble. Seconds after the crash, the still-moving mecha started to burn.
"Shit!" The LSO smacked the allcall button. "Fire on the flight deck. Fire and emergency medical to runway twelve." He flipped frequencies. "Ensign Rutledge to Captain Kosuji."
Kosuji spoke from behind him. "I'm right here, Kenny."
Rutledge whirled. "Captain, the Warrant--"
"I know. Contact her."
He dialed the freq again. "Tower to Raptor Two. Please respond."
Sutton was as close to the crash as the emergency workers would let him get. As it was, the heat from the fire had melted the wax in his mustaches, causing them to droop.
A Valkyrie shouldn't burn; its reaction mass is just water.
A pair of emergency medical personnell emerged from the wreck, their silver suits glimmering in the firelight. Between them, supported by an arm over each set of shoulders, was a small figure, obviously off-balance and injured, but still walking under her own power. As they approached the Major, she straightened, and snapped of a salute.
"Warrant Hasukawa, returned from mission, sir."
He returned the salute as crisply as he could. "Warrant. You've looked better."
It was an understatement. New cuts and burns decorated the spaces that had been spared in her last crash. Her flightsuit was soaked with fire-retardant chemical, but did not appear damaged; likely she had undone the last week's worth of healing.
"I brought it back, sir, just like you ordered."
"I cannot fault your obedience, Warrant. But I somehow doubt that this plane will ever fly again."
"Sorry." She glanced back over at the wreckage. "Lost containment on one engine, I think."
He nodded; it made sense. Fusion containment failure would produce one hell of a jolly fire, though not the explosion so beloved of science fiction writers. "If so, it'll burn out soon. I think you're lucky to be alive."
"Naw." She shook her head. "They build these babies to last. Or at least to keep their pilots in one piece."
He chuckled. "Report to sickbay. Once you've recovered from this latest mishap, I'll want a fully written report on your Flight's mission."
"Sir." She started to walk away, then turned back in surprise. "Sir? My Flight?"
"You are, I am sorry to say, now ranking officer of Second Flight. I don't have any pilots to spare, so you'll be down one until I can contact the replacement depot." He sighed. "Also, I'm not sure how soon I can arrange a new ride for you."
"I didn't want to--" She paused. "Have Dai and Rick--"
"Yes, they've been picked up. They'll be back on base in an hour."
"I'm glad to hear, sir."
"Dismissed." He watched her go, then turned and marched towards the hangar.
"They have ten of them."
Sutton set down his coffee cup. "Ten? You told me twelve, earlier."
"Yes, sir. Manifest reads fourteen ships altogether, but one was incomplete and one was the prototype. Black destroyed two in flight. So if we discount the incomplete jet and the prototype, they will have ten left."
"Okay. What can you tell me about them?"
"I mentioned earlier that they're based on the SV-51. Their performance is not up to that of the earlier plane, but they're still nasty." Roberts turned and clicked her remote; a cutaway schematic of the Drogan appeared on the screen. "Internally, they're identical to the SV-51, but the wings fold along the back, similar to the VF-1A. In fact, cosmetically, they're quite similar. But they lack the conformal laser cannons and the head turret." She indicated the projection coming off the head of the mecha. "This appears to be a high gain antenna, mocked up to look like the laser."
"So no internal weaponry at all."
"No, sir." She clicked again. "Its external pylons are rated somewhat heavier than our own, making them capable of carrying the old AIM-54 Phoenix missile or our modern GR-8 Jackhammer multi-role missile."
"Jackhammers are normally carried only by the Lightning."
"Yes, sir. The Drogans encountered by Black and Hasukawa appeared to be equipped with GR-2 Jackal missiles."
"Obsolete. I'm not even sure they'd damage a Valkyrie."
Roberts smirked. "Oh, they can mess it up pretty good. Especially in numbers." She turned back to the diagram. "The Drogan has six ordnance points, two on the fuselage and two under each wing. Each fuselage point can carry a single weapon, and each wing point can carry a single Jackhammer or up to three Coral Snakes or Javelins."
"That's close to a Valkyrie's load."
"Yes; it's a space issue that prevents it from carrying more. But don't forget that it can carry heavier weapons than those.
"Now, the centerline hardpoint, here, accepts a gun pod. This is not as heavily rated as the centerline pod on a Valkyrie, and cannot accept the GU-11 gun pod. But it can carry the slightly lighter AKG-55 that is used by the Eastern Bloc Soviet Independant States. And again, cosmetically, the AKG-55 is very difficult to tell from the GU-11."
Sutton scowled. "It sounds like you're telling me that if these things were used, they'd appear to be Valkyries to the uninformed eye."
"Even an informed observer might miss the subtle differences. Remember, Hasukawa's radar IDed this aircraft as a Valkyrie, based on external skin paint."
Sutton nodded. "Good brief, Captain. Have you had any luck with those Anti-Unification cells?"
"Not yet." Roberts shook her head. "There's not been enough time for my assets to report in."
"Somehow, I don't think they're going to get the--"
He was interrupted by a knock at the door. He glanced up, irritated. "Come."
The door opened, and Major Matuchek entered. "Good afternoon, Major."
"Major." Sutton nodded warily.
"I'll be brief, and then get out of your hair. I know you don't like having me here--"
"Got that right," muttered Sutton.
He grinned. "I don't really want to be here. Damned jungle. Listen, I've got orders from the DCI."
Sutton's eyebrows rose. The DCI was Miriya Jenius, the noted Meltrandi ace and defector who had married Max Sterling. "And what has that lady told you to do?"
"First off, I want to apologize on behalf of my men for trying to force our way into the avionics bay. I was under orders, and--"
"I know." Sutton nodded, suddenly feeling a little more sympathetic. Only a little. "I've had orders I don't like, too."
"We could've handled things better, nonetheless." Matuchek dropped a folder on Sutton's desk. "We've gathered some intel of our own on the Drogan; the DCI figured you should have it."
Roberts grabbed the folder and started flipping through it. "Production schedule...schematics...these we had already...Whoa." She looked up, impressed. "Sir, we have here the basic operational orders for the Drogan pilots. Most of it we already know, but this part here..." She tapped the document. "They've built this thing specifically to attack Hong Kong, and make it look like U.N. Spacy was responsible!"
She flipped the page. "Not sure. I think in eight days time."
Sutton sighed. "Not good at all."
"No, sir! Anti-Unification support in this area would get a huge boost, as would the anti-Zentraedi factions. Remember, most of them resent the U.N. Spacy's dealing with the Zentraedi. It's likely they'll also be using some Zentraedi mecha on this strike." Roberts sighed. "Finally, remember that whoever these people are, they also have some genuine U.N. Spacy mecha. Including some Valkyries. They will certainly add those into the strike group."
"Makes sense. Why not piss off everyone at once?"
Another knock at the door.
The day had marched onward; long shadows lay across Sutton's desk. The door opened, and Captain Kosuji entered.
"Reporting as ordered."
"At ease." Sutton indicated a handwritten document on his desk. "Hasukawa acquitted herself well. Took command as soon as it was apparent that she needed to, gave only the orders her team needed to hear, responded well under fire."
"She's a good soldier, sir."
"I agree." He extracted a file from his desk drawer, opened it. "Another Purple Heart, plus a silver star. Puts her on the Lieutenant's list."
Kosuji nodded. "She could face her board in as little as three weeks."
"Nope." Sutton shook his head. "Regs are fairly clear on this."
"Sir?" Kosuji looked puzzled.
"A commander in a battlefield situation can hand out promotions with deferral for official boards." He smiled. "Can't have a Warrant leading a flight. When you see her next, you can tell her she has her commission."