Story and contributed by: emochinchilla
Title: RTB
Rating: T
Disclaimer: Chinchillas are neither mercenaries with no purpose in life, nor are they owners of Macross Frontier.
A/N: Please refer to the fanfic "Star-Crossed" (also by emochinchilla) to get a better sense of the timeline. This fanfic follows and is a direct spin-off from "Star-Crossed's" alternate ending.

Alto Saotome could never find his way home. He has been to so many places in the known Galaxy, and he has experienced so much in his short life, yet without Sheryl Nome by his side, there was nobody to guide him home. Alto Saotome is a pilot who will never be able to return to base. - Col. Ozma Lee, SMS

.oOo.

The unshaven middle-aged man, with his long hair tied back in an unruly ponytail stared into the camera's lens. His expression was obviously downcast, and on the table in front of him was a half-finished bottle of Jack Daniel's.

"I failed them. I failed all of them..." He muttered to himself, in a forelorn manner.

"Failed who?" Came the voice of a wide-eyed reporter, fresh out of university with his degree in journalism.

"...Saotome...Blanc...Angelloni..." The older man whispered, as the camera focused on the emblem of SMS on his jacket's left breast, and then shifting to focus on the patch of the infamous Frontier's Skull Squadron on his shoulder.

"Who were they?" The journalist inquired, focusing his camera on the older man's face as he took a drink from the bottle of whiskey that lay on the table, setting it down before continuing.

"Michel Blanc...Skull-2. Our sniper, killed by a stage-2 Vajra. Luca Angelloni...Skull-3. He's some bigwig in the LAI corporation now, but he has never been the same since...she died. Then there's the man you're looking for. Alto Saotome. Skull-4. I don't know where he is now, specifically...but..." The former Skull Squadron leader got up off the couch, walking over to the window. The sun's rays shone brightly, piercing the gloom of the dark room the interview was being conducted in. The pilot raised his arm and gestured to the sky. "He's out there somewhere...so long as there's a sky that's a battlefield, he'll always have a place to live."

The reporter pressed the stop button on his desktop computer's media player, freezing the frame on the shot of the sky that Ozma Lee, former Skull Squadron commander and current captain of the Macross Quarter, gestured to.

Alto Saotome...the man whose love affair with the Galactic Fairy, Sheryl Nome, spread across the galaxy even faster than the late idol's career. Who is he really...and where is he now?The reporter pondered, as he idly tapped his pencil against his chin.

The reporter's memory instantly flashed back to the remainder of his interview with the older pilot.

"He loved her. Alto Saotome honestly loved Sheryl Nome with all his heart. She was the only thing that he cherished more than the idea of flying in an actual sky, free of the restraints that an Island in a colony fleet brings. When she died from the V-Type virus, something in him died, never to return. Not even his fulfilled dream of flying in a real sky could fill the hole in his heart that Sheryl's death left." The older man picked up a piece of paper and handed it to the reporter. "Take it. I don't know where he is now, but the transfer papers reassigning him to SMS's inter-galaxy security force should be the first lead." The reporter nodded his head in thanks, and turned to leave.

"One more thing." Came the voice of the colonel, again.

"Sir?" The reporter asked, turning to face the adopted older brother of the Galactic Cinderella, Ranka Lee.

"I know you have a job to do and a story to tell, but just keep this in mind: He doesn't want to be found. I think he's just looking for a place to die."

.oOo.

On a distant planet, a blue-haired man in his early twenties sat alone in his quarters. The only light source in that room was the light emanating from his laptop. The young man sighed wistfully as he scrolled through a photo album, picture by picture. The pictures were all taken in a variety of settings. There was a picture at a cafe, at a dinner table by candlelight, at a beach, on a hilltop, and many more. All of the pictures on the laptop had one thing in common, though. They all featured a captivating pink-haired woman and the same blue-haired male in the same picture, usually behaving in an affectionate manner.

Suddenly, red lights flashed all over his quarters and klaxons started to blare throughout the facility. "Saotome! Take Crossbone Squadron and scramble, the Anti-NUNS forces are attacking again!" Came a panicked voice, crackling through a speaker on the wall.

Alto sighed and got to his feet, pushing his chair back out behind him. He closed the lid on his laptop and caressed a lone picture of the same stunning pink-haired girl that stood on his desk.

"I'll be back soon, Sheryl..." He whispered softly to it, as he quickly ran out the door and ran in the direction of the hangar.