Breetai was back. The Zentraedi battle group commander returned to the Sol system at the command of Lord Dolza to retake the ship once owned by Zor. Dolza and others in the Zentraedi command believed that Zor's ship held the key to Protoculture in the Micronian star system. The Zentraedi command wanted Zor's ship in one piece at any cost and Azonia and Khyron had failed to bring them the prize they so desperately wanted. Dolza knew the right male for the job was the male who began his military life on the very ship they now battled. The only male for the job had been Breetai from the beginning.

To help in his quest to return Zor's ship to Zentraedi control Dolza promised a fleet of four million ships to be placed under Breetai's command. The battle group commander was grateful for the extra firepower in dealing with the Veritech fleet that protected the ship now known as the SDF1. While the extra ships had yet to arrive in the Sol system, Breetai was eager to return to battle against Zor's ship and the Micronians that now commanded it. Standing in his command bubble Breetai turned to his trusted science minister and chief military advisor.

"Exedore, I want you to send out a squadron of battle pods to attack Zor's ship. However, I only want them to disarm and disable it. They are not to destroy the ship or the Micronians living inside of it," Breetai commanded.

Exedore placed his fisted hand upon his chest and bowed his head slightly in salute before responding to his commanding officer, "As you command Lord Breetai it shall be done."

Within moments of the given command a full squadron of battle pods were being prepped for yet another battle against the SDF1. Before long, the fight for Zor's ship and the secrets within would begin anew once more. Breetai was positive that something amazing would come out of the latest battle with the Micronian controlled ship. What he did not know was that momentous event would begin with three battle pod pilots addicted to the songs of a Micronian female.

The movie was cheesy and predictable and it had not been twenty minutes into the film. At least that was the personal opinion of two people in attendance at the gala premier. Rick Hunter and Makoto Kino from their seats within the theater sat not believing how many predictable situations Minmei's character found herself in just so Kyle could come and rescue her with worse martial arts moves than a Jackie Chan wannabe. And yet, from their separate observations the two pilots could tell the rest of the audience was eating up every moment of the film. They couldn't get enough of Kyle's overacting and the bad speeches written for Minmei.

"Oh Hiro, once again you have come to my rescue. You are my savior. How can I ever repay you for your bravery," the Minmei on the screen said with sappy appreciation towards Kyle's character.

On screen Kyle took Minmei into his arms and pulled her close. Minmei looked up at the older man with the same look she once held for Rick. The young lieutenant knew the look of admiration and worship all too well. While Max, Claudia, and the rest of the audience thought Minmei was just acting Rick knew all too well that those looks were genuine and real. He had seen them far too many times when he and Minmei were trapped in the cargo hold of the ship to know when it was the real deal. On the screen before him Minmei truly felt all the things her character did towards Kyle's character Hiro for Kyle himself.

"Miyuki you can repay me with a kiss upon the lips. For I do what I do out of love for you," Kyle told Minmei's character.

All at once Kyle pulled Minmei tightly into his body, leaned down slightly, and captured her lips with his own. The audience, save for Rick; Kyle; and Minmei, thought the kiss was just acting. They knew it was more than just acting. The first kiss Hiro and Miyuki shared on screen was the real thing. The slight moan, the deepening of the kiss, and the two tongues playing with each other for the briefest of moments was true passion being shared on the screen before the people of Macross.

Disgusted and realizing that anything he might have had with Minmei was truly over with; Rick got out of his seat and headed for the lobby of the theater. As he was leaving he turned to Lisa, Claudia, and Max and whispered to them, "I need some air."

Max and Claudia looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders not really knowing what was going on with Rick. Lisa on the other hand, had a pretty good idea what was bothering her friend as the scene between the cousins had gotten to her too. Lisa still thought Kyle looked too much like her dead crush Karl and it hurt a bit to see him kissing Minmei the way he was.

"Look I think something is bothering Rick. I'm going to go check on him and be back soon," Lisa told her friends before getting up to follow after Rick.

Lisa found Rick standing in the lobby of the theater looking out of the window staring at the street in front of the theater. Gone were the crowds waiting to catch a glimpse of Minmei and her costars. Every few minutes a person or cab would pass by the theater reminding those inside that not everyone in Macross City was inside watching the movie premier. Walking over to her friend and possible romantic interest Lisa placed a gentle hand upon his shoulder to let him know she was there.

"I guess I now know the reason why she never came or even contacted me. She was too busy making out with him to even care I was injured as bad as I was. I thought maybe we might actually have something between us. I thought she cared for me. Heck, we even went out on a few dates before all this Miss Macross stuff happened. She's not the same Minmei I was trapped in the cargo hold with," Rick said pouring out his heart to Lisa.

"I know it hurts to see her kissing another man. When I first saw Kyle at his parents' restaurant all I could think of was how much he looked like Karl Riber the man I was infatuated with when I was younger. I know Kyle isn't Karl but it still hurts to think that I was nothing more than Karl Riber's shadow and the kid he confided in under the willow tree. I thought we were meant for each other. Guess I was wrong," Lisa confided to Rick.

As the pair stood by the window looking into the lobby of the theater, Lisa moved closer to Rick and leaned into him. As if on instinct, Rick subconsciously wrapped his arm around Lisa's shoulder pulling her into him. This feels so natural and right, Rick and Lisa thought at the exact same moment. Without even thinking through her actions, Lisa then turned around in Rick's arms to face the younger pilot and placed her lips upon his. At first Rick wasn't certain what to make of the kiss but as it continued Rick's body softened as he deepened the kiss. When the kiss ended Rick and Lisa stood in the theater lobby alone smiling at one another. Where one relationship was ending another was just beginning.

The SDF1 rocked and shook signaling yet another attack by the Zentraedi had begun. Fortunately, in the planning of the city's reconstruction after the first transformation of the ship the Mayor had designated the theater a shelter. The people inside would be safe to continue watching the gala premier of Little White Dragon. Engrossed in the film as most of the crowd was, they would be none the wiser about the attack on the ship. However, Rick and Lisa had a pretty good idea of what was going on when they saw the familiar site of people heading to the shelters and heard the muffled sounds of the emergency alert sirens.

"Damn it, can't they give us one night of peace," Rick complained.

"I don't think the Zentraedi have ever known peace," Lisa commented as she moved closer to Rick for protection.

As the ship rocked once more, Rick held Lisa close to him in order to give her protection and calm her nerves. Lisa, who grew up in a military family and was the first officer on the SDF1, showed visible signs of fear. Few things scared her but when she actually thought about the attacks on the SDF1 from the perspective of the citizens of Macross Lisa feared for her very safety. It was the reason why she preferred to be on the bridge at her console during an attack on the SDF1. For Lisa the only thing she could see and feel at the moment the attack began was Rick Hunter.

Sailor Moon Macross

Part 18: Internal Battles

Captain Henry Gloval would have given anything to have his favorite bridge crew on duty that night. It wasn't that the girls running the shift at the time of the attack weren't good at what they did; it was that his first officer and the four girls who worked under her were the best at what they did. Plus, at the moment he missed Rei's psychic premonitions. Gloval had come to depend on the "danger sense" of his chief radar operator. The night staff was good but they were no Bridge Senshi.

"Tanya, status report on the transformation procedures of the SDF1," Gloval requested of the young Ukrainian woman at Claudia's station.

"Transformation is at eighty percent completion Captain," Tanya reported with accented English, "Also, all shelters are reporting one hundred percent capacity."

"Very well," Gloval replied. It is a very good thing the theater is a designated shelter and that it's showing the movie everyone has been talking about because this is going to be a long night, he then thought to himself.

Inside the theater Claudia and Max wondered what had become of Rick and Lisa. They both had a feeling that something was going on outside if the ship, Claudia more than Max. She knew the feel of the SDF1 transforming from battle cruiser to gigantic battle bot and had a very good feeling the ship was under attack. A questioning look from her companion for the night brought about a definite affirmative nod of her head. The only thing they could do now was hope their loved ones and friends were safe and well through the attack.

The ability of the Zentraedi to pick up transmissions from the SDF1 had become a useful tool during the battles they had with Zor's ship. Breetai had turned this ability to their advantage by listening in on the transmissions from one Micronian fighter to the other. In fact, when his bridge crew had found a Micronian signal Breetai had every battle pod pilot tune to the very channel the Micronians were using. On that night the bridge crew came upon something very confusing and at the same time something irresistible to watch.

"Lord Breetai I do believe we have come across a record of a battle between Micronians," Exedore explained as they continued to watch the male on the screen use his hands and feet to battle with another Micronian male.

"Keep these transmissions on screen and inform the battle pod pilots of the channel the signal is on. I want all of them to bear witness to the power of this living Micronian weapon," Breetai commanded the bridge crew.

In the middle of the battle the three former spies Rico, Bron, and Konda were having a hard time trying to follow the orders of their commanding officers. They knew as Zentraedi they had to fight against the Micronians for control of Zor's ship but they were beginning to feel as though they were betraying the Micronian people by fighting against them. As the three pilots were about to engage in battle against a Veritech fighter, a transmission came across the Zentraedi tac net.

"All Zentraedi battle pod pilots you are commanded to tune your video monitors to frequency two one four mark seven," the voice of Minister Exedore announced.

The three pilots did as instructed and were greeted with a sight they had craved to see once more. There on their video monitors was their angel and their new reason for being, Minmei. At the moment Minmei was standing in a field of flowers as she was suddenly surrounded by a mass of bandits. The bandits said something to Minmei about handing over the prized treasure when a male with long dark hair appeared between Minmei and the bandits.

"It's Kyle, Minmei's manager," Rico said to his fellow Minmei fans.

"What's he doing in her transmission," Bron wondered.

"He's saving her from that crowd of Micronian soldiers," Konda speculated.

Konda's speculation turned out to be correct when Kyle's character used his fists, feet, and a long wooden staff to take down every last thug surrounding him and Minmei. The three pilots and former spies stared at their screens in awe at what Kyle had been able to do. However, the reaction was not the same on the bridge of Breetai's ship. Breetai and Exedore were shocked by what they saw. On the monitor before them was what they thought was yet another living weapon created by the Micronians to do battle with them. They believed the stunt work that Kyle had been doing on screen was the real thing. Breetai and Exedore were under the impression that Micronians possessed a great power given to them by Protoculture.

"This proves even further that we must do what we can to secure Zor's ship and its store of Protoculture for our own. If Protoculture can make that Micronian into what we see imagine what it can do to a Zentraedi warrior," Breetai commented to his diminutive minister.

"With the right machinery we could create a new generation of powerful Zentraedi warriors my lord. We would be able to win then war with the Micronians in no time," Exedore added.

By the time the battle had ended five things had taken place. First, Breetai had vowed that the moment Zor's ship was in their custody the Micronian weapon was to be brought before him so its secrets could be learned. Second, the three pilots and former spies decided amongst themselves that fighting in the war was beginning to lose its appeal; they wanted peace on the SDF1 so they could be close to Minmei. Third, Makoto had come to the conclusion that Little White Dragon was a movie designed for one purpose and one purpose only, to make Kyle look good. In her opinion the fight scenes were poorly staged and the situations leading to them were clich├ęd and overacted. Fourth, Khyron nearly started a revolt over not being able to lead the latest attack on the SDF1. Then smarmy squadron leader hated being left out of a battle and he let Breetai know his feelings towards the attack in a rather animated manner. And fifth, Rick and Lisa decided to test things out and see if they were truly meant to be a couple.

The SDF1 was on heightened alert after the latest attack from the Zentraedi. Captain Gloval had ordered all available Veritech squads to be on active alert. Personal leave for the pilots had been canceled as it had been for the bridge crew. Gloval was not about to go through another attack without his best bridge crew by his side. For Claudia this meant less time to spend with Roy in the hospital. It pained her but the tactical officer knew the price that came with being a high level officer on the bridge of the ship. For Lisa it meant a return to the familiar and comforting. She had told Rick during the attack that she felt safe and secure during an attack when she was at her console. It was the routine of directing the squads and overseeing the bridge crew that eased her mind and calmed her nerves.

"It feels good to be back to work again," Lisa commented more as a reassurance to herself.

Claudia looked over at her close friend with weary eyes that spoke of where she would rather be at that moment. Letting out a small breath the tactical officer responded to her friend's remark, "I wish I could feel the same about pulling these long hours on the bridge."

The four other members of the bridge crew could hear the longing and sadness in Claudia's voice. They knew she did not want to miss any possible chance Roy might have to come out of his coma. At least they could rest easy knowing that as his primary physician Ami paid regular visits to Macross general to check on her patient.

"Don't worry Claudia I'm sure if something happens Ami will let us know," Minako reassured the older tactical officer in her usual cheerful manner.

As the week following the premier and the attack dragged on, neither the Zentraedi nor Roy made any change in their activity. With the atmosphere on the SDF1 returning to normal the active members of the RDF were taken off heightened alert and placed back on a regular schedule. For the bridge crew, the sense of normalcy and chance to get more than three hours of sleep a night was greatly welcomed. For the pilots of the SDF1, the chance to actually leave the crew section of the ship was a godsend. After a week on constant alert and trying to find creative ways to sleep in the ready rooms they welcomed the chance at a few hours of R and R.

It was on one such day that Max found himself at the local arcade once again. Max was completely unsure as to how he would spend his free time without Ben around. It was the first time since Ben's death that Max was away from his fellow pilots and friends. Max had plenty of offers from his friends to spend his free time with them. Rick, after some slight prodding from Usagi, had asked Max to lunch with him. When he politely refused, Max was asked by Minako if he wanted to go with her to the music store in town. After refusing that offer, Usagi insisted he spend some time with her and Mamoru at the arcade and lunch at the small diner connected to it. Max just smiled and once again politely turned down the offer thanking the slightly older officer for thinking to include him.

The idea of going to the arcade was not a bad one. The more Max thought about it the more he felt as though he needed something familiar to bring his mind off Ben's death. As he entered into the open air styled video arcade, Max saw a large crowd gathered around his usual game. Pushing his way through the crowd Max could hear the comments coming from the regulars at the arcade.

"Man she's good. Probably the best person I've seen play that thing," one older teen commented.

"Well yeah she's good but don't forget about that dude in the military uniform," the teen's friend remarked making a reference to Max.

Breaking through the crowd Max saw who the slightly younger teen boys were talking about. There sitting before his game was the woman he saw outside the movie premier. She had the most striking features Max had ever seen. The mossy sea green hair and matching eyes seemed perfectly normal to the young pilot with the company he kept. However, the delicate features of his face coupled with an exotic beauty that radiated about her had Max wanting to know everything he could about her. Lieutenant Junior Grade Max Sterling was head over heels in love.

For Miriya the nearly daily visits to the arcade to play the battle training machines, as she believed them to be, for gift cards and other prizes became an obsession. For hours at a time she would challenge the Micronian males that came into the "training facility" to the aerial combat trainer. It was always the same. The individual who won stayed at the machine for the next challenger. And, it was Miriya who was always the victor. No one it seemed was a worthy challenger. The machine proved too easy to master and the challengers too easy to beat.

"Next!" Miriya called out as she defeated yet another challenger.

"I'll take you on," a tall blue haired man with a protective eye shield over his eyes responded as he sat opposite her.

From within the crowd one of the onlookers commented about the man who sat in the challenger's spot, "It's him! It's the guy I told you about. This is gonna be a good match."

At first, Miriya had not paid close attention to the individual across from her. Then she looked up at who was seated in the blue player's position. There before her with a smile upon his face was the Micronian she had come to kill. There before her, totally unaware of her identity, was the Micronian pilot who defeated her once before. For what seemed like an eternity Miriya sat staring at the Micronian male in stunned silence.

"So how do you want to do this," the Micronian male asked brining her attention back to the challenge, "We could play in co-op battle mode, do the timed target challenge, or do the head to head dogfight."

Miriya knew of only one way to do the challenge with the Micronian pilot, the dogfight. Believing herself to be the unbeatable master of the training machine Miriya hardened her gaze at the Micronian pilot. "We shall dogfight you against me and I shall defeat you like the other challengers," Miriya responded.

With a smile upon his face the Micronian pilot gave Miriya a very strange comment before the challenge began, "This is going to be fun. I hope you do well."

Mamoru Chiba was actually glad Max had respectfully declined Usagi's invitation to go to lunch and the arcade with them. Lunch had been his idea but the choice to play the vintage Sailor V machine was Usagi's. Since it was just the two of them for the afternoon and possibly beyond, Mamoru was going to turn a simple afternoon out into the perfect opportunity to ask Usagi to be his wife. The timing felt right for asking Usagi to marry him. She had changed dramatically since the first day they met. Gone was the clumsy procrastinating lazy at school quick to cry at the slightest bit of criticism girl. In her place was a battle tested soldier who had proven herself to be a born leader ready to defend and protect the lives of seventy thousand people at a moment's notice. She instilled a sense of strength, hope, and honor into everyone she came into contact with and with a single touch of the hand and a few calming words Usagi could bring a smile to the face of practically anyone. In the days following the incident over Canada Usagi had become a pillar of strength for Macross city but she had always been Mamoru's pillar of strength.

"Mamo-chan, come on," Usagi said using her teenage pet name for him as she tugged on Mamoru's arm gaining his attention.

"Okay okay I'm coming Usako," Mamoru returned in kind with slight chuckle as they entered the arcade.

The sight that greeted the young couple had them both awed and confused. The arcade was a popular place with the high school crowd and some of the younger crew members so it was not surprising to see it busy. However, it seemed nearly everyone at the arcade that day had gathered around one machine. From the location of the crowd Mamoru and Usagi had a very good guess as to what drew their attention. Something was going on at the Veritech fighter game. Curiosity taking over, Usagi pulled Mamoru in the direction of the crowd and the Veritech fighter game.

"She's gaining on you man!" they heard one of the teen males call out.

Finding it a bit difficult to wade through the crowd of teens and service men on break, Mamoru turned to the nearest person to ask just what had captured everyone's attention. It had to be very good if the crowd around the Veritech game was reaching five rows deep.

"Mind telling me what's going on here," Mamoru requested from the teen closest to them.

"Man there's this lady that challenges people to the Veritech game nearly every day. She goes through practically thirty challengers before she gets bored. Nobody has been able to beat her," the younger male explained, "But, today after ten challengers this guy sits down in front of her and for the last half hour they've been evenly matched."

Mamoru turned to tell Usagi what the teen male explained to him only to find her missing. The occasional cries of annoyance and the ever familiar sorry in response were all the clues Mamoru needed to know where Usagi had gone to. His squadron leader, soul mate, perfect partner, and princess was elbowing her way to a front row view of the arcade action. With a sigh, a shake of his head, and a smile Mamoru attempted to gain a better view not of the action at the game but of one of its spectators. As he moved through the crowd, Mamoru heard Usagi's familiar cry.

"No way it can't be," Usagi exclaimed in utter surprise at what she saw.

Looking over at the game Mamoru finally saw what had shocked Usagi. There at the Veritech fighter game with a look of pure joy upon his face was Max facing off against an exotic looking green haired woman.

Max was in heaven. For thirty solid minutes he faced off against his equal at the Veritech game. Max had beaten people fairly easily when they challenged him at the game. However, for the first time since he began playing the game Max was being challenged by it and he loved every minute of it. He had to admit that if the woman before him were to become a Veritech pilot she'd be on par with Rick, Usagi, or even the legendary Roy Fokker. She was at the very least as skilled as he was and that was just on the game.

"I have to admit you're giving me my first real challenge in years. I'm having a lot of fun," Max commented with a genuine smile upon his face.

The comment made by the Micronian male standing before her confused Miriya. The Micronian had called the training exorcise fun. Fun was a word the Zentraedi knew nothing about. Fun was simply not a word in the Zentraedi vocabulary. Fun was connected to emotions and feelings that had nothing to do with battle training and war. And for Miriya, like all Zentraedi, anything that was not connected to battle training and war had been tossed aside never to be experienced again a very long time ago.

The confusion over the comment was enough to distract Miriya's attention on the combat trainer. Not paying full attention to the machine before her, Miriya was brought back to reality when the Veritech on the screen before her exploded in defeat. The screen flashed "Game Over" and all around her the crowd of challengers erupted in loud cheers and applause. Miriya Parina ace battle pod pilot and commanding officer of the famed Quadrono squad had been defeated twice by the same Micronian. Miriya was certain the Micronian male would end her life right then and there to seal his victory.

What greeted Miriya had the Zentraedi pilot confused. The Micronian was standing before her with his hand outstretched and a smile upon his face. As he stood there waiting for her to respond to him, the Micronian spoke to her.

"The name's Max Sterling and that was the best session I've had on the Veritech game in a very long time. I'd love to get to know you better. There's a park overlooking the city that people go to on dates. I'd love to go on a date with you tonight. Meet me there at seven," the Micronian, Max, offered.

Confused, scared, and angry Miriya stood up and looked the Micronian Max Sterling in the eyes and gave him her reply. "I accept your offer and will be there at the park overlooking the city at seven Max Sterling," Miriya responded with a formal tone.

From within the gathered crowd Mamoru and Usagi watched as Max made a date for that night with the exotic looking woman. Then, with confusion that was shared amongst the crowd they watched the woman quickly make an about face and run from the arcade. An equally perplexed Max Sterling was left wondering just what he did to drive the woman away.

"Well that was strange," Usagi commented.

"I have a date. I have a date," Max remarked completely confused about what came over him as it finally hit him, "I have a date tonight and I have no clue what I'm supposed to do."

To say Max Sterling was scared was the understatement of the new century. Max had no idea what a man actually did on a date because Max had never been on one. Nervous about what was expected of him, Max asked the two men he knew with the most dating experience help him prepare for the date. Seated on the bed and small chair in his room Rick and Mamoru watched as Max pulled things from his closet.

"What about this," Max asked as he pulled out a black mock turtleneck and a blue blazer.

As Rick compared the outfit choice to the last one Max showed them, Mamoru began laughing. The outfit choice was very close to Mamoru's signature outfit from college. The only difference was in the color of the blazers.

"If the jacket were green I'd say you'd been rummaging through my closets," Mamoru commented between chuckles.

Max let out a small chuckle as he decided the last outfit choice was out of the question. Returning to the closet, Max pulled out a French blue shirt with white a collar and cuffs, a black vest, and a black tie. As he showed the choice to Rick and Mamoru, Max could see from the looks on their faces that this was the right choice for him.

"Okay so now that I have something to wear I can worry about the actual date. What do you guys do when you're out alone with a woman," Max wanted to know.

Rick started to think about the few dates he had with Minmei before her movie began filming and was about to answer when Mamoru spoke up. "It's pretty simple, you complement what she's wearing, open the door for her if you go to dinner, hold her hand, and make her feel as though she's the only thing in the world that matters to you. Treat her like royalty. Then again, my girlfriend actually is royalty," Mamoru told Max with a small chuckle.

Max was a nervous wreck as he stood in the park waiting for his date to show up. He had arrived at the park early so he would be able to watch as his date arrived. Looking down at the city below, Max saw Mamoru and Usagi walking into a higher end cafe. Usagi looked elegant out of her uniform and the usual skirts with sweaters and casual dresses she wore off duty. The dress was a winter white color and was fitted through the bodice. The off the shoulder straps and top of the bodice were accented with a band of vintage blue, cranberry, and green roses. The cocktail length gown stopped midway between her knee and ankles. Mamoru wore a dark charcoal gray suit with a shirt the color of the blue roses on Usagi's dress and a cranberry tie.

"They look perfect together. Sure hope I can have that someday," Max commented to no one in particular.

Max was soon brought back to the here and now when he heard the familiar voice of the woman whom he challenged at the arcade address him. "Max Sterling, at last I have you alone. You have defeated me twice in combat but you shall not defeat me a third time because now you shall pay with your life," She called out to him.

The woman from the arcade stood before him wearing a soft pink sleeveless crepe shirt with a ruffled collar, a pleated Wedgwood blue skirt, and a short sleeved stone colored sweater. The outfit with the bone colored two inch strappy sandals and gold bead accessories was beautiful and quite normal for any woman to wear. It was the two inch switchblade that she held in a ready position that caught Max's attention. She had come to their date intent on ending his life that night.

"Die Micronian!" The woman called out as she rushed towards Max with her knife.